The Legend of Captain Anna Young

Jun 19, 2016 | 1 comment

My third day in Cordova started out with some early morning safety training with the US Forest Service. We watched two safety videos straight from the 1980s, Shoreline Survival and Hypothermia Hank. They were every bit as fantastic as you can imagine. And actually pretty useful — I learned a lot of different things you can eat from the shore if you get stranded! Hypothermia Hank taught us that if you fall overboard, you should find something to float on and save your energy as soon as possible, including “driftwood, pieces from the wreck, or a dead friend” (I KID YOU NOT). After this delightful training session, we got a talk on bear safety, and then were turned loose into the town for a few hours. A couple friends and I went down to the harbor to wander and take photos. 20160615_CaptAnna_harbor_AMW It was another hot 80 degree sunny day in Cordova, and dropdead gorgeous. The opener wasn’t until midnight so the harbor was full of fishing boats getting ready to be loaded up with gear. 20160615_CaptAnna_harbor_AMW_1 We wandered down a random dock most of the way and stopped to take photos of a jellyfish. Before turning back, I told the girls I wanted to walk to the end — I’m not sure why, but I really, really wanted to get to the end of the dock. I went on ahead, and as I neared the last boat, an older woman with giant glasses and man with a long white beard were coming out of the cabin of one of the vessels, and commented on my camera. “I’m a filmmaker!” the woman said. “You are? Me too!” My interest was piqued. I walked over and shook hands with the two, and found out that he was a fisherman, and she was a retired fisherwoman turned sailor and filmmaker. She was 70. In our short conversation, I found out she was planning to sail to Valdez to make a film on a 1993 fishermen’s blockade of Exxon-Valdez. She was looking for a crew member to come sail with her and help film. My heart ached! If only if only! She said to come back in the afternoon and we would go sailing and talk. 20160615_CaptAnna_harbor_AMW_2 Long story short, I went back in the afternoon with two friends found her again. Her name was Captain Anna Young, and her friend (companion?) was named Bill. He was grilling up some chinooks and reds on the dock for us. Her white-and-purple sailboat and his grey fishing boat were moored side by side on the dock. 2016.06.15_captainAnna_AMW We spent probably 4 hours with Captain Anna on the dock, listening to her stories. Her best stories came out before we started filming and recording her, unfortunately, but we still got some interesting stuff. It turned out Anna had been fishing when the Exxon-Valdez oil spill happened, and in 1993 the local fishermen organized a blockade of the oil tankers coming out of Valdez. She was angry that the blockade had never been covered enough, and so her mission now is to create a documentary about it to make it known. She kept telling me she wanted me to come with her, but it’s about a 30 day commitment, and unfortunately I need to be here in Cordova to complete my research. Some of her stories were a little wild, but then again, so was she. It turned out she was an artist and a writer too, and drew images from her days as a mariner and wrote a book about all the stories she heard. Apparently she stopped painting at some point and took up filmmaking instead as a way to heal from the damage the Exxon-Valdez oil spill had caused. She told of how the oil spill not only cost the fishermen millions of dollars, but also completely changed their diets and their lifestyles since they could no longer fish those waters. It caused people to fall into depression, commit suicide, and broke up families and marriages. At one point my friend commented that she’s one of very few female mariners out here, and yet she’s doing all this still. “This is a story about all of us,” she said. We waited for a few hours for one of her friends to come help us set sail (Cordova runs on its own time), and eventually we were just about to leave, when he walked up. Last minute, we decided to hop back in, and before we knew it, we were motoring out of the harbor with Anna and two of her fisherman friends who came along to hang and help out. 2016.06.15_cordovaview2_AMW As soon as we were on the water, Anna seemed completely at home. One of the guys who came along was actually a UO grad who was finishing up his last season as a fisherman so he could take a full-time job back in Oregon. The other was another, slightly more eccentric man in his mid-30s who I could tell was full of his own stories of adventures on the high seas. 2016.06.15_sail_AMW As we got out into the inlet, we helped them raise the sails, cut the engine, and the peaceful quiet settled in. There was some chatting, and some moments of silence. Sea lions lazed on buoys in the distance, and mother otters floated by with big pups resting on their bellies. 2016.06.15_sailboat_AMW Eventually we turned around and started heading back to the harbor at around 7:30. Anna was going out again at midnight to join one of the guys we were with for the opener. I couldn’t believe her energy! I was exhausted, and she was about to go another 12-24 hours out at sea. I wished so much that I could help Captain Anna with her film and her voyage to Valdez, but alas I don’t think that’s written in my stars. At the very least, I hope to be able to tell her story, and show the world that this woman is out there, and she is a legend. I took lots of video footage, so I’ll be editing it when I get back to Oregon at the end of next month. I hope to find her again and talk to her some more, but I feel very lucky to have met her.  

1 Comment

  1. Janet

    Alaska, always an adventure?

Leave a Reply