By Candy Clarke
My life is and seemingly always has been one of contrasts. Nothing exemplifies this more clearly than my fishing. On any given fishing trip, you might find me camped out in a tent with the bears; another trip you might find me in my motor home; or you could find me on a boat. On a boat is really nice. Especially if the boat belongs to my friends, Rusty and Marie!
Ever since my friend Marie was a little girl, she has dreamed of having her own boat. Over the years, they have owned several small boats; but they weren’t the boat Marie had envisioned as a child. Then eight years ago, the boat of Marie’s dream appeared on the Internet. Rusty flew out to California, met with boat brokers and checked everything out. It was the boat!
After negotiations, Rusty and a friend navigated the waterways and safely delivered Marie’s boat to Alaska, ending the journey at Port Valdez (home of the infamous Exxon oil spill). Marie flew from Fairbanks, Alaska to Valdez, Alaska and it was love at first sight. Her dream had finally come true. She had the boat she mentally had been seeing for years. She and Rusty named the boat Fantasea. Her fantasy of owning “the boat” became a reality.
Have you noticed, I keep saying Marie’s boat? Well, that’s because even Rusty refers to it as Marie’s. The agreement between the two of them was Marie would make all the payments and Rusty would do all the maintenance. Everything was calculated so the boat would be paid for by the time Marie retired.
What does this have to do with me? Fishing on Marie’s boat is the highlight of my summer. Marie and her boat have made one of my dreams a reality. Each year in August, we all head to Valdez. We say it’s for silver salmon fishing, but sometimes I wonder. I am more inclined to think it’s the relaxed environment of friendship.
From Fairbanks, Valdez is an eight-hour trip. On warm summer days it is a beautiful drive, but by the time, we reach Valdez we are already exhausted. Alaskans frequently refer to Valdez as “Little Switzerland.” It lies at the base of part of the Alaskan chain of mountains and faces the water. It’s one of those nice places you visit on vacation and all you remember afterwards is the rain and sometimes, the boats. It rains almost every day in Valdez. Cold, and sometimes sleeting rain. Not exactly a place where touring companies like to linger for long. But we love it!
Once in Valdez, it’s food, a trip to the bait shop, and sleep. The next morning, sometime around 7 or 8, we are on the Fantasea having breakfast and listening to Coast Guard and weather reports. When the weather permits, and we have clearance from the Coast Guard we leave the harbor and head for our favorite fishing spots.
On warm clear days when the fish are biting; everything is wonderful. Most people would say it doesn’t get any better. Marie and I would disagree. We would tell you that any day on the boat is wonderful. We fish when the sun is shining, when it is overcast, when it sleets, and yes, occasionally, even when it snows. As long as there are fish in the water and we are surrounded by good people, we are happy. We usually end our day by dining on the boat and watching the beautiful sunsets.
The boat of Marie’s youth became a reality for her. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person!