Thursday, June 28, 2007

my bonnie lies over the ocean

still on the naknek river. honestly, i'm a bit tired of it. i miss the ocean and seeing new towns! last night we were driving out to the mouth of the river, to visit a processing boat and get some water, and i was leaning over the rail on the deck watching the waves zoom by, thinking about all of this. how i live on the ocean now, how much i love the night sky here even though it doesn't get completely dark until crazy late, about what i might name a boat if i had one of my own and wouldn't it be cool to make the lady on my bow the virgin mary? she'd get to wear a revealing blue gown, like all the other ladies on bows of ships, but i'd keep her hair scarf and immaculate heart.

of course, the boats out here don't have pretty ladies plowing through the waves on the bow. most of them are steel and fiberglass machines. when i first got out here i used to spend a lot of time thinking about how sailing has changed; how i know most of the parts of a boat (fore, aft, starboard and port), but never have to worry too much about sails or wind patterns, and how if i had to scamper up rope ladders to be here i'd still be home. (in general, ladders and i are not friends. in my real life, the one i have on land, i don't climb them if i don't have to. here, i jump on and off them without a second thought. heights and i will never be best friends, but i'm getting more and more used to them.) the more i'm out here, though, the more i realize that boats are still as complicated as they ever were, just in different ways. we don't worry about scurvy, and i don't have to hoist anything that massive or think about rope burn, but there are generators and machines and parts that need to be fussed over and cared for. some things are the same, like swabbing the deck and tying a bowline, but in general it seems as though the same amount of knowledge is needed if not more. all this week the only talk has been of our refridgeration system, to the extent that we flew out a specialist to work on it. it's not like we're in a non-fishing town or anything even, the captain just wanted the best and was willing to pay for it. it's that sort of thing that brings home all the complex systems at work on the boat, and how all it takes is one bent something-or-other to bring everything to a standstill.

the past week has been rough. a bunch of stuff we need to in order to work is broken and/or being repaired. everyone is stressed out, and kids pick up on that. the five year old that's living here has been more testy than usual, and while i understand and even sympathize it's draining on me in a very sucky way. i wasn't prepared to be thrust into de-facto nannyhood and going from my bachelorette life to having to be a responsible, scolding grown-up is a transition for me. the boys spend all day in the engine room, emerging at night coated in soot and looking like old-school photos of coal miners, exhausted and ready for sleep, and while i haven't had to grease any shafts or take anything apart i'm just as tired. work is work is work; i could trade any of these complaints for different ones in an office or store or what have you, but there are times when i think about getting on a plane and going home where at least my off-time is mine. more than anything right now i miss my autonomy. i can't go out at night when i feel like it. there is no regular stopping time. you might not be working every single second of every single day you're on the boat, but most of the waking time you are, or have to be ready to. i've been up since 8, it's well past midnight, and tomorrow i start at the same time if not earlier. the only time i really get to myself is in the bathroom, every other second is spent in a room with someone else in it. the money is good, but it isn't just handed to you. we all work hard, and for all my tiredness and bitching, i don't even bear the worst of it. would i do this even if i didn't have a thing for a certain red-haired fisherman? probably not for this long. i would do it, i would enjoy and be excited about the novel experience just as much, but i wouldn't invest this amount of time. maybe. it's hard to say. sometimes i love it here so much i can hardly remember what my life was like before, but sometimes i miss tv and sleeping in late and toilets that flush all the time and i can't figure out how i traded all that in. when i get back on land will i miss the ocean? since leaving home i've only slept on land two nights. one of those nights i was dealing with some serious land-legs and the land felt like it was pitching and swaying anyway, the other night i was pretty drunk and everything spun anyhow, so i don't even felt like those nights counted. will the quiet of not living in a huge engine freak me out? will i go back to 20 minute showers and leaving my dishes in the sink for days? i don't know. it's weird to think about, and i mean that in a great way. i've never lived this much in the moment without worrying so much about the future and what the hell i'm doing with my life. i'm still neurotic, don't get me wrong, i still love better living through chemistry, but i feel differently about it. you could chalk it up to being maybe more at ease with it, but it's not quite that. i don't know what it is. maybe it's just an after-effect of being smitten, or maybe it's the happy i feel standing out on the deck in the morning with a cup of coffee and seeing the other boats. does it even matter? most of the time i don't stop to think about it, but last night i was struck by it all. i've been thinking about it all day.

