Two documentarians are riding the Tustumena from Homer to Unalaska this week, making stops along the way to collect stories about the ferry.
Kodiak was the first stop along the ferry’s western route for Lucy Peckham, of Anchorage, and Michael Sakarias, of Juneau. Sakarias was a longtime KTOO employee.
On Wednesday, they explained their project from the deck of the Tustumena near the car lift.
As the lift rattled, squeaked and strained under a load of several cars it was moving to the dock near the visitor’s center in Kodiak, Lucy Peckham pointed out what is special about it.
“The car lift, the turntable, the crane. This is the only ferry in the Alaska Marine Highway System that has something like this that is able to pull up to any dock at any height of tide and offload vehicles or onload vehicles. And it is because of this vehicle lift and crane system that was designed for her specific to allow communities that don’t have ferry ramps to utilize ferry service,” said Peckham.
She boarded the M/V Tustumena in Homer on Tuesday with fellow documentarian, Michael Sakarias.
“A couple years ago we decided that we wanted to or needed to document some of the stories that came from the Tustumena. Its 50-plus years of service in Southwestern Alaska,” said Sakarias.
They are going round trip to Unalaska and back, with the goal of documenting stories of the Tustumena. Or, as it is known by most Alaskans, the Tusty.
Peckham said the project has a name: “The M/V Tustumena Oral History Project otherwise known as the Tusty story project.”
Sakarias said the duo is hoping to preserve the history before it is gone.
“The M/V Tustumena is going to be retired soon at some point, soon as a replacement is built. It has been in operation for 54 years and counting,” said Sakarias. “It serves a part of Alaska that is unknown to even most Alaskans. And the project is trying to capture some of the memories and history of the boat in oral form to go to the to the University of Alaska Fairbanks oral history collection.”
Peckham and Sakarias also worked on a documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Marine Highway system. They say that work inspired this follow-up project.
They spent one day in Kodiak, but say they’ll be back to collect more stories with side trips to Ouzinkie, Port Lions and Old Harbor.
Those interested in telling their story can learn more at tustystoryproject.org.