Published in Kodiak Daily Mirror on July 22, 2015
By Zoya Saltonstall
When I was in my shed looking for camping gear recently, I came across a boat porthole in a box. It was the porthole from the boat I spent a very memorable part of my youth on — The Anna D.
The boat was a green, 48-foot Kodiak commercial fishing boat. I loved being on it. My bedroom and my house were OK, but I really treasured the time on the boat.
The Anna D had a ladder going from the crew deck up to a flying bridge — an up top outside steering area where dad could see for miles. I would go to join dad up there and just sit and watch the ocean and dad navigate the boat. It was like being on top of the world. The exhaust smokestack was loud up there, which meant not lots of talking. But I didn't mind. It was the joy of just being together and being outside that mattered.
The Anna D had a small galley with a table and a bunk where dad would sleep right adjacent to the table. An oil stove, sink and small fridge filled up the rest of the small space. There was a heavy, thick door that sealed the room shut in rough weather.
A medium-sized porthole sat right above the galley sink window. Slightly ajar most of the time, it let in the cool refreshing ocean breezes. On the rough crossings, I would lay on my dad’s bunk and gaze out the pothole. I could see the rise and fall of the boat, as well as the endless waves. It took some of the edge of the seasickness off. Ocean spray splashed across the windows and my gaze would be fixed on the salty circle window.
Standing there in my shed, I touched the porthole's weathered brass rim. It seemed surreal to have it here, in my next world of marriage and my own kids. My continued life in Kodiak.
In many ways, 23 years feels like a wrinkle in time. It was 23 years ago that my father passed away from a battle with cancer. I was still in high school. The Anna D was sold several years later to family friends. When the boat was renovated, the porthole was given to my sister and I as a gift. At the time it was given to me, I was appreciative, but not ready for it. It was waiting in the corner of the shed until I was ready.
The porthole brought me back to the young girl who enjoyed the magic of being on the boat. It reminded me of the feel of climbing up the ladder to sit next to dad. Or laying on the bunk in the storms, hoping that the waves would soon pass and seeing dad give me a reassuring smile. It brought me back to how hard dad worked on the boat, how much he loved the ocean and how much I felt his love for me on those trips.
These sentimental objects — sometimes they work themselves into our lives. Objects, letters, mementos. The porthole reminds me to slow down with my own parenting and treasure the magic of the ocean breezes.
As much as we don't want to become attached to items, is it possible for items to become attached to us? For when we are ready, they are there — to guide us in whatever way we might let them.
Kodiak resident Zoya Saltonstall is a mother of two and a physical therapist. She loves black labs and chocolate.