by Kieran Mulvaney

August 18, 2007

For a couple of days, I just stared from shore. The Esperanza sat at anchor, close enough almost to touch, but I wasn’t ready to board just yet. I had other things to do before I took a ride out to what would be my home for the next two weeks or so.

Sam and I saw each other just about every day for most of the seven years I lived in Anchorage, but we hadn’t laid eyes on each other since I reluctantly left Alaska about eighteen months ago. But now, there she was, waiting for me at Dutch Harbor airport, and I can’t even tell you how overjoyed I was to see her. It isn’t every day you find your closest friend working on an island in the Bering Sea, after all. But there she was, and for a couple of days, there was much catching up to do. There were long nights at the Unisea Bar, and long days spent recovering while staring at the television and DVD marathons of "Rescue Me."

But eventually, Sam had to go back to work, and I had a ship to join. I stood at the Small Boat Harbor as Hettie steered the inflatable over to pick me up; a short ride later, and I was up the pilot ladder and in my new home.

I have friends here, too: those I have sailed with before, like Clive and Marc; those I know from land, like George and Kate; those I’ve only spoken with on the phone, but feel I know already, like Barbara. And then there are those I don’t know at all yet, but whom, when these two weeks are over, I’ll regard, as I do so many of those I’ve had the opportunity to sail with over the years, as friends for life.

And now we are underway, steaming slowly away from Unalaska and out into the Bering Sea. The ship is settling into its slow, gentle, hypnotic movement, as Dutch Harbor (and Sam) recede into the distance, and new places, new experiences—and new friendships—lie ahead.

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