By Randi Somers
One of the joys of summer is a visit to Halibut Cove on the far side of Kachemak Bay. The season starts Friday, May 23, with the Halibut Cove Experience Gallery Opening. They offer a complementary ride on the Danny J or the Stormbird for this event, leaving Homer harbor at 6 p.m. and returning before 10 p.m. Reservations for this Friday’s trip can be made by calling (907) 399-COVE (2683) or by emailing email@example.com.
Clem and Diana Tillion settled in Halibut Cove in 1952 and started the Danny J tour in 1966. The tour focused on experiencing the remote island by hiking the trails, picnicking on the beach, and visiting Diana’s gallery.
Today, a stroll down the boardwalk, brings visitors to the Experience Gallery where new paintings, jewelry, pottery, sculptures and photographs are on display. Further along the boardwalk brings you to The Cove Gallery, featuring Diana Tillion’s legacy.
Additionally, strolling the boardwalk and trails puts one in contact with horses and wildlife that inhabit the Cove as well as outdoor art, history and great vistas.
Marian Tillion Beck, a top artist herself, is a gracious host and takes pleasure in acquainting guests with not only the galleries, but also to historic sites around the cove.
Marian wrote, “At the Halibut Cove Experience Gallery, the Saltry Restaurant and the Kachemak Bay Ferry (the Danny J) we work together giving visitors a unique experience during their visit to our remote community. We have a special group of ‘cove sisters’ who have been running businesses, creating art works and raising children together. These relationships have been the core of our successes over the years.
“The Experience Gallery’s opening show theme is ‘Flash Back.’” Many of the artists are revisiting the older styles they developed back in the 1980s and incorporating them into their new work.
For the past 30 years the artists of Halibut Cove have been showing their work as a group.
In the beginning, artists Diana Tillion and Alex Combs were very encouraging and supportive of the young artists living in the community. These are the artists who are now carrying on the tradition of the arts in the Cove also help new artists who move to the community. The gallery shows art that very much relates to the amazing environment we live and work in. Each year the gallery directors, Toni Maury and Ashley Maury Griffo, chose a theme for the opening show to challenge and unite the artists. “Our artists are well known statewide and many of them have shown in museums as well as juried art shows.
“Our gallery’s mission is to advance the development of art in Halibut Cove by exhibiting the work of the 16 local artists currently working in a variety of mediums.
“Artists featured in this opening are Kay McNevin, Janet Carroll, Ted Bell, Beka Thoning, Marian (Tillion) Beck, Kirby Maury, Sydney Bishop, Kathryn Carovano, Jay Geene, Jan Thurston, Ashley Maury, Annett Bellamy, Toni Maury, Nancy Munro, Tara Alverson and Tracey Tillion.
The Saltry had an interesting beginning. Dave and Marion Beck brought the building to the Cove 30 years ago as a way to further enhance visitors’ experiences. On an overcast day in the fall of 1983 the building, jacked up and teetering on three-foot wooden stilts, floated slowly down the Halibut Cove channel, flanked by skiffs bearing ‘no wake’ signs. Rising above all was the building’s steeply peaked roof line, attributes that caused locals to dub it “The Flying Nun” early on. They had discovered the perfect building to house the eatery, so Becks acted instantly. A U-shaped dock was constructed to prepare for the building’s arrival. Moving day was chosen because of a 23-foot tide, the highest of the season. When the tide peaked, the barge bearing the building was eased into the U-shaped opening. As the tide dropped, the barge was eased down and away, and pilings were erected from the beach at low tide to brace the Saltry from underneath. Looking at the dock around the Saltry, it’s possible to see how it sits not quite square, how it’s final settling place is slightly atilt.
The Saltry was completed and opened it’s doors in April of 1984. Early on it provided a simple fare; drinks at the bar, hot chowder, fresh bread and cold appetizers such as pickled fish. Those and more are on the menu today. The restaurant serves about 100 people a day during the summer season, dishing out gourmet food from a kitchen decidedly more sophisticated than it was in 1984. The menu always includes freshly harvested seafood from Kachemak Bay. The beautiful setting perched above the water with views of snow capped mountains and glaciers and green lower slopes add to the dining pleasure.
Of course the cruise to and from the Cove is a memorable and pleasant experience. The Danny J sails through some of the most scenic waters anywhere. The highlight of the afternoon crossing to Halibut Cove is a cruse around the Gull Island bird sanctuary just a short distance from the end of the Homer Spit. Gull Island is home to nine nesting species of birds and additional species may be viewed here during migration and before and after nesting. The crossing provides contact with creatures of the sea, in addition to the bird populations, the bay teems with sea life; otters, seals, whales, porpoises and more. Binoculars and cameras are recommended. The Danny J carries 29 passengers twice daily. Modern docking facilities make it easy for everyone to get on and off the boat. Passengers are encouraged to dress warmly and casually and to wear sturdy walking shoes. Rain ponchos are provided on the boat. Starting Saturday, May 24, the Cove trip will be in full operation with Danny J departing the Homer harbor at 12:00 noon and 5:00pm daily until Labor Day. The Saltry will serve lunch in the afternoon and dinner in the evening and the gallery is open during the whole time visitors are on the island. Hours are 1-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. daily until Labor Day. Reservations for riding the Danny J and dining at the Saltry restaurant are needed in advance, to make reservations visit http://www.thesaltry.com/, email, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (907) 399-COVE (2683).
For more information visit http://www.thesaltry.com/ or www.HalibutCoveExperience.com for viewing the artists’ works.
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