Seems that no matter how much advance planning and preparation time there is for the trip north, our final days are always frantic. Way back in late April, before I headed off on the Charity, Cap’n J and I set a departure date. June 8th sounded just right… Time enough to enjoy our house after I finished longlining, time to go over the remaining Nerka details together, and time to enjoy several weeks in Sitka before our salmon season starts on July 1st. A sound plan, indeed.
I was pretty confident in last week’s post. It’s possible that the universe heard my confidence as cockiness: “With an intended departure date of next Wednesday, the remaining tasks are pretty slim.” As many times as I’ve been through this process, I should’ve known better.
As you’ve heard before, fishermen’s plans change. We planned to be slipping loose of the Bellingham breakwater in a half-hour; instead, I’ve got a cup of tea steaming beside me and am enjoying a final communion with the Bobs (you remember, our resident Stellar’s Jays) and squirrels. Looked like we’d be hitting Queen Charlotte Sound just in time to buck into a Northwest 25. Do-able, but we’ve got an awfully long season ahead of us to get beat up right out of the gate.
Between avoiding an ass-kicking and this week’s mad scramble of final details, the captain determined that a 24 hour delay would be acceptable. We should still hit the tide right at Seymour Narrows, and hopefully sidestep the bumpy crossing. Never a good idea to feel too rushed or locked into one arbitrary intention, we’re breathing much easier this evening.
We’ll have a friend on board for the trip up, someone to share wheel watches and contribute new conversation. Sean was a first-time deckhand on the 5 Girls last season. Every June, Joel and I eyeball the new crop of green deckhands and make a game out of anticipating who’ll make it and who won’t. From the moment we met Sean, we were in agreement: he was going to be the star new deckhand of the season.
And that’s how it worked out. He’s returning for a second round, but needed a ride up to meet his boat in Sitka. He and his partner, Angela – who’s a rock star deckhand in her own right, a powerhouse of endurance, strength and fishing expertise – drove up for a big send-off. It’s a bummer that our plan changed after they got here, so they’re having an unexpected amount of sitting-around-waiting-to-go time, but they’re professionals who know, “That’s the way it goes when you wear rubber clothes.”
Chaotic as the week has been, it’s a fun time to be in the harbor. After winter’s quiet and the slow meander into spring activity, everyone is in full-throttle preparation mode now. The 4 to 5 man (and some women) crews of the seiners surrounding us have been hard at work, repairing nets, sanding rails, all kinds of bustling about. We’re all a constant tide washing up and down the ramp, pushing mountainous carts down to our boats, tossing matching harried grins at each other. This time of year, the harbor pulses with camaraderie.
Through it all, I try to remember the relief that’s on the other side of the breakwater. As soon as the lines are untied and we’re under way, none of this current chaos will matter. The mental brakes squeal, as we go from a zooming frenzy to a sedate 7 knot cruise. What’s inevitably forgotten won’t end up mattering, or will be dealt with in Sitka. If our weather holds, we should have about a five day migration, a luxurious exemption from the rest of the world that I’m hoping to use as a mini writer’s retreat. Fingers crossed.
Below, some photos from the past few days:
That’s the update, sweeties. My remaining tea has gone cold, and some overripe bananas are begging to be transformed into bread, courtesy of Joel’s sister’s Ashley’s delicious recipe. Be well, friends – hope to share some good stories with you by the middle of next week.