Captain Dick Stevenson steers his own ship. Locals call him the most interesting and mysterious man in Whitehorse. His main claim to fame: Dawson City’s legendary Sourtoe Cocktail, an alcoholic drink with a mummified toe in it.
On this abnormally warm afternoon, Stevenson takes in the fresh mountain air on his regular trek along the Yukon River.
As the inventor of the Sourtoe Cocktail, the now-retired ship captain founded an exclusive membership club with one initiation rule: to sip on a glass of the gnarly concoction, allowing the toe to graze one’s lips. Stevenson says he has shared over 2,700 drinks of the infamous salty adult beverage.
Stevenson tells his tale as he zips along a waterfront path toward the old S.S. Klondike, a national historic site run by Parks Canada.
It’s been about two years since Stevenson last swigged down a glass of pickled toe dipped in alcohol. But it isn’t an easy task to avoid. “Somebody will come along, and, ‘want a toe?’” he says.
Stevenson, who worked on a 50-passenger paddlewheel boat, says he officially steered his last bow in 1995. He arrived from New Brunswick in 1956. He says he also worked as a gold miner and logger in the area.
He still wears his pride – and a badge of honour – on his shoulder.
And his flag flies wildly in the wind on the hottest day Whitehorse has seen this summer.
After a 9-kilometre riverside quest, Stevenson retreats back to his cabin. Kim Hession, a Parks Canada supervisor, says she often sees Stevenson motor by the old paddlewheel. He’s a speedy fellow who usually keeps to himself, she says. “You’re lucky you got to talk to him.”