7 Weeks

We were supposed to go back into Port Valdez today but we got corked – an inbound tanker was having some mechanical issues and went to anchor off Knowles Head in central Prince William Sound to figure things out, so we had to stay at Naked Island as the mid-sound sentinel tug. In the meantime the boat on the other side of the island from us got relieved to go into town and we will have to wait until Saturday.

We’ve made it through the first week. This time around it has been particularly difficult, maybe because I’m looking at being here longer than usual. It’s not such a big deal, I used to do three-month hitches; the difference here is that we often sit and do absolutely nothing, waiting for an oil spill that we all hope will never happen anyway. That’s our job. But sometimes I’d rather be towing barges or pushing ships around every day.

The first week or so is hard for me because you have to give yourself over to the pull of the boat, which says “settle in, stay a while, resign yourself”. And part of me doesn’t want to resign myself; part of me wants to go back home. To resist that pull is to make yourself emotionally sick, and I seem to have fought it especially hard this time around. The loneliness and isolation on this boat drag me down sometimes, even when I’ve got a good crew. So it’s been a rough week, but I think I’ve settled in because I certainly feel better than I did a few days ago.

Except it’s hot! Not really, of course, but you get used to typical Alaskan temperatures (daily high on average is a comfortable 70 degrees in the summer) and when the summer sun beats down on the Texas deck right above your bunk and there’s no AC, it’s hard to sleep. You want to open the portholes and get some air moving through the room, but 11 pm here looks like 5 pm in the rest of the country, and I have a hard time sleeping in anything other than pitch darkness. I really should not complain – two years ago I was in a bit of a nightmare situation in the Caribbean where the air conditioning blew out and the boat became an oven, cooking us all into a sick, sweaty mess. I took my entire bunk outside and got as much sleep as I could in the humid night. It still wasn’t much because I was on the 12-4 and so I was getting about four hours of sleep from 4 am until the sun rose on me at 8.

That was the trip I decided I couldn’t hang with Puerto Rico anymore, and came here. Now as the moon sets over Naked Island and the sun glows just behind the Chugach range at two in the morning, I sit quietly, taking it all in, waiting to go back to town.

I especially want to go in because I need the computer and some decent internet (the signal out here in McPherson Bay is pretty terrible) so I can update the website with new musings from my friend Katie, who is at this moment on a tug in the Sea of Okhotsk off Sakhalin Island! She has given me a ton of awesome material to work with and I can’t wait to share it with you.

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