Dreams at Sea

Some of my favorite and most memorable dreams since starting this adventure.

Towing cargo barges through Southeast Alaska, sometime in my first two years (I may be slightly homesick for Northern California):

I’m up in the sky, hovering near the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. I look to the east, toward Angel Island, and there is an outbound tugboat towing a sinking barge, the stern of the tug getting dragged astern and underwater by the barge. I make my way through the air down toward the water and look up to see the blue hull of a Maersk ship, going over the bridge instead of under it. Once on the other side of the bridge, it falls back in the water with a massive splash. Then I am down in the water, swimming out toward the ocean. I’m approaching Mile Rock, with a hawser tied around my waist, and I look behind me to discover that I’m towing a humpback whale.

Working in Valdez, Alaska, doing extra time on my first hitch as chief mate, tired and lonely and yearning to go home:

I’m walking out of a beautiful house in San Francisco and onto the sidewalk at the corner of a street. It looks like Russian Hill or Pacific Heights, pale pastel stucco everywhere. I decide to go back inside; I walk across the foyer and as I start making my way up a massive curving marble staircase I look down to find that the hall has filled with an ocean: terrible, grey, cold and angry, with winds whipping spray off the peaks of the waves. There is an ice floe in the middle and on it there is a team of four sled dogs – huskies. I float from the stairs until I’m hanging above them and looking down. They’re still in their harnesses and lines but they have no sled. They’re crouched, barking fearfully at the water. I feel detached from everything and everyone I know and love.

Recently, while working in San Francisco Bay:

I’m on a tugboat on the ocean, surrounded by other boats; fishing boats, tugs, skiffs, all painted in bright happy colors – red, blue and green. We’re towing a barge, and the barge is festooned with banners and flags in flamingo hues of pink and orange, billowing in the wind. The sky is blue and the sea is grey and rough, but not menacing. We’re traveling somewhere but I don’t know our purpose. We’re in the North Pacific, somewhere near western Alaska. I’m carrying a camera and trying to make my way between vessels to capture images of the scene. A smaller vessel comes up alongside us and I start to cross over to it from the stern deck of the tug. The ocean heaves beneath us and I almost lose my footing, but I look down at my hands and feet, holding on consciously and deliberately to the railings of the skiff as I cross. I don’t fall overboard. As I look over my shoulder at the tug it is suddenly engulfed by a huge wave of jade-green water, all the way up to the base of its stacks. I manage to capture a photo of the wave and the image is frozen forever in my memory. I look around me and see people and faces on all of these boats. Many women. Everyone embodies the purest joy and freedom.

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