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The Filson Lady, The Later Years. CH 2

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The Filson Lady, The Later Years. CH 2

Postby ericv » Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:13 am

[b] The Filson Lady, The Later Years. CH 2

This is a continuation from CH 1 of the Filson Lady, The Later Years.

With a whack of the gaff, a quick rotation to set it up for the plunge through the gill plates, Danielle expertly buried it deep into its mark. With a grunt she slid a nice 28lb King over the smooth bulwarks to land carefully in the padded checker. She gave the King a final hard whack on the head, freed the spread and coiled it. With a quick slice of her fillet knife she cut the gill rakers as the dark blood began to pool out. As she began to slide the King into the low cut tote that had a continuous flow of sea water to aid in the bleeding, the sun glistened onto the purple, silver and black colors of this magnificent fish. The scent of the King, absolutely unmistakable and unique, wafted into the surrounding air. The family never grew tired of the beauty of these magnificent salmon that plied the North Pacific. Loren was keeping pace with Danielle which was never an easy task, simply said, she was a natural born troller. Danielle was a master of dexterity and her motions were smooth and efficient, Loren was more of the Viking Marauder type that often relied on brute strength more often than precision. Danielle inquired if he was ready for a wheelchair yet, of which he replied “yes”, so he could push her into the galley to fix his dinner and do his laundry. Somehow the spray nozzle on Danielle’s side of things went off target dusting Loren’s back. Audrey was busy pulling the Kings and Coho’s out of the soaker tote where she dressed and pressure bled each one meticulously. Logan was bent to the task of shuttling the glazed, western cut salmon down into the freezer hold. Dressed in layers, he kept to the task, emerging from the freezer compartment with frosted whiskers and a grin. Everyone traded duties, keeping the skills intact and a different task fresh.

The Filson Lady worked just offshore of Yakobi Island. The second King opener had found fair weather, fair seas and a huge surge of Coho layered over a significant run of Kings. The feed was as thick as the coffee that brewed on every oil stove. Trollers, whales, seabirds and others worked at a breakneck pace for they all knew the time was now or never. The run was so intense that the fleet was actually able spread out a bit without loss of production. Every troller had a flock a dedicated seagulls flying crazy patterns off their stern, the radios were stone silent, every pit was in action, each deck found feet moving and gurry flowing. It was the stuff of dreams for a troller. The mains and bow poles of the Filson Lady clattered up time after time on their 40 fathom deep wires, Kings and Coho’s filled the checkers and the soaker tote keeping everyone on task for quality production. The Larssen family benefited by being able to free a person up to cook, share a turn keeping fed, hydrated and rested; the key to safety at sea.

The end of day 4 found the Filson Lady lying quietly anchored, just her muffled auxiliary engine slightly broke the airwaves keeping the freezer compressor going. The “South 40” of Hoktaheen Cove found the Larssens and other troll companions pooped but pleased, many of the “ladies” were squatting low, their bellies filling with salmon. The Filson Lady had settled deep herself, she had several thousand lbs of Kings and nearly the same poundage of Coho frozen rock hard in her hold. The damage report; 4 lost spreads, 1 gaff and 6 blue racquet balls, not bad for gear that was running nearly non-stop anywhere’s from 17 to 20 hours per day for 4 days. Trapper himself was satisfied with his crew; they even anointed him with a huge beef knuckle to gnaw on, their token thanks to him for allowing them to be on his boat.

Logan and Audrey being of youth and quick rebound abilities from the intense fishing, seized the slack moment to launch the Zodiak with its 10hp motor, load up Trapper and head to the southern shoreline of the South 40. A brief strip of level, grass understory, small diameter timbered land led way to what was unofficially named by them; Hook Bay, being that the topo map showing it resembled that shape. Other youth from neighboring anchored trollers joined them with dogs of every brand in tow for a respite off the boats. Hook Bay faced S, SW, the shoreline was fine sand, surge displaced logs and a great spot for beachcombing. The Larssen kids had some snacks and a VHF radio, Loren instructed them to be back by 9pm sharp as darkness would be closing in.

All the routine maintenance checks were complete on the Filson Lady, the evening was still young. Danielle had taken a “sailor” shower while Loren had finished cleaning up the galley and he relished his turn to do the same. The Filson Lady had a small, fiberglass enclosed head with a nice, small scale shower. She carried 300 gallons of water accompanied with a water heater. A garden hose with a screened funnel was onboard to refill the tanks from the steep, bare rocky shorelines running pure snow melt water that were in abundance to this land. When Loren stepped out of the shower with his towel wrapped around his midsection he was met by Danielle. She had that special look in her hazel eyes; her freshly washed long Auburn hair flowed lightly down her shoulders to her mid back. She wore one of his favorite, well washed Hickory shirts with only the bottom button fastened and absolutely nothing else on except a smile. She pulled herself in close, Loren knew by scent that she had very lightly dabbed patchouli oil on the special areas of her body for him to explore and find. This oil, for some unknown reason, seemed to get the drive oil pressure system in Loren cranked up every time creating an atmosphere and chemistry between the two of them that never grew old. The kids were gone; Trapper’s barking of pending arrival to “his ship” would alert them well in advance. The Hickory shirt and towel found themselves piled up on the floor minus their owners.The ships clock chimed 7 bells at 7:30pm; they had until 2 bells when 9pm made its call. Life was good.

