Sunday, March 20, 2011
Traveling by jet plane to southeastAlaska,a ferry to the island,crossing it in a international travelall, to Craig, a fishing village.
Finally, sea bag down on a 38 foot trawler,shown to me by the Harbor Master Jim's boat, our home and transportation to the back country.
Jim at six feet six inches, a Portuguese-Norwegian recluse, was educated as a biologist, but had a different dream, headed out at top speed , six knots.
Jim lived on cigarettes, instant office, and Polish sausages, slightly heated, and slept, due to his long frame, in front of the oil stove kept on low temperature 24 hours a day, close to his maps, electronic gear, and books, for guidance.
Provisions including drinking water for cooking and coffee were kept in plastic jugs. Toilet facilities were dispensed with in order to provide extra space for maritime gear.
Jim navigated the waters as only a local fisherman can, understanding the tides, reading the shoreline, the weather, and the surface tension of the water, beyond my imagination, for the last 25 years.
There was no bay, shelter, or passage that he was not familiar with, nor tide or current that he did not work with. He must, for when the tide can run at 8 knots in narrow channels and you can only move at 6 knots, the Marble below can be a serious problem.
Me a stranger to these waters, but with 30 years in the marble business, along to advise him about his dream, marble quarries in southeast Alaska's great limestone deposits.
Me, a small town town boy, raised on the edge of the Prairie in Stearns County, Minnesota, could only observe the rain forest and vast waterways around me.
Three days out, anchored in a cove 20 feet from from a solid white marble island ,its edges shaped by ocean water but its interior rainforest covered with 4 inches of moss under the canopy. The horizon,totally flat, perfectly level, all vegetation in every direction trimmed to perfection by the tide.
Salt water, dead flat, as can only happen in the inland passage, at dawn, I climbed on deck of the old wooden fishing boat with my instant coffee.
I sensed the slow upwelling of water steering to my left not violently, just an oval upwelling in the dead calm water.
I can feel it yet, with a deep powerful “sh sh”, no spout, only air movement, a dark form emerged, looked at me, a small town boy, raised on the edge of the Prairie.
Passed inspection, I believe, by nature's most beautiful animal, on the edge of the rainforest, in WHALE COVE, Alaska, that summer morning.