14 July 2011

Landing in a New World: Bristol Bay Journal Part 1

My father-in-law booked my flight. He must have known which side of the plane would get the best views, and he made sure to get me a window seat not only on my flight to Anchorage, but also on the short jump over to Dillingham.

I had never seen so many little lakes before. I wondered if I could count them, but soon decided it would be more accurate to wait until some point after the second coming and simply ask God how many there were. Certainly He would remember. He'll probably even tell me each of their names.

Which made me wonder, since He calls each of the stars by name and we humans can't possibly know and name all the stars, if He gives things names in addition to the names we give them. Or before we give names to anything. Another thing to ask, I suppose. He let Adam name the animals, but I guess I don't know if God has His own names for Alaska's lakes.

The gentleman next to me is a dentist, on his first trip to Alaska for a fishing vacation. I am a music student, a vegetarian one, on my second trip to Alaska in general but my first trip to Bristol Bay for a commercial fishing venture with my husband and father-in-law.

They've put in quite a few seasons together, and the whole family is waiting with baited breath to see how I will take to fish and water. Will I get sea sick? Will the sight of all the dead fish make my stomach churn?

"Don't eat any fish," says my brother-in-law.

I'm startled. Did I hear him right? Really? This is his one recommendation?

"At least, not if you want to stay vegetarian. They'll taste so good you'll want to keep eating them."

I'm skeptical about this advice, but I don't intend to set about proving him wrong.

We land in Dillingham, get off the plane, follow the crowd across the runway, through a fence, and around to the front of the airport. It feels like a crowd, probably because everyone is waiting for baggage in a small space, and it takes some time before I can get close enough to find out if my bags landed with me. Meanwhile, the kind family friend who meets me at the airport figures out who I am, and we wait for luggage together.

The tide schedule has been nicely arranged so that the F.V. Ingolf will come into the harbor to meet me by early evening. Still, there is time to see the fish and game office and get introduced to a few more family friends before the fishermen deliver the day's catch and fill up with fuel.

When we get to the harbor, I meet my driver's nephew, who also happens to have been a high school classmate of mine. I decide this may be a new world, but it is still part of a rather small one. We park and get out, and my gracious hostess points toward the boat (otherwise, she knows, I may never find it on my own) and sends me down the dock to be reunited with my husband after nearly a week apart.

I stop at the row she indicated. They are about the third boat from the dock. I peer at each of three orange slickers, each with their backs to me. Which one is he? I ask myself, and after a moment of pondering, make my best guess and shout out my greetings. He turns, smiles, waves.

Good. Got it right.

I tour the boat, which doesn't take long. It's 32 feet in length--the longest regulations will allow for this activity. We get my bags, take them to the "locker", which is essentially like a semi trailer parked here to store fishing-season things year-round, and sort through what I will need on the boat and what I will leave on land for the week. I take enough pairs of socks to wear a new pair every day, just in case, even though I know I might wear the same pair all week as we work hard and sleep hard between sets of fish.

We get my fishing licenses and my Peter Pan hat, go to the grocery store, prepare for Sabbath. I will spend my first night and day on the boat in the harbor, and I find that although the sleeping quarters are quite efficient in their use of space and would probably make my mother feel rather closed in (good thing claustrophobia doesn't have to be inherited), they are cozy and well padded with sleeping bags. There's even enough room for my husband next to me.

1 comment:

  1. The adventures begin!! :) Awaiting more Bristol Bay tails. Happy fishing!


Greetings, fellow climbers! Leave your marks on the steps--I'll be delighted to hear from you.