One small glass float with net wrapped around it, 4 large abalone shells, 3 wing feathers from an eagle and a small plastic crate with Chinese symbols on it came aboard the Filson Lady, the results of the kid’s adventure to Hook Bay. The picking boom had a small secondary hand crank winch with cable that clipped into a harness that Trapper always wore onboard. An English Black Lab, stocky and block headed, he dressed out at 90lbs and was no easy chore to get back onboard. Going out was not a problem as he had a love for a good dive any day of the week. Up he came with his prize firmly in his mouth; a hockey glove he’d found on shore. Rumor had it that a container that had several thousands of them was one of many lost off of a container ship in a Gulf storm last winter. Logan and Audrey smelled of salt wood smoke as they and friends had built a small roasting fire. Danielle noticed Logan had a chunk of seaweed lodged in the back of his hair of which no one alerted him of, a secret bet was placed on how long it would take him to notice it. 14 hrs later Logan said “what the heck is this”? as he pulled out a shriveled piece of seaweed from the back of his head. Audrey won the bet.

It was time to hit the rack, the kids bunked out in the foc’sle with Trapper who had been taught to back himself down the steep steps, Loren and Danielle had the setee area in the main galley to themselves. Around 12:45am, there was a commotion and noise of distress from below, Trapper clambered quickly up the steps and pawed at the aft door frantically. Loren half asleep, let him out only to be hit by a wall of foul air that literally left a taste in his mouth. Everyone was up gagging, windows and doors were opened, lights turned on with all hands now seeking relief out on the work deck. Trapper proudly wagged his tail as if to say “yep, that’s my brand all right”. Seems during his jaunt ashore he had found some long dead item and ate it. With 4hrs and unknown minutes worth of fermentation through a Labradors cast iron digestive system, whatever it was produced a gas so powerful that the passing of it even scared its host. Trapper occupied a mat on the aft deck for the rest of the night of which surely NORAD satellites picked up some alert to toxic gas, dirty bomb plumes with a lat/long squarely placed in the South 40 of Hoktaheen Cove. Little did the Lab with a brain smaller than a tangerine know, he’d nearly caused an international incident.

At midnight on day 6 the King open was to close, the fleet having met its projected target. The Filson Lady lie on her anchor in a small cove tucked in Surge Bay, her boot stripe well underwater. The Larssens plan was to get a good nights rest and head southbound to their hometown of Sitka in the morning to unload an enormous amount of frozen product. It truly had been a productive opener and a much needed shot in the arm to a fleet that had been hammered by years of poor runs, poor prices and fouled up quotas. No one in the family truly counted the value of their onboard haul until it was safely offloaded. The ships bell clock chimed 5 bells; it was 6:30pm, it was a pleasant evening. Logan and Danielle were in a serious game of cribbage when it happened. Everybody jolted bolt upright like a deer who’d taken a mortal shot as the words “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!! ripped through the airwaves. Loren cranked up the volume and had pad and pen instantly in hand. They all spontaneously felt sickened to their stomachs as the voice of a dear friend called for desperate help. Long Jack O’Malley had a distinct voice, to hear how it was now was heart stopping for he was the owner/operator of the tender Kadashan Queen, the tender that Audrey’s boyfriend worked on.

Long Jack hollered they had been rocked by massive explosions deep within the engine room, the WWII era flat bottomed wooden tender, meticulously maintained by him for 37 years was rapidly becoming engulfed in flames. He belted out they were anchored in Deer Harbor, the USCG now on the radio wanted a Lat/Long only to be overstepped by Long Jack yelling they were abandoning ship into a skiff, four souls on board, one badly wounded and……………………………..silence. He had been cut off by an audible explosion in the background. USCG Sector Juneau repeatedly tried to hail them to no avail, other vessels stepped in to provide Lat/Longs for them. Loren already had the main on the Filson Lady fired up and Danielle was on her way to the anchor winch all in seconds. Nobody had to say a single word, they all had drilled and drilled to respond to a myriad of emergencies and not gaggle about in a panic. Each bent to a serious task to get the Filson Lady underway, even Trapper took station on the hatch cover on total alert. Literally within 4 minutes of the initial call Loren had the Filson Lady heading out of Surge Bay with a huge bone in her teeth. Deer Harbor was not too far of a run south of them and they could already see a billowing black cloud of smoke taking to the evening sky. He knew these waters and shoals by memory and the summer evening light allowed him to bore down a route few would ever take. Audrey turned on all the required electronics; she set them with precision accuracy even though her eyes were brimming with tears. She then set about to gathering their first aid gear and rescue supplies. Danielle worked the secondary radios coordinating the rescue response with other trollers, Logan already had the gate valves opened and the 2” fire hose charged and ready on deck as the Filson Lady had one hell of a high volume seawater pump system onboard specifically designed to de-water or fight fires.

