Frankly, I’m amazed. The last two weeks went about as well as they could have conceivably gone. Turns out the paperwork isn’t impossible, and I’ve actually learned the ins and outs of the Tan’erliq better than I’d thought. The days have passed with what I can only describe as efficiency and good vibes thanks in great part to my watch partner, a lifelong Alaskan mariner and fisherwoman. She is hardworking, kind, and smart, and has been very supportive while I’ve struggled to keep my head above water. She has daughters my age and she seems to relate so well because of her life experiences. My captain has also been a great influence; he’s never afraid to let me know where I stand, which is something that always helps me to stay focused on work, rather than wasting energy trying to navigate the murky social etiquette of finicky shipmates. I’d like to believe that my effort quieted the naysayers a bit; I’ll win them over yet.
I’ve never been quite as immersed in work as I’ve been this hitch. I woke up this morning from a dream in which I was alone and adrift in a turbulent and icy sea, feeling acutely disconnected from myself and from the things that I used to hold dear. I don’t relate to friends my age who are buying houses and getting married and having children – I can’t see myself doing any of these things for a long time. I wonder how long this phase of my life will last, and what kind of person I’ll be when I emerge on the other side. But I can’t think so far into the future right now, there’s no point – the only thing to do is enjoy living in the present moment, and grow at my own pace. It’s still a new feeling for me.
So we have an 8 am escort on Wednesday, crew change day, which means I’ll need to change out with a mate on another boat tonight or early tomorrow morning if I’m to make my flight out of Valdez at 1 pm tomorrow. I hope things go according to plan, because happy as I am here, my 4-week-turned-6-week hitch has been quite enough for me and I’m ready to go home. Since I stayed over extra as a favor, I’ll get less than two weeks off at home. But I’m told that when I come back I will go to the Hunter, one of the invader-class conventionals, as regular chief mate which I’m sure I’ll love. The conventionals here do some towing, some ship assists, and a lot of standing by in Outside Bay. Since the Tan’erliq and Nanuq are inspected vessels who do tanker escorts as well as stores runs and crew changes to the outports, life on the Hunter promises to be much quieter and I think I’ll be able to gain experience in a more relaxed atmosphere.