Day 25: Not According to Plan
For months, nay for years, I’d thought about and planned my bucket-list halibut fishing trip. I scheduled today’s halibut adventure more than seven months ago. I dreamed about reeling in a 100-pound halibut. I bought a new freezer to hold the enormous shipment of halibut I would send home. I tantalized friends with thoughts of a share of my halibut bounty. I mentioned halibut several times on this blog to whet everyone’s appetite. And then the long-awaited halibut day came. And went. No halibut. Not even any halibut fishing.
I awoke this morning before the 3:45 alarm could shake off sleep. We left the hotel in the dark for our hour and a half ride to the launch side at Anchor Point with time to spare. We avoided early morning moose and negotiated several road construction stretches. We arrived at our destination as the sun was coming up on what looked like a perfect day and I passed time framing pictures of sunrise-orange snow-covered volcanoes across Cook Inlet and a couple of gorgeous Bald Eagles feasting at the water’s edge. But the six or so captains waiting to launch their boats talked to one another in guarded undertones.
“Are you going?” “I don’t know, are you?” “It’s rough out there.”
The ocean, I learned, was frothing with steep 3′-4′ waves, which would make fishing difficult if not impossible.
“It might be better further out.” “I’ll go.” “Let us know what it’s like.”
Our captain, Wally of Wally’s Guide Service, told the six fishermen signed up with him to load up. We were going halibut fishing. His 30′ boat sitting on its trailer was backed into the surf by a giant yellow former logging tractor. Wally gunned the twin outboards and backed his craft into deeper water.
For an hour, we bounced across the rolling ridges of water like a motorcycle bouncing along pot-holed Alaskan highways, spray leaping over the cabin that kept us dry while the boat dropped hard into one watery trough after another. Wally kept in touch by radio and cell phone with other captains.
“What’s it like where you’re at?” “Bad and getting worse.”
We continued on.
“Maybe if you went south?” “Arnie’s there and says its no better. He’s headed back.” “Damn.”
We idled for a while, the horizon bobbing up and down while everyone pretended they weren’t getting a little queasy.
“Gentlemen, we’re going back to shore,” Wally resignedly told the six hopeful but increasingly glum fishermen, turned his boat around and set a course back to the launch site. “You wouldn’t have enjoyed fishing in these waves and there’s no guarantee they’ll get smaller. You wouldn’t even be able to stand on the deck.” So back we went to the distant shore.
Guiding a 3o’ boat on a trailer in rough surf is no easy task, but despite scaring the Bjesus out of us as he headed straight for the trailer submerged behind the haul-out tractor at warp speed, Wally nailed the trailer dead center. We came to a quick stop and were hauled back on shore by the big yellow tractor. Our halibut trip–my bucket-list trip– had come to an end with nary a wet line less than three hours after it began.
Mark and I had several non-rainy hours to kill, so we headed for Homer 15 miles away to make up for yesterday’s rain out. A ride to the end of the road (literally) on Homer Spit, some hot coffee and a hot, fresh cinnamon roll, some sight seeing in Homer, a visit to the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, a short hike to the beach, and a glimpse of a nesting eagle and her juvenile offspring, and we were back on the road to Soldotna.
There we readied our bikes for tomorrow’s ride to Palmer, repacked our jumbled bags, and commiserated over a dark micro-brew beer about our missed halibut opportunity. Hopefully, I’ll have another chance someday to check off that still unchecked bucket-list item.