In a short run of time the Filson Lady bore through the narrowed entrance to Deer Harbor, as she gained the inner harbor to starboard Loren backed off the throttle, the sight he saw caused him literally lose his breath, Audrey screamed and buried her face into Danielle as she held her close. The beautiful and endearing Kadashan Queen was nearly fully involved in flames, over half of her aft cabin area was literally blown off revealing a sickening twist of timber and metal beams. The acidic black smoke billowed out like an angry serpent. Audrey soon spied the skiff on the southern shoreline which was frequently obscured by the thick black smoke. Loren brought the Filson Lady in well behind the burning tender, positioning her close to shore. They saw 2 figures up on the beach, crew member Ted Mears appeared to be tending to a younger man sitting on a log; it was Ian Nordland, Audrey’s partner. Long Jack was in the beached Lund, hunched over working aggressively on the other unseen crewmember, the only person it could be was their engineer, Brian Mayfield. All were accounted for it seemed, even 222; Long Jack’s Australian Shepherd was seen limping heavily on the beach near the skiff.

Danielle hollered over to Long Jack, he said Brian was badly burned and in a bad way, everyone else was pretty much okay. She cut loose the anchor gear on Lorens signal while Audrey and Logan swung the Zodiak over the side, all the rescue and medical supplies ready to be loaded. Trapper had already leaped overboard and had gained the shore. In one of those slow motion snapshots that can occur when all hell is breaking loose, Loren witnessed Trapper as he went straight to 222 who was now lying down, it appeared Trapper had his muzzle down by her front leg.

Danielle and Loren went straight to the aid of Long Jack, Audrey and Logan headed up the beach to Ted and Ian. Danielle was damn good at emergency medicine; self taught; her senses became razor sharp when other peoples would turn to a quivering mass of uselessness. The first thing that hit them was the overwhelming stench of burned hair and flesh. Long Jacks hands were covered in blood and tissue of which none was his, sweat poured down his face that was streaked with soot. The human mass that lay in the bottom of the Lund bore no resemblance of their friend, Brian, age 42, a great husband and a dad of 3 awesome kids, one being a “slip of the moment” 8 month old girl. His face was swollen, burned reddish black and oozing fluid. There was nothing left but empty sockets of what should have held his green eyes; his ears had been burned down to stubs and nothing remained of his usual thick brown hair. Even with being positioned on his side his airway was making a gurgling type sound. His entire body from the waist up was a mass of peeling reddish skin and black charred tissue. Loren with Long Jacks help used a large syringe with a rubber tube to suction out fluid and blood from his airway. Danielle worked aggressively to seal a jagged hole the size of a quarter on the right side of his chest that had pinkish bubbles escaping out of it. His hands looked like enormous charred marshmallows. The tattered shreds of clothing that remained on his chest were glued and stuck by the destroyed tissue, bits of his orange Grundens rain bibs had literally melted into his legs and mid section. Everything moved in slow motion, everything was too vivid, Loren felt like he was in some nightmarish dream as they laid Brian on his back. He began to assist with Brian’s breathing with a pocket rescue mask since it had now become an erratic, almost spasmodic type breathing that he was doing. A minute or so later there came a gurgling sound from deep within Brian and his body shuddered and went totally limp. Long Jack began to do chest compressions on him in the bottom of the Lund that resulted in blood ejecting out Brian’s charred mouth and nose with each compression. Long Jack just kept repeating quietly and methodically, “come on Brian, come on Brian…” with each powerful push of his arms. Danielle looked up at Loren who had Brian’s blood splattered on his face, his pocket rescue masked covered in blood. He knew what her eyes were saying and she was right. She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Long Jack, stopping the powerful thrusts coming from his long, muscled arms and pulled him back towards her lap. He let out a blood curdling, prolonged yell of “NOOOOO!!!!” as he buried his sweat dripping head onto Danielle’s shoulder, his chest heaving in gasps. Brian had been his crewman for an unheard of 24 years and was now co-owner of the Kadashan Queen. Long Jack had worked out a plan with Brian to take over the entire operation. Brian was married to the love of his life right there on the decks of the Kadashan Queen some 22 years ago. He met his future wife when she crewed as the cook; Long Jack had been the one who married them off. Loren carefully placed one of their blankets over Brian; his time was now in the hands of others. A sea otter suddenly appeared out of nowhere, a mere oars length off the stern of the Lund in water less than 3 feet deep. It was a big, healthy buck with immaculately oiled fur and soft brown eyes that bore their gaze straight into Lorens soul for several long seconds. Loren looked back, deep into the sea otter’s eyes. “Rest easy Brian, we’ll watch over your family” he said with his mind. With that the otter slowly submerged itself, keeping its soft eyes fixed on Loren until it silently dipped out of site and vanished without a trace or ripple. Loren knew is comment was heard and understood. Danielle understood what had taken place for she had been witness to his abilities for many years. They both knew they had done all they could do for their friend.

