Mar/Apr 1999 Nonfiction

Otoliths, Icthyology and Fish Slime
-Chapter Eight-

by Dail Bridges

I awoke, startled, to the buzzing of the small telephone in my cabin. Leaning over the edge of my bunk, I picked it up and said "Moshi, Moshi!," the telephone greeting I had been taught by Masadru.

"Miss Dairusan, we are approaching the edge of the ices. Come please here." I recognized the voice of the Captain.

My morning ritual consisted of throwing on every piece of warm clothing I had and braving my way onto the deck. I liked to check the weather and the state of the crew. Sometimes while I slept, the world passed me by. Nets were set, trawls pulled on, work begun and completed. All while I snoozed away, dreaming of solid ground and Hagan-Daaz ice cream.

Blasting cold slammed me in the face as I stepped out onto the deck. In the warm living quarters of the ship, it was sometimes easy to forget the harsh conditions of the outside world. I squinted my eyes at the glaring scene surrounding me: mountains of ice, like thick, swirled frosting on a cake, covered every surface, sometimes a foot thick in places. Shiny, hard ice coated the handrails, the coiled nets and the tall masts. Upside down icicles poked out from odd places, frozen into demonic shapes by the fierce Arctic wind. Teetering above me, crew members with axes chopped away at the icy build up that threatened to make the KYOWA top heavy.

To keep a ship from capsizing, a careful balancing act is required. Each boat has a specific degree of tilt that it can comfortably roll without going over. If this margin of error is exceeded, the ship can easily capsize. Which is why, I had come to understand, the freezer men were very careful about stacking the 25 kilogram boxes of frozen fish in specific areas of the fish hold. The weight that the ship carried as we filled up our hold had to be carefully managed.

The men struggled to stay afoot on the icy deck as the wind buffeted them about like skidding ping pong balls. I noticed safety lines tied around their waists. Since the men-overboard accident, this had, thankfully, become standard practice. Ice glittered and danced as the men chopped away.

I watched this Holiday on Ice spectacular until my face turned numb from the cold then went up to the bridge. Checking the loran, I saw that our position was 60° 26.22' North and 178°55.76 ' West—the same latitude as St. Matthew and Nunivak Islands.

Both the Captain and the Fishing Master greeted me, pointing ahead into the bright distance. I saw what looked like a vast, shimmering snow field. Grabbing the powerful bridge binoculars, I squinted through them. I could make out, in some spots, individual chunks of ice.

"We go there because many fishes." The Captain said.

I looked up the word danger in my dictionary and pointed it out to them; they both laughed. They often seemed to laugh at what I rarely considered funny—including approaching a vast field of ice in a 150 foot boat. After all, hadn't the Titanic been sunk by icebergs? It was a heck of a lot bigger than our bathtub of a boat. I wrote the word "Titanic" on paper and imitated a sinking ship; they only laughed harder.

Just then, Akihama passed by the bridge window, pick ax in hand—he had come from above on the flying bridge, chopping away the ice build up. I sketched an icy, top heavy ship plowing into an iceberg for the Captain and the Fishing Master. Naturally, this sent them off into another fit of laughter.

I threw up my hands in frustration and went off to the galley to have breakfast. If I was going down, I would go on a full stomach.

Two hours later, I felt the ship hesitate, then shudder for several seconds. And again—hesitate, then shudder, rather like forcing a car to accelerate though the engine has not fully warmed up. Each time we shuddered, I heard faint crunching sounds. I thought of Rice Crispies crackling in a bowl of milk.

I raced up to the bridge. The ocean had become a carpet of trembling ice. Ice all around, filling my field of vision, dancing and bobbing like huge styrofoam pieces, seemingly weightless in the water. Clouds had moved in, and the silvery sea mirrored the sky. Like snowflakes, no two icebergs appeared the same. The pristine whiteness of the ice mixed with beautiful Arctic blue streaks, clean and crisp and frozen into strange shapes. One looked like the wrinkled face of an old man, his flowing beard that brilliant opaque blue. In another I could see an elephant, the massive body sloping into the head and trunk. Yet another resembled a group of faces, their features blurred and indistinct.

Later, I looked on the fishfinder, and even my untrained eye easily spotted the red blob that indicated a large school of mintai. The crew set the net. After only an hour, they pulled it back in, displacing bobbing chunks of ice as they reeled the stuffed net through the water and onto the deck. All day, as we worked in the factory, our bodies thudded with the eerie shuddering and vibrating of the ship.


