It's that time of year again. A time when the fishing fleet from my home town heads back north while the rest of us grit our teeth for a few months and hope everybody comes home safely.
This story is in memory of one of these fishermen, the one we called Gandhi. His real name was Antone and with his boat the Avalon he plied the waters from Puget Sound to Alaska for over 40 years creating miracles one person at a time.
Antone never ment to be a fisherman his intent was to become a catholic priest but world war two interfered with that. Normandy took it's tole on him, he never set foot in a church again.
Shortly after Antone enlisted in in the Navy during the early days of US involvment in world war two his farther, Andrew, a ship builder and veteran of world war one layed the keel for a fishing boat. Seventy eight feet of lap straight construction everything from the lumber to the hand made brass fasteners were manufactured right in our home town. There was rationing going on. Getting decent metal for anything non military was almost imposssible. The fasteners were hand forged from foot tall brass shell casings some enterprising packrat bought surplus shortly after world war 1.
The boat was named Avalon and became the very real display of Andrews belief that his son would return from war alive and well. Andrews war service had taught him that it wasn't possible to have that experience and be able to pick up life as if nothing happened. Reckoning his son was much like him, he believed a profession of hard work on the open water would give his son the best chance at peace and a happy life.
Andrew was a smart man, his son practically radiated peace which was how he came by his nickname of Gandhi. His crews were a rag tag bunch, but Antone was more about saving souls than fishing. He may have stopped believing in his church but he was not one to give up on his fellow human. Through two more wars he would recruit the most haunted of veterans and return them at the end of the summer well adjusted and fit for post war life. When there were no wars he took on the kids who were headed in the wrong direction and returned them much different. They were a loyal lot, his crew and what he liked to call his graduates those who left the boat to go onto other things.
One of his crew was a cousin of mine named Patrick. Patrick was a veteran of Vietnam. Drafted practically out of high school he was much changed upon his return and seemed to be as he put it "circling the drain" in the months after his return.
Antone found him late one night in a bar where Patrick spent most of his evenings drinking until they cut him off. They talked for awhile, then much to Patricks suprise, Antone offered him a job.
Patrick returned that fall much improved, once for a short time he left the boat in favor of a steady job, but in the end he returned. For the next fifteen years he helped Antone keep the boat going strong. In the fall of his 75th year Antone returned to the Harbor and handed Patrick the keys, he was retiring. He lived another fifteen years still mending the nets of his beloved Avalon each winter.
To this day the Avalon still plys the waters of the Northwest with Patrick at the helm. His crew no different than the many that came before. The old boat and her now gray haired second skipper still working their miracles one person at a time just as Antone would have expected.