The Long Slog

I flew down to Petersburg with Chris yesterday. My first trip there since Paul’s passing. I asked some of Paul’s other friends if they needed anything from Juneau. Steve ordered 2 quarter pounders. I picked those up on the way to the airport, along with a couple large fries.

We got to Petersburg about 230 pm and went right to the boat. Chris owns the Marson’s, a wooden seiner about 50 feet long with a friend Kurt in Petersburg. Kurt told me he went to school with Nina and Nevette, and that Paul had been his favorite teacher. Kurt uses the boat to seine for salmon in the summer, and Chris does some longlining and crabbing with the boat. He also does an annual deer hunt from the boat with his fishing crew and friends and family.

Kurt had installed a new digital compass and other items for the autopilot, and the two of them spent an hour fine tuning it out in Wrangell Narrows. The boat was parked just down the slip from the Cisco, Paul’s boat, which was in its usual shrink wrap for the winter. The girls are going to hang on to it for the time being, and Steve will look after it.

We dropped Kurt back at the dock and headed out to Frederick sound after 4 pm. It was right at dock, and several boats that had been out fishing or hunting were making their way back to the harbor as we departed.

The boat has big sodium lights for seeing out in front of the boat. Sara was concerned we were traveling at night and there might be icebergs like the one Larry and I encountered a couple years ago bringing his boat back from Wrangell. The lights gave us good forward vision for ice bergs and other obstacles, and I felt safe.

Chris and I chatted about his fish business and the state of the fish markets that had been soured for Alaska fish by Russian harvests and by higher interest rates for purchasing fish to process and sell. We also talked about his late dad Eric, who alongside Chris, helped me buy my power troller Dutchmaster, and then Eric helped me rig it and showed me how to troll.

Luckily, I brought food – bagels, some cheese from Portugal, pickled rhubarb, and a pint of my jarred smoked king salmon. Chris had brought coffee. The cupboards were absolutely bare in the boat switch out. Chris really liked the pickled rhubarb and cheese, and said the rhubarb really complimented the smoked salmon.

We yakked til about midnight, when Chris said one of us should take a nap. I said he could, as I felt pretty good. He laid down on the bunk next to the captain’s chair in the wheelhouse while I took the helm.

We steamed up Stephens Passage in the pitch black, with lots of rain and some tailwind chop. You just stare out into the scope of your floodlights, just like driving a car at night, I guess. We seemed to be going past lots of birds – seagulls, murrellettes, grebes, etc. It seemed like an unrandom event that we could be 5 or 10 miles from the shore and these birds just happened to be out in front of us here and there. Maybe feed is attracted to the surface by our lights, and the birds know this.

We passed a single boat just as we entered Frederick Sound from the Wrangell Narrows. Then just one more boat – I think a tug and barge – up Stephens Passage. I also saw a boat with lots of lights tied up in Taku Harbor at the dock. Otherwise, it was about as unscenic a trip as you can make, running a boat all night in the dark with no moon or starlight.

I figured Chris would get up about 4 am on his fishermen’s clock, and he’d told me to wake him for wheel watch. But he was still fast asleep at 430, and I just let him sleep. He’s got a lot more on his plate in life than I do, and I’m guessing maybe this was one of his rare chances for a good snooze.

He finally woke about 530 am as we started around Douglas Island for Auke Bay. He went down and grabbed a cup of coffee, and we swapped places. I was asleep in minutes. I got up, very chilled for some reason, as we were steaming into Auke Bay just after 7 am.

When we got to the dock, I tossed over the starbard bumper buoys. Chris maneuvered the big boat to the lee side of the dock in a stiff wind, and I threw the midships tie up line to one of Chris’s fishing crew waiting for us on the dock. He got a bite on the dock bullrail with the line. Chris then ran forward on the pivot line to get the boat closer to the bullrail, and his crew member and I secured the bow and stern tie up lines. The crewmember, who also happened to run the private marina where we moor the tug, took me to the shop where I’d left my car. We talked about the marina, and it was good to now know the manager now for future moorage.

I threw my sea bag in the car, and headed for home. I stopped at the Breeze Inn for an apple fritter and a coffee. I jumped in bed straightaway when I got home, and by 1130 am, was up and ready for the day.

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