Monday, September 20, 2010
When I was a child, my father worked as a deckhand for Foss Launch and Tug out of Tacoma, where he walked the endless rafts of logs with his spiked boots as they were towed behind the Shelley Foss. Over the years, he eventually worked his way up to captain, all the while working a schedule of living two weeks on the boat, followed by two weeks at home. Because his absence was often more noticeable then his presence, knowing which boat he was on provided a certain level of understanding and comfort. Rather then some abstract notion of “being out on the water”, I could place him on a specific boat, such as the Shelley, Benjamin, or Stacey. Thus, I was able to locate him in my imagination, surrounded by seawater at the mercy of changing tides.
I did not create the system of tracking the boats he worked on. I inherited it from generations of kids before me.
Tracking the names of the boats you work on is an inherent aspect of living a life centered on the sea. Each boat becomes a separate continent; country; city; neighborhood; person. As a result, your experiences aboard a boat become part of a shared life, forming a history that is larger then oneself. Therefore, an obsession of tracking specific Foss tugs as they move about the Puget Sound, passing from Commencement Bay to Elliott Bay and beyond, serves to re-inform my understanding of my father’s life, and perhaps more importantly, serves to locate myself within it.