Friday, June 22, 2007


got off the boat today. it was a whirlwind trip though; we were in town exactly long enough to buy me some extra-tuff boots (they are the uniform here, seriously. i never wanted a brown and tan pair of boots before this, but you kind of have to have them!), two new sweatshirts (one is a grunden's one!), a shirt, and load up on groceries. i had calls to make, but we didn't have the time since we had to make the next tide out. hopefully i'll get to them tomorrow.

we ate dinner on another boat, which was fun. not having to do the cooking or cleaning ruled. someone at the store called me the captain's wife, which made us both crack up, and he decided he's never taking me and the kid into town together because people assume we're one big happy family and that ruins his girl-mojo. i bought goofy red hats that say "bristol bay" on one side and "seamar" on the other in yellow. they are totally retarded looking and i love them. i'm sending one to my pop, along with the hat i'm knitting him.

i got to take a shower today with my favorite soap ever, dhc's co-enzyme Q10, and i feel delightful. i'm glad to have boots finally and a few new sweatshirts to wear. the kid is watching some cartoons and i can sneak downstairs to watch a grown-up movie for a while before going to bed. today was a good day.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


let's see if this will post! i have a very tenuous internet connection right now; this might go through, it might not.

things are going along as usual on the boat. we have a new crew member, the captain's son. he's five, surly, and loves to call me either "fat head" or "fat girl." good times. i'm his erstwhile nanny, which isn't exactly a picnic. do i go to hell for disliking a kid that age? his pop keeps telling me he's a good boy, and that once he get settled he'll give me less attitude, but i don't know. doesn't everyone think they have good kids? i do think the adjustment for him has been hard, and i'm doing my very best to be patient and kind, but when i can't be i just ignore him. i do multiplication tables in my head or knit things or busy myself with cooking or cleaning. there's only so much i can do and once we start working again i won't have to spend so much time with him. i'm kind of holding my breath for that one. until then i'm trying to avoid any major confrontation with the kid and hoping he listened to his dad when he told him he had to do what i said. i think the kid is also convinced i want to be his dad's wife, which is so not the case. he just had a stepmom he didn't care for (who are we kidding? he hated her.), and i think he's taking some of that out on me.

my life has taken a decidedly domestic turn. on one hand, it's nice because i get to do stuff i'm good at like cook and do laundry, but the feminist in me hates being the fishwife. the other night i actually had to stay on the boat while the boys went out, which would have made me want to burn shit down but i was tired and didn't have any money anyhow. i did tell the boss that while i was amenable to it that night, that the next time he wanted a babysitter it was one of the boy's turns. i don't mind pitching in when needed, and if i can make a lunch that makes their life easier or occupy a kid so he doesn't run overboard, then okay. HOWEVER i don't think that just because i'm a woman i should have to do those things all the time. last night one of the boys was stuck on the boat with me and the kid, and i made him watch him for a while. it's hard to assert myself since i'm the least experienced on the boat and here kind of at the amusement of the boss-man and my fisherman, but i don't want them thinking that my goal in life it to mother them and scold them for trashing the bathroom.

got a package from my mom yesterday which was so nice. more underpants, a few shirts i haven't seen in over a month and aren't the same thing i've been wearing forever, and a whole lot of yarn were delightful to get. she also included some anthony bourdain books, which means i forgive her for forgetting my arrested development dvds. she also sent some good soap and another bra, so i guess i'm good to be out here a bit longer. two more months at least, then who knows. you can't predict anything past an hour out here, so i never think too far ahead. once i'm on land i'll do that.

p.s. i do know for a fact that i never want to hear metallica's "and justice for all" ever again. it may be a great album, but we listen to it every day a few times a day. enough already!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

now i'm going to complain a little

blue boat, originally uploaded by pinprick.

romance is not all puppies and rainbows and cotton candy. you know this, i know this, and yet sometimes i'm annoyed by the stupid shit that goes into that kind of relationship. it's been so long since i was even remotely anyone's girlfriend that i feel rusty and out of practice. also irked, for a few reasons, all of which are dumb but that doesn't make them any less irritating. in no particular order, here you go:

1. when i ask what's going, "more of the same" isn't a good enough answer for me. if i wanted to make small talk, i'd do it with someone else. i don't ask because i don't care, and it bothers me that i have to sometimes point this out, or ask again in a different way to get more of an answer. is this what it's going to be like if i have kids and ask them how school was and they answer with a monosyllabic "okay"?! shit.
2. being the only girl on the boat is sometimes no fun at all. sometimes it rules, like i get to be one of the guys and they get all fussy and protective if they think i'm being fucked with, but at this point i'm sick of hearing all the guy talk. if i have to hear about any more hot girls, or girls they want to fuck, or girls they don't, i'm going to go all postal and shit. ENOUGH ALREADY. shit, buy a dirty magazine and let it drop.
3. all the talk of poop and farts and balls and ass is also growing old. surprise, surprise.
4. i am by no means some delicate flowers but i would like a small amount of consideration on occasion. like put the toilet seat down, wipe up after yourself, please stop saying you want to "slay hole." jesus christ, i hate that saying.
5. very rarely someone tells my fisherman to "rein his woman in." i know they joke with me because i'm college educated and have a tendency to say what i'm thinking, which is one of the reasons they liked me enough to bring me with, HOWEVER, it's a joke i'm over.

