Midnight Run

February 13-15, 2008 — It was mid-February before I moved the Satisfaction to its summer resting place, out of the water in La Conner, Wash. I chose to put it in Maritime Ed’s yard, so he could install a bow thruster tube in the spring. I have all the mechanical parts ready to go, and I could put those in anytime I get a chance.

I left San Juan Island on the 6 p.m. ferry on Wednesday, February 13. I had a bunch of Alaska-prep errands to do in Seattle before I ran the Satisfaction up to La Conner. I started my errands that night, crashed on the Satisfaction, then had a full day of land lubbin’ nonsense on Valentine’s Day (I guess I AM married to my boat!). My last task of my long day was meeting Fawn John at his house around 9 p.m. He needed to be in possession of my truck in the morning so he could drive it up to his jobsite on Camano Island, then pick me up in La Conner some time in the morning.

John drove me to Fishermen’s Terminal and dropped me off at my boat. Even though we kept our bullshit session in check, it was 11 p.m. before the Satisfaction left the dock. I was held up by the Ballard Locks, and it wasn’t until midnight that I was heading up Puget Sound, steaming for La Conner.

It is a long run from Seattle to La Conner, especially when you leave at bedtime. I never bothered calculating the miles, but I was painfully aware of the time it took to travel them. I ran, and ran, and ran, and became more and more tired with each passing hour. I ate dark chocolate, and then crunchy chips to rattle my brain awake. I stuck my head out the window into the cool night air. I stood up like a horse as I drove, figuring if I fell asleep while standing, the fall to the floor would most certainly wake me.

I didn’t have to worry about falling asleep as I ran up Swinomish slough. Just like the last time I was here, it was moonless transit on a minus tide as I ran past the jetty around 5 a.m., February 15. It was pitch dark, and I couldn’t help but think that if it were in the summer months, the sky would be alight with the dawn. But all I had were the range lights to guide me, which worked just fine, but it is so unnerving to travel through that shallow channel at low water in the dark.

I was tied to the dock by 6 a.m. and hit the rack immediately — just another 25-hour day in the life of a fisherman. I took in four hours of power snooze before I was awakened around 10 a.m. by the yard guys pushing my boat into position in the arms of the travel-lift dock.

It wasn’t long after my haul-out that Fawn John had come to pick me up. I squared up with the bill and then grabbed Maritime Ed to look at the bow thruster tube installation project. It looked like a neat and clean job, with no cutting of any floorboard or bunk; just cut the hole, glass in the tube, and I’ll put the mechanics into place when I get a chance.

As John drove me back to his jobsite on Camano Island, we held our long-awaited planning session regarding his going to Bristol Bay this summer. Next I checked out his high-end landscaping handy-work at his client’s shoreside home, then finally I headed back to San Juan Island. It was a Friday, so the 5:05 ferry was full, but that was fine with me since I was so sleep-deprived I just slept in the driver’s seat of my truck until they boarded me on the 6 p.m. boat.

I was now officially done with my Puget Sound salmon chores for the season. And just in time — because the whole merry-go-round begins again on March 10-ish when I leave to go longlining on the Discovery.


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