Thursday, June 1


This trip has been described by me and others, especially those of us new to boating, as a vortex. At times slow, introspective and beautiful, at other times fast, dramatic, spinning - a strange, humbling and other-worldly alternate reality. The waves, the ocean, the journey has at times left me feeling adrift at sea. But most of the time I have found this world to be an amazing slice of life that was always there but completely unnoticed by me. This world of slow travel by water, in a community of others, all making the same journey, now forever, part of my history.

We stopped in at Prince Rupert the other day and the sight of a car - the first one I'd seen in 2 weeks - stopped me in my tracks. The land wasn't moving (as it was for Max) but my familiar navigation of the scenery was much altered and I paused at the sight of a coffee shop, an intersection, a Safeway. I'd only been on the water for 2 weeks, but each hour has been a day and I feel like I've been away from home for so long.

This trip even comes with its dramatic sea tales; while I will not reveal names to spare the captain and crew of the boats in question any more sadness, 2 boats on this tour recently got into some very tight situations. The first, after a stern tie at anchorage broke, ended up at a 45 degree angle up on a sand belt until they could be roped and dragged safely back into the water. The second, just the other day, ran aground into a rocky area as we headed out to Ketchikan and destroyed their stabilizer and propeller. Bilge pumps were quickly set up and the Coast Guard called and they had to end their tour prematurely when their boat had to be hauled and repaired. No one was hurt and major disasters were averted but it has been a very up and down few days.

Words are poor tools to convey my thoughts upon seeing the Coast Guard sailing quickly to the area where we had gathered our boats around the damaged one. Water was streaming out the side, being pumped from the bilge at 60 gallons a minute. Over the VHF radio, we supported and rallied around the boat. One boat delivered another pump. Larry, "the last liberal from Texas", Crouch (aka service genius) boarded the boat, took over as captain and took charge of communications with the Coast Guard, as the captain himself attended to the leaking.

I suppose I felt a sense of pride and respect for the professionalism, the seamanship and camaraderie all around me - not unlike how I feel around firefighters and emergency medical providers. The Coast Guard boarded the boat and helped in any way they could and escorted the boat, now safely stabilized by the efficient pump, to a marina where it could be hauled out. In days since, everyone has formed a tight circle around the captain and his first mate, expressing our support and sadness that they must end their tour too early, yet relieved no one was hurt.

There is not enough time in one life to allow all the details of the many different worlds we all walk in to shine through. This is a world that I glossed over entirely. There was no depth, just a vague notion of what being on the ocean and traveling by sea meant.

Before I learned some Italian, I would just listen to the sounds: the ups and downs, the beautiful tones and rhythms conveying sounds alone with no comprehension. When, after a year of study, I would listen to the same sounds, little pieces of meaning would lift themselves up and over the rest. Depth would reveal itself where forever there was only a single dimension. No different, the language of seamanship. The learning curve has been steep and steady. The depths of understanding have inspired in me a new appreciation and respect for the ocean, the wildlife, the desire of so many people to take to the water to explore, to fish, to travel.

Note to readers: sorry this post is so delayed, getting access in any of the remote areas we are traveling in has been impossible. I'm currently in an anchorage 60 miles north of Ketchikan. Tomorrow we arrive in Wrangel, last stop on the tour.


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