see? where are my puppies and rainbows and shit? they show up, don't get me wrong, and for the most part i am seriously happy here, but i am going through some serious hanging-out-with-other-women withdrawls. i miss my friends. my circle here is very tiny and i don't always get what i need out of the boys. the fact is, i am not one of them and i don't really want to be. there are some things i don't need to know or hear, and i feel awful saying that because they probably hate having to censor themselves around me at all. and trust me, for all the shit i do hear i know there's a lot i'm not hearing. these are guys that believe in manliness, and like all things it makes them amazing sometimes and pains in the asses other times.

and even if i get used to it, i will always miss showering every day. ALWAYS.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

internet! on the boat!

whales are dicks, originally uploaded by pinprick.

what did i do to make god smile on me so? i feel like a princess, using the internet from what is right now my floating home. i've had to walk into town to the nearest bar to use the internet all week, but this is kicking my ass it's so awesome. i hated having to buy over-priced beer to use the local wireless.

i finished my first pair of knit socks this morning, and am wearing them right this second. i had such a mental block about knitting socks; i must have started about five pairs and not finished a one, but here i am just about out of yarn and had to finish the pair i had the needles in order to start something new. thing knit in alaska thus far: three hats, one pair of socks. not so shabby, i think.

the past few days i've been rained out of working. i was supposed to be doing some painting on the boat, but when it's overcast and wet like this there really isn't anything else for me to do. i watch movies, try to stay out of the way of the boys, write some, draw some, and do some knitting. i have a tiny set of comics from this trip, none of them are amazing, but one or two of them are funny.

also: i broke down the other day and bought a pair of faux-crocs at the local trading post. (crocs are those funny, brightly colored plastic clogs that everyone seems to be wearing lately. by "everyone" i mean all nurses, nurses aides, grade school teachers, middle aged women and kids, but they were pretty ubiquitous in colorado!) i have never needed a pair, and honestly have a thing against plastic shoes (i can hardly wear flip flops), but there a lot of times when the boat is wet or otherwise grody. you really can't wander around without shoes of some sort on, and crocs are great because they slip on and you can get them all wet without worrying. even the most hardened fisherman out here has a pair, and i admit since getting mine i've been a million times more comfortable. i bought the brightest yellow pair, of course, because if i'm going to wear plastic clogs i'm going to wear them, goddamnit, and they boys laughed so hard i thought they would pee themselves. i think secretly they are jealous. who wouldn't want to wear bright yellow plastic shoes?!

Monday, June 11, 2007

ahh, internet two days in a row!

me driving the boat, originally uploaded by pinprick.

i got some photos up on flickr! not a ton, because i'm using some local wireless connection that is a bit spotty but they are up, and you can actually see proof that i am alive, alaska is beauitful, and the fisherman is a real person. you can also see from the photo above that this is as cute as it gets for me in this state. that bandana and i are best friends!

having your period while on a boat that's beached is a serious pain the ass. i never would have thought of that if i wasn't currently going through it. it might be more information than you need, but i don't care. i'm sick to death of having to hike into town because i need to use a toilet that flushes! however, it does give me a good excuse to have beers at a local bar, since they have wireless and flushing toilets. whew.

i'm currently in naknek, alaska. you can try to look it up, but i i don't know if you'll find anything. it's a small town on the naknek river, with a little general store where i bought a bottle of conditioner that would have cost me $2 at home but was $11 here. the locals are nice, but they do stare a little. when i walk up to the store to use the pay phone i get looks, when i burst into tears i get more. it's a bit disconcerting, especially since i look totally normal. not much about me stands out here; i live in a sweatshirt and pants, hair pulled back, frumpy but not hideous. the young girls in this town are beautiful, i don't try to compete. they have real showers, showers that don't move and where you can spend more than 7 minutes in them. they don't live in diesel engines, they get to wash their hair on a regular basis, and i'm just happy when i'm not totally gross.

naknek is lovely, but it is very much a small town. i've been here for three days, five total when you count in last week, but i already know way too much about the inhabitants. i couldn't live in a town like this, i grew up in one like it but not even on this small a scale and it's a bit claustrophobic for me. my fisherman wants to live in one of the bucolic towns on the coast, like false pass, and while i love the idea of living in a place so lovely i would have to go home at least once a year, if not more. i would need some internet, i would need some culture on occasion. i would need to spend time with people who have an idea about life outside their town, and aren't so consumed with the local gossip. that makes me sound like a snob, but i can't help it. at times i feel sick of hearing about what the hell is going on here, i just want to have a beer and not worry about who i might be offending. nothing you do here go unnoticed, and that would get old for me.