Other trollers had come pouring into Deer Harbor; all realized the Kadashan Queen was beyond any safe attempt to control her fire. Loren stayed with Long Jack who was regaining his bearings as Danielle went up to check on Ted and Ian. Audrey was tending to Ian who had a deep laceration to his left forearm and what appeared to be a couple of broken fingers on his right hand. He too had some soot on him but showed no evidence of inhalation of toxic smoke. Ted was coughing frequently and his face and body were heavily stained by soot. He had some cuts and abrasions that Logan was cleaning and wrapping but it was his lungs that worried Danielle the most for she knew people with his exposure could crash hours later when things otherwise seemed fine. Ted and Ian told them that they had hauled 8, 55 gallon drums of gasoline and 4 100lb bottles of propane lashed to the aft deck for a cabin owner in Greentop who was scheduled to rendezvous with them about now. Long Jack shied away from hauling propane and gasoline if at all possible due to the explosion risk even when carefully handled. The cabin owner was in a tight spot as his troller was down and unable to haul the supplies himself but had secured a secondary vessel to retrieve the freight. Long Jack, being the kind man he was, had offered his help with this delivery. Apparently Brian had picked up on a gasoline odor entering into the engine room during his routine checks and maintenance. He told Long Jack he was going to check things out. Ted and Ian went with him after they discovered one of the 55 gallon drums was stone empty; a small break in a weld had allowed the fuel to leak out and possibly drain down an aft seam by the stern bullworks. They made sure they had the ventilation system on and all the doors and hatches opened as they made their way to the engine room. Brian opened up the access door that housed the dual steering quadrants of the tender, a tight space with a low ceiling. At the same time Ted and Ian, further forward in the engine room noted gas in the bilge water. Brian had reminded them not to turn on any extra lights or switches, none of the crew smoked. The next thing Ted and Ian knew there was a massive explosion just aft of them; the concussion of it threw Ian into the workbench causing his hand injuries, a chunk of flying debris nailed his left forearm ripping into the skin.Ted hollered for him to gain the ladder and get to safety as he made his way back looking for Brian, there was no time to grab the firefighting air pack. The steering quadrant compartment area was blown wide open and fully involved in flames. What Ted thought was a secondary fire turned out to be Brian, fully involved in flames, unconscious, blown a good 10’ backwards. He grabbed a welding blanket that hung nearby and lunged in to cover Brian while the nearby fire raced out of control. With pure adrenaline, Ted, a former collegiate linebacker, slung the wrapped up Brian over his shoulders and made his way forward through the thickening acidic black smoke. Another huge explosion ripped through the area behind him dropping him to his knees and losing his grip of Brian. He slung him up again and made it most the way up the ladder where Long Jack and Ian, even with broken fingers grabbed the bundled up burned mass of their friend, they then dragged and carried him to the open cargo deck. The three of them loaded Brian and 222 into the Lund tied to the side of the tender. A series of explosions rocked the aft house area of the now nearly engulfed house of the Kadashan Queen sending shards of wood and debris in all directions.

As the sun had set at 8:45pm on the western horizon, just over 2hrs since the initial Mayday call had gone out. The distinct sound of the USCG H-60 Rescue Helicopter was fading away as it bee-lined back to Air Station Sitka. Just recently hoisted on board were Ian, Ted, 222, Long Jack and Brian who was carefully placed in a white body bag. There was still enough light to shed on the destruction. Pete Lindahl of the Yah Sure had secured Long Jack’s Lund onto her decks for the trip back to Sitka. The Larssens worked with the Filson Lady to extinguish the smoldering, nearly sunk hulk of what a mere 3 hours ago had been the beautiful tender Kadashan Queen. Long Jack was trained under the old school of tendering. He was one of the last of a breed that used to cover the S.E. Alaska Alexander Archipelago. His was a Cash Buyer operation. He not only bought fish but had superior flake ice, a gear shop, groceries that were fresh and not obscenely marked up. His on board shop along with Brian’s talents had emergently repaired many an ailing vessel. He had a special Pirates treasure chest full of fun, useful toys and books set aside specifically for the kids on fishing boats and ice cream for all. He was the “go to” person for an unlimited supply of bottle rockets which the fleet of grown adults coveted more than their spouses in some cases. There were 2 hot showers and even some limited laundry could be done. Ian had brought him into the 21st Century with internet and satellite geared devices so lonely fishers could make contact home, download music or just catch a hilarious You Tube clip. Diesel fuel and lube oil were reasonably priced along with some of the more common filters, belts and accessories. The Kadashan Queen’s massive anchor gear and her flat sides provide safe moorage in many a gale or storm for trollers whose anchor gear simply couldn’t hold. She was an oasis for many for many decades all under Long Jacks guiding hand. Long Jack had worked on her as a young man, back in the days when she had a private room down below set aside for a special 30 minute trip into paradise with a lady of the night. He recalled many a pimply faced, bug-eyed boy being brought on board by their dads requesting the sultry dame to take their boy and return to them a man. When he purchased the Kadashan Queen, he knew that would not even fly with his spouse so that potential source of revenue went by the wayside. Ironically, the Kadashan Queen was in Deer Harbor, also known to have had a few shacks and wall tents along her shore in years past for soiled doves to ply their trade. For now she lay at her anchor, smoldering and cabin-less as the darkness fell upon the trollers anchored in her midst.

