The View from the Nerka: A Sitka Welcome

23 03 2012

Oh, man, friends…

We arrived yesterday evening to this:

And, like a gift, today received this:

That’s the view from the Nerka’s helm. Absolutely glorious, and I find I’m not able to do much of anything today but smile. (Oh, and spend an hour clearing the snow from the dock and deck, thanks to our wonderful neighbor Zander sharing his red shovel.) 

It’s a really big smile.

No poetic words or big stories today, just pure bliss. I hope you’ve got a place like this in your life – somewhere your eyes can’t seem to drink in quickly enough, somewhere that your heart lightens that moment you return, somewhere that you feel your absolute truest self. If you haven’t met that place of your own just yet, you’re welcome to share mine:

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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.





The View From Sitka: Home

7 05 2011

We haven’t started fishing yet, but the good ship Charity’s captain and crew have officially entered the first sleep deprived delirium of our season. (It won’t be the last.) Just a quick update to let you know that we pulled into Sitka’s Eliason Harbor at noon today, and what a day it is… Every Sitka homecoming is special, but we couldn’t have asked for anything better than today’s glassy water, blue skies, and beaming sun. Feeling very blessed and thankful, through the sleep dep haze.

The trip north was generally uneventful, just the way we like it. Took a little longer than I’d predicted: we stopped each night in Canada for 4 to 5 hours, and had an 11 hour rest before crossing Dixon Entrance, waiting out 40 to 50 knot wind storm warnings. After crossing into Alaska, we ran day and night to make it here by today, to meet the second deckhand flying in and send home the friend who’d made the boat ride up with us. Only two all-nighters, but Martin and I are both zombies now, more than ready for a full night’s sleep with the relief of the engines off and the security of being tethered to the dock. The Charity did a beautiful job of getting us here safe and sound, as she always does.

Tomorrow we’ll borrow the flatbed truck from the fish plant to start loading all of our longline gear on board, with the hopes of heading out on our first halibut trip on Monday. There’s a good forecast to take advantage of, and we’re ready to get to work.  I’m too tired to explain the blissed-out relief and joy I’m feeling, so I’ll just let some photos do the storytelling this time.

Winding our way through Peril Straits at 5:20 AM, Sitka-bound.

Exiting Olga Strait, Sitka in sight.

Mt Edgecumbe supervising the homecoming.

Home.








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