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Galley Tables

May 01 2012
Smooth Sailing Ahead for Captain of the Tusty PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 May 2012

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Retiring Tustumena Captain Robert Crowley at the wheel. Jennifer Canfield photo

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            For the last 15 years Robert Crowley has been a kind of year-round Santa Claus to the Southcentral and Western Alaska ports that have relied on him as captain of the ferry Tustumena. After 36 years with the Alaska Marine Highway System, Crowley is retiring.  


            Crowley disembarked in Homer this morning, completing his career with the trusty Tusty in the same place it began in May 1976.


"When I was camping on the Homer spit and the ship came in and I said, ‘That's the ship I want to work on," it wasn't to go to work for the Marine Highway System, it was to work on this ship. So I guess I've satisfied that dream. The more I think about it, the tougher it gets."


            When he was 15, Crowley started coming to Alaska to work on small freight vessels and landing crafts. Over the years he'd run into former bosses who'd gone to work for the Alaska Marine Highway System and they'd encourage him to apply.


"One of my bosses was unable to hire me back one spring and the ship was on Homer spit and came in and I wondered over and said, ‘How do I go about getting a job?' and I went to Seward and about a month later I got hired.


            Though he's spent a few short hitches on other Alaska ferries, the Tustumena has always been Crowley's main assignment. He hinted that the fast and easy money that came with pipeline days in the late 70's was tempting but he stayed with the ferry, which he says has brought a different kind of economic benefit to Alaska. He's excited about the two new Kodiak-area ports the Tusty is serving, Ouzinkie and Old Harbor.


"For the last thirty years or so- heading out west and adding ports as we go- it's changed quite a few communities. Made them a little more vibrant, I think."


            Crowley says he's a little bit nervous about retirement but is otherwise looking forward to the future. This summer he will relocate with his family to his wife's home country of Scotland.

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