The Locals Line

By: Linda Vissat

A stench of vomit began to filter aboard the Kennicott. The buzz of "Yak Attack" or seeming so tickled my ears.  I felt like I was in the "Twilight Zone".  I wondered where in the world, up here, could yaks attack people? 

According to Stu, he and the other passengers who just boarded got off the Tustumena out of Anchorage and they were attacked. Disheveled, disoriented, and grumpy they wobbled about searching for "sea legs" and towels to clean themselves up. Bouts of seasickness continued.  According to the purser there were a hundred and twenty people on the Tustumena and 70% of those were now with us headed to Ketchikan.

Stu was a rough-and-tumble man; seemingly a prerequisite if one lives in Alaska.  He was 6'3" tall, with a thick, shock of red hair. I was topside when I saw him so I started a conversation.

"Say, could you tell me what side of ship is the smoking section?  I thought it was starboard, but I'm not sure."

He glowered down at me in response and declared, "I really don't know, but does it matter?  We are outside."

I didn't want to start something that could turn to a debate, so I said, "I'm pretty sure its starboard.  Besides, if I'd open my eyes I'd see the ashtrays.  There's one.  My name's Linda, what's yours?"

"Stu," he replied with a "don’t' bother me attitude.

"So, where are you coming from and going to?" I inquired.

"I live in Ketchikan.  Just got off the Tustamena at Juneau.  "Hellava" trip.  Like we were hit by a hurricane.  We nearly capsized," he said.  "I've lived up here thirty years working back and forth in Russia, so I've taken that trip often, but this was a first.  It was pretty scary." 

He asked, "Where are you from?"

"Colorado."

"Really, huh.  I'm originally from Greeley," he mentioned nonchalantly.

That's when a light bulb went on [I love this pun.  I could actually "see more".]  and my inner video saw "Seymour."

I was taken aback and continued questioning, "Your name is Stu?  You used to have a dog years ago, didn't you?  And his name was Seymour?"

"Wow, it's a small world!  We used to date; remember in the seventies." I said.

I fell in love with his dog.   It was a large, English Sheepdog named "Seymour."  I was intrigued by the dog and the irony of "Seymour's" his name.  He couldn't see anything with the hair covering his eyes. 

Stu warmed up a bit, but still couldn't remember me.  He continued to fill me in on the storm that began around Yakatut.  Ah, now my bout with the mystery was solved.  At Yakatut the land is open to the ocean and pounding waves pitched the Tustumena.  There was wonderment from crew and passengers alike if anyone would make it home.  Waves hit the deck tossing the ferry side to side. 

Although it was sunny, the air was brisk and I could smoke only so many cigarettes so Stu and I exchanged emails and telephone numbers in the event he ever came to Colorado.  His sister still lived in Greeley so it was a certainty.

There was still a lot to see before we reached Ketchikan and at 17.33 knots I wouldn't miss much as long as I was awake and directing my focus to the sea.  [A knot is how long it takes to go a nautical mile.

A nautical mile is 6,076 feet vs. 5,280 feet for a statute mile. That is a 15% difference. To convert knots to mph, multiply knots by 1.15. So, 17.33 knots x 1.15 = 19.93 mph.]

I caught a rainbow, a gorgeous sunset and watched Orca dolphins race with the ship.  The wind blew, the clouds rolled, and the swales came and went.  The crew was friendly, open and kind.  The passengers were in their own awestruck state, documenting their experience to share with friends and family. 

The day after Thanksgiving an unusual email appeared in my box from an unknown Julie. 

I found your email address in Stu's computer and I wanted to warn you.  You're on a list with about thirty other women he's been trying to hit on.  I moved here from Washington based on conversations with Stu.  He's gone to Colorado for Thanksgiving and I've been watching his place.  I started doing some computer hacking because he's acting strange since I got here and this is what I've found.  Just beware; most of these emails in his sent box are real smutty.

I picked Stu up from his hotel in Greeley.  My mother was with me.  He didn't seem too comfortable with that.  We ate dinner and I drove him back, again my mother was in tow.  He still boldly asked, "Do you want to come up?"  

The eccentricity and extremism of the Alaskan people is something it took me no time at all to grow fond of.  I've been bitten by the bug.  No matter what adventurous spirit you may possess a cruise on the AMHS can stimulate you more and save you money for future vacations to other destinations.  To take a trip like this is one thing, but should you decide to stay there, prepare yourself for high prices. Make your reservations now for a quick trip by calling 1-800-642-0066; alsoScience Articles, see www.alaska.gov/ferry for more information.  Request a current schedule.

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