Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sail On, Sailor

    I’m a fan of Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel, and it was my great privilege to meet Captain Phil Harris in the summer of 2008, only a few months after he suffered a pulmonary embolism. He was in Portland doing some promotional stuff which ultimately took him to a pretty gnarly pirate joint, and that was where I went to see him. It was the end of the day and he was tired, but he was the same humorous, tough-talking good sport we see on TV who was gracious enough to spend a few minutes talking with me.
    When he passed away this last February a friend called me at 9:00 AM, something my pals generally know not to do. But this was important. Captain Phil was dead. And although I didn’t know him, after watching him on TV for four years and then meeting him, it felt as if a friend had died following a massive stroke. In the past few weeks, the series has highlighted his determination to get back on his feet, and watching that made me feel like he had died again.
    Maybe one of the reasons I’m so interested in the show is because A Light For My Love, my second book published by NAL, was about seafaring merchant seamen and tall ships of the late 1800s. I read everything I could about it. I made two research trips to Astoria, Oregon and pored over their library. I read about sailors’ customs and superstitions—and I don’t think any line of work beats them when it comes to the minutia good luck-bad luck. I learned more stuff than I could ever use, but it was fascinating.
    After news of Captain Phil’s death was spread to the other crab boats that participate in the show, Captain Sig Hansen noticed a seagull sitting on the rail of the F/V Northwestern and did a kind of double-take. He said seagulls that appear at the instant of a sailor’s death are said to embody their spirits. I had even used that tidbit in A Light For My Love years before Deadliest Catch had been thought of.
    Although most of my books have been westerns, ALFML continues to hold a very special place in my heart. It’s a story about risk-taking and redemption, love and honor, a passion not only of man for a human woman and his mistress, the sea, but for the chance to right old wrongs.
    If you’ve seen it on Kindle, Smashwords, or some of the other e-book retailers, download a free sample and see what you think.
    The Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial is “dedicated to promoting safety in the fishing fleets and easing the burdens of the families and friends of fishermen/women lost at sea.”
    How similar in spirit is this mission statement to the prayer my heroine China Sullivan intones each night when she lights the lamp in her window that overlooks the Astoria harbor. “For all men gone to sea, living and lost. May you find the way back to your home port."
    Rest well, Captain Phil. We’ll miss you.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading ALFML in one sitting, on the back porch on a hot summer afternoon and well into the evening with the moths and skeeters swarming the porch light. Couldn't put it down -- how can Lexie *possibly* give this h/h a satisfying happy-ever-after? But you did.

    We got hooked watching Deadliest Catch in 2007 when we were up all hours with a colicky preemie. I wouldn't have wanted Captain Phil as a boss, but we felt like a friend had died when he passed.