The View From Sitka: Arrival and Appreciation

17 06 2011

After doing such extensive work on the good ship Nerka this winter, her insides pulled apart, mucked about, and put back again, we left Bellingham riddled with anxiety. Would everything work? What gremlins would reveal themselves? Spend time with boats, you quickly learn they’re full of surprises, and not the party-and-ice-cream kind.

Other than an initial scare that we were on our way to Alaska without a working stove, she was indeed a “good ship.” We enjoyed a record-quick trip at 4 days and 8 hours, our smoothest yet, the miles flying by with lovely weather and conversation. (And yes, hot food. Cap’n J saved us from days of PB & J when he triumphed over the reluctant stove.) Our friend Sean, deckhand to the Five Girls, hitched a ride and proved an excellent travel companion. Bear the Boat Cat threw up only once. Glassy-eyed in disconcertingly calm waters, she howled for Sean to move his feet from her preferred puke site, then appeared to gain her sea legs.

We pulled into Sitka at 2 a.m., Tuesday morning – perfectly timed to get a few hours’ sleep, then make it to the Backdoor’s opening for pie and coffee. We’ve nestled back into the community and have been dividing our days between tinkering on the boat, rigging up for our king salmon season to open on July 1st, and reveling in the rare opportunity to relax in town. Plenty of writing time for me, hikes and photo missions for Cap’n J. Bear’s been nosing around on the cruiser parked next to us, perhaps a fan of how rarely it leaves the dock. Pretty content, all of us.

Last night we parked ourselves on a shoreline at the west end of town, waiting for the sun to wink below the horizon. Up here these days, that’s a long wait; sunset is listed as 9:59, but the sky remains permeable for another hour. Joel got some great pictures, his first opportunity to reconnect with Sitka in the way that’s most meaningful for him. (And skilled? Oh yes. You can check out some of his work here.)

Cap'n J and Mt. Edgecumbe, reunited.

Yep, feeling pretty full of the warm-fuzzies. So it was good timing for a fellow fisherman to tell me a story of how he ended last season. He was on the run south, traveling with another boat. They stopped one evening, rafted up together in the anchorage, and cooked a Thanksgiving feast. It didn’t matter that it was late September. Their season’s salmon harvest bountiful, they gave thankful acknowledgement for the life they’d taken.

This kind of thing warms my tree hugging, hippie heart. Inspired me to give my own pre-season thanks here. I’ve received an awful lot of kindnesses that deserve public appreciation, and some of these accolades are shamefully late.

Several months back, I joined She Writes, an online writers community. After years bemoaning the lack of writers’ energy in my life, She Writes has meshed beautifully with my migratory lifestyle. The wealth of experience and project diversity is at once humbling and invigorating; I’m thankful for the inspiring conversations and new friends.

One of those happy She Writes connections is Fl (Girl with a New Life). Tina, the author, celebrates women’s stories with an eclectic blend of writing prompts, film reviews, and personal reflections.  She’s tireless, maintaining a faithful schedule for her readers, posts rich with her warm, conversational tone, with remarkable consistency.

In May, I came back from sea to find that Tina had posted about Hooked, naming this fishy little site as one of her favorite travel blogs. Her praise was a delightful surprise, a powerful example of the way stories bring people together. We live on opposite sides of the country, in daily routines that are worlds apart, yet when we share reflections of what matters to us, what’s life giving and what keeps us awake at night, we find kindred spirits. Thanks to you and your husband, Tina – I’m glad our virtual paths have crossed!

The past month was very good to Hooked. Pacific Fishing, leading business journal for the West Coast seafood industry, ran an “Introducing the Blogger” story in their June issue, and has generously posted a link on their homepage. I’ve been a Pacific Fishing reader for decades, so this was particularly touching to me, and has greatly increased Hooked’s audience. Thanks, Pacific Fishing, for your support; it’s much appreciated.

I’m thankful for a whole mess of goodness. For May’s longline job, a safe, successful, laughter-filled season with my fantastic “brother” and a good-spirited crewmate. For the Backdoor for being my Sitka haven, and for Bernadette and Sotera singing out, “Welcome home!” without hesitation or qualifier.  For all of Cap’n J’s work on the Nerka while I was gone, and the fantastic dinners he prepared upon my return. “You just keep writing,” he insisted, when I was deep in the words and would’ve ended up scrounging for a bread-and-cheese midnight snack, if not for the delicious meals he set before me.

"Dinner with Steve." A delicious sandwich, a story for another day.

Five days ago we were running up the coast of Baranof Island, glassy water pierced only by humpback exhalations. The cabin filled with a collective pulse of excitement and relief. We were reluctant to speak of the magic we were feeling, jinx-wary, but Sean, Joel and I all agreed: this season just feels good. Hopeful. With plenty of time ahead to be smacked by reality, we’re enjoying the positivity of the present.

As we approach next week’s solstice, may it be so for you, too, sweet reader, that the light in your heart reflects that of these lengthening days. Be safe, be well, and be sure to find time for pie.

Thanks, Bernadette and crew... Love you guys.


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10 responses

17 06 2011
Vicky Wood

Lovely Tele, I’m glad your trip was good and that you are having good thoughts about the season. Be Well and Safe………….your friend on the rock, Vicky

17 06 2011
Nancy

Ditto Vicky’s sentiments, Tele! Glad to hear you had a smooth ride North. Your post makes me miss Sitka all over again . . .

17 06 2011
fishingblues

I have to say, Joel’s photography totally blew me away! Wow! You are both SO talented.

19 06 2011
Tele

Thanks, Robin! I think his photos are pretty spectacular, but I’m fairly biased. :) He put a lot of energy into studying both the photographing and the editing this past winter, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he finds time to do up here this season. Hope all’s well for you and yours!

18 06 2011
teri

Thank you for the wonderful stories, miss you much, pray for you and Cap’n J to stay safe and have a bountiful season. Hugs!

18 06 2011
Carolyn

You might like to enter this post into She Writes second anniversary celebration. It’s powerful writing on their behalf.

19 06 2011
Tele

Thanks for all the kind wishes, friends! Another bit of gratitude is the ease with which we can stay in touch with one another these days… Very different from being up here 20 years ago!

CJ, thanks for the suggestion – I wouldn’t have thought of that. Hmm. Hope life-after-book-completion has been good for you!

28 06 2011
(FL) Girl with a New Life

Tele, thank you for the lovely mention. I am honored.

As always, reading your words is like a warm cup of mental coffee. You rock.

28 06 2011
Chasing Kings: Southeast Alaska’s Summer Troll Season « Hooked

[…] Hooked’s last post, my dad remarked upon its theme of gratitude, that it wasn’t a value he’d observed in the fleet […]

25 07 2011
Nancy Mendnehall

I trolled in southeast 1963-1971. A great pleasure to read this journal. I tried to write about it years ago as fiction and never finished it. This is a great way to do it. Now I am writing n-f about the loss of small-boat fishing and its communities to the industrial version.




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