'Sin or Swim' and other vessels

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2008

Trying to uncover the mysteries of the party scene in Juneau calls for a new direction. I don't mean another visit to Jack Tripp's Viking Lounge or Betty Adams' Alaskan Bar at midnight, as reported in the Hooligan each Thursday.

Instead, one needs to head down to the waterfront where the real wild things take place. After all, this is where Juneau got its start when Joe Juneau and Richard Harris paddled from Sitka to test the waters of "Gold Creek," pronounced "crik" by old, old timers not "creek" as in the East.

I started at the Seadrome dock next to the Wharf Restaurant. There were two $20 million yachts, both from Georgetown in the Cayman Islands. One was called "Bossy Boots" and the other "Sofaia." This is a high security area, posted, "Marsec 1, Security Measures in effect," so I had to be careful in snooping around. I never did find out who Bossy Boots was.

Next, a visit to the Taku Smokeries fish plant beckoned. The crew was unloading 120,000 pounds of dog salmon from DIPAC brought in by the packer Talio from Petersburg. Eric Norman, the manager, directed me down the ramp to the finger float where all the visiting mega-yachts are moored.

In the course of a few days, these are some of the arrivals. In the $1 million to $5 million class, there was the "Tuut Sea" of Calabasas, Calif. and the "Paragon" of Los Angeles. In the $5 million to $10 million class was the "Reflection" of Evergreen, Colo., in the $10 million to $20 million, the "Steadfast" of Newport Beach, Calif., and from way across the continent, the "Shogun" of Newport, R.I.

In these larger yachts, it isn't just the cost of the boat which astounds, but the operating expenses, including fuel and provisions to travel over all the oceans of the world, as well as the crew, including captain, perhaps a mate, or one or two deckhands, most certainly a cook, and a steward to clean up after all the partying, which comes to at least a million a year and probably a lot more.

I had a very nice talk with the owner of one of the bigger yachts on Aug. 9. He graciously gave me the following information. His name was Wayne Sullivan. He had just gotten back from a quick trip to Boston. His principal home was Key Largo, Fla. The name of his ship was the "Glen Ellen," home ported in Morehead, N.C. He doesn't spend much time there in his travels around the world. The "Glen Ellen" was just pulling out that evening, heading to Skagway, then on to Glacier Bay and then to Sitka on the way south.

The piece de resistance was the "Sin or Swim." Yes, that was her name, from St. Vincent. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a nation located in the Caribbean Sea between Saint Lucia and Grenada with a population of 120,000. A famous volcano, still active, is located there, called La Soufriere.

The "Sin or Swim" was in the super $30 million class, with sleek lines that might have come out of a James Bond movie. You could almost see "Goldfinger" on the bridge.

The owners of the "Sin or Swim" were in New York when I visited, and they got out of town before an interview. The "Sin or Swim" sailed from Juneau at 6 in the morning on Aug. 12.

Maybe it's more fun to dream wild things than to know the truth.

• Lifelong Alaskan Elton Engstrom is a retired fish buyer, lawyer and legislator (1964-70) who lives in Juneau.

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