Around Yakobi

By Jim Gregg, circa 1943

1-Beginnings; 2-Crowds; 3-Reality; 4-Independence; 5-Winter; 6-Endings; 7-About; 0-Around Yakobi;

[F/V Inez, Gastineau Channel circa 1940](JPG tab, 108 KB)

1 Beginnings

Around and around the trollers go,
where they stop, no one can know,
Or whence or why, or how they came
To take a chance at the trolling game.

In early spring, the Juneau fleet
Drags up and down, to Point Retreat-
On around to Funter Bay-
Some choke herring on the way.

Later, out through Icy Strait,
Where the Hoonah Boys await
And join us in the same pursuit-
Westward, Ho! The trollers scoot.

We're coming to South Inian Pass
little tired and low on gas.
The ocean's on the other side,
So watch your step on the falling tide.

First lip of the journey's end;
The "Gunk Hole's" just around the bend,
Where you may lay awhile in port,
And rest your bones or have a snort.

Gas and oil, and drinks and eats-
Swanson's place and Marguerite's
Places we can sell our fish
And other things a man might wish.

Boats and faces--some we know
Who just arrived from "down below."
Exchange of gossip, false and true,
And other things we have to do.

But now we've rested, had some fun;
Did some things that must be done,
Replaced the gear we left behind
For little "Davy Jones" to find.

And so we're ready--now we go--
The season's just a pup, you know.
Spirits gay and hopes are high,
As toward Yakobi Isle we fly.

In springtime, as we start the game,
Our thoughts are all about the same.
Later on they'll differ more--
But there lies Soapstone's rocky shore!

Up a winding creek, and soon
We come out in a small lagoon
To find a dozen boats and more
That we saw here the year before.

Here the smaller boats abide,
To fish the favorable tide.
Big ones, coming for a try,
Are barked at by we smaller fry.

This is my size--here I stay--
I'm getting fish--why run away?
A rolling stone wears thin indeed,
And "kings" don't bite at cruising speed.

But Frank told me that George told Ed
That someone heard that someone said--
They saw the "Pelican" coming in
From Cape Cross loaded to the brim.

When Yakobi Rock is passed,
And Cape Cross comes in sight at last;
Surge Bay is reached, where we shall meet
The "Ranger," "Roamer" and Moonlight Pete,

And other men who seem to know
The peaks and valleys down below,
All the isles and waterways
Of this most interesting of bays.

The Cape is a mysterious place
'Til you're familier with its face.
Deer Harbor--and some other nooks
That are not found on charts and books.

2 Crowds

Deer Harbor is a stirring sight,
A hundred boats are here tonight.
The harbor's fine; there's fish, and so
There's competition for that dough.

We now meet up with friends galore
and folks we never saw before.
There is Carl Wiedeman, fixing gear,
Boomer and Starlight, lying near.

"Winnifred R" and "Zetta B,"
Shelly, too, and it's plain to see
That when he steps about his craft
She draws more water, fore and aft.

"Nuisances," "Hoboes," everything!
The "Eagles"--yonder come the "King."
Of easy stride, and even keel,
It's gallant skipper at the wheel.

All the different types of boats,
scows and packers--docks and floats,
Are part of what shall be
the endless cycle of the sea.

For larger fish on smaller feed;
smaller ones on small indeed.
Some, by "sticking out their necks,"
Find themselves on troller's decks.

Trollers shall not grow too fat--
Wallis George must see to that--
And other larger fish, who make
Their profit by the trollers take.

A cup of coffee on the run--
you hope to be the early one--
But look at 'em! All down the line
From Hoktaheen to Porcupine!

Safe inside the ocean's shelf,
Greentop's harbor hides itself--
A spot so beautiful--it seems
To be he harbor of your dreams.

On our right it's safe to say
We'll find the "Sunset" and the "May,"
The "Margaret T," and on the shore,
Buildings we hadn't seen before.

Looking around the other way,
"Reliable" and the "Lulu J,"
"Dynamite Kid" and other boats
At anchor, or along the floats.

Stanley Thompson's friendly crew,
Everything to service you;
It's all so nice you may incline
To lay in, when the weather's fine.

Outside the rock, the ocean wide
Is often on the rugged side.
Here the "Greentop" troller floats
Where "Men are Men," and "Boats are Boats."

3 Reality

The troller's life may seem to make
A paradise of pie and cake,
Unless a troller does confide
A little of the other side.

The mornings you go out at dawn,
The pesky fish are all but gone;
You're hanging on, bouncing 'round--
The motor has a funny sound.

Heaving sea and rolling squall
Threaten to swallow boat and all
You cannot see, or hardly think;
There goes your gaff hook, in the drink.

Down go your dishes on the floor!
The wind increases, more and more.
Lines foul up and tag lines break;
You cuss with every breath you take.

The coffee pot falls off the fire--
The tangled mass of hooks and wire
Will not unsnarl, try as you may--
Yet must be done, or there you stay.

At last you make it in, somehow,
And tie your rig up to the scow,
Pitch your salmon off to sell,
And find the prices all cut to hell!

But now and then there comes a day
When you can fish, and make it pay.
A day of trolling at its best
Compensates for all the rest.

