Nightmare Crossing

We started running for home with a 40-knot blow hitting us on our bow quarter, which makes for a REALLY uncomfortable ride. We didn’t lose much speed, as we were making 7 knots; had it been right on our bow, we would have been slowed to 4 knots at best.

We were charging for home, trying to get to the Arrowac plant in Bellingham, Wash., by Thursday of the following week. Tony, the plant manager, says Wednesday or Thursday deliveries bring the best price for halibut, as it is available for the weekend market.

We didn’t slow down, and neither did the wind. Nor did it change direction. It just kept blowing from the southeast, and we just kept heading east, rocking and rolling, diving and jumping as we went.

I wasn’t much for cooking in this slop, mostly because of the discomfort and inconvenience, but by the second day those reasons evolved to nausea. At breakfast on Saturday, April 22, I served meat sticks, which was simply fried hamburger broken into strips right on the griddle. I nibbled enough to satisfy me while I cooked, and then sat down with the guys at the table when they ate.

Watching them eat was asking too much, so I stepped out on the back deck for some air. The wind was driving hard into the cup of our back deck created by the shelter deck and the bait house. Spray was lashing the bait house, sending vaporized salt water swirling through the back deck area.

The cold air and spray should have been enough to cure my ill, but with the relentless sea rolling and pounding the boat, my guts just got tired of fighting the urge. My puke was green and chunky, and tasted nasty as ever. I though it was interesting that it was green, since I hadn’t eaten anything green since we began running.

Later that day Mike put on his rain gear and headed out to the bait house to overhaul some gear. He said he was tired of wedging himself in, attempting to find a comfortable position in the sloppy roll of the Discovery.

The wind had backed off a little, but I remained anchored to my spot on the galley bench. A couple of hours later Mike came back and urged me to come out and join him, assuring me I would feel better if I did. It sounded like good advice, so I got my gear on and headed out to the bait house.

Mike was right; it really wasn’t bad in the bait house, but it smelled of rancid squid, and with the country music blaring, I thought I was going to puke for a whole new set of reasons. A quick roll would sometimes try to flip my overhauled halibut skate onto the floor, but the attention required to keep my work on my bench was a welcome distraction from the way I felt, and from the country music. George and Brett joined us after a short while, and for a couple of hours we were all out there overhauling halibut skates in the windstorm.

I had prepared a lame beef stew that would be done when anybody wanted to eat it, so the others went in when they were hungry. As for me, I was the happiest I had been in two days, especially after I turned the music off and opened the door for ventilation, so I planned on going nowhere until we were inside the protected waters of Cape Spencer.

I wasn’t sure how far out we were, but I remember Roald mentioning earlier in the day that we should be in by 3 a.m. Sunday. So I worked through the dinner hour and through the evening. At 11 p.m. George hollered out to see if I wanted to stand a watch, but I told him I wasn’t coming in until we were in calm waters.

The weather never seemed to improve; in fact, it got worse. My skate was constantly being flung upward, and several times almost hit the floor; I would desperately flop over my skate and hang on to the baiting bench as my feet slid out from under me. Eventually I burned out on gear work, and at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 23, I came in from the bait house. I had been out there a full 9 hours.

Brett was in the galley when I came in, and he told me we still had 35 miles — almost five hours of running — before we were inside Cape Spencer. I couldn’t believe it; this was the crossing that wouldn’t end! I took a watch, and as time does pass, we eventually reached calm water. It was a crossing I would just as soon forget.

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