Gratitude in Alaska
As the waves crash over the bow I shut my eyes momentarily while the ocean spray reaches my face. Some days this happens every time I encounter a wave. Some days it doesn’t happen once. The goal every day is the same; to fill the boat, and no day is the same in terms of weather, tides, hours, or amounts of fish. These variables change by the hour and are almost always unpredictable. It’s the ultimate gamble, and it’s what I do for a living. It’s the ultimate gamble in terms of income, and it’s the ultimate gamble in terms of safety. If you don’t love it you hate it, and if you don’t hate it you love it. I’ve heard this job being described as one in which “Everyone can do it, but not everyone can do it.” There’s only one way to figure out whether or not it’s the job for you, and that’s to finish the season. You’ll be tested mentally, and you’ll be alone. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.
Isolation turns into appreciation, and exhaustion is rewarded with the few hours of sleep in the most comfortable bunk you have ever climbed in, at least tonight it is, because you’ve spent the last 19 hours outside in the weather with no breaks. Just you, your crew, and whatever nature has to offer. You will be soaked, whether it’s the rain, the waves, your sweat, or your tears you’ll wish that you were able to change your clothes every hour.
As I cruise down the highway with a navigational system with no sense of doubt that I’ll reach my destination, I feel lost. I feel lost because of this schedule I’m on with a set of priorities I must follow every day, where I’m a phone call away, and can be contacted every second of every day. In the middle of the Pacific, towing the net on a point I’ve never seen let alone heard of, I feel alive. I feel alive with no distractions to filter my thoughts, one schedule and no way to be contacted unless it’s via satellite phone. It gives me a sense of what is really important, living without the necessity of the internet every day, or a phone to contact my bank to see how much money I have. None of it matters because none of it is relevant when I’m in that skiff.
I wake up every morning the same way, and I go to bed the same way, but I never wake up the same man and I never go to bed the same man. Every day I’m on the Ocean I grow in which a way I can’t when I’m on land. It’s cold, and it’s wet, usually uncomfortable and you’ll stink. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, and at times it’s the best place to be. You find a lot more than money when you’re on the ocean. Often times if you’re patient you find yourself, and you find true priorities. For that, my appreciation goes beyond explanation.
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