Homer Harbor historian and tour guide for over two decades
Linda Rowell rivaled the sound of seagulls and ship horns in Homer’s harbor as she guided tourists and locals on a walking tour of the spit in early July.
Rowell is a 76-year-old former teacher and has lived in Alaska for nearly five decades. And for the past 25 years, she’s volunteered as a guide for the Homer Harbor History Tour through the Pratt Museum.
Although she originally had no intention of living in Alaska, she said leading the tour allowed her to introduce tourists and locals to the place she loves.
“I grew up in Maryland, married a soldier from the Midwest, and on our first date he told me that one day he would move to Alaska,” Rowell said. “And my response was, ‘Well, good for you.’ But about four years later, we picked up and moved to Alaska, 1974.”
Rowell worked in Alaska as a teacher with Head Start, where she focused on rural education programs that allowed her to travel to remote locations across the state.
“I always laugh. My husband was the one who wanted to see Alaska and I did. So I always teased him about it,” Rowell said with a laugh.
After retiring in 1995, Rowell and her husband moved to the Anchor Point area, settling in the community of Nikolaevsk. She said her husband, who was a carpenter, spent the majority of his time working on their house. But she got restless and wanted to continue teaching.
“I said to him, ‘You know, I can’t paint anything anymore. I have to find something else to do.
So she began volunteering at the Pratt Museum in Homer, first as a guide, leading guests through the galleries of the natural history museum. She was so good at guiding school groups there that Don Ronda, a long-time volunteer and former Homer manager, suggested she lead the organization’s harbor tours.
“And he looked at me and said, ‘You can do it!’ And I’ve been doing it ever since,” Rowell said.
On a cloudy day in early July, Rowell began his tour in a bandstand fashioned from the wheelhouse of a boat. It is located outside the famous Salty Dog Saloon on Homer’s Spit.
She said she likes to start the tour there for several reasons: The Salty Dog, which looks like a clapboard lighthouse attached to several weathered log cabins, is one of Homer’s oldest buildings, according to Rowell . It was first built as an office building for a coal company owned by three local coal miners. One of these miners was Homer Pennock, after whom the town of Homer is named.
After venturing into the old log bar with its low ceilings and thousands of dollar bills stuck to the walls, Rowell led the group of a dozen tourists up the metal walkway to the harbor to talk about the fishing boats.
“Stop here and look at this boat,” she told the crowd, pointing to one of the dozens of boats in the harbor. “This boat that we see here is a seiner. You fish with a purse seine for fish that swim in shoals.
Rowell said she didn’t know much about the fishing industry before she started organizing the tour. But after nearly two decades, she seems to be an expert.
After walking less than a quarter mile on the spit, showing off the different types of boats to her eager guests, she ended the tour at Coal Point Seafoods, a local fish processing plant. There, tourists and locals watched seasonal workers fillet sockeye salmon at the long silver filleting table.
And while this may have marked the first and even the last time some of them have seen this kind of work, Rowell will return to it tomorrow, teaching a new tour group the story of Homer.