Definitely fascinating! I want to read more about the narrator's friend.
(Don't know if I posted this before, but here is something that's a bit on-and off. It's inspired by a Billy Joel song called
, prompted by the thought, "What were the fisherman's family thinking?" And the Bering Sea's crab and fishing industry include small-boat fishermen who are threatened by overfishing. So this is the story of the fisherman's daughter.)
Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Amaknak Island, Aleutian Islands, AK
Discovered this on my dad’s blog, where he writes his logbook every fishing and crabbing season. Says it’s a good way to track how much he’s earning. But I know he does mainly because he wanted us to be able to find it easily and get updates on what he’s doing every day. He doesn’t say it of course. It’s not his kind of thing to say.
''We left Dutch nine days ago, at first light. I hope for a larger catch by the end of this month - last year’s season the number of crabs we hauled in barely paid enough to keep us working for the next two years. We hauled in 1000 king crabs so far, but I’m hoping for a bit more. I’m trying to make it worth going out, as it might not be worth it to pay the cost of repairs at this end of this season, due to the size of our quota so far.
There’s enough food for extra supply stops to be unnecessary. So far, there hasn’t been much ice on the deck, but Rob, the latest greenhorn, is prepared for the situation. He says that he plans to stay here for a few seasons. Dinner tonight will be spaghetti and meatballs, which should be good. Emilia’s a great cook.
If my family’s reading this –Alexa, we’ll talk about getting you a job as a deckhand in three years when I get back in three weeks. Natalya, your meatballs are better than Emilia’s. No disrespect to her of course, but it ain’t the same. I’m praying that the numbers won’t drop, that I’ll get back safe at the end of this month, and that nothing happens to you.''
-Captain’s log of the Alexa
Dad loaded up the Alexa’s deck just before Thanksgiving for king crab season. He went again last week at the beginning of opilio season to meet his quota. We’re having another snowstorm. The snowflakes are all I can see in the blackness looking out the window. It’s sleeting too; been like this since morning. Last night he told us the repairs on her were done and he was going to try and get some sleep. “A good crab boat captain can’t fall asleep. The ice might thicken or a storm might creep up at any moment.”
He’ll send us an email if the radio, Skype or phone onboard don’t work. The last time that happened was when I was ten, three years ago. I’m going to copy his logbook entries in here so I know what he’s doing. It’ll help me when I can’t talk to him. It’s practice for keeping the Alexa’s log when I leave school.
There ain’t nothing I’d like to do better than be a crabber like my father. I’ve always loved the feel of the cold wind on my face when I go on deck during the crab seasons and salmon, halibut and rockfish seasons. Dad told me that thousands of years ago, before the Russians came to Alaska, our Unangan ancestors used bone hooks, spears, and lines and sinkers to fish. He said he’d teach me if he had time. He’s already shown me how to gut fish, and one of my aunts showed me how to clean and smoke it.
It’s nine-ten and I’m writing this at the desk in my bedroom. This red-covered journal with gold leaf on the edge of its pages was an early Christmas present from Mom. She gave it to me after night prayers on December eighth, with an Orthodox cross. After we got back from church in Unalaska, I was so tired I flopped down on my bed and spent a few minutes listening to the living room conversation. She handed the cross to me in a little brown box and placed the journal in my other hand. “I decided to give it to you ahead of time. I figured you wouldn’t want to wait. Don’t worry, I won’t read it.”
This morning when I went out to collect the eggs from the shed in our yard, it was sleeting. My face stung, so I pulled my red North Face coat tighter around my shoulders and pushed the hood up my head, hiding my wavy black hair. Luckily I’d put on socks and my favorite pair of Bunny Boots.
A few seconds ago, we were on the couch listening to the radio. The sea’ll be up to 50 feet and the winds are going to be about 40 knots for the next two weeks or so. I sat there for half an hour. Well, it sure seemed like it. I had pins and needles in my legs. At least my fingers aren’t numb. Joel spent a minute fiddling with his shoelaces and looking at the clouds. Mom started humming under her breath. Some old song.
