Every year the inevitable happens: we need to haul Carpe Ventos out of her element to do minor repairs and bottom paint. This year was just a “wash and shave” as one of the harbor employees put it – a quick scrub and a new bottom paint. It is always a hectic process watching your boat being moved from water to yard, bouncing around in the travel lift. The Cal 34′s keel doesn’t help either; the unique sort-of fin keel, sort-of full keel design always gives the harbor a heart ache trying to position her on the lift. However, once out of the water, we changed her from an evening black gown to summer turquoise dress by covering up the peeling black bottom paint with some West Marine blue, and gave her a full wax down to remove years of diesel soot and spilled coffee. Sitting on blocks, Carpe Ventos’ lines turned heads on those driving by. My goodness, she looks fast!
On launching, Bixler strapped our GoPro to the bow and created a time lapse video Carpe Ventos from de-blocking to splashdown to being comfortably positioned into her slip.
We needed a lunch the other day and didn’t know what to do. So, in the style of Chopped, we just raided the kitchen and Bixler came up with this amazing canapé. This would be great with any other smoked fish as well. Quantities are not precise…adjust to your taste and how many you are making! The sour cream and lime add a nice fresh, light taste to offset the smoky flavor of the salmon, while the avocado adds a nice earthiness.
Smoked Alaskan salmon
Good quality crackers
Sweet mini peppers
Combine sour cream and lime juice in a bowl/cup suitable for use with an immersion blender. Slice avocado and a couple slivers of red onion and add to container. Blend with an immersion blender until a nice coulis is formed. Mince/shred mini peppers. Top crackers with a layer of coulis, smoked salmon, then mini peppers. Enjoy!
Our hour-long epic Boat, Beaches, and Bears has had an overwhelming number of views on YouTube. With all of those views, we’ve had a rash of commenters complain about the bear hunting scenes. Yes, we cut out the butchering aspect because many people aren’t comfortable with viewing field dressing and meat processing procedures and yes, we didn’t do the best job of explaining how we eat the meat and plan to use the hide – something that will be included in future videos. The thing that surprised us the most were the passionate anti-hunting comments from a variety of viewers, all of them from outside of Alaska. Most people were appalled that we were shooting “cute and cuddly” bears (hint: with four-inch claws, they are about as cuddly as a durian) and got called a variety of names ranging from “murderer” to “assassins.” Pretty amazing coming from countries that have a meat forward diet like Americans!
To counteract their arguments and to support responsible hunting, we published a response video:
This recipe is, by far, the best caesar salad we have ever eaten. Everything turned out amazingly.
This would also be excellent with any kind of fish filet on top, such as pan-seared halibut in garlic and clarified butter, grilled red salmon, etc. You could either chunk it or plate the salad and place the whole filet on top. The options are endless! Thanks to Simply Recipes for yet another amazing inspiration.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, and minced
A couple of slices of old sourdough bread, sliced thin
1/4 cup lemon juice (or lime, which we used)
4 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
2-3 whole anchovies, smashed and minced
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
4-6 small heads romaine lettuce
1/2 fillet or about 1 cup smoked wild Alaskan salmon (if you aren’t using wild Alaskan salmon, do yourself a favor and don’t even bother. Farmed salmon is bad for you, the environment, and wild salmon stocks.)
Whisk together olive oil and garlic. Let sit for ~ 1/2 hour or so. Put bread slices on a baking sheet and brush with some of the olive oil/garlic mixture. Broil for a couple of minutes until they are crispy but not overcooked. Remove, let cool, and chop to crouton-sized chunks.
Chop smoked salmon into bite-sized chunks.
Add anchovies and eggs to the oil/garlic mixture. Whisk until creamy. Add salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Whisk in half of the parmesan cheese. Sample, and see if it needs more lemon/salt/pepper/etc.
Tear off chunks of lettuce and place in bowl. Add oil mixture, the rest of the parmesan cheese, croutons, and salmon. Toss and enjoy!
“Bring several loaves of sourdough bread and a gun. We have a culinary surprise.”
These were the parting words of an email from Jack Donachy prior to booking our trip to visit them in Point Hope, Alaska. Sourdough bread and a gun can be interpreted as interesting items to check on board an airplane, much less for a culinary surprise, but as usual we were intrigued by this off-the-beaten-path request.
Jack and his lovely wife Barbra are fellow blog enthusiasts at their delectable blog CutterLight and sailing friends who spend their summers in Seward. We were walking the boat docks one night and saw them milling about aboard their Island Packet Bandon, struck up a conversation, and quickly became friends since we share common interests and a love of food. Since then, the Donachys have invited us to visit them during their “other” life as elementary school teachers at Tikigaq School in Point Hope. Point Hope is a primarily Inupiat (Eskimo) community of about 700 people located well above the Arctic Circle on the now well-known Chukchi Sea, thanks to the latest Shell debacle. For 9 months out of the year, Jack and Barbra experience village life and spend a great majority of the time cooking and taking pictures of their amazing creations (and some other stuff too).
