Today we sailed (and motored) from Bulldog Cove, in
We anchored in a beautiful, serene little harbor, all to ourselves. Salmon jumping, beautiful upland crags around the bay. Everything, above and below the water, glacial carved. After dinner we play cards in the cockpit. Coming below afterwards I smell the typical boat smells – salt, must, oil. Then, going forward to check on Eli asleep in his little net pen, I come upon the sudden surprising smell of baby. His upper left tooth coming in.
After Latouche we hoist a reefed main, staysail and reefed jib and beat into 20-25 knots of wind. We heel over hard, digging the gunwale into the grey water.
I pull down the main and roll up the headsails and we commence motoring into the weather. If I’m not paying attention, and sometimes even when I am, we plow the bow into a wave and take water on deck, crystal clear and six inches deep, the motion of the boat sending geysers into the air where the stanchion bases block the water’s passage. We’re slow and a little pool of water collects on the cabin sole from a deck leak we didn’t know about and the coast we motor by is lonely, racked by ragged driven clouds that tear themselves to pieces on the unbending spruce forests that are all we see above the water.
We pull into
I look at the radar again and again to measure our distance from shore but it never does change. For two and a half days we stay put while the wind knocks us from side to side, heeling the yacht over and sending us dancing around the anchor. We look out through rainsmeared portlights at dizzy images of sodden green mountains spinning past. Condensation drips from bronze and wind booms in the rigging. The back of every cushion is wet and mold sprouts in lockers, everything happens in a watery half light. Gusts of wind backdraft the cabin heater and fill the salon with acrid diesel smoke. We go about the business of the day, Eli’s care giving the day its only structure, our little family surrounded by a wilderness of water and land, seabirds and pouring waterfalls, mist-shrouded glacial valleys.
We spend the day in Cordova, where neither of us have been before. Nor Eli, for that matter. Alisa’s friend from Kodiak, Erik, has moved to town and bought a gillnet permit, and a mechanical problem with his boat has him in town instead of out fishing the opener, so we get to visit with him for the day. Cordova has been blessed by the success of the marketing campaign for Copper River salmon, which has prices incredibly high, and even with most of the fleet out fishing the town has the bustle and energy and working-for-a-living vibe that every coastal Alaskan town should have in summer, and which contrasts with a place like poor Seward, which is tarted up for the flesh trade, processing hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The boats that fish the Copper are bow pickers, designed to work in the shallow flats and sandbars of the Copper River Delta, directly exposed to the
We catch the tide out of Cordova and motor out of
We pass a white fishing boat wrecked, listed at the pitch of the beach, listless, and then we are through the entrance. Light west winds are forecast and it is still, with just the pulsing ebb tide swirling the water around us. Now the clouds are cut from crystal, the water turquoise. Mountains disappear into the distance. We feel a sense of hope, optimism. “We’re pointing it south,” I say. “Warmer places.
What a privelleged time we live in, what an almost divine ability so many possess, to direct our lives in any pursuit of our choosing. And what do people do with this widespread freedom from material want, this freedom that would stun the imagination of past generations? Nothing. Watch American Idol. What a simple allure there is in the idea of living a life that will be worth the telling.
And meanwhile, Elias is changing into a little boy in front of our eyes. His third tooth is in. Suddenly, he has a new facial expression, a wise-guy, eye-squinting false smile that sometimes stands in for his sweet baby smile. He spends the day standing in the playpen, keeping a sharp eye on whatever Alisa is doing in the galley.