Several mornings later, the sun beamed down and I raised my face to the sky, soaking up its warmth, a bear emerging from hibernation. The icebergs seemed like a dream. The fresh warm breeze carried a salty tang and a slight hint of springtime. I envisioned narcissus blossoms, delicate in the spring sun, their intoxicating odor wafting over me.

Leaning over the deck railing, I gazed down upon a dozen dolphins as they chased and played alongside the boat. In my next life, I hope to come back as a dolphin; I dream of dancing through the water with their grace and ease. I smiled as they cavorted and whistled to each other, their movements a beautiful water ballet.

Suddenly, over the loudspeaker came the sounds of the classic song "Barbara Ann," by The Beach Boys.

"Ba-ba-ba, Ba-ba-baran!! Bar-ba-rannnnnn..." the music blared, filling the air.

Spontaneously, I started dancing. The men stopped their work on deck and stared at me in open mouthed amazement. I bounced over and grabbed both Kazuki and Akihama by the hands, pulling them into my wild dance. The three of us twisted and laughed and tried to sing along—the only words we could manage were the "Ba-ba-bas." Soon the entire deck crew surrounded us, clapping and laughing. A couple of the other men joined in our dance, following us as we sashayed around stacked nets and coiled cables, kicking our steel-toed boots high into the air. We grinned happily as we twirled past each other. On the bridge, the fishing master captured the scene with his video camera. I laughed out loud at the odd juxtaposition of dancing with Japanese men on a fishing boat in the Bering Sea to the strains of American rock and roll.

The impromptu deck dancing session was the talk of the ship all day. When I went to the bridge that evening, Kazuki, Akihama, the Captain and Fishing Master chattered excitedly.

"Miss Dairusan, you very good dancer!" Kazuki blushed, as he still often did when he spoke to me, even after a month.

"Oh, Kazukisan, YOU are very good dancer. So is Akihamasan."

Akihama spoke up "Miss Dairusan, Mr. Kazukisan, he is fever dancer! At home, he goes to discos and all night he fever dances!"

Kazuki, of course, blushed more fiercely. Turning the attention away from himself, Kazuki pointed to the fishing master and said "Fishing Master is champion singer and 1-2-3 dancer!"

Anything but shy, the Fishing Master smiled slyly at me. He put on some slow Japanese music, approached me and bowed. He took both of my hands and we twirled around the tiny bridge. He repeated "One-two-sree, one-two-sree..." as we moved rhythmically along. We swept by the fishfinder, the loran unit, the chart table. As we brushed by the radio, the voices of other Japanese fishermen crackled over the soft, soothing sound of the dance music.

The song ended, and we stopped our dance. The other men applauded us. After showing off his "1-2-3" dance skills, the Fishing Master now wanted to teach me some Japanese songs. I was eager to learn, despite my terrible singing voice.

The Fishing Master rigged up a reel-to-reel tape deck and hand held microphone. He placed earphones on his head. Beautiful music filled the air, and the Fishing Master began singing..."Hanasaki Min-a-to." At this point, I had never heard of Karoake, and this was well before the "Karoake Craze" hit the states. I thought it a bit odd that he seemed to be lip-synching the song.

Kazuki told me the song was about saying Good-bye to a departing fishing vessel. He described a poignant scene as the wives and children of the fishermen gather on the dock with banners and streamers to see them off, tears all around. Having learned that most Japanese men go to sea for 6-9 months and return home for only a month or two between trips, I could easily understand why an entire farewell song would be written about this experience.

Next it was my turn. The Fishing Master had a copy of the words written, not in Japanese symbols but in the English alphabet, which made them phonetically easy for me to read. They hooked me up and turned on the music. Through my headphones, I heard the lilting voice of a woman singing the haunting song. I sang along as best I could, stumbling over many of the words. Now catching on to this Karoake thing, I realized my small audience was not hearing the talented singer, but instead the cracking, off-key voice of yours truly. Somehow, I thought it worked like a choir—my voice blending with and being superseded by the more beautiful voice. God, this was embarrassing. Worse than my first day on the boat when I kept throwing up in front of them. I warbled out the last note of the song, and the men clapped and cheered and assured me it had been beautiful. Right.

After "singing," Kazuki and I worked on our language lessons. We had been exchanging vocabulary words over the past month and I learned a good many, but grammar and sentence structure seemed beyond me. The Fishing Master, never one to remain in the background, suddenly interrupted us with a torrent of monotone words:

"I get up at six in the morning I wash my face and my hands." He beamed proudly at me. My mouth fell open in amazement; this from a man whose only English words I had heard were "yes" and "oh nice." Kazuki told me this was all the Fishing Master remembered from his grade school English lessons.