Audrey contacted Ian’s Mom via satellite phone late that night who indicated she was with him at the hospital and he was doing okay. He and Ted were going to be kept overnight for observation, Long Jack and his wife were with Brian’s wife and family. Logan called is lady friend Iris, she had heard of the event since her dad was a volunteer with the Search and Rescue team that had been put on standby. She asked Logan to keep watch on his folks as she heard that they had dealt with a really tough situation. Logan felt grateful for modern technology, Iris always had a way of making his fears lay to rest and hopefully he would see her tomorrow. Trapper lay resting near the Dickenson stove, bone tired himself. In all the chaos, he too had been busy. Loren had left Long Jack alone in the beached Lund as he knew Long Jack needed some private time. He wandered over to Trapper who was lying down by 222. She gained her name from Long Jack’s son who loved to target shoot with his dads 222 rifle. When the Australian Shepherd pup had first arrived home, he was cleaning the gun. He noticed she had one white eye and one blue; then the name came to him. “Let’s call her 222, one eye’s white, one eye’s blue” and so it stuck. As Loren approached, he noted that Trapper was licking at her left front leg; upon exam it had an open fracture. She was remarkably patient as Loren and Logan fashioned a splint out of pieces of ice blanket, fleece and strips of torn sheet. None of the survivors knew how she was injured; they just knew it had happened on board the tender.

As the first hints of dawn entered Deer Harbor, inbound came the white 110’ USCG Cutter Liberty out of Juneau with State Troopers also on board. They rendezvoused with Loren who updated them on events. After completing an incident report, Loren boarded the Filson Lady that was tied to the cutters side. Audrey backed the Filson Lady away from the cutter, she engaged the shift lever into the forward position and slowly navigated the Filson Lady out of Deer Harbor just as the morning sun was taking shape; they were heading home to Sitka, the mood was somber and bittersweet. Much of the fleet had packed a load onboard and had made their winter grubstake yet the events from last night hit everyone hard, even those far away as the news had quickly spread via VHF and SSB radios. Fisherman like any profession have their share of kings and culls, gougers and line jumpers, but when tragedy struck, everyone typically cast aside their differences and came together in mutual support, this event was no different. Pete Lindahl of the Yah Sure had been given a huge hand by Derrick Ramsey of the Astrolabe loading up Long Jacks 16’ Lund on deck. It had suffered hull and rivet damage in the rapid beaching rendering it unreliable to tow behind the troller. Two days earlier Derrick and Pete had taken to the beach in Hoktaheen Cove and commenced to a bare knuckle fist fight to settle a score over colliding trolling poles and gouging. Now they were running partners back to town as Derricks cooling system had been acting up. The tragedy they both had just helped on made them both realize, without words, just how ridiculous and trivial their festering seasonal spats had been. Audrey set her course and aimed the Filson Lady homeward bound. Loren and Danielle sat on the aft deck in the lee of the wheelhouse watching the sun brighten the day, Trapper rested his head on Danielle’s lap. Logan set the harmonica brace around his neck, grabbed his worn, second hand guitar and sat at the galley table to practiced the intricacies of Neil Young’s song Natural Beauty. It was a fitting song as a male Ruby Throated Hummingbird rested itself on the picking boom which had a feeder for them half full of glistening red juice. Off in the distance a spout broke the horizon accompanied by a second smaller one, the circle of life was in full swing.

Danielle expertly squeezed the Filson Lady against the piling stationed at hoist #3. Roughly 4’ separated the bow and stern from other vessels, she had the right touch for such close quarters. Evening had set in and it was their turn to unload. For the first time in several days, the main and auxiliary engines were both shut down leaving just the sounds of the Co-Op plant to fill the air. The clang of bins, rolling carts, water flowing, forklifts buzzing about and hydraulic hoist whines filled the air. Two able bodied youth climbed down the ladder to assist unloading the rock hard, glazed slabs deep in the Filson Lady’s hold which were destined to take a different route upon hoisting compared to the iced fish. Many of these fish, especially the Kings would soon be airborne to all parts of the country being rightfully touted as the best salmon in the world. Loren and Danielle had surprised Logan and Audrey by arranging for Iris to meet them with the Jimmy at the nearby fuel dock when they topped off the tanks while waiting their turn to unload. The kids had worked damn hard and were a major key to the trips success and helping with the Kadashan Queen emergency. Danielle and Loren told them to take a break. They asked Logan to drop Audrey by Ian’s home, his Mom knew she was coming over but Ian did not. Danielle and Loren both knew from their own experience how important being re-connected with a person you love is and they understood their kids were no different. While one bin was hoisted and unloaded, a second one was being filled in the hold, the salmon making a clinking sound much like thin concrete stepping stones make as they were laid in place. A great deal of time later, the last bin lifted skyward, Loren began to button things up while Danielle, who had been watching operations up on the unloading dock signed the fish ticket and placed the CFEC card back into her hip pocket along with the pink ADF&G tally slip. She climbed down the ladder that was partially caved in due to someone’s previous Hail Mary docking attempt; it was covered with bright green seaweed and small creatures that were attach to the lower tide rungs. Once released, Loren jockeyed the Filson Lady out and away from the piling, she once again had proven what a fine vessel she was. Trapper headed to his favorite spot up by the anchor roller, assuming the position of one in command of his vessel. He knew he was home and savored the new racquet ball Loren had just given him, his nose taking in deeply the familiar aromas of home.

