Good Weather, Bad Weather

Fishing wasn’t red-hot, but we weren’t complaining because we caught our 40,000 pounds of halibut in three days of fishing. Last year we did it in seven strings; this year it took us 12.

And falling in line with the theme of the trip was nearly flat calm weather as we began steaming across the Gulf of Alaska, headed for Salisbury Sound, and then to Bellingham via the Inside Passage.

We ran the Discovery at 1,500 rpm, which is harder than usual because there was talk of a storm on Friday and Saturday, so we wanted to make time while we could. We were traveling at about 8.5 knots, which is pretty good with a load of halibut aboard. We had 400 miles of open ocean until we reached Salisbury Sound.

All was well the first day of traveling. I took advantage of the flat-calm weather and went to work overhauling halibut gear. I did five skates the first day, Thursday evening, then 10 skates on Friday.

The other guys joined in, but none were so ambitious as I, because I like to get all my gearwork out of the way before we enter inside waters where I can spend my spare time writing or playing the accordion, and other such things that are difficult to do while the boat is rolling around.

All day Friday the weather was deteriorating, but I kept working at overhauling those skates. It was blowing from the south mostly, and we were taking the weather primarily on the side and a bit on the starboard bow as we headed eastward across the gulf. We were still making better than 7 knots.

When I went back out after dinner, the swells were kicking the stern around quite violently, and while standing in the baiting station farthest aft, I was having a heck of a time just hanging on, not to mention working on the gear. The willingness was there, but my eyes started going screwball on those big swells, and it became more hassle than benefit for me to keep overhauling skates of gear.

When I took my watch at 1 a.m. on Saturday, I saw why I was having so much trouble; it was downright shitty out there. The wind turned more to the bow, and our speed had slowed to 5.5 knots. Roald altered our course to head for Cape Spencer, which was a shorter distance, and left the seas slightly more to our starboard bow quarter. Nonetheless, it was a very uncomfortable ride, and all we could do was hang on and battle through it. We had just over 100 miles of open, stormy seas until we reached Cape Spencer.

I woke up later that morning because I was having trouble sleeping. It wasn’t from restlessness; it was more from trouble being grounded, one could say. As the bow whipped back and forth at the top of the bigger swells, and there were many of those, I was being tossed through the air from side to side in my bunk.

The forward lurching of the boat drove my head back into the aft reaches of my bunk (I sleep with my feet forward), so my body pivoted around my head from where it was wedged in the corner amongst its bedding of pillows. It was a real claustrophobic experience, one I do not recommend anyone sample as a life experience. We now had 85 miles until we reached Cape Spencer.


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