4 Independence

Of human life on land or sea,
The troller's is, perhaps, most free
And independent; you just fish
When and where and how you wish.

You are the captain and the crew;
You lead, and others follow you.
Or maybe go where others go--
Advice we take, but "Orders"--no!

Wherever you may choose to sale,
A fellow troller will not fail
To help another in distress
By every means he may possess.

Risk his vessel and his skin
To help you out, or tow you in;
Lose a hundred-dollar day
And not accept a cent of pay.

And yet, I sadly must admit--
I find it hard to make it fit--
The gallantry he thus displays
With how he acts in other ways.

When a favored spot is found
Where there are fish, they crowd around,
Impolitely cuss and shout
And try to chase each other out.

Try to hog the inside track,
Going down and coming back;
Hide their spoons in the hatch
And fib about the fish they catch.

If you're unfavorably impressed
With trollers, from the things I've stressed,
I want to have it understood
That all in all, they're pretty good.

This saga should be incomplete
If, herein, I should fail to greet
Those worthy mariners petite--
The ladies of the fishing fleet,

Who rise at dawn, prepare the cup,
Wake their sleepy spouses up;
And many other things they do--
They know the game, and play it too!

Thrills attend the salmon chase--
Things most odd are commonplace,
Unmarked or soon forgotton, yet
Some you never can forget.

A stormy night--that perfect day--
The great big fish that got away--
A vivid, haunting memory
Of a flaming troller, out at sea!

Often in my dreams, I feel
The rolling motion of the keel,
And once again, I'm ten miles out,
Birds--and trollers, all about.

5 Winter

A fairyland unfolds itself
From Icy Point to Klokachef;
The waking--lie and speculate;
The winter morning I've got to wait.

Right now, there seems to be a lull;
Weather's bad, and fishing's dull;
Wind comes up and the glass goes down--
Darned good time to go to town!

Down to the Strait--and there's Stag Bay
Where the mountains rise, and people say
Great schools of salmon run,
But I could never find a one.

Around the light, past Junction Isle
To Pelican, in just a while,
Which, coming from the Cape, presents
"Chicago" to us weary gents!

This friendly town will welcome you
With hearty grace and much ado;
You'll like it all from end to end,
And you won't regret the dough you spend.

Business or pleasure, as you wish;
The major thing, of course, is fish.
But there's the cookhouse and the store,
Steambath--and a good deal more.

Paddocks have an ice cream place;
Then there's "Dolly's" place and "Jakes."
That you may lift a few and talk--
Mind you don't fall off the walk.

Back down the Inlet to the Sound
For "Bingham," "Graves" or "Threehill" bound,
Where cohoes come in swarms (we hope)
According to the latest dope.

We scratch the rocks and drag the pass,
Run around and burn up gas,
Where fog is thick and tide-rips play,
Seeking our elusive prey.

6 Endings

Those who later gravitate
To Elfin Cove and Icy Strait
Gather 'round at night--and--well
You'd scarce believe the tales they tell;

One there was who caught a whale--
Seized it firmly by the tail,
Tossed it up a mountain draw
And ate it all for breakfast--raw!

As the season's end grows near,
One by one, they disappear.
Until we only see about
The ones we saw when starting out.

There's Barney--hardy sailor he,
Who fears no man, nor any sea;
"Hacienda"--Lester Weiss,
Me, and other Juneau guys.

Some boys are gone, but not below,
But up above--as we all know--
To where the gentler breezes blow
And trollers all expect to go.

Where seas are calm and weather clear,
Summertime is all the year.
Clothes are always clean and dry,
Wishes are fishes--and prices high.

Along the Home Shore now, we sight
Rocky Island's blinking light;
Funter Bay and False Retreat--
Some of us get itchy feet.

Bad days, and some good, I've had,
I really haven't done so bad;
My hands are sore--and I've a yen
To see the Juneau lights again.

7 About Jim Gregg by Douglas Gregg

[Jim Gregg 1940](JPG tab, 212 KB)

In the mid 1930's, my mother Inez, Dad, and I lived in Seattle. Dad was a musician and had made of couple of trips on the 'Admiral Line' of tour ships, which ran from Seattle to Southeast Alaska. He was impressed with what he saw.

An unexpected offer to come to Alaska came from Bob Tew. Bob was a banjo player who doubled on the bass fiddle. He needed a pianist to work with him at Charlie Miller's 'Capital Bar' on Front and Main in Juneau. Dad came to Alaska in late 1938 and sent for Mom and me in early 1939.

The lure of the sea and fishing caught Dad. He purchased a 26 foot double end troller, which he named the 'Inez'. For twenty years he fished every season with that little troller, mostly around Yakobi Island on the outside coast. He took me for a full season in 1942, when I was 13. What an adventure!

[The Inez Wheel, Juneau 2014](41 KB, JPG tab)

My son Walter and I found the remains of the Inez abandoned in Pelican Harbor in 1969. The wheel of the Inez now decorates my home in memory of those times.

[F/V Inez RIP, Pelican 1969](78 KB, JPG tab)
[The Inez Hull, Pelican 1969](42 KB, JPG tab)