Kazuki began telling me the Japanese names for various animals. To identify each animal, we imitated their sound.

"Moo-oo-oo!" Cow/ ushi

"Neigh—neigh!" Horse/ uma

"Woof! Woof!" Dog/ inu

I brayed out a rooster crow, "Cock-a-doodle-do!," and the men all stared at me. Again I cock-a-doodle-dooed. Akihamasan poked Kazuki and rolled his eyes.

"Miss Dairusan, please what is this strange animal? I think we not have one in Japan. Maybe only in America. And, please, you to make that sound again!" The Captain grinned, encouraging me.

Another "cock-a-doodle-do" sent them off into gales of laughter. The Fishing Master removed his glasses to wipe his eyes. I looked up the word for rooster and pointed it out to the Captain.

"Oh—niwatori! " He identified it to the other three, and, simultaneously, they all sing-songed "Ko-ki-ko-ko! Ko-ki-ko-ko!."

It was my turn to laugh. Listen to a rooster sometime. Then decide if you hear a "doodle."


After my way-off-Broadway performance, I couldn't believe the men eagerly invited me to sing for them again the following evening on the bridge. I decided they were either tone deaf or masochists. I squeaked my way through "Hanasaki-min-a-to" and then the talk turned to our lives at home.

Early in the voyage, I thought the Captain did not speak English. I had discovered, however, that he was simply shy.

"Captain, do you have family?" Instead of blushing, as I was afraid he might, he whipped out a photograph of a woman holding a tiny baby and proudly pointed at each, saying "wife...son."

He eagerly unfolded the story of his marriage for me. At 32, his parents became concerned about his lack of a wife. His mother put out the word that her son needed a spouse. A family neighbor found a bride for the Captain, in the old Japanese tradition of mia, an arranged marriage. He became engaged, and went to sea for five months. He returned home to marry the woman he hardly knew then had to go to work again, this time for 6 months.

The Captain looked at me and shrugged ruefully, raising his hands and eyebrows. He had been to sea for most of his married life. His son had been born five days before he left on this trip, and he had not seen his family since, four months ago.

I asked him if he was happy this way. Again, he shrugged and half-smiled at me, his large brown eyes seeming to hold a world of sorrow.

"Miss Dairusan, I not very happy. But is OK—now I have baby son. That is good." His gaze dropped to the photograph in his hand.

The Fishing Master, eager to tell me of his personal life, brought out a stack of photographs. Thinking they were of his family, I began to thumb through them. Young Japanese women with demure smiles gazed at me.

"Kazukisan, these are Fishing Master's daughters?" I looked questioningly at both of them. Kazukisan translated for the Fishing Master and he guffawed loudly. Kazuki, as usual, blushed. The Fishing Master prodded him, encouraging him to explain the joke to me.

"Uh, Miss Dairusan, ummm...these girls not daughter. These girls...ummm..." Kazuki's blush spread from his face to his neck. "These girls are sweethearts for fishing master." Sweat popped on his forehead.

Poor Kazukisan. My curiosity, however, outweighed my sympathy. "But what about the Fishing Master's wife? Does she know about girlfriends?"

"Oh, yes. She never mind. Many fishing men have lots of sweethearts." A succinct answer.

From what I had learned in talking with the men on the ship, it seemed as if their relationships with their wives were often ones of convenience. Each person played a certain role in order to make the marriage work, operating in her/his own sphere. I gathered there was tremendous pressure to marry and produce children. Hence, if someone was not married by a certain age, mia., a marriage was arranged. I wondered what the wives of these men thought; what did they feel about their husbands being away at sea so much of the time? Perhaps being separated was not such a bad thing for them. I knew that wives were expected to wait on their husbands and be totally subservient to them. With their mates away, maybe this afforded them some freedom.

Though I loved my boat and enjoyed a wonderful rapport with the crew, I knew the only reason I received such good treatment was because I was a foreign —gaigen— woman. Had I been a Japanese woman, my experience would have been entirely different. For one thing, I would never be aboard the KYOWA. The men took seriously the idea that women bring bad luck. I know it was difficult for many of the men to adjust to having a woman on board. Even after two months, several of the men would still not return my greetings. Two of them refused to even look me in the eye.

