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!”.