Peak of the Run, 2008 — Along with Madeline came Bruce, the Chaperone. Bruce is a great guy and a really good hand because he is always looking for something to do and does things that really help. But I was a bit concerned about his request to spend a few days on the boat during the peak of the run, because it’s not like there is any extra room on my boat. But that was the arrangement we had for him escorting Madeline up, so that’s what we were going to do.
We were already a crew of four on my little wood boat. Dave had built an extra sleeping berth in the preseason, and I cut away a bit of the cabinetry by the floor so we could even sleep five in a horizontal, fore-aft position when Madeline was on the boat, but Bruce made it SIX on board. Fortunately, he was happy to sleep on the dashboard bunk, which I cannot handle when the boat is rocking side to side, just as it does when we are anchored up on Johnson Hill or anywhere else outside for that matter.
Looking at us all on deck must have been a quite comical. There we were, six people, all living and working on a wooden Bristol Bay gillnetter that was originally built to house only two. Most fishing boats in Alaska — seiners, tenders, and gillnetters alike — had fewer people aboard!
When we hauled the net, there were two guys on either side as it was reeled aboard on the drum, and two people up on the flying bridge watching. It was kind of handy during heavy fishing, but it was pretty boring most of the time up there on the flying bridge, and there was hardly room on deck for me to pick even if I wanted to.
What really amazed me was that although there were six of us aboard, it wasn’t any more crowded than with four. An unspoken systematic order evolved, where we each got our shit together and cleared out of the way, and then the next guy did the same. We were working hard, so all we wanted was to get our deck gear off, eat, get comfortable, and go to sleep. Even Madeline worked with this groove, as she was just there like a fly on the wall.
I usually do most of the cooking, but Bruce likes to cook as well, so he grabbed the helm of the propane stove and whipped up some tasty treats. It was nice to have a variety in the way our only food, fresh sockeye salmon, was cooked. And it was nice for me not to have to worry about cooking it.
What I expected to last just a day or two lasted an entire week, which was the full amount of time Bruce could spend on the boat before he had to catch his plane back home. And after he left, we kind of missed having him around. He cooked, he cleaned the deck automatically, he was there to set and haul the anchor, and aside from all this great stuff, he was just great to have around.
It was really an amazing feat to have us all sardined on that boat for so long, and for us all to be so happy about it. It just goes to show that we had some good ju-ju going on the Sunlight III in 2008.
TO BE CONTINUED…