Man, where to start. An entire chapter of my memoirs will be devoted to this topic. And that chapter just may morph into more. Spirituality, or how I saw nature’s creator’s guiding hand throughout the business, has been a major factor from the beginning; from the inspiration to start in the first place, to working through many challenges that happened along the way, to many spontaneous encounters with wildlife, some in answer to prayer, to my being able to maintain a calm hand steering the boat through stormy seas. God’s guidance and protection was evident throughout, especially when I was actively aware of that presence.
Just living in Whittier was an early major challenge, especially surviving winters, when in mid-November the sun sinks behind the mountain ridge that looms to the south, and isn’t seen again until mid-February. And often not even then, due to the incessant clouds and rain that often linger for long days on end. But in spite of that — or maybe because of it? (ha!) — it was in Whittier that I returned to my evangelical Christian roots after being away for over 20 years.
One of the chapters of my memoirs will be “My Guardian Angel, Al.” The name comes from my middle name, Albert, after my mom’s number two brother, my Uncle Al. Part of the business was transporting deer hunters around the Sound in fall and early winter. The hunters invariably had huge loads of gear, which sometimes pushed the boat’s carrying capacity. The very first time having to deal with a big load in big seas was bringing four hunters back to Whittier from Naked Island, 40 miles out in the Sound, from where I had dropped them off a week earlier. Small craft warnings were up on my way out and it was a rough, but quite doable ride in the empty boat.
In the hour it took the hunters to break camp and load up, the wind and seas had picked up. When we were just a couple miles out from the island on the return trip, with another eight miles to go to the protected waters on the lee side of Lone Island, the following seas had built to at least eight feet in height. Their crests were just slightly farther apart than the boat’s 31-foot length, and moving at about 16 knots, or 18-1/2 mph. As we left the island the hunters were quite talkative, but as we got farther away from the island’s protection from the stormy weather, they had grown increasingly quiet, a sure sign that the weather had gotten their attention.
The wind and seas definitely had my full attention too, and all five of us were scared. In spite of that, my mind was calm, with a consistent thought that everything was going to be ok. And that’s exactly what happened. The ten-mile crossing from Naked Island where the hunters were camped, to Lone Island, where we would finally be protected from the storm’s full force was the hairiest part. Once around the south end of Lone Island in Lone Passage, the seas calmed considerably, the hunters began talking again, and we made it safely back to Whittier well before dark.
I believe that it was God’s agent on my behalf, my angel Al, who kept me focused. It was a harrowing experience, but that supernatural calm in spite of it was something beyond my normal self. For that I say once again, thank you God, in Jesus’ name.
First draft was written longhand in a 12-minute writing class exercise, March 30, 2016, and edited and embellished later on April 6 and 18, and July 4, 2016; and January 23 and March 28, 2017.