Their slip was just a short jaunt from the Co-Op, it was dark but the harbor lights were aplenty as Loren guided the Filson Lady gently into her slip, her red port light reflecting off the starboard side of the neighboring troller. He helped Danielle secure the lines and shut down the main to pure silence while Danielle plugged in the shore power cord. They were officially home. Loren worked to gather up a few items to take home while Danielle took a call on their cell phone on the aft deck. A few moments later she came to Loren who was in the galley fixing one last cup of coffee by the Dickenson stove he’d just shut down. He saw something wrong in her eyes and he set the cup down and brought her in close. She looked up at him with tears now streaming down her face; she said quietly that she had just spoken to their friend Julie, Brian’s wife, that’s all she could get out before she buried her face into his chest. Loren held onto her tight and gently stroked her auburn hair as her body heaved deeply in sobs. He wasn’t going to let her go, not for a long while for he knew of the things she had been witness to in her life.

Danielle was human, not super human. She could handle more than most men and kept a focus as sharp as a knife. From her earliest childhood memories to the age of 14 she had lived in hellish, transient conditions only to be subject to worse unsolicited hell after she fled upon her Mom’s death. Somehow she had survived and endured. Though deeply and near completely suppressed, still buried in her eyes and mind were the images of the horror of her own near death by random abduction and indescribable abuse by 2 men. It had been a pleasant routine Fall day for Danielle; she worked full time at the local thrift shop. She enjoyed her job because she could bring happiness to the many people who were less fortunate than her, especially the children. Her co-workers were wonderful and she had finally found stability in her life. A mere 10 minute walk from her work was her home. She rented a room from a kind elderly couple who gave her safe haven, smiles and love and she in return, helped them around their place. She was on her way home, it was dusk and she traveled on the usual safe, well lit and now semi-quiet sidewalk, vehicle traffic was reduced but present. An old van was parked along the curb in front of a building being renovated; barrier cones narrowed the sidewalk down, shifting foot traffic closer to the curb. As she passed close beside the van, the door slid quickly open, in a split second she was grabbed and literally yanked inside by her sweatshirt hood, the door slammed shut before a scream could even emit from her mouth. The man who grabbed her began beating her unmercifully as she tried in vain to deflect the blows while his partner drove. He violently wrapped duct tape around her mouth, the back of her head and taped her wrists behind her back. After a few minutes drive, they carried Danielle awake and battered deep into the brush in a remote section of a county park. They tore at her clothing, savagely violated her body repeatedly and beat her in the process. She kicked and fought as hard as her 105lb frame allowed but she was no match for their sadistic attack, especially without the use of her hands.The men finally took a break from their assault, straightened out their clothes and drank heavily from a nearly consumed bottle of cheap Vodka. Danielle repeatedly tried in vain to remove the duct tape wrapped around her hands so she could clear the tape wrapped across her head and mouth as she was unable to clear the blood running down her throat into her stomach. She knew if she vomited, the blood it would end up in her lungs effectively killing her by suffocation. Each attempt was met by a kick to her body or head; it seemed they relished the site of her semi-restrained struggle. One of the men got angry with her repeated attempts, smashed the now empty Vodka bottle so the bottom of it was jagged and sharp. He stood over her and violently slashed it across her left eyebrow, ripping her flesh clear down to the orbital bone. As he stepped back and turned bragging to his buddy to check out his “art work” he spaced in his alcohol induced haze that he had set a 9mm down with Danielle's reach. As she laid on her left side, she could barely make out it's hazy outline through her swollen right eye, her left eye had been rendered useless by blood. The duct tape that bound her wrist had moved by her struggles and rolled, folding in on itself allowing some slack. Danielle, her pain numbed by endorphins carefully worked her right hand free in the darkness that had fallen upon the scene. With her last bit of strength, she lunged at the vague outline of a pistol. Her hand clasped onto the cold steel, she rolled outward, leveled it with both hands and emptied the weapon in rapid fire at the blurred hulks rapidly closing in on her. They crumpled to the ground, one nearly landing on top of her. The entire event lasted just a few split seconds. The smell of gun powder permeated the air; it was silent except for Danielle’s labored breathing through her broken and bloody nose. She was barely able to pull the duct tape down enough from her mouth in time before she vomited up copious amounts of blood that contained two of her teeth. She collapsed in a heap, the 9mm lay smoking beside her bloodied right hand, twelve shiny brass shell casings lay scattered throughout the dried grass. It had been roughly 45 minutes since she had been abducted and brutalized, she had never seen or met these men before. Police and medics arrived quickly to the reports of gunfire. One man lay face down with 4 wounds that clearly indicated hollow point rounds. One bullet penetrated just above the groin that left a hole the size of an orange out his back where his left kidney used to live. Another round hit is upper right chest that blew out his right lung and right shoulder blade. A third found his belly, essentially vaporizing his innards through out the abdominal cavity. The fourth bullet hit his left cheek bone which blew his skull cap clean off including 3/4 of his brains. The second man was just behind the first, sprawled and contorted on his back with 3 wounds in him. His mid sternum had taken a round that shredded his heart and shattered his spin on the way out. Another round found his upper right pelvis area that blasted off half of his right ass cheek upon exiting. The third round had hit him square in the throat with such a trajectory as to nearly decapitate him. An officer of 27 years turned and vomited heavily at the site of Danielle; he and the others could give a shit less about the blasted corpses next to her. The medics could scarcely make out Danielle’s features as they worked aggressively to keep her alive. Records later showed these men had been on the run after escaping from prison in the mid west. Both had extensive, violent criminal histories and the evidence gathered tied them to 4 cold blooded, totally random murders of women across the country in 6 days. One can only surmise they viewed Danielle as easy prey, possibly due to her size. What they did not know was her upbringing had forced her to be involuntarily familiar with handguns. When they initiated their horrid, now routine attack, they most certainly did not foresee that it would end with them lying on the ground with their skulls and bodies blown to bits. There was to be no trial, no more tax payer expenses, justice had been done. She was only 19.

