Out of the Fog - Chapter 1

On Friday, August 23, 1990, the 9:25 am ferry, Kaleetan, pulled out of Coleman Dock in Seattle on its run to Bainbridge Island. While it was late for the commuter crowd, there were many passengers on board. Other than that, it was a perfectly ordinary run.

“Tourists” muttered Captain Dan Waterson under his breath. Tourists asking stupid questions and little kids racing up and down the deck made him nervous. He worried some kid would slip and fall. The image of his own boys Joe and Will flashed through his mind. Thank goodness, the few kids on board weren’t running around this morning. And the tourists seemed busy snapping pictures.

All was well. The ship was handling nicely and the engines were purring smoothly. The sun was shining, the deep blue water was sparkling, and there were only a few, thin clouds high in the sky. About a mile out, Captain Waterson spotted a fog bank.

“What do you think, Ole? Looks pretty thick to me.”

“Well, summer mornings start out foggy around here. Nothing much to worry about. It’s those pea-soupers you get in the spring you got to watch out for. Especially after a flood. Those deadheads can take out the bottom of your ship – leastwise mess up your prop” he rattled on. Ole Olson, the Engineer, was a Norwegian in his 60s. An ‘Old Timer’ on the line, he once claimed to have worked for the original Black Ball line. He would have only been a little kid back then. But you never knew with Ole – he was quite the kidder. And, man could he talk. When he got going it was hard to get a word in edgewise.

As the ferry approached the fog bank, Dan sounded the foghorn to warn any small boats. He muttered to Ole, “It’s those Sunday Sailors I worry about. Bought themselves a boat and don’t know how to run it. They’re the ones who cause all the trouble in the summer. They must think you can turn these ferryboats on a dime.”

Wouldn’t do to hit anyone. A screw-up wouldn’t look good on his record – wouldn’t go down well with those management guys at the Department of Transportation. Being the first Native American Captain in the system could be a pain in the neck. Especially this first year – being on probation and all. “I sure don’t want to blow this job,” he thought. Dan’s neat, black uniform jacket fit his well-muscled 5’ 10” frame. His green eyes, surrounded by laugh lines, were the most noticeable feature of his face. His brown hair was cut short and combed neatly. He was a good looking man but quite average by most people’s standards. Unless you knew, you would never have guessed that he had Native blood. He certainly didn’t look like most folk’s idea of an Indian.

Ole interrupted Dan’s reverie. “Hey, where were you last night? That Mariners’ ticket you gave me was great – right behind the plate. I thought you were going to join me. You said you’d be late but you never showed up. What happened?”

Dan mumbled something about plans getting changed at the last minute. In truth, he had stopped for a few beers with a couple of his old buddies from the American President Line. Those guys only came to Seattle now and then. He thought a beer or two wouldn’t be a problem. But, well, it kind of got out of hand.

He had been going to AA for a year working the program pretty well until last night. Unfortunately, one thing led to another. He hadn’t noticed the time slipping by. To be honest, he had tied one on and this morning he had a king-sized hangover.

His old buddies hadn’t changed at all – still hard drinkers. That set him to thinking about those five years he had spent as an Engineer on the American President Lines – all that time away from home – and the partying. That had been part of the problem between him and his ex-wife Jean. She just couldn’t take the loneliness … and never having Dan around. She’d been pretty and popular when she and Dan met in college fifteen years ago. What the hell – she was still pretty. With him gone to sea six months at a time, it had been a lonely life for her with just two little boys for company. And it didn’t help that she was from the Yakima tribe. Her people lived east of the mountains. She didn’t even have any folks nearby when they lived in Suquamish and the going got rough between them. No point thinking about those things now.

The hours weren’t good on this new job, but more seniority would improve that. He should be able to get a regular shift soon – maybe get off on weekends. The pay and the benefits were great though. The best part was living back closer to Mom and Papa in Suquamish. It was good to have a home again, not just a P.O. Box on shore! Maybe he and Jean could hook up again. Maybe not. Anyway, it was good to see the boys more frequently. This summer he hoped to have them stay at Mom’s place in Suquamish. That way he could take them fishing and hiking. It would be great to have them closer, even if only for the summer.

