Author, subject of 'Any Tonage' book make peninsula tour stops

Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2004


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  Photo by Mark Harrison Jackinsky poses with Jacquelin Pels, author and publisher of his biography. Photo by Mark Harrison

Capt. Walter Jackinsky signs copies of "Any Tonnage, Any Ocean" at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center on Sept. 15. Jackinsky is on a tour promoting the recently published biography of his long career as a ship's captain with the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Photo by Mark Harrison

Walter Jackinsky retired a few years ago after spending a career at sea, much of it as captain of a ferry in the Alaska Marine Highway System. Jackinsky hasn't come out of retirement, but for the past few weeks, the 88-year-old has been visiting some unusual ports of call.

The Ninilchik native has been stopping at bookstores, libraries and radio stations on the Kenai Peninsula as part of a tour in support of a recently published biography of his life on land and at sea.

One stop last week on the tour was the Kenai Senior Citizens Center. Capt. Jackinsky sat at a table displaying copies of the biography, called "Any Tonnage, Any Ocean," and signed books for a stream of enthusiastic seniors.

The title of the book comes from Jackinsky's master mar-iner's license, which allows him to operate any ship of any size anywhere on the seas. In earning the license, Jackinsky started his life at sea early, but he began his career in the Alaska ferry system late.

He started fishing at the age of 10, later worked as a commercial fisher and served in the merchant marines during World War II, before joining the new ferry system in the early 1960s. Jackinsky was in his late 40s when he served as a seaman on the inaugural run of the marine highway system's first ferry, the M/V Malaspina.

Jackinsky liked the work and the life and eventually became a captain working out of Juneau. He spent his last 17 years running the M/V E.L. Bartlett in Prince William Sound. When he retired at the age of 81 he was the system's senior captain.

Jackinsky said he was proud of his 34 years of service with Alaska's ferry system, especially his safety record.

"In all those years, I never had on accident," he said.

Virginia McGahan -- who moved to Alaska five years ago from California -- said she heard about the book signing on the radio and decided to attend because of her interest in state history and the accomplishments of an older generation.


Photo by Mark Harrison

Jackinsky poses with Jacquelin Pels, author and publisher of his biography.

Photo by Mark Harrison

"I just love to read and hear about things in the past, especially about Alaska -- particularly the older folks. I love to read about the things they've done," she said.

Carol Stables also attended the event due to an interest in the past. Stables said she plans to give the copy of the book she bought as a gift, after reading it herself.

"I want to read about the history part of it," she said. "The book is for my son who loves Alaska. I'm going to read the book and give it to him for Christmas."

The author and editor of the book, Jacquelin Pels, also was present. But she admitted those buying the book were more interested in speaking with Jackinsky, than herself.

"I'm just wall paper. I wrote the book, but Walter's the star," she said.

Pels is a graduate of Kenai Territorial High School, class of 1953. She now lives in Walnut Creek, Calif., where she and business partner, David Johnson, run Hardscratch Press. With "Any Tonnage, Any Ocean," the pair has published 16 books, many about the history of Alaska.

A late arrival at the book signing was one of Walter Jackinsky's grandsons, Jason Jackinsky. He said he was seeing the book for the first time and was familiar with some of the stories in the book, but not all.

"I looked at the book just now and going through it I learned he was a boxer. I didn't know that," Jason said. "He has so many amazing stories to tell."

Capt. Jackinsky and Pels will do book signings at Veronica's in Kenai on Friday and River City Books in Soldotna on Saturday.

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