Seas the Experience

One SHS student's 'sinking' experience.

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Seas the Experience

Erin Sprecher, Reporter

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Cold, hollow metal surrounds you as the water softly smacks the other side of the metal barrier. The snores from your bunk partner blend with the creaking of the old boat. Your feet drag up to the deck, following the memorized steps to prepare the boat for the salmon. It’s the same each day: meet the fisherman, get the salmon, return to the canary. Except for today. 

Around one in the morning, an abnormal amount of exhaust barrels through the vent from the engine room. Your heart sinks as your feet descend the day-to-day steps in order to shake the Captain awake.

Twenty four hours earlier. The crew just finished taking apart a problematic pipe in the engine room. After carefully rebuilding the pipe, a clamp was added to make sure it stayed in place. Little did they know, the clamp was not tight enough, nor was the emergency alarm wired correctly. This was SHS student Cole Bakkensen’s first experience on an Alaskan boating trip.

“We were twenty minutes away from sinking.”

Bakkensen’s terrible first experience last summer did not stop him from returning back to the same boat this summer. Sixty-seven days on a boat filled with strangers heightened his nerves, but he persevered in hopes of following his father’s footsteps.

“My dad was deck boss by eighteen so I wanted to make him proud and be as good as he was,” said Bakkensen. Forty years before Bakkensen’s first trip, his father stood on the exact same boat with the same family bloodline as the Captain.

Bakkensen did not face any severe or life-threatening situations this year, however, he did come across a family of four bears while at a fish hatchery. “[The bears] came out from under a balcony about twenty feet away from us, [there was] nothing but a rope between us and them,” he said.

A family of wild bears was not the only “jaw-dropping” experience this year. The isolated Alaskan culture stung Bakkensen right in the head. Despite only spending a total of two hours on land over the course of sixty-seven days, Bakkensen claimed most towns were primarily based upon fishing. These Alaskan towns were closely knit together as a community, ranging from 500 to 5,000 people.

Bakkensen’s feet barely touched any land while on his trip, leaving him in the confined space of a boat. Bakkensen became familiar with the everyday faces of his captain and other crew members. “..My captain and deck boss were outstanding people..we are still very good friends,” he said.

Bakkensen’s experience gained him long-lasting friendships, a change in culture and stories that would be forever engraved within his memory. Valuable life lessons now circle his head; one lesson standing out in particular, “First one on the deck, last one off the deck,” interpreted by him to mean, “Be the first one to start working, and be the last one to stop working.”