Montana Wolf

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sea Journey Pt. One

The week at sea turned into 9 days. My body is exhausted with physical challenge and sensory overload. Exhausted in the deepest most glorious sense of the word. There is nothing like the sea to teach one grace.

The destination was Elfin Cove, a small fishing village on the Pacific accessible only by boat or plane. We threaded our way around Douglas Island, past Point Retreat and south to Icy Strait, Ron at the helm of his Thea G. Sea lions slept on buoys in the middle of nowhere. Whales spouted and sky-hopped fore and aft. Ya ya, I've started to learn some nautical terms...left and right don't cut it in the middle of a storm when orders spew forth. It's port and starboard.

The first night was an anchorage in a harbor not far from Barlow Cove where we had clammed a couple of weeks earlier. Anchorage. Aha, I got it. Except Ron said that Anchorage the city was actually not a good place to anchor. The second night we docked in Swanson's Harbor; took Teak ashore in a rubber raft, always aware of the tide and her rhythm. Not to mention Teak's, who was an incredible trooper, turning into a veteran sea dog. It was funny the way she ran out to the deck every time Ron down-shifted. Her brown eyes lit up as she sniffed the air for land and gazed hopefully towards shore.

Porpoise glided in and out of glassy water. Harbor seals poked their heads from waves to check us out. We fished, dropped crab pots and I watched whales in awe. We boated out to a sea lion colony on a small island where I photographed the humongous males that lounged and barely moved; babes stretched and curled against their mothers. Groups of young ones fished together off shore. And eagles. Always eagles. Their cry; their haunting chirp. As we departed Swanson we passed a small rock island with one tree, home of a nesting eagle pair.

The further into the trip the deeper it etched my soul. The third day we came upon 100's of thousands of herring that boiled to the surface, creating a swirling carpet I could have walked across. That is, if it were not for a pod of whales bubble feeding, a miraculous sight of tails and fins and black shiny bodies that swirled and rose in unison to corral the herring into their gaping mouths. I watched in awe as Ron 'jigged' over 50 herring in about 15 minutes, bait for shrimp and crab pots. Jigged: dropped a fishing line with multiple hooks and pulled up several fish at once in just a few seconds. No bait needed, the fish were attracted to the shiny hooks. I'd not seen anything like it.

Ron powered us out of this magical place. Someone had to cuz I never would have left. We stopped in the waters a few miles away where he caught fresh halibut for dinner. This was added to the dungeness crab we'd caught the night before. I was getting pretty good at cleaning cooked crab---extracting the sweet white meat from the legs and body. As for anything out here, there's a technique. I was learning from a pro.

We were not far from Elfin Cove. I soaked in the sun enveloped in whales spouts and blows, groans and barks. I lay at night in the V-birth, fell asleep to the lapping of the sea against the hull a few inches from my body. I thought of that eagle pair on the small rock island and their nest in that solitary tree. I didn't know it yet but my life was changing with every turn of the tide.


  1. It's almost enough to take you into sensory overload mode just reading about it. WOW hardly describes what I'm feeling, but there you have it. WOW.

  2. Gorgeous descriptions and a little foreshadowing to ensure your readers eagerly await the next installment ... nice writing!

  3. this is a work of art you've got going here, christina. i love your "the art of death" up there too, your photo of's like a pollock and makes me want to get moving with my paints. i want to stay on this journey here with you in this north land forever. or at least until it starts getting way cold. i suppose i'd miss the moon too, like you're doing (i hope you got to see it out on the trip at sea). however, not seeing the moon in alaska (but knowing it's there all the same) and seeing it here in dallas amid all the city lights blocking out its naturalness and true seems alaska would win that one for me.
    i wonder how long you will stay up there...i know you like the hot sun, but it would be so interesting to read/write about a winter there too. it could very well get too depressing, i realize that. but i would be tempted, i'm pretty sure. <3

  4. ^ hey, i'm not *anonymous* i just dont know how to get my name here, i forgot to post at end of above comment. IT'S LEA. rhymes with "tea", type thing. : )