He did not expect to see his boat drifting away from him just before dinner, the radio still clear with the call for anglers to reel up and head back in. It was late August in Hakai and the sun was setting earlier with each passing day. He was always preaching about the importance of having your floater suit on before you fall in the water to anyone who would listen. Cold comfort now, still afloat but suffering from the shock of the 52 degree water, he considered his chances. No way to get to the boat, the waves pulling it further and further away with each swell, no flotsam to hang on to, not a log in sight.
Just moments ago, bent over the leg of the motor unwinding halibut line from the prop, wet cowling, wet boots and hands he looked forward to heading back in, a hot shower, a cold beer. The water on the way out resembled mercury, silky smooth, alarmingly silver, breaking apart and melding back together as if an illusion. Cruising across it felt otherworldly, gliding over gentle swells 10 meters apart. These were the moments of magic offered by the Pass, ever-changing light, water so calm you wondered how it could be so flat and then at times so angry that you felt like a rag in a washing machine. Best stay calm, best conserve energy, best chance of survival.
No one back at the lodge knew where he had gone, which direction or what time he left. He had been on the water for the whole of the afternoon fishing new spots and trying some favorite old ones from years ago. The fish box was well stocked with some nice big Yellow Eye, a few Lingcod and a decent Halibut. But that Halibut was the source of his predicament now. Having taken one last powerful surge across the water and under the boat after the harpoon had hit it; the line had wrapped the prop and stopped it dead. Retrieving the halibut was the easy part, un-wrapping the line from the prop proved to be impossible. All it took was one ill-timed rogue wave to change everything. The air had cooled noticeably now and a dense fog had swallowed the last of his boat.
As the fog formed around him he could feel its dampness settle on his face; his hat still floated near and started slipping below the surface, a foreshadowing not lost on him. Instinctively he grabbed it, pulled it back on in defiance of the situation. He had had that hat for over 20 years. It was the third hat but they were all the same to him, seeming to last about 7 years each before the salt and sun had weathered them into submission, the arrival of each identical replacement a combination of renewal and hallowed tradition. To him they were all one. He tugged it firmly on, soaked as it was it stayed put. He was the man with the Hat, damn it he would die the man with the Hat if he was to.
For so many years, so many times he was the one on the water looking for a lost boat. The days before they all had radios, the days before hand held GPS, not so long ago but oh so long ago. He had searched in fog, searched in vain. One time with no options left, he could only wait until the fog cleared. But that time it was noon and the day was long and the fog did clear, the boat was found. Now as dusk settled in around him, not only was his boat more difficult to find, he would be almost impossible. As he contemplated these realties he was lifted with a surge of water briefly before being blasted with spray, littered with foul smelling droplets as an Orca surfaced for a breath not more than a stone’s throw away. Followed by another and yet another, then a calf with a tail flip. Now an eerie calm settled as the pod dove only to suddenly be broken by the intimidating stare of a spyhopping bull whose intent gaze was curious, cautious and somehow comforting. At least he was not alone, not for the moment. He felt at peace, a part of the Pass, a part of it all.
To be continued…
Category: Tales of the Pass