Anarchistic musings from a SE Alaska harbor
By Ed Sasser

Focusing on the goal is good, but…..

Eddy's Chuck, Alaska*  

I probably shouldn’t have had the headphones on that night. I was deep into the hypnotic sounds of Sariri “Music of the Andes”, a CD I’d picked up from a sidewalk band at the San Diego Zoo. The Steady hum of the old Perkins, the gentle seas and the blackness outside had lulled me into that false sense of security that causes one to wave off the watch relief and believe that another four hours at the wheel is possible.

Relive it with us now. We are just rounding “the point” and even though we are moonless, starless and the RADAR is acting up, we are making a steady 9.4 knots and the seas are kind. The dog is asleep under my feet, Natalie is baking something on the old Dickinson and grandson is stuffed into the fo’c’sle reading a comic book under the blankets with a high-powered Sabrelight.

Only when Natalie turns the RADAR off, declaring it totally unusable, do I cut power to 1,200 RPM’s and creep up the channel seeking either the green harbor entrance light or one of the house lights of Eddy’s Chuck. After wiping the condensation off the pilothouse windows and squinting into the darkness for a few minutes, I’m just able to make out the yard light of the lodge. Focus, that’s the way home. I had often wondered why they left the generator running all night during the off season when there were no guests but tonight I am glad they are doing so. I fix my good eye on that light and set my course for 220. This seemed a little further east than usual but since I’m not exactly sure where in the three-mile-wide channel I am, I suppose it to be within acceptable limits.

I run for 20 minutes at that heading; the light doesn’t seem to be getting any closer or any brighter. Neither does it seem to be getting any dimmer so I pressed on.

At precisely 1 AM the light goes out.

I cut power and stare into the dark.

Grandson pops his head into the pilothouse and asks, “Why are we slowing down?”

I finally take off the headset: “I’m looking for the green harbor light.”

“I’m too tired to read anymore,” he says “but can I keep the flashlight with me ‘til morning?” Then I hear him opening and closing the forepeak door that vents the hawse pipe. (For the nautically challenged, the hawse pipe is the tube from the anchor locker to the deck).

As he opens and closes the forepeak door, the lodge light flashes on and off.

I feel a little cold flash through my sternum and ask: “Christopher, whatever you just did…could you do it again?”

“This?” he says, and I hear the door slamming three times and see the “lodge light” flashing three times.

I’m thinking….I haven’t been moving around enough in the pilothouse. I’ve been following the “lodge light” for 20 minutes and it’s been a reflection off the front stanchion of my own vessel.

“Yes, that…thanks…I just wanted to test something out,” my voice is calm.

Natalie wanders out of the galley to proclaim that she saw the green light about a mile away, just abaft the port beam. “Aren’t we tying up in the harbor for the night?”

“Yup, any minute now,” I proclaim. “I was just taking a wide turn…..”

I guess too much focusing might not be a good thing.

*Eddy's Chuck Alaska is a fictitious harbor populated by real Alaskan Noodlers

Copyright 2000 by Ed Sasser.  All rights reserved.