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It's a dream of many white-collar workers, but very few actually quit their jobs and migrate from the stifling concrete jungle, heading back to the land. Even fewer people take the chance to live in a place like Port Protection, AK, a remote fishing community made up of about 50 people in the Prince of Wales Island area.
Do you have what it takes to join them? Because now not only could you live there, you could also own a turnkey business in Port Protection for $695,000.
If the name rings a frosty bell, it's probably because you've seen National Geographic's reality show " Port Protection," which films residents as they struggle with and live off the harsh environment in this Alaskan wilderness. Mail comes in by a float plane, and the nearest hospital is a 40-mile flight away -- that is, if the weather allows for takeoff.
Most of us would run screaming back to civilization if we didn't just give up and become part of the permafrost. But for Gregg Dockweiler, who worked for 16 years in sales around Los Angeles, moving to Port Protection was a rebirth.
"All my friends down there thought I was crazy," Dockweiler says. "But being next to the whales and stuff -- I was so much more happy than sitting on that freeway for hours, and listening to customers complain, and seeing all that money fly out the window for bills."
After first visiting the fishing community in 2003, Dockweiler found it kept pulling him back.
"Every vacation I got, I visited," he recalls. In 2005, he purchased a plot of land with three one-bedroom cabins, but he had to wait four years before he was able to move to Alaska full time. With money saved up and extra income from selling fish he caught off a 30-foot trawler, he set up Port Protection Adventures, a business where guests pay to lodge and fish.
For listing price, you get everything: the website, the name, the cabins (Dockweiler stays in the cabin with the loft), the land, and two trawlers. It's a full-fledged new way of life away from the rat race for $695,000.
While the residents of Port Protection aren't totally removed from society -- they have internet access and, Dockweiler says, they can order from Amazon -- this place is tough. The weather turns fast, and the tides "can swing 20 feet in 15 minutes," so the residents have to make do for themselves more often than not, he says.
It's a 1.5-mile boat ride from the cabins to the nearest road, and there's one large trading post in Port Protection, which offers groceries, hardware supplies, laundry services, fuel, and alcohol. However, Dockweiler says, many people brew their own beer (retail prices are high in Port Protection). There's also a K -- 12 school, which has about 10 students.
Fishing is Port Protection's economic driver, and most of the residents make their living on the catch. When it's fishing season, boats from other towns come through to catch salmon, trout, snapper, and giant halibut. If there's no fish for the dinner table, hunting for venison is an option.
Dockweiler says National Geographic portrays the town accurately. He isn't on the show, but he lodges the filming crew in his cabins while they're filming. Each cabin has only one bedroom and one bathroom, but one of the cabins' bedrooms, crammed with beds, can sleep four. Each has an oil heater and a kitchen. A foundation has been set for a fourth cabin if a buyer wants to expand.
The show, now headed into its second season, hasn't changed the fishing village. Dockweiler says the town isn't getting an influx of tourists, although some people have called him asking "to just come up and hang out," and a few "show groupies" have come through the town from time to time to meet their favorites. Even if Port Protection isn't teeming with tourists, Dockweiler's business has benefited from the international spotlight.
"It's helped me a lot. … It's definitely gotten a lot of attention," he says.
Rates for Port Protection Adventures run from $450 a day for a two-person cabin to $550 a day for a four-person cabin; both come with skiffs for fishing. So why sell when business is healthy and Port Protection has garnered more interest than ever before?
Dockweiler isn't moving back to the Lower 48 -- he's heading farther north to be closer to his two brothers, one of whom is ill. And the big city will remain far away.
"I went there [to L.A.] for two weeks to visit -- I couldn't handle it," he says. "I left after three or four days. I'll be in Alaska from now on."