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Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Boy On A Boat

A full moon. After a full day - but not complete. My son and I generally hang out late, pointing out satellites, watching for UFOs and talking about the moon. We bond with astrology, it seems. Together we have discussed things like meteors vs. meteorites, star dust and velocity. Together we went to a race in Hood River under a lunar eclipse. On that pre-dawn journey we discussed such things as primitive peoples and their perspectives, how the land was shaped, and Herman the Sturgeon at Bonneville.
Sunday marks the one-week anniversary of my son's "Great Alaskan Experience," at eighteen years of age. He purposely landed a "real job" designed to test him. Sometime soon, I hope to hear from him.
If you aren't familiar with the timelines of fishing in the Bering Sea, it goes something as follows:
Tanner was in Anchorage on Sunday, and was probably on the boat in Dutch Harbor by the end of Sunday. My best guess is that the boat would want to head back out within 24 to 36 hours after docking. They want to get back on the fish as soon as they can. Being docked and offloading isn't making money - it is only making room for more fish!
I would think that, at the very latest, they would be heading out by early Tuesday. This is only an educated guess, since maybe the new crew was the last thing they were waiting on, and out they went as soon as the crew came on. The depart window is from early Monday to early Tuesday, at the latest.
Then it takes a couple of days to find the fish, set the net, drag it and then haul it aboard. There can be up to 100 metric tons of fish in the net, and hauling it from the bottom of the ocean takes awhile. After the first net, processing begins, and will continue until the hold is full. The boat Tanner is on has a hold of probably over 100 metric tons. Depending on how good the fishing is, it can take from seven to ten days to fill it.
Once it is full, it takes a day or better to get back to Dutch. Then there is offloading, and it involves any able body at any time who are able to or who are required to be available to help.
Once the offload is finished, there may be some "town time" for the crew. Of course, there is also re-stocking of the ship store, food and general supplies, delivery of mail and packages, re-fueling and any ordered parts or machinery to consider during dock time, as well. Depending on the boat company, dock time can be two or three days, usually. It also depends on such conditions as weather, delays in shipments and crew arrivals and departures.
When you consider all of these factors, I would expect to hear from my son any time between Tuesday and Sunday. After this trip, it will be much easier to estimate his activity. For now, I have to hope that when he DOES have the available time, that it will be during regular human hours over here. Murphy and his ever-damned laws dictate that this will not be the case, and I will only know at the moment, when the time comes. Either way, to hear my son speak in my ear will be much needed, for both of us, I think.
Until then, I see that full moon. I smile with a sadness, and reflect on its presence when a boy is becoming a man in the Bering Sea. At home, the moon hangs dutifully bold in the sky. The same face looks at you all of your life as it follows its pattern through the sky. Occasionally it will perform stunning stellar displays, such as blocking out the entire sun, or turning blood red during its own, separate Lunar events. It is the flashlight of the sky, beaming as we beam back. A steady beacon of stoicism and stability.
On the Bering Sea, the moon is in motion. Depending on the vector of the boat, the moon can be dancing from side to side; port to starboard, to port, to starboard. From leg to leg - side to side. Other times Luna will be pogo-hopping, bottom to top; taunting and playful, as if performing. Big swells offer a more dramatic show, as a trough blocks the view, and a crest reveals it. Like a shutter - open, closed, open, closed; moon up, moon down, moon up, moon down; now you see me, now you don't. More often than not, however, the clouds obscure most of the clear views of the moon. In fact, it is a treat when the schedule works out on full-moon days.
Certainly this moving moon is something shared by mariners around the world, and can be considered a cultural touchstone for those who have shared the experience of living on the ocean.
I miss the kid, but I welcome the man. He has earned this respect.
As a father, I admire his grit. He is younger than I was when I went to Dutch Harbor (though not by much!), and he may be the youngest on the boat, which has a crew of 80 or so. When his options after graduating were, "Military, college or work," he chose work. At that point, he and I discussed what kind of jobs were available, and whether or not his future involved name tags and uniforms, "being his own boss," learning how to put together combos or some other type of job available to a young person with limited experience. He made it clear to me that he wasn't messing around, and that he wanted to jump into adulthood with both feet, right into the deep end - no floatie. It seems as if he literally has done just that!
When you read this, Son, know that I love and miss you! I am being selfish, of course, as many others love and miss you, too. Just know that when I see the moon from here, I also know how it looks from where you are. That is something we share, and something we both can be proud of. When you get back, and the moon is the faithful flashlight you have known all of your life, and your new reality is familiar, yet entirely different to you, I would like to hear your thoughts and plans. I am excited for your future, no matter what you come up with!
Take care Son, and just know that your Dad is there in spirit. Love ya.
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is a writer for Blog of Ages. His experience as a self-publisher serves him well in this capacity. Wilson is the editor of two international charity anthologies, Twist of Fate and Angels Cried. He is also the author of the self-published eBook Life Bits and Other Chunks: Memoirs of an untrained man. Stephen has established and managed many international social network groups. He currently lives in the Tri-Cites, Washington where he works at a local high school, and is an independent tutor in his spare time.
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