Guest column: First ‘Sequim-pressions’

We moved to Sequim less than one month ago from Kodiak Island, Alaska. It’s the nation’s second largest island and home to the No. 3 fishing port. It’s also home to the largest U.S. Coast Guard air base that patrols the Gulf of Alaska and out to the farthest reaches of the Bering Sea.

We lived on the remote island for more than 40 years and decided to relocate to be closer to our little grandkids in Port Angeles, and for easier travel access to other family in the “Lower 48.”

Here are our first “Sequim-pressions”:

• Every person we’ve met has been so welcoming; everyone is so outspokenly proud of their community.

• Groceries at major stores are as expensive or more than at remote Kodiak island! Gas costs more here, too.

• Taxes on alcohol — yikes!

• The drinking water is great right out of the faucet.

• Rotaries/round abouts!

• A noticeable lack of ethnic diversity.

• It’s disappointing to see the use of so many plastic bags at nearly all stores and Styrofoam take-home containers at restaurants. Plastic bags were banned years ago at Kodiak and most restaurants use “earth friendly” biodegradable containers.

• The abundance of flowering trees and shrubs is breathtaking! The area still has a small town, country feel.

• More than one golf course!

• It’s hardly ever windy. We’re accustomed to big winds that blow rain sideways for days on end.

• The Irrigation Festival Parade was a delight! We were thrilled to see marching bands demonstrating that music plays an important role in the area’s schools.

• We were bedazzled by the logging show! Kodiak festivals feature fish skinning and filleting, survival suit races, net mending, “name that fish,” knot tying and other nautical contests. To watch log cutting and climbing (!), axe throwing, sawing, tractor pulling — it was a great initiation into a whole new world. We learned a lot.

• The pride that people have in the timber industry was palpable, especially for the loggers (lumberjacks?). As we watched them it reminded us that just like Alaska fishermen, the loggers are the first to literally put their lives on the line to produce a sustainable raw material that is valued around the world.

• Thank you for being so warm and friendly. We look forward to making many more discoveries and friends in our new home.

Steve O’Brien is a Navy SEAL veteran who was athletic director at USCG/Kodiak for more than 20 years, and wellness coordinator for the Kodiak Area Native Association. Elaine, known as Laine Welch, was an independent producer who covered the fishing industry for over 30 years for radio and print outlets in Alaska and nationally.