i had the day off, used my boss's computer to get some stuff done and download open office software, but i have to go back now. it's almost dinner time, and while i know the boys can do fine by themselves i feel better when i'm there. plus, i could use a sandwich.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

i miss blogs

patient yellow, originally uploaded by pinprick.

and the internet and calling home and taking showers more than three times a week. MISS IT. also, i miss having more than two pairs of pants to wear and being cute on occasion.

alaska is still wildly beautiful, and i am still having fun, but i admit that the past few days i've been homesick. i talked to my pop yesterday, who just started chemo, and while it was good to hear him and nice that he likes me enough to talk to me, i think it was the first time i realized what exactly is going on and i had a hard time not crying. i admit i spent the rest of the morning after talking to him and mom crying in my bunk, but i acted like a grown-up on the phone with him. it was hard, but i did okay, i think.

i would be lying to you if i told you i just liked the fisherman, and did this as a lark. you know that i maybe more than just like him, i know you're smarter than that, but i felt like i needed to tell you. he's my fisherman now, not just the fisherman. we have our moments, and have actually had a real fight where there was yelling and shit, but after all this time on a boat where the other is inescapable, i still like him. i still want to hang out with him, he still surprises me, and i mean in good ways. i like the surprises. i like the random kisses on his way down to the engine room, and when he wears his green shirt because i like it best.

the other boys on the boat are also sweet; young guys who make me feel like throttling them some days and baking cookies others. i try not to mother them too much, but i do have to yell at them to put down the toilet seat at times. living on a boat with only boys is sometimes exhausting, but mostly good. we live in what amounts to a big diesel engine, which means i wash my face three times a day, and every time the washcloth is actually brown with dirt. i've given up on cute as a concept, i go for "cuter than usual" at time, but most of the time "clean and not stinky" is the goal. it's like being on a real long camping trip, and my sense of style is sorely lacking. you thought i was frumpy before. ha! i had no idea what frumpy WAS.

here's the thing: you leave your bra on the life preserver of your boyfriend's boat in a certain bar in homer, alaska. it's not that crazy a story, sorry, but my favorite bra, the cute black one with the hot pink straps and lacy front, is now on display and not on my body. that's annoying sometimes, but i will be in town long enough this week for mom to send me another one. also, if your boat is beached so you can work on the bottom, you will have to walk into town to use the bathroom. that is seriously annoying.

i should be able to post again this week, cross your fingers, xoxo

Saturday, June 02, 2007

i am alive!

Sitka Fishing Boats, originally uploaded by ahalya_viswanathan.

people who don't use the internet say things like, "oh yeah, we get service sometimes" and i think every few days, but what they mean is maybe once a month. or less. my phone is also totally useless meaning i can't call my people when i want to, which is harder for me than anything else. for a girl who hates the phone the way i do, i miss it, or rather, the way it connects me to my people.

alaska is wildly beautiful, moreso than i ever could have imagined. it's like washington in some ways, but massive, like it's on steriods. i love living on the boat, which surprises me. i did get seasick once, but that was bound to happen since i said i never get seasick. ha! the week i worked on my sea legs i bruised the shit out of myself, but now i'm much better at getting around in high seas. i still bruise the shit out of myself, but i'm growing accustomed to being black and blue. you don't get to sleep like normal people either, which i kind of thought would kill me, but the long days right now make it easy to go to bed at midnight and get up at four for wheel watch, because there's sun and everything is so impossibly lovely. i have a LOT to learn, but my captain is patient and so far i'm doing okay.

i've taken a million photos, and just as soon as i can i'll post them. i wish i had a lot more time to tell you everything about my trip so far but the important stuff is as follows (in no particular order); i still really like my fisherman, which surprises me sometimes because we are always together. boats are boats you know, there's only so much space on them. i cooked caribou steaks, saw northern lights, learned how to drive a boat, and have given up on my hair looking even remotely cute. have you heard of a little something called a bandana? it is my new uniform. i left my favorite bra on a life ring in a bar in homer, which means i only have one left. i am homesick, and spent a lot of time the other night sniffling in the bathroom because there are days when being the only girl on a boat is overwhelming and i miss my people and worry that this is going to ruin my relationship with my pop forever. i'm also happier than i ever could have expected, making this whole thing bittersweet. sleeping in a bunk kicks major ass, when i come home i'm going to ikea and buying myself a loft bed so i never have to sleep on a regular old bed again! i read all the time, and knit too; so far i've made three hats and am running out of yarn. i miss you. i'll tell you more when i get another chance, promise.