It took months and tens of thousands of dollars for Danielle's body to recover from the injuries. The elder couple she had cared for paid for nearly all of it and refused to accept any repayment. For several years after, Danielle often wished the attackers had knocked her out, knowing she would have been killed. In many ways that would have been better than the memories and scars she carried. She tried to push the perpetual question of "why her" out of her mind. What had she done to be raised in the conditions she was and subjected to this horrid event? Until she met Loren 11 years later, Danielle built an impenetrable wall to emotion. Despite the advances of dozens of men over those 11 years, she would not yield an inch as she toiled away at sea along the pacific coast from California to Alaska. She could not bear to stay in any one spot for any length of time. Her halibut trip aboard the Valkyrie and meeting Loren hit her in a way she had never known before. As the days went by working together in close proximity, something inside her told her to let go and let him into her life. To this day she is at a loss of words as to the origin of this intense signal. When she silently hugged Loren 19yrs ago on the docks and asked if she could stay and live with him, it was her body and spirit telling her this needed to be done. It was this guiding force that literally saved and restored her life. As they had arrived at Lorens cramped studio apartment, the energy they ignited had been moving rapidly towards sharing an erotic, overdue shower together. Upon entering his place, a huge tsunami wave of buried traumatic memories came crashing into Danielle's brain. She sat down quietly and told Loren there was something she had to tell him. The mood and atmosphere had taken a stark change of course. Loren seemed to grasp the magnitude of what was happening as he sat down beside her on his small futon bed cluttered with bachelor debris. He was the only person she shared her horror with in the detail that she did, even the investigators and counselors had not heard what she shared to him. He needed to know it all; the raw, visceral reality of what had happened to her and she had mentally prepared herself to be rejected by him, unsure what she would do if he did. Instead, when she had finished, without saying a word he pulled her into his arms for a very, very long period of time. His touch released a dam of tears, pain and emotion that she had held deep inside for 11 years as she held on to him tightly, her body shuddering heavily as the demons inside came pouring out. After awhile he held her face tenderly in his hands and looked deep into her tear filled hazel eyes, his own were moist. He told her she was safe now, no further harm would come to her and together, they would heal these wounds. She believed in her heart, soul and mind what he said to her was true. Later, the love they made in the shower, throughout that night and for weeks to come was careful, tender, slow and healing in its own way. It was the first time since her brutal attack that Danielle had allowed a man’s hands to touch her body and certainly the first time she had allowed a man to be inside her body. It was also the first time that she herself felt the need to return the intimate touch to a man. There was no better person than Loren. He had proven to be a man of his word then and now, she never had any doubts.

The aroma of steaming coffee filled the air in the galley as Danielle looked up at Loren and he carefully wiped the remaining tears from her eyes and face. She wrapped her arms around his neck and they shared a quiet nuzzled moment. Nothing needed to be said. Thinking of Brian, they both knew a person’s time could come in just a flash and life must be lived to the very best each day. Trapper made his way into the wheelhouse and leaned his 90lb frame heavily into both of them causing a sudden shift of their feet; it was his way of saying it was time for a pet. They both looked down at this block headed black lab who smiled his blue-ball-in-the-mouth smile back at them, his tree branch thick tail banging hard against the oven door made a rhythmic clanging sound. Trapper always had a way of bringing the family back onto even keel, this time was no different. Loren locked the door on the Filson Lady and he and Danielle with Trapper in the lead began to leave. Two slips along; they passed the quiet Valkyrie of Arne and Etta’s. They had arrived into town earlier that morning, their trip south and closer to town had proven to be good and tomorrow all had planned to get together and discuss the happenings of the trip. Just a ways further along Danielle stopped, it took Loren a few strides to notice she wasn’t beside him since he had been gazing upward looking at the quarter moon stationed above the mountains. He turned back and went to where she stood, she put her arms around his neck and pulled him down close to her level, she said this was their spot, remember? Loren smiled for he knew what she was referring to. This was the spot some 19 years ago where they shared their first true moment together. Danielle’s eyes were still puffy from the tears but it was the right moment to just stand in this spot in a memory induced embrace. A scraggy voice hollered out through the darkness telling them to get a room, it sounded like their old crewmate Ron. Ron had moved to Oregon with his wife and kids some years back. His wife was now the Nurse Manger for the major Trauma Hospital in Portland. Ron was Director of Operations for one of the most successful drug and alcohol treatment centers in Western Oregon. Their twin 18yr old daughters continued to excel in academics and they had an 11yr old Ron Jr. who was tearing up the turf in youth football. Every Christmas they received a special package from the Larssen family. Last year it contained an updated family photo, a small box of mint toothpicks and a single mummified herring. Ron and his wife reciprocated with photos and sheet of removable Grateful Dead tattoo’s. The package also contained a small plastic container of honey in the shape of a bear addressed specifically to Loren and Danielle saying “Enjoy!” It had a yellow smiley face sticker stuck on the back.

