F/V Charity, North to Alaska

29 04 2011

A mountain of unavoidable boat projects caused a few days’ delay, but I’m now reasonably certain that the good ship Charity will pull out of Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal today. As certain as a deckhand ever can be, that is. If a profession rooted in taking life can offer Buddhist teachings, it’s this: Let go of expectations and attachment, as captains reserve – and continually exercise – the right to change plans.

(I have a ways to go yet on realizing this lesson.)

The Charity's last night in Seattle, until fall 2011.

Had some excitement this week. If you read Hooked’s last post, you know I was pretty casual about packing for this trip. Saved it for my last night at home, tossed everything into a couple bags. I don’t expect to be on the Charity for more than a month, and the process is pretty formulaic. Boots, raingear, toiletries, a lot of fish clothes, a little of town clothes. (“Town clothes”: A T-shirt and Carhartts that haven’t been worn while fishing. That’s pretty classy for our crowd.)

While Martin did the Costco run, I prepared to gel-coat the head floor. At lunch, he’d said we’d likely stop in Bute Dale, a mystical ghost town several days into Canada. Century-old skeletons of houses and a long-abandoned cannery slide into the bay under the supervision of a massive waterfall and one lone caretaker, Lou.

My thoughts wandered as I wiped the floor down with acetone. Haven’t stopped in Bute Dale since the last time I fished with Martin…what, 6 years ago? Wonder what’s left of it. Bute Dale… Canada…Customs…Passport – NO PASSPORT!

I called Joel in panic-stricken disbelief. We were planning to leave in the next day, and not only had I forgotten to pack my required documentation for transiting through Canada, I didn’t have a clue where I’d put it. A bad surprise for anyone; extra mortifying for the family member known as the responsible, organized one.

Cap’n J saved the day. He calmed me down, refusing to play my “What if you can’t find it!” game. When he didn’t find it in any of my usual safe-keeping spots, he drove down to the Nerka, checked the binder of required documents on our boat. No dice. I jumped when the phone buzzed several hours later, and felt my shoulders sag when he said, “Found it.”

With that, things took a turn for the better. Joel had already planned a trip through Seattle for the next day, so he made a special delivery detour through Fisherman’s Terminal. We had a bonus last lunch together, a few more hugs and kisses goodbye, and I’m now legal to travel through Canada.  Whew.

We got fuel yesterday. Over $3500 of diesel. That’ll get us to Alaska; we’ll have to fuel up again in Sitka before we can go fishing. We’ve still got a few tasks today – groceries, running new anchor line on the winch, checking the survival suits. If you’d like to keep an eye on our trip, visit here and here for marine weather updates.  We’ll be heading up the Inside Passage, Seattle to Sitka, and expect a 5 to 6 day trip, barring any weather-related delays.

June 2010: Looking back on Washington water, heading into a great forecast.

When you next hear from the F/V Charity, we should be safely tethered to Sitka’s Eliason Harbor. If we pass on the dock, you’ll know me by the halibut-sized grin on my face. I’ll have made the first walk up to the Backdoor, Romeos fairly skipping over the sidewalk to get to that homecoming slice of Bernadette’s close-your-eyes-and-whimper-it’s-so-good pie. (See? So much for letting go of expectations.)

Until then, sweet reader, may you enjoy clear skies and safe seas in your life, as you embrace your own seasonal transitions.

Living Seasonally: A Deckhand’s Preparation

26 04 2011

Living seasonally applies unique meaning to life.  Time doesn’t seem to pass particularly quickly, as we mosey through the “off”-season, balancing necessary boat maintenance and improvements with the luxuries of being self-employed. Plenty of opportunities to indulge in hobbies, re-connect with friends and family, and putter around the house. After six months of squeezing ourselves into the confines of 43 feet, we bliss out on the decadence of an 1800 square foot existence.

I keep an eye on the calendar and warn non-fishing friends that any goodbye get-togethers need to happen now, or they won’t happen at all.  I take note of the red flowering currant unfurling in our greenbelt, say goodbye to the varied thrush and start waiting for the evening grosbeak to appear at our feeders.  Even with that cognizance, even as a lifetime veteran of this process, I still feel awe at the annual demarcation of exchanging one lifestyle for another. The change is total – geographic, professional, cultural, social, from living environment to daily routine.  No matter how gently you handle them, closing one door to open another conveys abruptness.

For the past two weeks, I’ve lived by lists, surrounded by scraps of Do-Before-Leaving itineraries.  Car insurance on hold, thrift store for hoodies, cancel netflix. After several months’ lapse, there was a sudden, desperate urgency to going back to the gym, and Joel got used to watching me drop to the floor mid-conversation for impromptu push-ups and sit-ups.

With all of this experience, you’d think I’d spend my last night ashore curled up on the red couch with Cap’n J. We’d reflect on our winter together and talk about our hopes for the coming season, Bear the Boat Cat spilling across our combined laps. A very mindful, intentional way to embrace transition, honoring what’s been and welcoming what’s to come.  Instead, I spent Sunday night in the midst of this:

Bear the Boat Cat, seasoned crewmember, knows this drill.

Our living room piled high with boots, gloves and raingear (several seasons’ broken in and smelling like it, plus a new pair as back-up), I demonstrate a brand-name allegiance that you’d expect from an affluent high schooler: Carhartt, Grundens, Romeos, Xtra-Tufs. The Ziploc bag of toiletries bulges with Extra-Strength Advil, Tiger Balm, and Biofreeze deep heating gel.  A sleeping bag and pillow, mirrored with a small mountain of socks – there’s no luxury on a boat to equal a fresh, dry pair.  And to shore-up my dock cred, a collection of Ray Troll T-shirts and hoodies. Less typical of your average halibut deckhand: the separate backpack bulging with  notebooks, journals, writing manuals, and netbook.

Watching the backpacks and black plastic garbage bags stack up by the front door, I have a moment of gratitude for my vertically-challenged frame. “Personal space” on a boat is generally limited to one space only, and at 5’2″, I can cram plenty into the foot and head of my bunk and still have a welcoming nest.

Cap’n J drove us through a miserable deluge yesterday to deliver me to Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal.  For the next month, I’ve signed off from the Nerka, working with captain and partner Joel, to return to the good ship Charity, crewing for captain and “brother,” Martin.  The halibut are calling, so we’re in the mad scramble of tidying the Charity’s remaining loose ends.  I hope to have another opportunity to share our progress with you, sweet reader, before our Thursday send-off.  Meanwhile, Captain Marlin has appeared at the coffee house and the work day is ready to start – best fishes, friends, until next time.

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