I looked up from my sewing. My fingers bled already. Why do I have to do this?
Because my mother’s a bit old-fashioned and thinks I should learn how to mend my clothes. Maybe it’s because girls used to have to do that, and Yup’ik girls like my grandma and great-aunt Esmeralda even sewed with bone needles.
Grandma Tatyana went to boarding school in Oregon where she learned to speak English and sew “like a kass’aq girl, with steel needles. I hated it as much as I hated sewing at home. I used to rush through it and mess it up, and then I got the cane.
They wanted us to speak English more to make it easier for us to learn to be more like whites. But they didn’t stop us from speaking Yup’ik. Once, a teacher said that I should cut my hair, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to get sick. It’s how things were back in those days. ”
“What?” I sucked the blood off my finger. It’s not an experience I want to repeat. Lena asked me about Dad- the question we all wanted answered. “Is Dad gonna be OK?”
I wanted to say “Yeah”, but what’d I say? “Maybe.” The answer no one wanted to hear. Hate to say stuff like that. Mom should’ve said it. Or even Joey.
Mom’s calling me. I need to brush my teeth in a few minutes. Maybe Dad’ll call later. He usually calls around the time we get to bed. Sometimes he calls after one of us wakes up- usually Mom. It depends. Wish I was listening to the waves and seagulls on deck. There’s been lots of storms. I always remembered the one when I was three and Joey was five. It was dungie season.
Crabbing seasons usually mean that our family spends time aboard the Alexa. She’s 40 feet long and red, with the name ALEXA painted in black on the hull, and a huge deck for the crabbing pots. Dad’s family’s had it for years. This season we’re not going, because Dad thinks we’ll fall behind on schoolwork. We’re coming for fishing season though.
Our parents bought us presents when we docked, including a blue coat for me and a train set we were forced to share. When we got up in Dad’s cabin next morning, there was rain on the window and the sky was covered in grey clouds. Kept hearing sledgehammers on deck, pounding off the ice.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
There’s a storm coming. It’ll probably be worse than the last one, if the forecast’s right. The waters seem to be calmer as I’m writing this, but they might change at any moment. This morning I heard on the radio that the cloud cover is estimated to be heavy for the next few days.
Our haul has increased today. If it continues to grow or even stays at this number we’ll have a better chance at filling the quota.
Captain’s Log of the Alexa
I’ve been in the loft for hours, reading and writing in this journal and reading the logbook. He’ll have a story to tell at the bar. But he doesn’t need to; it’s not important. We’ll hear him do it anyhow, when his friends visit. Or see it when he comes back from the bar.
It’s quiet in here, sitting on the floor next to a pile of books which were brought up here because our basement’s cluttered up. It’s funny how life goes on even though Dad’s been gone for two days. Maybe he’s just busy resting because of the size of his catch. The day before yesterday he wrote that he hauled in the same number of crabs and it took him hours to type up his log entry. I copied it down on the top of this page.
I haven’t written anything because I’ve been catching up with vacation work, working through questions on of our class novel and math problems. Joey’s initials are written inside my “new” math textbook cover. “J. B. S. 7F. Dutch Harbor Amaknak School”.
I had a blueberry jam sandwich for breakfast, made using the leftover jam in the fridge. It was the best one I’ve made. It’s still cloudy and pretty windy. I’m really worried about Dad. I think Mom is too. There’re lines all over her face, and it’s got nothing to do with her job at the cannery. Maddie Evans’ father… don't think about that anymore.
After feeding the chickens this afternoon, I went for a run around the docks. I can see the hills and more clearly from there. There were puddles and snow on every inch of the ground. I don’t think they’ll stop any time soon. My legs are aching.
Something else happened a few minutes ago. There was a noise up in the rooftops when I first woke up this morning and now it’s come back. At first I thought I was imagining it. But Lake Iliamna isn’t that far from here.
It was a hammering sound, like something’s trying to get in through the window. Also it was pitch-black for two hours. The light dimmed then went out permanently. I’ll tell Mom. A fingerless sea monster can’t turn off the lights.