Ten years ago this September, Geoff and I boarded a ferry in Prince William Sound. We were moving ourselves and all our worldly crappy possessions from Palmer, a little north of Anchorage, down to Juneau in the southeast panhandle of the state.
I learned four profound life lessons on that three-day ferry ride: (1) Coastal Alaska is one of the most beautiful places on earth; (2) You can lose two pounds a day if you just keep vomiting (granted, the average sorority girl from the '80s could've told you that); (3) Scopolomine patches don't always work; and (4) The Gulf of Alaska does not fuck around.
Lessons 2 through 4 were interrelated, and I learned them simultaneously sometime late into the first night of the trip, during a screening of The Da Vinci Code. These were the heady days of high oil prices, when the Alaska Marine Highway System ferries had movie theaters and bars, and thus were basically a ghetto cruise. Actually, for all I know, this particular ferry might still have those things; I haven't made the notorious "gulf crossing" since.
I'm not saying this trip was exactly like an episode of The Deadliest Catch, but I'm not saying it wasn't exactly like an episode of The Deadliest Catch either.
I couldn't say for sure, because I was incapacitated by nausea while Geoff--who is seaworthy and has never once experienced motion sickness of any kind--partied like a boss with randoms from all over the state in the ferry's solarium. The Gulf of Alaska had other plans for me though, and simply would not let me be great.
Sometime during one of Tom Hank's and Audre Tautou's mysterious escapades through the cobblestone streets of Rome, the ferry began keening steeply to one side. Half the theater, myself included, got up and left to puke.
And not to put too fine a point on it, but I didn't stop puking, I don't think, until the ferry arrived in Yakutat, where I was never happier to set foot on solid ground in my life. I was pretty reluctant to get back on that boat, and actually considered flying the rest of the way. But fortunately the inside passage, sheltered as it is by numerous landmasses, is a more tranquil body of water.
For this last part of the trip, I just hung over the railing of the boat, squinting into the wind and spacing out on fjords as I tried to recover from many, many hours of continuous barfing. I reminded myself that if there's open water, and I am on any boat of any size on open water, I'm all but guaranteed to barf there.
My point here is this: I'm the kind of person who likes to say "yes" to life, but I have to say "no" to open water, and especially to the Gulf of Alaska, that "great generator of storms."
I'm just saying you guys. The Gulf of Alaska does not fuck around.