​​​​​~ STORMS ~

Weather on the coast of northern California is relatively mild as long as your feet are planted firmly on the ground,but my husband and I were romantics: we lived aboard a fishing boat,traveling from port to port, chasing albacore tuna, constantly at the mercy of storms.

Once, a hundred miles from land, our boat slapped about by angry walls of sea water and driven by ninety-mile-an-hour winds, I sat clenched and terrified by my helpless smallness, listening to the grinding, screaming diesel engine that propelled us ever so slowly through the valley of death. But my husband had come alive. This edge was where he chose to be. It was not an obstacle; it was the goal. This was why he liked to fish for a living.

For ten hours I watched him navigate toward safety, calm and quick and controlled, dodging ocean breakers while the boat groaned and lurched. We were balanced on the lips of the earth, being tasted by a lapping tongue, about to be chewed and swallowed at any moment. It was the worst Pacific storm of the century, and many others did not reach safe harbor.

I stayed ashore the following season and convinced my husband that his passion for balancing on the edge of the abyss was self-destructive. He sold our boat and hired on as the skipper of a giant, steel drag boat that operated in quieter waters nearer to shore. Instead of riding a chip of wood, dragging fishhooks through an angry ocean, he worked a solid tank that towed a net slowly through less hungry seas.

Two months later, on a perfectly still night, the boat, the net, and my husband disappeared, only an oil slick marking the spot where he went down.

Diane Sherwood Holck
Captain Cook, Hawaii

~ Published in THE SUN MAGAZINE September 1993 ~

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