Bananas On Board
In the not so distant past people were told to head West to seek their fortunes. Dreams of California gold and the wide open free plains of the central West draw lots of people. Some were desperate, poor folks others were adventurers seeking what was beyond the Blue Horizon. Others were driven by impulses beyond their control or understanding. I don't know the category I fit in at the time but dreams of big trout and deep powder were dancing in my mind. So I packed up and headed West to find my fortune. While I did not find any monetary fortune- my experiences were enough to fill a lifetime. Yes I found big trout and deep powder, amazing people, natural beauty beyond compare but not my fortune. Whatever my fortune might be it was not found in the West.
I returned to the Mid West and moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan- family in the area, Lake Superior, bitter winters, buggy summers and not a single mountain in sight. The fishing is well the fishing is great if you want to put in the effort. Here there are no guide books, waiting in line to launch your drift boat, no well paced paths. But the fish are there and they are brilliant. Big bass, starving pike, delicate brookies and many more. With such an embarrassment of natural wonders you would think people would folk to the area. Yet the population has been stable for years with like change. The harsh winters are probably the main cause to keep those less than hearty souls anyway. Thank god there is little chance this area will turn into trendy resort towns of the west.
My friends and I have often commented on returning to nature is actually expensive. Fishing, hunting, camping all those things we most enjoy are not cheap. They are full of expensive gear, my different ideas on how to best do and little time to do it because many of us are simply working to pay our bills and not that fancy new jacket that will resist rain, cover our scents make us invisible and if the advertising is correct allows you to become the reincarnation of Daniel Boone.
So I began other cliched journey to fortune and headed to sea for my fortune. I got my merchant marine credentials, physical, drug test, back ground check and TWIC card. Applications sent and I got a job on a ore boat traveling the Great Lakes. A fitting job for somebody living in Marquette with its two ore docks, a Grandfather who put buoys and chartered the lakes and another Grandfather who worked on the ore docks.
Like most people I started as an ordinary seaman. The bottom of the barrel. Cold, dirty, mindless work day in day out. For over 140 days. The lakes are amazing, the stars in the middle of the lake are beyond words. The docks are dirty industrial suck holes that remind of stories about Soviet Union towns. Its a job not a calling for me on the lakes a means to an end. What is that end? Well I am working on it. Again great experiences and I learned so much. Much of my time was spent in the engine room and for those that know me well can imagine the challenge it was for me. Machines are not in my wheel house. The experience gave me confidence in areas I never thought I would have. I saw the docks, the routes, the locks that built the great lakes region into what it is today. The great cities of the midwest owe much to the iron, stone and coal docks on the lakes. And even more to the sailors that go months without seeing their families and friends.
There is no time for romance of the sea. We are on the boat to work. The colorful language describing life at sea- are done pleasure sailors, imaginative authors and those rare sailors who love the water and the life. I love the water, the mindless work not so much. A sailors credentials and experiences opens many doors. Perhaps that is the sailors fortune. You make a pretty good living, you cannot spend the money, you are gone for months on end, see amazing sights and if you are lucky they are the keys to your kingdom. For now I wait for the ice to melt, wait on applications and dream of open water and the Blue Horizon. And imagine what is was like before GPS when the horizon was truly unknown.