Alaska 2023- Aaron visit, John Muir, country bumpkin and kneecaps

Dear friends and family,

I’ve been busy sailing, so not much time to write, so I’ll do some catching up over the next few weeks.

In mid May, Aaron, my 22 year old stepson showed up for his Alaska week as soon as his college semester was over. To make sure that he didn’t think that boating life was all fun and no work, I put him right to work on helping me rebed and recaulk the leaky hatches on Hongvi. We worked hard and rewarded ourselves with beers and pizza at the Marine Bar, while we watched the NBA finals on their big screen.

To give Aaron the best view of town we hiked all the way up Mt Dewey, which is a hill above town, with boardwalk stairs. I like the sound of the ascent of Mt Dewey though. Sounds like we were’s about 200 feet high.

Mt Dewey has fame from the great naturalist John Muir, who supposedly went to the top in a storm in 1879 to light a big bonfire to study the storm. He wrote in his journals how the Tlingit Indians were frightened of the glow of the fire reflecting off the clouds and asked the white leaders of Wrangell to pray for them.

 Interesting story, in that the Tlingit were using fire in these parts for about 10,000 years, so maybe they didn’t recognize fire when they saw it. One more recent theory is that the Indians were concerned about such a big fire so close to town and wanted to protect the white guys from burning down their own houses. Belittling natives and their superstitions was one of Muir’s traits and seems active here.

It was time to get the boat off the dock and take an excursion with Aaron. Destination: Berg Bay. One of my favorite places on the planet and only about 15 miles from the marina. I backed her out of the slip and immediately handed the control to Aaron with a five minute tutorial on steering, autopilot, and navigation system.

Aaron really seems to reject learning by being told what he’s doing wrong ( like I’m sure all of us do!) so I went down below and let him figure it out by experience.

 Because of the wide open spaces, he first way over steered the hydraulic steering by veering far right, followed by far left. Think your grandfathers Buick with the new “ power steering”. Many turns to go nowhere much.

He, being bright, figured it out in a short time and put us into Berg Bay safely. It took two tries to hook the anchor to the bottom, as I seemed out of practice. What a funny concept, that you drop a hook attached to a length of chain off the boat, pull back on it, and assume you will have your house secure enough to be in the same place when you wake up. Guess we humans can get used to anything.

We dinghied to land, each armed with a bear spray, to hike the boardwalk trail through the woods to the open meadow. Aaron paid close attention to the bear spray discussion. Guess at age 22, he wasn’t ready to be eaten. No bears that day, but plenty of bear signs. Seems we share the same trail through the woods.

A day later Aaron navigated us home, and I rewarded him with a dinner at the “ Stik”, local name for the Stikine Inn, the only fancy restaurant in town.

It reminded me of a fancy restaurant story, way back when I lived in Youngstown, Ohio. 

Now Youngstown used to be famous for two things: steel mills and Mafia. I took my job there as a CPA, not knowing about the Mafia ( pre- internet).

Here’s a link for those not familiar it’s a very interesting story and I recommend that you look at it.

Youngstown: the City that fell in love with the mob. Also called “ Murder city”.

Enter country bumpkin accountant from a suburb of Cleveland:

It was the disco era, and I met her at a disco. She was pretty short for me, but very attractive and self confident. I asked her out for the following Thursday, and she said yes and gave me her number. When I called early in the week, she asked if we could go to her uncle’s place for dinner. Sounded like fun. She said it was Italian. I like Italian food, so sounded good.

I expected fancy so wore my best three piece powder blue suit with the John Travolta lapels, open shirt ( with wide lapels as well). She was dressed almost formal, with a fancy dress. She directed me to the restaurant that I’d never seen. We walked inside and I felt like I walked into The Godfather movie that had just came out a couple of years earlier. White tablecloths, multiple glasses and silverware. As I looked around I noticed most of the men wore dark blue or black suits and I noticed I was taller than anyone in the room. 

I ordered a nice bottle of wine and we ordered dinner. Before the food came, my date excused herself to go to the rest room. I watched as she went via the bar first, embraced a guy with black hair combed straight back ( Michael Corleone look-alike) and then paused to throw back a shot of something at the bar with him. Then she disappeared to the ladies room, but repeated the bar stop on the way back with another shot. As she returned she said she was happy to see her brother here and he said I better take good care of her. Then she laughed. I didn’t. It began to dawn on me where I was ( slow learner) and I wondered what taking good care of his sister meant. My kneecaps were still intact after years of playing basketball and climbing. My intention was to continue that intactness.

So, how does one manage to unload a Mafia sister in a safe way? What if just dropping her off seemed rude and not “ taking care” of sis? What if she really liked me and felt I was dumping her? Would that be a lack of taking care?

My dilemma was to do this in a caring way and save those kneecaps. I seem to remember some mumbling about how we didn’t seem suited for each other, but I sure enjoyed her company tonight. Then I sped home, locked the door and hid under the covers.

The next day I quit my job, had plastic surgery and moved away. Not really, but I did pay closer attention to my surroundings for a bit. I lived in Youngstown for another two years.

I never saw her or her brother again.

Sending love,



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