The Kenai Peninsula comes alive during summer. Tourists, fishermen, seasonal workers and year-round residents share highways and harbors from Homer to Seward. ADN's Tegan Hanlon and Marc Lester recently spent a week meeting some of the people who make the Peninsula unique. Here are some of their stories.
HOMER — The key to loading passengers on the Danny J Ferry is knowing who to seat where, according to deckhand Ryjil Christianson. The boat can carry 29 people, but only eight can ride inside the cabin. Getting wet is a possibility, rain or shine.
"A lot of it is poncho-management," Christianson said. "Part of my job, too, on the sunny days is preparing people, and figuring out who is going to enjoy a little bit of salt water in their face."
Christianson, 39, is in her second season working on the old, green wooden boat that has served as a ferry on Kachemak Bay since 1966. It now primarily serves customers of the Saltry Restaurant in Halibut Cove. For Christianson, the seasonal job is a career change after a decade working as a naturalist and educator for Homer's Pratt Museum.
"I couldn't handle any more emails or meetings," she said.
The job was also a return to her maritime roots. Christianson was raised in Homer, the daughter of a commercial fisherman. She works primarily with captain Elsa Bishop, who is also from Homer. Christianson said the boat's owner, Marian Beck, got her captain's license at a young age, and now tries to maintain an all-female crew.
"She's really worked hard to try and provide opportunities…and be a mentor to other women here in the area. Because it can be a tough industry to crack into," said Christianson. She's logging her hours at sea in hopes of one day having the option to become a captain.
"There's some machismo," she said. "But there's been a change within my lifetime. A lot of the ferries are run by women nowadays."
Christianson and Bishop make two runs a day, five days a week, in summer. Crossing from Homer to Halibut Cove takes 45 minutes each way, though some trips includes stops to see birds and otters. Even in soggy weather, customers tend to feed off their enthusiasm, which is genuine, she said.
"Summer is special here. And it's fast and it's furious, but it's a wonderful place to share with other people," Christianson said.
"Sometimes it's a wet office, but it's always beautiful."