Fish Are Jumpin’

It’s been the most beautiful night. It’s actually starting to get a little darker around 2 in the morning, but by three, the light comes back into the sky and the mountains seem to rest pensively at the water’s edge, velvety purple in the mist. On lonely mornings like this, when all my questions for the universe go scattered and unanswered, I can look at this place and let my mind settle into a quiet blue calm. Over the years Alaska has always taught me that everything I needed was right here with me, and I’m where I need to be.

This is day twelve of twenty-eight in our hitch; the end of the first week always seems to be the hardest moment for me to face, when I’m still thinking of the fun I had at home and I realize I still have three weeks to go. But after that passes I distance myself from home a little more and the loneliness fades. I’ve also realized It’s been just over a year now since I came to Valdez – I can’t believe it. It amazes me how much a year can change your life.

Prince William Sound has come alive with the fishing season – dozens of seiners and tenders are gathered in the Narrows and the Arm, their skiffs and nets scuttling out of the way to allow tugs and tankers to pass through. Salmon are jumping all over the place and seals and sea lions are feasting. Rafts of otters hold each other’s paws to sleep at night, and they paddle around solo, munching on shellfish and crab and looking up at us with their curious faces. Kittiwakes and Oyster Catchers fly close over the water and scream at each other as they tend to their nests and raise their young in the marshes. It’s a cacophony of life.

Now the fog is rolling down silently from the glacier stream and creeping westward over the bay. I’m nervous that the fog will keep me from flying out next crew change day; a week and a half ago it kept my plane from landing in Valdez and we actually turned around over the airport and went all the way back to Anchorage. When we landed at Ted Stevens, all the Crowley people scrambled to get on one of the other two flights of the day and I was the only one to make it onto the noon plane. Flying into Valdez on Tuesday night the way I usually do will be a safer bet in the future.

Later today we’ll be going to McPherson Bay to relieve another boat, and we’ll be out there for about a week. McPherson is on the eastern side of Naked Island and even though there is a cell tower just over the hill, the signal is terrible and you’re more or less cut off from communication. Outside Bay is just to the southwest across a tiny strip of land and the signal there is fine. Go figure. But there will be enough to do, between paperwork (it never ends) and an audit to prepare for when we return to town.

I also have a bit of a personal project in the works: the day I came back to work, I decided to cut sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes from my diet (Whole30-style) and see how it would make me feel. My whole life I have had zero self-control when it comes to anything sweet: cake, donuts, cookies, candy; and the sugar withdrawal alone gave me a headache for a week. But the results have been promising so far – better sleep, more consistent energy (fewer sugar crashes, which were a part of my life that I had accepted long ago), and the best part: the power to pass on sweets. Once I started to accept that exercise alone wouldn’t counteract the damage I’ve been doing to my body, it became easy to decide I just couldn’t eat another bite of sugar. We are not built to eat like that, and I’ve had enough in my first thirty years to last a lifetime. It’s hard to stick to the plan perfectly – an additive or two might sneak into a meal from time to time – but I can’t have total control, and my cook has been a good sport about it. After several years of going to sea and eating sugary crap and processed junk food just because it’s there and I’m bored, this change is allowing my mind and body to feel clearer and lighter than they ever have in my life. I encourage everyone I know to give it a try.

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