I’ve decided that for a captain and crew, the beginning of the Dungeness crab season occurs in about three different phases. Phase one is the beginning of the gearwork that starts around the first of November and lasts about a month. Phase two is taking the boat to Westport and tackling the gearwork that awaits there. Phase three involves the actual dumping of pots into the ocean and then picking them back up to see what’s what.
Phase one ended today.
Today, the lines holding the Vis (rhymes with “fleece,” and named for the island off the coast of the former Yugoslavia from which many local fishing families hail) to the dock were untied. George backed the boat out of her slip, and a round of smiles and waves was had. A final blast of the foghorn as the Vis rounded the breakwater signaled the final goodbye and the start of phase two of the Dungeness crab season.
The send-off is never easy. I have done it hundreds of times, as a child, a girlfriend, a wife, and now as mother of our fishing family. I’ve discovered that instead of getting easier, it actually gets harder. I’ve also found that, like the start of the Dungeness crab season, I too, experience a few phases leading to the final goodbye.
Phase one starts with the mild depression and anxiety that sets in about a week before the departure. I also cling happily during that time to the days I have left with George at home. I tell myself we have lots of time still to spend together. I treasure each minute as if it was gold—which of course, it is.
I toughen up about a day before the departure, finding the silver lining in the situation and making my plans (“I’ll finish writing that story, I’ll resume reading my book, I’ll learn new Jazzercise routines, I’ll take the kids to get Santa pictures…”).
My next strategy is to pick a fight with George. Maybe it will be easier to watch George leave if I am mad at him. Say, if I actually wanted him to go away. So I accuse him of being distracted, of not listening to me, of not caring about leaving, and as a matter of fact, of appearing to be happy about leaving!
It doesn’t work.
I stand and watch him from our dining room window on the morning he’s scheduled to leave. The sight of him in his black Carhart overalls, hauling his green duffle bag, the plastic bag filled with his favorite food from our home cupboards, his pillow and blankets, out our front door and across the street breaks my heart. My throat tightens as I watch the way he tosses his things into the cab of his flatbed truck and climbs in behind. Tears fall, try as I might to stop them.
The final phase is acceptance. I’m the wife of a fisherman, just like my mother and grandmother before me, and this is what we do. I have a little girl here celebrating her second birthday, a baby who needs to be fed, and a day that needs to be planned.
So, I’ll do what we’ve always done. I’ll take my two little ones and meet up with the rest of the wives, the kids, and friends down at the docks. We’ll pose for some pictures, keep the chit chat going, and try not to think too far ahead. We’ll wave to the guys as long as they can see us, and we’ll wait for the traditional blast of the foghorn before we even think about getting into our cars and leaving the harbor.
We’ll miss them everyday while we hope and pray for the best.