Blustery winds were forecast for Seward the weekend we decided to go, so we booked our trip on a whim. Getting to Point Hope is no easy task. In today’s modern era of the internet, we still booked our flight over the phone with Alaska Airlines with a connection on Era – the village workhorse airline – from Kotzebue to Point Hope. We packed our shotgun and loaded up our travel backpacks with sourdough bread. Before we knew it, our 737 combi slammed down on the short runway in Kotzebue.
Era is quite possibly the most low-key airline. We checked all of our bags without any security and set out to explore Kotzebue during our two-hour layover. The Donachys had promised us a culinary surprise, so we stupidly tried to fast, but broke down when we saw that Kotzebue had a trusty AC where we purchased and demolished the most greasy, processed hamburger we could find. What we learned from our time on Kotzebue: there are four – count ‘em four – Chinese American restaurants. At least one serves pizza.
Bixler in rustic-wear stands in front of some Kotzebue interpretation.
We returned to Era and squeezed into a Piper Navajo with four other passengers filled to the brim with cargo. Here’s a a cockpit view of that aircraft:
A local Point Hope resident offered us gum to help equalize, then proceeded to ask the pilot if he could pass over the south end of Point Hope to look for leads (openings) in the sea ice. He was looking for bowhead whales as we were arriving on the cusp of the spring whaling season, when the Inupiat harvest whales during their annual migration northward. From the tone of his voice and his eyes dead-set on the frozen ocean during the flight, we could tell he was excited.
The Piper touched down and taxied off the runway. As soon as the plane stopped, every truck patiently waiting backed up straight to the plane and immediately threw cargo from the plane into the back of the truck (sure beats the luggage claim). Through the action, Jack and Barbra appeared to whisk us off to a weekend of adventure.
A Whale of Site-Seeing
To our world of big cities and industrialized nations, Point Hope seems like the Middle of Nowhere to many. It lacks a Walmart, Starbucks, and big box stores that plague America and thus has few drivable roads. However, Point Hope’s location at the confluence of currents and migration patterns means that there is variety of food available and thus is one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in North America. Ironically, maybe it was the Donachys love of food that indirectly drove them there…
Jack and Barbra started us out with our culinary surprise: beluga whale chowder! We suspected this as they posted the recipe on our blog prior to our arrival, but we were ecstatic nonetheless. The beluga whale had a pleasant taste with a texture similar to conch. And the sourdough bread paired perfectly with the chowder. Krystin, tired and hungry from travel, thoroughly enjoyed the chowder. She accomplished another life goal: eating marine mammal.
With full bellies, we started our driving tour of town. The town of Point Hope has many aspects of Middle America including gridded streets, identical housing, a school, post office, water treatment plant, power plant, and, that’s right: a Chinese-American restaurant.
Throughout town, there is a collision of cultures and a sense of “we’re not in Kansas anymore.” To the north of town were drying racks and on those racks were the skins of polar bears harvested by a local set out to dry the old way that will become everything from parkas to art. The meat fills their freezers.
To the south of town is a seal skin stretched out on a frame.
The Donachys then drove us to the east to attempt a trek out Seven Mile Road, which is ironically only five miles long. Out this road lies the hidden remains of Jabbertown, a whaling pitstop for European and American whalers pushing north during the age when whales were killed to almost extinction strictly for their oil. We didn’t make it far. Seven Mile Road was covered in heavy snow drifts.
Instead, we stopped at a different type of whaling establishment: the storage place for Inupiat whaling boats decorated by bowhead jawbones. Each pair of jawbones represents one whale and the bones are constructed upright to show the success of the whaling crew. There are multiple whaling crews in Point Hope, so the constructions also serve as a way to “show up” the other whaling crews. In a snowy, wintry tundra of April, these are the only upright structures next to man-made buildings and houses.
Our tour led us out back to the airport and included a drive down the runway and a park off to the side. Anyone flying into Point Hope will see old abandoned buildings. This is Old Point Hope that was originally constructed when the US Government decided that the relatively nomadic Inupiat should all live in small towns. This townsite was eventually abandoned due to erosion issues, but the eerie structures remain. We walked along the tundra to a mix of wooden and sod homes, all complete with electrical boxes outside. The sod homes were constructed of whale bone and tundra sod, and some of the previous residents still live in Point Hope. Next to the old townsite are the permafrost freezers where the whaling crews store meat. Like those office emails that circulate around warning of impending fridge cleanings, these permafrost freezers were being cleaned out in anticipation of whaling. The meat, skin, and blubber sits on the tundra for other animals to enjoy.
Our last stop was the Point Hope cemetery, also construction of whale boat and filled in with snow drifts. When various flavors of Christianity decided to introduce the Inupiat to their religion, the Christians were appalled that the Inupiat did not bury their dead. Well when the ground is frozen for most of the year, it was relatively impractical to do so. Missionaries stacked bodies like logs on a pallet and waited for the annual thaw to construct the cemetery, which stands today.
This image is of the primary plot surrounded by bowhead jawbones.