The ferry nosed into the fog and Dan’s senses became more alert. “Funny how your hearing gets better when you can’t see where you’re going. Keep leaning on that foghorn, Ole. Ever see a fog as thick as this?”

“Ja. Pretty thick for this time of year. I remember once back in the late seventies. We had a real pea-souper. The Captain of the Walla Walla missed the turn into Eagle Harbor. He went aground on that sandbar right at the entrance. Boy, that was somethin’! Took a day and a half to get her unstuck and…”

Suddenly Dan thought he heard someone calling his name, “Dan! Dan! We need you!” It was so faint he wasn’t sure he even heard it. He should never have had all those beers last night. Now he was hearing things. Man, it wouldn’t do to ask Ole if he heard a voice calling ‘Dan.’

“Hey, Ole! Did you hear something over there to port? Like someone calling but real faint? Did you hear that?”

“Nope! I didn’t hear nothing. As I was saying …”

“Shut up and listen!”

He and Ole listened intently. There was nothing but silence. It was like being in a dense snowstorm. He couldn’t even hear any of the normal sounds of water sliding by the hull. “This fog makes me jumpy. I’ve never seen fog so thick. Keep an eye on that radar screen. Let me know if you spot anything fishy.”

“Ha Ha, That’s a good one – anything ‘fishy’. Well, what else would you expect out here in the middle of …”

There it was again – faint but clear. An old man’s voice deep and low, “Dan, we need you.”

“Damn it, Ole! Shut up and listen.” Are you picking up anything on that radar screen? I swear I can hear something out there to port.”

The fog had completely surrounded the ship. Dan couldn’t even see the water from his perch high up in the pilothouse on the third deck. On the deck below he spotted some shadowy figures leaning over the rail pointing and gesturing. What were they pointing at? He couldn’t see anything from where he stood. Without giving it much thought, he quickly opened the door, hurried down the stairs and leaned over the railing.

The ferry was suspended in the fog. Then he heard the old man’s voice again. This time it was very clear, “Dan, come back. We need you!”

Suddenly they popped out of the fog bank like a cork out of a bottle! Just like that and they were out in the bright sunshine again.

“Strange! I’ve never seen fog like that,” stammered Dan. “Well, here we are in Eagle Harbor anyway. And we didn’t hit nothing in the process. But…what the hell? …Where’s the terminal?” Dan scanned the harbor. The land looked the same. At the harbor’s entrance Wing Point curved to the right like an Eagle’s wing. But where was the ferry terminal? It should have been straight ahead. And where were the Bainbridge Apartments? On the high bank above were only tall, graceful evergreen trees. Dan rubbed his eyes in disbelief. Only this morning he had left his apartment in that very building. Where had it gone?

The hair on the back of his neck stood up as he caught his breath. What had happened to the houses along Wing Point? Where they should have been was now an Indian encampment of several low enclosures made of cedar planks with rows of drying racks in front. Pulled up on the beach were seven canoes – the old fashioned kind Dan remembered seeing in photographs at the Tribal Museum.

Instead of a yacht basin, across the harbor on the Eagledale side was a bustling shipyard with several sailing ships in various stages of construction. Jutting out into the harbor was a long wharf with a couple of small ships tied up along the far side. On a sign swinging in the wind he read the words Hall Brothers’ Shipyard. Dan’s ship was headed straight for that very same wharf.

Suddenly, Dan became aware of the silence – no cars, no boat motors, no planes overhead, only the shrieking of the gulls and the shipyard workers calling to one another – and the flapping of sails. That unfamiliar flapping sound caught his attention. He glanced skyward and was astonished to find himself standing on the deck of a three-masted schooner. High up in the rigging sailors were scurrying about furling the huge, white sails as the ship glided silently up to the wharf. “What the hell….” muttered Dan. “Where are we? Where’s my ship?” He looked down at his bare chest, ragged pants and dirty feet. He was in the body of a skinny Indian boy!