Tuesday, March 31, 2009

AK 1- Midnight Shift Along the Inside Passage

Darkness blankets the wheel house as I take the mindnight watch on my
journey to Ketchikan. I stand behind the wheel looking out at the
horizon keeping course with the deck light of the lead Fish Tender out
of our group of three. The churning hum of the desiel engine seems to
set our 9 knot pace as we cross this portion of Queen Charolete Sound.
With each wave the green glow of sea algae trails the wave of the
boat, giving that glow to the Sea. The skies above break every so
often to reveal as many stars as a man could count before loosing
himself, and yet not enough to tale away from the dark loneliness of
the Sea. Islands dot the Sound, with faint flashes of channel lights
marking the shore, outlines that only come to light with the sweaps of
the radar that I hold my course with. In these moments, I realize the
Wild-er-ness of the Inside Passage. Out here, on watch, the night
finds it's solumn tones.

A crackle comes across the CB, Gabe calling in to check the watch,
three boats lined up one after another passing north to Alaska.
Cugging away at about 10 mph, it is a long slow haul to make it up
towards the fishing grounds. Many hours spent just looking out towards
the sea till your next turn.

"Big-B... Big-B... This is Sumpy callin' out..."
"Yeah Stumpy, I hear you loud and clear. Another long night watch
while the skipper takes in some Beauty-sleep..."

In the last day or so, our call signs have turned into nicknames of
the captain of the boats. Every now and the the Muskrat chimes in, but
mainly on these late hours it is just the watch of the Gene S and
Pacific Queen, keeping eachother company. Through the hour or so we
talk about mountains, Gabe spends most of the off season travelling to
find the perfect powder to ski down.

Both hikers, we obsese over mountains we've seen along the way, and
old haunts deep in the Cascades. Connected briefly to thoughts of
home, and yet they seem to be revived by the fiords and channels that
we've past through in the last few days. Some how this leaky boat has
become home, and the canvas of the mountains and channels the catalyst
for the summer to come. For a wilderness, awaits our along these
coastline waters, one far wilder then I have travelled before.

From the waters of the Inside Passage,