Video: F/V Southern Wind, St.Paul AK

I’m at a loss for words…


I’ve heard some hairball stories of tugs/barges going in and out of there. Definately not for the faint of heart.

Our boats go into St. Paul, Pribilof Islands, on a regular basis. The harbor is tiny and entirely manmade. A postage stamp behind a manmade breakwater, with no natural protection. The harbor was built in the early 1990s. Before that, there was only a ramp for landing craft, which met us out at anchor. Before that they used umiaks with outboards to transfer cargo ashore.

In good weather the harbor is still challenging You need a sharp turn around the breakwater to get to the docks. Even at the dock you feel you are only a step up from being at anchor, with waves surging through the harbor.

In bad weather most skippers don’t try to enter. But since bad weather can last for weeks in the Bering Sea, there is always the temptation. Worse, yet, bad weather comes in quick. You can go from a three foot sea to oh-shit in minutes, without warning, and if it happens during a fishing vessel offload often you find yourself trapped in the harbor, surging alongside the dock, snapping mooring lines, until things calm down.

When this happens your only consolation is that at least you aren’t in St, George, the other Pribilof Island to the south. St. Paul harbor is the size of Puget Sound compared to St. George. :upside_down_face:


when my father was master of the GALAXY sometime in the late 80’s, he took the vessel into St. George with the idea they would process Opilio crab in there. He told me how they had to use a big Caterpillar to yard the vessel around inside. I am still not sure how they actually did it without grounding the stern. Anyway, the idea was a failure and I don’t think they were in there for more than a couple of weeks.


That’s how they did it when I was there. Towed a umiak out to where we were anchored with a power boat. The old-timer running the boat took me into the harbor for a look before we came in. I made a quick sketch of the harbor in lieu of a chart.

Looks like the boat in the video avoided the sharp turn by turning early. Then letting the wind push them in and control the track by going ahead or astern as needed.


We must always remember that what we view as hair-raising and dangerous, a crab boat skipper looks upon as Tuesday. :grinning:

Another joy of St. Paul, if you remember, is the icepack. Not so long ago it would come south and surround the Pribs about this time of winter, cutting them off for weeks/months. More than once we were left with cargo we couldn’t deliver to the island because the wind had shifted north and the icepack came down. More brinkmanship: delivering cargo/fish in a window when the wind turned south, clearing the ice a bit, praying it didn’t suddenly shift again and surround you.

The two main exports of the Pribs were sealskins and ulcers.
They don’t do sealskins any more.


We took two big wooden crates of blubber. I recall there was little bit oozing out of one of the crates. Tastes like Crisco but with sand in it.

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I was Mario’s mate for that trip. I remember they got a big seine skiff to help crank the bow around the corner and pointed toward the dock. Then, we had a hard time luring the locals down to be crab processors. It was a brief stay, as you said.


I think it was Miller Freeman … anyway, I think we had some unheard of ‘spare’ time. I was wondering why we didn’t put in there … glad we didn’t with most of the drivers we had!!

I had forgotten till now that we put into St Paul on the CG Cutter that was out of Kodiak when I was there.

We used the ship’s MWB to take us ashore. We had a good visit. Some government employee, Fish and Game maybe, take us around the island in the back of a pickup truck. I got a t-shirt that said “Saint Paul Island - Home to 180 bird species”. I was wearing it one day and some random stranger yelled at me, “210 now! They spotted some more!”.


Been in there several times. Never when it is blowing like that out of the South.
Go anchor and wait for the wind to change like it always does there.

Question about ship-handling with regard to video: would it be feasible/safer to spin her 180 degrees a bit further offshore and operate astern propulsion into the harbor, taking the waves on the bow? Back her past the dogleg, wait for a small set/long trough, then hammer down ahead with hard left rudder? If not, why not?

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Never seen it done. I’ll hold your beer and watch while you try it.
The lack of rudder effectiveness while backing down could be problematic.


Seems like there’d be plenty of water moving over the rudders, though not in a controlled fashion. Flanking rudders would obviate your concerns. As long as the captain has sufficient steerage to keep her straight into the breakers, the only really dicey moment would be hammer down/hard left if you timed it wrong. Going in bow first puts you in potential capsize situations more often: stern pushed over, beam to.

Might not even have to operate astern if the breakers were pushing you in. Keep her clutch ahead + a little bump for steerage now and again.

I’d venture to say most, if not all, those boats don’t have flanking rudders. Hell, lots of single screw boats operate up there.


I’m not even sure where to start.

Square stern vessels don’t back predictably. The bow has more sail area and will get knocked off quicker. The hull form is designed to go forwards. There is no advantage to trying to back in just to take the waves on the bow. The concern is a loss of steerage after a big set and being unable to regain steerageway before you’re on the rocks. Backing in is essentially giving up control when you need all the control you have available for little to no benefit.

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Fair enough. Was just thinking it might work to put the tail (pivot point) behind the dog (propulsion) in this scenario. See what you mean about sail area on the bow, but isn’t there just as much danger from a big set pushing your stern over so you broach? Like I said, clutch ahead plus goose it now and again for steerage/keeping the bow up. Ride the surf in, make the turn. Ok, who’s got a simulator?

No, particularly not the Southern Wind, and especially not with no stack and full tanks.

It wasn’t a smart move on Harley’s part and I doubt he would have done it without cameras onboard but he did it perfectly.

If you’re going to commit, commit.

Cap’n made it happen, surely. My butt puckered towards the end, though, when she took a set full on the beam. Although you’re right, she’s probably deep enough with full tanks to be alright unless she developed parametric rolling, and shame on the naval architect if that happens after one or two sets.

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