One night in the galley, a conversation I had with Masadru gave me a first hand glimpse into the men's thinking.

"Miss Dairusan, Otoku (men) are kings, Ona (women) are inferior." Masadru spoke earnestly.

"Now, Masadru, why is that?" I wanted to thump his curly head but refrained.

"Because what kind of work Ona do? No work. Ona only make babies and stay home all day. Easy. We Otoku everyday hard work. Everyday must be strong, never weak like Ona." He pounded the table emphatically.

"Masadru, if women did not have babies, you would not even BE here! And you don't mean to tell me that you think your wife—with three young children at home—sits around all day?!" I flailed my arms, a bad sign.

"Yes, yes! She sit around all day! Just like you say!" Masadru nodded in what he thought was agreement.

"No, no, no—that is not what I meant. Your wife does not sit around all day! In fact, she probably RUNS around all day, chasing after your children. She's probably exhausted from taking care of them. And what does she do when you come home?" It took a bit of explaining for him to understand my question.

"My wife, she love me home. Everyday, she do what I say. She bring me beer, she make my bath, she cook my food. She happy when I home. "

I swallowed hard. "What about your children? Do you help with them?

"I play with my children then give them back to her. Her job, not mine, change diaper, feed them." He scowled manfully.

I stood up to leave the room, the only reasonable action I could take. Smacking Masadru would be unreasonable.

Both Masadru and the Fishing Master, though they were generous and kind to me, seemed to have the most difficulty with my "non-feminine" ways. Both were convinced that I had no husband because of my behavior. My insistence that I did not want a husband was beyond their comprehension. One morning on the bridge, they tried to deliver a Japanese version of "My Fair Lady."

"Miss Dairusan, you must be talking more quiet. To get husband, you must speak in soft voice like this." Masadru batted his eyelashes and mumbled a few unintelligible words. "When you greet Otoku, you must bow down." He demonstrated, kneeling before the Fishing Master, saying in falsetto "Ohayo Gozaimas."

Playing along, I knelt before the 5' tall Masadru and shrilly said "Ohayo Gozaimas." Throwing caution and cultural respect to the wind, I clasped my arms around his legs and quickly hoisted his light frame into the air, throwing him over my shoulder before he could resist. I paraded around the bridge, shouting in a deep voice "Ohayo Goziamas!!"

The Captain collapsed against the chart table, screaming with laughter. Kazukisan stood stunned, his mouth hanging open. Throwing open a cupboard door, the Fishing Master whipped out his video camera and followed me around while Masadru thrashed against my back. As I stomped by the bridge window, Masadru grabbed the roll bar beside it and yanked us both backwards like a rubber band. I slowly lowered him to the floor, fully expecting him to be livid.

His eyes like saucers, he had only one query. "Miss Dairusan, how you do that?!"

"Masadru," I said "In my country, women big and strong. Ona great, Otoku no great. Otoku afraid of Ona. Now you see why!!"

Fortunately, this put an end to any further attempts by either Masadru or the Fishing Master to "tame" me. However, like the deck dancing, the ship buzzed with news of this latest craziness of the gaigen Observer. That afternoon in the factory, Kazukisan and Akihamasan approached my work station. Akihama stood behind Kazukisan and lifted him off his feet then placed him gently back on the floor.

He said "Now you, Miss Dairusan!"

Rolling my eyes, I picked up a pliant Kazukisan and, for good measure, swung him around in a tight circle. We were both lucky I didn't slip in the fish slime and crash down on top of him.

At this point, men turned off their electric saws and put down their knives. The entire crew gathered around my work station to watch. Someone shouted "Again! Again!" Once more, I lifted a blushing Kazukisan into the air. The men shouted among themselves, daring each other to be next. No one rose to the challenge, so reluctantly we all returned to our work.

For days, men kept picking each other up in front of me. They would stack two baskets full of fish on top of each other and try to get me to pick them up. They lugged heavy objects to my work station and did the same, gathering around and urging me to show off my prowess. Feeling I now had a point to prove, I would show off by picking up those objects not heavy enough for injury. For good measure, I would occasionally grab one of the smaller men and lift him off his feet. This always caused howls of laughter from those around us and requests for "Again! Again!"


One morning, after I had been on the KYOWA for eight weeks, the Radio Officer brought me a message from NMFS. He smiled at me sadly, saying, "Miss Dairusan, I think you must to go now."

Indeed, the message stated that the program had arranged for me to return to Dutch Harbor on another Japanese fishing vessel that was making the rounds and taking several Observers back at once. I needed to contact the ship, the Shotoku Maru, and coordinate a rendezvous with it as soon as possible.

