I got a call today that sent me into the upper atmosphere.
I have an old boyfriend, his name is…Tall Skinny White Guy (nudges the girls and winks) and he was not only a boyfriend, but a friend. I had such a warm fuzzy feeling for the TSWG that some days I used to think how sad it was that we never fell passionately in Love.
Last week I put out the feelers for him. I had to let him know a few things and this was one of those things…”When it happens, promise you’ll let me know…”. He finally got my feelers and called me.
I was SO happy to hear from him. He sounds like he is doing well, for the most part. His ghosts are still the same, but then again, so are many of mine. All in all it was just good to hear from him and know he is alive and well. I literally mean that. One of the last times we saw one another was about a year after we broke up and it was at his brother’s memorial service.
It was truly a sad day. We were amazed as we sat at Fisherman’s Terminal and watched all the people show up to remember George Karn. They came from ALL OVER and the stories of him and how he helped were far and wide. We sat humbled and amazed and at the end of it all, I went to TSWG’s house and stayed the night with him. I don’t know how to explain what that night was. I had spent hundreds of nights with him, but nothing was ever like that night was. He was so sad and so broken and what do you do when someone you care for reaches out to you like that and you want to make it better? I did what I thought was right and let myself be used as a temporary Band-Aide™ just so he could get through the night and not OD.
We had a long talk that night, and I told him if he ever OD’ed I’d piss on his grave. The TSWG has this plastic flu. That’s what we called it anyway and he lives with chronic pain now. I am relieved he is not dead. He was overjoyed at the developments in my life and it was good to share it with him.
We gossiped, remembered good times, remembered bad times, and talked about the woman we both once thought we loved. (Yes, his ex-wife, was my girlfriend when I left Jack, as in Ass. It was one of my truly Jerry Springer episodes in life, but it doesn’t negate what The TSWG did for me.) We had a nice talk and I hated to cut it short, but I was working.
I cannot help but think of The TSWG every time I see The Deadliest Catch. We were talking about that. How one day I was talking to friends online, watching TV. The topic turned to Alaska, then George. The next thing I know, I see the FV Galaxy on TV. I broke down and cried when I saw that footage. I had no idea it existed and wasn’t ready to see it. I told The TSWG I saw a guy in an orange vest floating, he reassured me it wasn’t George, he knew the footage I was speaking of.
From the Coast Guard Report:
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
On October 20, 2002, the fish processing vessel (FPV) GALAXY, a freezer longliner, was proceeding at 11 knots on a heading of 270 degrees, approximately 30-35 miles Southwest of St. Paul Island to retrieve long line gear in the Bering Sea. The winds were out of the North– Northeast at 20 – 30 knots and the seas were 15 – 20 feet. The air temperature was 35 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and the water temperature was 43F degrees. At approximately 1622 local time, crew members sighted smoke on multiple decks within the vessel’s superstructure and the vessel’s captain, Dave Shoemaker, was immediately notified. He activated the fire alarm and the vessel’s fire teams responded to the starboard side upper engine room hatch, from where black smoke was pouring. Non-essential crew members evacuated to the aft top deck and the forward main deck while the fire team remained on scene.
The vessel’s Chief Mate and a fire team leader, Mr. Jerry Stephens, believing the vessel’s fixed carbon dioxide system had been discharged, ordered several crew members to open multiple exterior watertight hatches to ventilate the smoke from the space in which he and the remaining fire team members were standing. Approximately one minute following this action, a large backdraft explosion occurred, causing the 180-foot vessel to shudder violently. The pressure from the explosion ejected the fire team through the gear setting hatch and into the water. None of the three were wearing survival suits. The crew members who had evacuated to the aft top deck saw the fire team being ejected and began throwing lines and buoys to them. Two of the three crew members were recovered immediately. The remaining man in the water, Mr. Stephens, though conscious, appeared to be injured and began to drift along the starboard side from the stern towards the bow.
One of the four crew members who had evacuated to the forward main deck, Mr. Calvin Paniptchuck, was the vessel’s designated rescue swimmer. He had already donned his survival suit and jumped into the 43F degree water with a ring buoy and safety line to rescue Mr. Stephens. Although Mr. Paniptchuck was able to swim through the 15 – 20 foot seas and racing current to Mr. Stephens, Mr. Stephens was not able to assist in his own rescue. Mr. Paniptchuck was in the water approximately 10 – 15 minutes attempting to rescue Mr. Stephens, but Mr. Stephens expired and slipped away from his grasp. During this attempted rescue three key events occurred:
• Captain Shoemaker successfully transmitted a MAYDAY call to U.S. Coast Guard LORAN Station St. Paul, severely burning his right arm in the process.
