Update from the sea


I am now in Alaska. Scratch that. I’ve been in Alaska for nearly a year now. What I meant to say is that I am now on a remote fishing island, working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whew! Quite a time it has been.

I arrived about 12 days ago. The crazy bush pilot who flew me out in the float plane dropped one of my bags in the water (i.e., the ocean) when he was unloading the luggage and said "Ooops" before getting on with his business. This particular bush pilot kind of had the personality of an ambulance driver, the kind of personality that chain smokes Mountain Dew and Red Bull. I don’t mean to stereotype ambulance drivers, or bush pilots for that matter, but I recently took a CPR course from an uber-hyper ambulance driver who was so amped up that he rattled off a story about how unhealthy coffee was, then he realized he was holding a Mountain Dew can in his right hand.

Again, I’ve got nothing against bush pilots. They do, after all, have short lifespans….so….I do wish him well…and my bag did dry out.

I’d been hoping to blog a bit more. We have internet access, but it is fairly limited, and just between you, me, and the trees, I don’t have much spare time. Still. I want to keep family and friends up to date on my summer activities. I miss everyone very much….you know who you are!

Much of the work thus far has been "shore work," meaning we have been doing things like mending nets and taking care of the one thousand and one things there are to do on a farm. I say "farm" because commercial fishing reminds me a good deal of a farm or ranch, where there are always things to do: repairs, maintenance, organization, etc. Always something.

We have also been out on the water. We glide around the ocean in these things called "skiffs." It’s early in the season, so we have to drop the anchors for each "set." A set is a the nets and lines that catch the fishies. The nets stretch out somewhere between 200 and 300 yards from the shore (I’m really generalizing here). And the nets are held in place by a complicated series of anchors and lines that keep it from going every which way.

It is really a beautiful little space in this world, and I am thoroughly enjoying the crisp air, the mountains around me, and the open sea….in any event, before I get all Herman Melville about life on the sea, I’ll wrap it up and wish y’all a good Memorial Day and a happy summer to come.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

One thought on “Update from the sea”

  1. Glad to hear your explanations of the work there. Sorry about your bag. heh heh. Must’ve been an interesting (disconcerting) welcome to the island (?!).

    This ought to be about as memorable of a first few months of marriage as a couple can hope for!


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