The Valiant Curiosity passed close by


 

On this island is it peace that they sought?

Or perhaps it’s the fish that they caught.

Up the Narrows, please note,

There came a large boat,

The world’s 60th largest yacht

 

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  I danced back from the brink of burnout in 2010, and, honoring a one-year non-compete clause, went to have adventures and work in out-of-the-way locations.  After jobs in Alaska, New Zealand, Iowa, and Nebraska, I returned home and took up a part-time, 54 hour a week position with a Community Health Center.  I’m taking a working vacation now in Petersburg, Alaska.

Bethany and I walked back the half-mile from the Petersburg Medical Center on a beautiful late summer evening.  As we ascended our stairs, we looked up Wrangell Narrows at the incoming boat traffic.

A lot of commercial fishing ships call this part of southeast Alaska home.  A series of fjords makes a previous mountain range a cluster of islands, and Wrangell Narrows doesn’t permit the entry of the big Alaska cruise ships.  In the process of learning the difference between, for example, a seiner and a long liner, we look at the structure, and guess out loud.

“It’s a couple of seiners,” we say, “See the skiff being towed and the pile of net on the afterdeck.”

Then we wondered what we saw approaching.  “I think it’s a pleasure craft,” I said.

“Something that big?” Bethany asked.

The vessel stood three stories above the water, but lacked the worn look of a working boat.  In fact, it gleamed white.  No one stood on the foredeck, as for a cruise ship, and the afterdeck sported tables with umbrellas and chairs but no tourists drinking cocktails or eating al fresco.

As she passed by 70 yards away I read the name, Valiant Curiosity.  In the Information Age, we could gawk while she passed out of sight, and, five steps later, put the name in the search engine.

The world’s 60th largest yacht, built at a cost of $100 million for a billionaire German screw tycoon, had purred in front of us at a pace of 18 knots.  It left Seattle on June 18 for an Alaska cruise.

Pretty, but not as beautiful as the tree-covered mountains rising abruptly out of the water 400 yards across the Narrows.  Not breath-taking like the snow-covered peaks looming to the south.  Graceful, but not like the eagles, geese, or even the ducks.  Impressive, but not as impressive as the 900 seasonal cannery workers at their 16-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week jobs.

We wondered why such a craft would come to Petersburg, a fishing village of 3,000 permanent residents, no gourmet dining and nightlife limited to two blue-collar bars.

I do not plan on finding an answer to that question.  And the best questions don’t have answers.

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