Conflicting emotions filled me. The Kwoya was comfortable, familar to me and I wasn't sure I was ready to go. I thought of what I would be leaving. No more singing sessions on the bridge. I wouldn't be able to pick up Kazukisan and swing him around anymore, causing everyone to ooh and ahh and boost my ego. Dancing on the deck, my laughter joining that of Masadru and Akihama. What if my next boat was full of sullen sailors and hostile officers? I remembered the stories of prior Observers. I thought of the NMFS program staff, to whom I would have to present and defend my data. I compared my nervousness at this prospect to my nervousness when my first trawl came on board. My confidence had increased with every trawl, and I felt sure that most of my data would be acceptable. I tried to recall what it like to wake up and go for a bicycle ride instead of putting on a dank, smelly rainsuit and wading through stacks of flopping fish.

"Miss Dairusan, I think Shotoku not far. Speak to Captain. I wish you not to leave. We miss you." The Radio Officer broke into my thoughts.

On the bridge, the Captain and I raised the Shotoku Maru on the radio. The Shotoku sat at anchor east of us, less than a day away. I left the Captain making transfer arrangements and rushed off to the factory to begin cleaning and packing my gear, grabbing my rain gear from the changing room on the way.

My baskets sat neatly stacked beside my work bench. Every crevice of their criss-cross openings oozed with slime. Plastic forms covered in fish scales and pencil marks leaned against them. I jiggled the hanging scales, hoping to shake off some of the debris.

I unstacked my baskets and spread them out on the factory floor. Turning on the sea water hose, I aimed it at the baskets. The water shot out with the force of a fire hose, and the baskets sped across the floor like entries in a box car derby. The winner ended up under the conveyor belt, tipped upside down. The losers crashed into various corners of the factory. I chased them down one by one, this time planting a foot in each as I hosed them down. Using Comet cleanser, I attacked the baskets with a stiff bristled brush. No matter how much I scrubbed, minuscule bits of fish and guts clung to every opening.

Once the baskets seemed a bit closer to their true shade of blue, I spread my rain gear out on a conveyor belt. Fondly, I recalled the first day I paraded around in my cheerful yellow suit. Now an outfit of dull green, spattered with globs of brown and gray, stared back at me. I dumped cleanser on my once proud uniform and swiped away. Hanging both the jacket and pants up to drip dry, I headed to the bridge to check the status of my transfer.

The Captain and the Fishing Master stood at their usual posts and greeted me wistfully.

"Miss Dairusan, we miss you very much. You are KYOWA's most best Observer!" The Captain ducked his head, blushing.

"I get up at six in the morning I wash my face and my hands yes oh nice!" The Fishing Master blurted out every word of English that he knew, smiling proudly. He then spoke in Japanese to the Captain.

"Miss Dairusan, Fishing Master have gift for you." The Captain nodded back at him.

The Fishing Master opened a cabinet above his head and carefully pulled down a tall glass case, setting it on the chart table, saying "Oh nice!"

I walked slowly over, trying to identify the item in the middle of the display case. A true vision in white returned my curious stare—a Japanese wedding doll. The porcelain bride had intricately painted hair complete with tiny lacquered chopsticks. Her silk kimono fell in soft swirls and trailed out behind her. The hands of the doll were folded demurely in front of her, and her eyes gazed downward. The perfect gift for a failed "My Fair Lady."

"Arigato! Thank you so much." I smiled at my friend, the Fishing Master. For good measure, he placed two pairs of cellophane-wrapped pantyhose on top of the case. At least I knew my friend Dyanne could use these to stake up her garden tomatoes.

"Miss Dairusan, we wrap doll for you. I have Kazukisan fix for airplane ride, no problem." The Captain picked up the telephone and rang Kazukisan.

All day, crew members stopped by my cabin and gave me farewell gifts. Masadru presented me with a pair of thick warm socks, telling me I would need them when I worked on a Russian boat, as he heard they had no heat. The blushing face of Kazukisan peered into my cabin as I bent over my duffel, stuffing data forms into it.

"Miss Dairusan, please, for you." He hesitantly placed a small framed photograph in my hand. A smiling Kazuki stood surrounded by his family, under cherry trees in full blossom. "My family go to Kyoto to see cherry trees last year." I wanted so much to hug Kazuki, but I knew he would probably collapse at my feet if I did. I settled instead for a handshake and a heartfelt arigato.

