dan at sea

We just got another letter from Dan, the cook on the enormous, floating fish processing plant in the Artic.

Well, weve been at this for a while now, and Im getting pretty beat down. It started blowing pretty bad yesterday, and it hasnt stopped yet. Our dock date is this coming Friday, and I fly home from Dutch for a trip; which will be about ten days. Im running out of ideas for breakfast specials, cookies, and desserts. I am craving a double of ouzo, or several badly painted cans of cheap beer. I havent shaved since we left, and Im beginning to look like that guy who drives the rusted-out 76 Lincoln Mk II that has the back seat loaded with giant garbage bags filled with crushed aluminum cans that people see in so many cities around the country. Im pretty sure its not the same man in every city, but you know theres one in every city. Anyway. This was a sad trip because one of the Mates who was supposed to be on this trip committed suicide a few days before the trip took off. The captain flew up to Dutch to get on the boat there, and with him he brought the Mates ashes. He, the Mate, was a very nice man, and I hope all that talk about God not letting those people who commit suicide into heaven is a pile of steaming bullshit thought up by some bitter old man down here because we have no idea how tortured the Mate was inside. I just dont think its right to invalidate someones personal hell people dont have it better or worse, they just have it different. As we were steaming out to fish, the boat stopped halfway there to let the captain, and the Chief Boson out on a skiff so they could spread the Mates ashes to the wind and Bering Sea. I have to say that it was possibly the most emotional moment Ive ever experienced in my life. I think everyone on the boat was kind of jarred by the whole experience. Although we will live on this plane longer, we have had our experiences broadened by the gravity of that one experience. As the ashes were spread, the boat tooted its horn three times. Ive never heard a lonelier sound than that. We were all silent. I hope his soul finds peace now.

All stories of suicide are sad. This one I found particularly so, however. Not only did I find the image of the skiff silently making its way across the frigid water with the ashes to be haunting, but the idea that the man who died had to be put to rest by his fellow sailors really got to me. The image that I get, whether correct or not, is that he was all alone in the word, with no family to turn to. Im picturing in my mind the collection that probably took place on the ship to pay for his cremation Its weird how much can be said in just a few sentences.

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