• Captain Shoemaker and several other crew members successfully launched the starboard side liferaft from the top deck.
• A huge fireball exploded from the engine room vents and accommodation hatches located on the forward bulkhead of the wheelhouse, setting the wheelhouse on fire. The fireball separated the 21 crew members on the aft top deck from the four crew members on the forward main deck and separated those 21 crew members from their survival suits.
After the failed rescue of Mr. Stephens, Mr. Paniptchuck swam aft to the liferaft, but was exhausted and could not climb into it under his own power. Mr. Raul Vielma, the Chief Engineer, jumped from the forward main deck (wearing a survival suit) into the liferaft and pulled Mr. Paniptchuck into the liferaft. The crew members on the aft top deck then maneuvered the raft to the stern using the raft’s sea painter (the line which connects the liferaft to the vessel). While the raft was being maneuvered aft, Captain Shoemaker fell 20 feet from the top of the wheelhouse onto the forward main deck while trying to retrieve additional survival suits from the crew on the forward main deck. During the fall he received additional burns and broke several ribs. Following Captain Shoemaker’s fall, Mr. Vielma directed the abandonment of the vessel from the raft, which was 35 – 50 feet below the level of the aft top deck. The crew members on the aft top deck evacuated the vessel in the following manner:
• 12 crew members (three in survival suits and nine without) successfully abandoned the vessel by jumping into the liferaft. An unknown crew member cut the raft’s sea painter with a knife and the raft floated free from the vessel. The F/V GLACIER BAY recovered the raft without incident approximately 1.5 – 2 hours later.
• Two crew members unsuccessfully attempted to abandon ship into the raft. Mr. George Karn (wearing a survival suit) attempted to jump into the liferaft, but fell into the water and was not recovered. Mr. Jose R. Rodas (no survival suit) unsuccessfully attempted to lower himself down the side of the vessel into the raft. The F/V CLIPPER EXPRESS recovered Mr. Rodas out of the water approximately 1.5 – 2 hours later without a pulse.
• Mr. Ryan Newhall (wearing a survival suit) and Ms. Ann Weckback, a National Marine Fisheries Service observer, (no survival suit) jumped into the water and were recovered alive approximately 1.5 – 2 hours later by the F/V CLIPPER EXPRESS.
• Three crew members (none wearing survival suits) on aft top deck were rescued by U.S. Coast Guard helicopter CG6021.
The remaining four crew members on the forward main deck, all wearing survival suits, were rescued as follows:
• One abandoned the vessel by jumping into the liferaft as it floated past the bow of the FPV GALAXY.
• One abandoned the vessel into the water and was recovered by the F/V BLUE PACIFIC within approximately five minutes of entering the water.
• Two on the bow were rescued by U.S. Coast Guard helicopter CG6021.
A subsequent three-day search at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard did not locate Mr. Stephens, Mr. Karn, or the FPV GALAXY. The FPV GALAXY is presumed to have sunk on October 22, 2002. On June 9, 2003, the remains of Mr. Karn were discovered on the north eastern shore of Tanaga Island, approximately 450 miles away from where he was last seen alive. The remains were identified through dental records by the Alaska State Troopers. On June 12, 2003 a survival suit from the FPV GALAXY was found a quarter mile away from where Mr. Karn’s remains had been discovered. Mr. Stephens is missing and is presumed dead.
It’s kinda morbid, but the “remains” were nothing more than a jawbone. The TSWG keeps his brother’s jawbone on his fireplace mantle. George would love that! He had a morbid, MORBID sense of humor. Maybe that is why I loved him. Maybe I loved him because he was a gay man and would dress me up and take me out to his clubs. We would have SO MUCH FUN, and no one would bother me. I really hate being bothered, except when I want to be bothered.
George used to always tell me, if I ever wanted to find myself, go to Alaska. When the chance to go a year before he died came along, I went. I thought of him often, since I was there cooking (AND FISHING!!!) and that is what George did.
Who knew two years later, I would be at his service with his bother begging me to never get on a boat. “PROMISE ME, you’ll never get on a boat!” ( I promised I would never work on a boat.)
He was an amazing cook and I am happy The TSWG was able to share some of his cooking books with me and some dishes he had. They are simple white dishes, with two blue rings around the plate, the outer ring has two anchors on them. These are the plates I routinely use. They are my George Dishes. e.e. cummings is my George Poetry. i carry your heart with me, is for The Girl.
The TSWG probably saved my life. He was who picked me up and watched me go crazy after The Girl went away. He never judged me. He always was kind to me, and he cared for me as best he could. I have a lump in my throat as I write this and my eyes are burning. I owe him so much and all I can really ever say to him is thank you for being there and I will always love you for what you did for me.