National Fisherman

At Sea Diary

Matt MarinkovichMatt Marinkovich’s weekly At Sea Diary entry is a popular feature of the National Fisherman Web site, and now you can post your own reflections on Matt’s experiences fishing in the Pacific Northwest and North Pacific.

March 15, 2006 — The plan was to be so prepared to leave for longlining this year, so I could enjoy a nice, relaxing dinner out at Downriggers, our favorite restaurant in Friday Harbor. That whole plan deteriorated from my perspective, since my wife, Maureen, kept stacking up projects for me to do around the yard before I left. But all in all it turned out alright, because I did manage to get everything all packed up and ready to go in the wee hours the night before I left, and she was happy that I addressed her wish list before I left.

My alarm woke me at 5:20 on the morning of March 15, with just enough time to get up and make the 6 a.m. ferry off the island. If I wake up with too much time I will sleep in and miss the ferry, so I have to cut it close.

My first stop was the grocery store in Anacortes, where I buy the items that Costco doesn't supply, or supplies in too large a quantity for the boat. While I was there, Roald, our skipper and fearless leader, called me and asked me where I was, where Brett was, and why nobody was at the boat to help clean it up. The boat is always in a state of chaos when Mike works on it in Port Townsend, and this is how Roald and George found it when they left Port Townsend; Mike didn't leave with the boat from Port Townsend, as he will meet the boat in Sitka in a few days when we arrive. I asked Roald if he wanted me to get groceries later and come and help him immediately, or if he could manage without me until I arrived. He stepped up to it and did the spring cleaning with George.

We went a little overboard on the groceries at Costco. Everything seemed in proportion, but I think the addition of the San Juan Island–grown beef and lamb pushed us over on groceries. I guessed the amount within a dollar at the register, $1,800 for four flatbeds loaded with eats. On the way back to the boat we stopped at a big-box electronics store to buy some deck speakers to go with the satellite radio Mike installed on the boat. It's a good thing we stopped because Brett, who stayed to watch over our truckload of groceries, decided it was a good time for a beer but couldn't find it in the load, which meant we had forgotten a flatbed of groceries. And it turned out to be an expensive one, with $650 worth of milk, eggs, beer and other choice items. This put the total bill at around $3,500, including island meat and the regular grocery store, but we're so stocked up I figured we wouldn't do too much shopping up in Alaska.

The wind was howling at the Arrowac dock when we returned with the groceries. Roald figured the wind would whip up swells that would spray the deck and douche our groceries, so for the first time ever we took time to load the groceries into their respective hiding places within the Discovery before we left the dock. Usually we take off as soon as they are loaded onto the deck, and I have to put them away as we run. I actually prefer that method because I know exactly where everything is to the extent I can reach into a compartment without looking and pull out whatever I am after. But this time a chaotic grocery-stashing party commenced, though I did my best to direct the items into their appropriate hiding places. The whole process took about 40 minutes, but had me repacking the compartments and searching out items for the next two days.

We left the Arrowac dock and pulled out into Bellingham Bay around 5 p.m. to brave the seas. I don't know what happened to the strong wind that was ripping us at the dock, but it vanished when we were out in the bay; it was flat calm with a gentle breeze. We were off on another season of halibut, blackcod and high adventure.
*    *    *

The run north graced us with good weather and fair tides. We scooted through Seymour Narrows at an astonishing 17.5 knots (that's pretty good for an 8-knot boat). We also had fair tide for the bulk of Johnston Strait and Greenville Channel. All the while, the weather was COLD. We passed a boat that had come in at Dixon Entrance, and was totally iced up from freezing spray outside. Then the heater in the wheelhouse crapped out, which caused quite a scare for Roald, but managed to buy a replacement in Ketchikan. It was below freezing all the way up to Sitka, where it finally warmed up.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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