Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Take a Cement Tablet.. And Harden the Fuck Up

It's 10 P.M, the storm is feeding off the low pressure in the Bering Sea, like a starving beast. A big bad wolf is huffing and puffing, and preparing to blow your boat down.

Even in a protected bay, the waves try to get at us little piggies, in small but choppy, white caps, like tentacles, rocking your anchored boat, back and fourth like a cork in a bath tub.

The land and sky are alive, the clouds are elongated, like they have been stretched and pulled, by a giant. It's a classic Bering Sea night.

For now, I am inside our boat, warm,waiting for the fishing opener in a few hours, looking out the window at the scene upfolding. Everyone aboard, is paying attention to the recorded weather updating over the radio, telling you how bad it will be. A girls, recorded voice talks about the weather. "Today, gail force winds, blowing from the west, seas 10-14 feet, small craft warning till tomorrow night."

It's one hour till the opener, you pull up the anchor, and head out of the bay and into the mouth of the beast. Heading around the protective spit, the waves start to grow, and grow and grow, like monsters. Your boat begins climbing and and descending 10-14 foot swells, making your 32 foot boat seem small, and insignificant. Each weld in your aluminum boat, will be tested tonight.

As a deck hand your spot is at the stern of the boat. So you put on your armour,"rain gear, and head into battle. The wind is howling, stinging your cheeks, the rain prickling your eyes, like needles. You are forced to keep your head down, as spray from breaking waves, crashes against the bow and washes up and over the back, and down on you, like your in a car wash. Your sea legs keep you steady, as you ride the waves like a cowboy.

This year's storm would test us, since we had three 17 foot waves crash into our boat and threaten to swamp us. One completely blind sided me, like I was a quarterback being tackled by a defensive linemen.

Bristol Bay, is famous for it's narly waves, that create freaks that don't follow the laws of physics. Shallow waters, and sand bars break up the huge swells, causing them to divide like an advancing army, and head in all different directions,flanking and richicheting of eachother, then bouncing back like some tag team wrestling match where three come to clothes line you at one time. Others, seem more animal like, take you head on, like a bull, then rise up like a king cobra's hood, growing higher and higher, till they look into your eyes and stare down your soul. Most wouldn't dare to venture out in this storm, but for fisherman who have four weeks to make a living, you can't afford to take the opener off, not when the fish are running.

While friends and family are home in their warm beds, having a restful sleep, dreaming about wonderful thoughts, a Bering Sea fisherman is a warrior heading into hell. They accept the dangers, the risks, and paying the ultimate price. Those that didn't accept this, that are scared,and not sure if they can handle the Bering Sea, "need to take some cement tablets and harden the fuck up."

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