By 10:00 p.m., my packed gear sat on the deck, the fragile wedding doll padded and secured in a large box. Masadru, Kazuki and I stood around, laughing and teasing each other. Within a few minutes, Masadru grabbed my sleeve.

"Shotoku Maru" He said, pointing to lights not too distant.

The Fishing Master announced something over the loudspeaker, and the crew slowly appeared on deck. Within half an hour, we pulled along side the Shotoku Maru. In this bay, the water appeared calm, but the KYOWA still rolled slightly back and forth. I watched as the men dropped big black buoys to be used as bumpers, attached to ropes, down the side of the ship. Crew men on the Shotoku tossed ropes over to our deck, and the crew began tying the boats together. Innocently, I wondered how I would be transferred to the Shotoku.

Just then, I heard a yell from the Shotoku and looked to see an American man waving to me—another Observer. We shouted back and forth to each other. Then his eyes widened and he said "Oh, no—look!"

I turned to see the KYOWA crew members laying a plank between the two rocking ships. The board was about two feet wide and stretched the fifteen feet between the KYOWA and the Shotoku Maru. My God, they were going to make me walk the plank. No, they couldn't—they wouldn't. Would they?

Masadru and Kazuki had tied lines around my bundles of gear. Masadru then went up to the crane and they attached the lines to a cargo hook and swung the gear over to the Shotoku. I waited for the doll to come loose from the hook and either splash into the water or crash onto the deck. Amazingly, everything landed softly and safely on the opposite deck.

The Fishing Master and the Captain motioned to me from the end of the plank. My stomach in knots, I walked slowly over, refusing to believe what I knew they would tell me.

"Miss Dairusan, we tie line around you. Easy for you to cross to Shotoku on this wood. Ocean is very still." The Captain looked at me encouragingly, just as the KYOWA rolled to starboard.

I had no room in my flutter of fear to feel sadness about leaving my friends, and I could barely say good-bye. Masadru tied a safety line around my waist, and I stood numbly in front of the plank. The Fishing Master tugged on my hand, urging me to step onto the board. My legs, once again, had become tree trunks and refused to move. I smiled grimly at him, imagining an eye patch over his left eye and a scraggly black beard surrounding a toothless mouth. Just because I refused to be a lady did not mean I deserved the traditional pirate punishment of walking the plank.

The shouts of the Observer next door broke into my trance.

"Hey, come on over! The water's fine!" I heard his laughter over the wind.

Taking a deep breath, I stepped out onto the narrow wooden pathway and forced my jelly-like legs to move forward. This fear felt familiar, the same that had possessed me two months ago, when I was leaping through the air, trying to grasp a writhing, snake-like Jacob's ladder. Why did that seem easier than tottering across this wobbly plank? Just as I reached the half-way point, a wave rolled both ships and the board shifted. Panicked, I lost my balance. Arms flailing, I fell onto the hard surface, and my right foot slipped off. I hugged the board as tightly as I could, gasping, but not seeming to take in any air. Terror froze me in place. My eyes locked on the dark water, churning, it seemed, miles below me. I rocked back and forth, welded to my stiff lifeline as it see-sawed up and down. Muffled shouts filtered through the fog surrounding me. Slowly, so slowly, I inched forward along the plank, pulling myself along with my gloved hands. Hours later, my eyes stared down at a wooden deck instead of the angry black sea. I loosened my death grip as hands and arms wrapped around me like tentacles, rolling me off the board now imprinted on my chest. They gently lowered me to the deck of the Shotoku Maru, and I lay there, shivering. A white face loomed over me, saying "Are you alright? Are you OK?"

The white face belonged to Paul, the Observer, and he helped me to my feet. I shook myself back to reality. Already, the crew was untying us from the KYOWA. These guys wasted no time. I tried to pull myself together. I had to wave good-bye to the KYOWA.

Tom and I stepped to the deck railing, just as the KYOWA inched away from the Shotoku. The men lined the railing, waving and shouting to me. I looked at the familiar faces of Masadru, Kazuki, Akihama—even the Fishing Master had stayed down on the deck. Lifting my gaze to the bridge, I saw the Captain waving through the window. I waved back at all of them, shouting "Arigato ! Sayanara!"

As the KYOWA turned in the water, the Captain sounded the fog horn—once, twice, three times. I continued waving until I could no longer see the faces of my friends.

Tom turned to me and said "Well, that will be something to write home about, won't it?"

I could only agree.


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