Alaska Culinary Treats
Most of the second day was spent imbibing in culinary treats. Our breakfast the second day consisted of eggs, ham, and waffles – a standard American breakfast – but with an Arctic twist. We slathered our waffles in aqpik (cloudberry) syrup and topped our eggs with cured salmon roe - a Donachy favorite.
It seems that as soon as we finished breakfast, careful preparations for lunch started. The Donachys take their food preparation and presentation very seriously, which is why it is so darn good. Who needs a Chinese-American restaurant when you have an abundance of fun and interesting flavors to try? For lunch, we had bowhead whale pizza. The meat of the bowhead is dark and, when cooked, comes out almost black due to the high oxygen content whales need. Whales, being marine mammals, don’t have to worry about gravity so much, so the meat is incredible tender and has a flavor we can never describe.
Finished with lunch? Let’s start dinner! That night’s dinner included an appetizer course of muktuk, or the skin-blubber combination of bowhead whale. Eaten raw and high in vitamin C, it is the Inupiat way to avoid scurvy in a traditionally high-meat diet. The texture is chewy and it has a slightly acidic taste. We can never describe the flavor on this one!
Dinner that night was a whole sheefish. These fish live in Arctic estuaries and are caught through ice fishing holes during the winter months. The fishermen simply throw the fish on the ice where it is flash frozen and thus preserved. The traditional Inupiat way of eating the fish is to slice off a frozen chunk and pop it straight into your mouth.
Instead of chopping it frozen, Jack prepared the whole fish with salt and pepper and baked it in foil. The fish juices were used to make a cream sauce with conch. The whole concoction was served over black rice with some roe for a saltiness and color.
Of course there was a dessert course and ample use of the SodaStream to make aqpik sodas. Point Hope, like many Alaskan villages, is a dry and it is illegal to possess alcohol, so an alternative must be found. For two people who love their nightly drinks, we got so hooked on the home soda maker that we bought one as soon as we touched down in Anchorage.
You might think that we immediately scarfed all these wonderful delights. However, as soon as the dish was done, if it met the CutterLight approval, it was positioned on either the table or lightbox for a nice professional photograph. CutterLight has some of the most beautiful food shots of any blog we’ve browsed, and this is how the Donachys do it. They joke that they sometimes spend so much time getting the perfect shot that the food goes cold and snacks are needed.
Out on the Ice
The weather was pleasant during our stay in Point Hope, so we took a trek out on the Chukchi Sea to follow a snowmachine path and see if there was any whaling activity. You might be thinking “by golly, I thought you couldn’t hunt whales!” Well, we can’t. Whaling is reserved for the Inupiat in Alaska to keep their culture alive in a world of globalization. Alaska allows the Native peoples to harvest so many bowhead whales and use so many strikes to obtain said whales. They type of whaling done by the Inupiat is not anywhere near the type of whaling that was done by the Europeans and Americans in the late 1800′s. There are no violent battles between Man and Whale and no Captain Ahab shaking his fist at the great White Whale. Instead, the Inupiat use traditional skin boats and wear all white to mimic and iceberg, silently floating in the water. Careful preparation is taken to harvest the appropriate whale. Mothers and calves are avoided. Whales that are harvested are hauled up on ice and immediately butchered. The village gets a share of the meat, blubber, and skin. As evident by the many structures around Point Hope, even the bones get used. The leftovers go to the polar bears. With the bowhead population increasing at 3% year, this harvest hardly makes a dent in the whale population.
As ice leads open up, the town gets in a frenzy and skins are stretched and sewn onto boats. They sit at the edge of town ready to be hauled out into a lead.
Unfortunately for us, strong south winds closed the leads, so we did not get to witness any whaling. However, the closed up ice made for a great walking opportunities. This is where the shotgun comes into play: polar bears are frequent visitors to town, especially as the ice opens up. We brought the gun for protection against this bear that actively stalks humans for food.
We headed out on the ice into a Hoth-like landscape. The ice moves and crushes and forms and reforms all winter long, so large ice chunks are pushed up or polished flat.
We followed a snowmachine trail out to the end, where the lead was expected to open when the winds picked up. We walked so far out that Bixler joked we might stumble upon a Chinese-American restaurant (with pizza) out on the ice. Eventually, after a round of artistic pictures, we walked back to the Donachy’s house for another amazing meal of Alaskan paella complete with salmon, rockfish, greenling, scallops, and shrimp.
The morning we flew out, Bixler decided to top off his adventure by going for a run. He ran the scope of town and out on the ice (Chukchi Sea), to fuel his running-in-a-new place obsession.
We bid Jack and Barbra farewell and thanked them for introducing us to Point Hope. With one of their tubs in hand full of summertime fishing gear, we boarded a Cessna Caravan as the only passengers and were pleased with the scenic flight. We landed in Anchorage and immediately bought ourselves a SodaStream so that when the Donachy’s come back to Seward for the summer, they will feel right at home.
Bixler went for a great afternoon sail with Captain Jesse Osborn of S/V Empericus yesterday afternoon. Jesse is sailing his awesome boat from Kodiak through the Northwest Passage this summer, and wanted to test out some new Stormr gear. The wind was perfect, and although it was only about 25 degrees out they had a great time and got some cool video!