They pulled into the driveway of their home; the Jimmy was parked street side. Logan was stretched out full length on the couch enjoying a rerun of the Red Green show while eating a bag of Doritos. His t-shirt was stained by the orange fake cheese from his chronic habit of using the front of his shirt as a napkin to wipe his hands. Trapper was gnawing noisily on a raw hide bone while Audrey, munching on a piece of Sailor Boy Pilot Bread slathered with salmon spread rested her legs on him. She was buried deep in Loren’s old dog-eared Ken Kesey book; Sometimes a Great Notion. Logan said Iris was able to get the early shift tomorrow morning so she could come along to the gathering. Audrey broke away from her reading and shared that Ian was totally surprised to see her as his Mom had told him to answer the door because it was the pizza delivery guy, knowing full well it was really Audrey. He ended up with 2 broken fingers on his right hand but it was expected to heal fine, he would have a pretty good scar on his left forearm. He wanted to be together with everyone tomorrow if that was okay of which both Danielle and Loren told Audrey to let him know he was most welcome to come along. The answer machine had a message from Valerie Mears, Ted’s wife, he was home and doing okay, still coughing up blackish gunk. Loren had touched base with Long Jack earlier in the day, he was doing fair and he and his wife Helen had been helping Brian’s family who were coping as well as could be expected.

Loren and Danielle said goodnight to the kids; gave Trapper a pat and headed upstairs. In their bedroom all to themselves, Loren helped Danielle undress and dawn her favorite robe. She slipped into the bathroom and began filling the old bear claw tub with piping hot sudsy water while Loren rolled back the covers on their bed. The entire family was relishing the extra space, quietness and the anticipation of their spacious beds. Danielle lit a candle and a cone of sandalwood incense placing them carefully in a large seashell on the mantle just above the tub. The hushed candlelight transformed the large Winslow Homer painting of "The Fog Warning" bringing nearly to life the scene of a doryman pulling hard on his oars. She turned off the light and turned on some quiet Gordon Lightfoot music on the CD player near the sink. Loren came in and closed the door; Danielle whispered it was her turn to do the undressing. She supported Loren as he slid into the steam filled, sudsy water letting his tired, arthritic back rest into the curved, heated cast iron paradise. It reminded Loren of how glad he was that their 1920’s era house still had its original tub. In the dim, flickering candle light, Danielle let her long auburn hair down and gave her head a light shake. In one smooth motion, her satin robe slipped silently off her shoulders onto the floor revealing her petite body in its purest, most natural form. Loren gazed at her profile outlined in the subtle light, what an amazingly beautiful women she was both inside and out. He knew his life was something others only dreamed of. He was just a common working man like millions of other guys who by pure luck, was actually able to live that dream. As Danielle stepped lightly into the tub looking as graceful as a mermaid, her hazel eyes gazed upon him and she smiled. She lowered her body into the steaming bath, turned and rested her back against Lorens chest, suds clear up to her neck and closed her eyes. Gordon Lightfoot's song “Sundown” quietly filled the air as Loren and Danielle let nature take its course in a choreography that found two souls working as one. Later, Danielle stealthily pulled the stopper out of the drain for a few moments allowing the water level to settle just a bit lower. Additional freeboard was needed to accommodate for the suds laden waves that had begun to form and quietly lap at the white porcelain sides of the tub. Far away, on the hearth down by the slow burning wood stove, the vintage ships bell clock chimed 8 bells, midnight, Trapper dreamed of Ptarmigan. Loren gazed upward at Danielle as he lay reclined in comfortable connected bliss with her, his hands cradled her momentarily paused hips. Danielle leaned her body forward and placed her hands on Lorens shoulders to support her weight. Her suds laced hair draped downward onto his chest and arms partially cloaking her teacup sized breasts that beckoned for his attention. With a smile and shine in her hazel eyes she placed her forehead against his. “Surfs up” she softly said.


So the long story ends. I was PM’d several months back by a person asking if the original Filson Lady story was related to any personal experience. The answer to the question was no, however I do know of a few men who I would consider as lucky as the fictional character Loren. Recently an elder, retired fisherman from the Washington coast area also PM’d me. He lurks on this site but had never responded to the posts as he admitted he was not too savvy on computers. He inquired if I had ever considered writing an updated version of the Filson Lady. I had been tossing the idea around but was uncertain as a sequel can sometimes bomb faster than a free falling 60lb lead that’s snapped its break strap. He shared he liked stories that “have happy partners and good families which don’t seem to exist much anymore”. He knew the story was fiction but added “it never hurts to dream.” So, in part, I wrote this for him. Writing of human interaction and dynamics are not really my areas of expertise. But hopefully the stories of the Larssen family and the others offer a bit of respite from the troubles we find in our world today. Men and women working and loving together, for a common good, is worthy of promotion in my opinion. An occasional dose of “The Gospel according to Fast Eddie” never hurts a bit either.

Eric Van Cise – F/V New Hope – Sitka, Alaska – January 2011
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