A Conversation on the Docks

Leaving Deb to take a nap in the hotel room I grabbed a camera. The shopping was done, nothing to do until we loaded up baggage and groceries for a quick flight to Craig the next morning. I wondered if the Ketchikan waterfront would offer a few photos, so I grabbed the 6D with the 70-200mm f/2.8, a rain jacket, and not much else for an evening walk.

A Conversation on the Docks
A conversation with Jack, a longtime Ketchikan resident
“You know you are trespassing.”

The comment caught me by surprise. I was threading my way along an apparently abandoned section of docks noting a possible photo opportunity involving some harbor seals.

Turning, I was met by a fellow stepping out of an old white van that looked to have been parked in place for the entire summer.

“Sorry.” I replied. “I can leave.”

The fellow was not really threatening me. Indeed, he seemed quite friendly. He explained he was just doing his job as watchman on the property. The conversation rolled from there, I expect he was pretty bored and someone to talk with was a welcome break.

He was also a bit of a story teller, and I had obviously not heard any of his stories before. Jack had made a living in Ketchikan and SE Alaska for many years. Living in this rough country leaves one with a store of tales to tell and we both had nothing to do at the moment but pass the time.

Jack pulled up a folding chair, I took a seat on an old boat trailer. The cool Ketchikan evening was quite pleasant despite the threat of renewed rain.

At first I think he took me for a cruise ship tourist, the expensive camera with a big white lens certainly would give that impression. On the other hand I was dressed more like a local, in a Carhartt jacket and old wool sweater. I probably confused him a bit, trying to figure me out.

I have never lived in Ketchikan, but I have been here a fair number of times. My connections are through my father. He grew up here while my grandfather commanded a US Coast Guard buoy tender and later commanded the Ketchikan Coast Guard station.

A vehicle rolling up prompted Jack take note… “If you want better stories ask this guy, he is my boss. And let him know I warned you about the trespassing” He said with a wink.

Harbor Seals
Some harbor seals lounge on an abandoned bit of dock in the Ketchikan harbor.
Another set of stories just add to the conversation. Jack’s boss had bounced around, for a while a teacher, another while as a bush pilot. We swapped tales under the low drooping clouds while eagles cackled on the old pilings around us.

If you are open to it, life often offers up these moments. A personal moment, very different lives meeting in passing, swapping stories and reliving old memories.

After another hour or so I begged off, wanting to check on my wife in the room. But first I let them know I would be trespassing a bit longer to get that photo of the seals. They laughed and waved me off.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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