We depart Taku Harbor after our morning coffee. It is our final day at sea. Whales spout and lift off both sides of the boat as we head for our two shrimp pots, situated on rocky, steep underwater cliffs. One is empty; the other contains over a dozen empty shrimp shells and one extremely satisfied octopus. We salvage another half dozen shrimp, more than enough for dinner. It only takes a couple of these big guys to make a meal. R. pulls the octopus from the cage and puts it down on the boat floor. "I'll never kill another one," he says, "they're too smart and gentle." Many are killed for bait or to eat. I watch amazed as it glides effortlessly up and over buckets and ropes, suction cup legs stick but don't impede---it moves as if it's still underwater. R. tosses her back to her salty home. She disappears in a cloud of dark ink.
Our next stop is a kelp and krill-filled cove. We anchor amidst whales, seals, sea lions. Thousands of herring bubble to the surface, attracting clouds of gulls and eagles that skim the water for easy takings. R. fishes for herring to use for salmon and halibut bait. It's all part of the chain in this ongoing drama of land and sea.
We are the only humans in the midst of this spectacle, adrift on the changing tides; small and vulnerable. It is such a fine line between joy and concern. Despite the beauty I rarely escape hyper alert mode. One mis-step and I could go over the side of the boat; one mis-read of tide or wind and calm seas could rile into 8-foot swells. These lands are not for those prone to fear or faint of heart. Neither are they for those who dislike wet. We pull into Juneau harbor around 5:00 p.m. A light drizzle begins to fall as the sky closes down on three idyllic days. My maiden voyage is complete. I guess that means I'm no longer a virgin.