Snow Day

At this moment (1 am) I would have been on a plane in the sky en route to Seattle if it weren’t for the fact that I woke up yesterday morning to dense snowfall and one-half mile visibility, meaning that the morning flight never left Anchorage and my relief didn’t make it into town. Three cancelled flights later and we’re still waiting.

It’s kind of how things like this always go: Tuesday was beautiful and clear, with some overcast, but definitely flyable. Yesterday we were plunged into a beautiful white abyss, and about a half-dozen of us are still on boats tonight waiting for our reliefs. If the morning flight doesn’t take off tomorrow, they’ll drive to Valdez. That’s the only way that everyone got out of town yesterday; there were several cars full of Crowley mariners on the road. They reported clear highways and blue skies, while we sat here watching snowflakes the size of ping-pong balls pile up on our tires. The moment I woke up and saw what was going on, I resigned myself to it completely. You have no control in this situation, and to try to exert control is to drive yourself crazy. My second mate was spinning himself into a bundle of stress, and when I texted a friend of mine on another boat about it, she offered to relieve him so he could go home. Talk about saving the day – she has been my compatriot on the tug Hunter for almost a year now until she started sailing on other boats a few hitches ago, so when she arrived on board it was like welcoming her home. He made it out of Valdez and she settled in here with us, getting paid to stand by.

I would have hoped for a quiet day considering the circumstances, but the phone rang off the hook all afternoon and we got two separate visits from shoreside personnel (a third visit was cancelled). I spent a good chunk of time chasing down an inquiry from purchasing (some junk about fuel strainer basket mesh sizes) and generally was glad to stay busy, rather than sit and watch the snow fall. We got updates at least every hour from my relief on the status of the flights out of Ted Stevens – you know how that went. As the day rolled into evening, the last flight was cancelled and then the weather broke in Port Valdez, the sky clearing around 1900. I was messing around in the wheelhouse not paying attention, but when I looked up I could see the shore and at least halfway up the mountains. It’s funny because my bags have been packed for more than 24 hours and I’m living with the bare minimum of clean clothing and amenities until we get out of here. My roommate and I had to grab fresh towels out of the cook’s room because we definitely didn’t realize we’d be staying another day or longer when we packed up and threw all our linens in the laundry. At the moment our room is an array of sea bags stuffed to the seams and shoved into corners; a toothbrush, some shampoo, shower shoes, pajamas. Not much else. We are ready to get out of here at a moment’s notice.

Now in the time that I’ve been writing this, we’ve gone again from partly cloudy to heavy snow; it looks like goosedown falling from the sky. The air is dead still; there’s not a breath of wind. Snow collects and floats in icy sheets on the flat-calm surface of the port. My hopes that the morning flight will make it into town with our reliefs on board is fading once more. If the flight doesn’t go, the drive from Anchorage will take at least five or six hours. In the meantime, we’ve made an extra two days of pay, and I’m happy to enjoy my quiet time on the Hunter with some of my favorite shipmates.

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