Photo courtesy of Misa Webber

By Misa Webber 

It was the summer of 2011. That’s right, the year after 2010. The infamous seining year of 2010, where Gus Linville and his crew could barely keep his old wooden boat afloat from all the fish. I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there, but I sure heard the stories. It was the summer of 2011 and Gus had recently purchased the F/V Karine Brit, a 1987 LeClercq from Petersburg. I walked down the dock with my mom, at the ripe age of barely 17, to meet this Gus character. I’d only heard stories and caught glimpses of the seven foot, yellow haired, often shoeless, Lost Boy. We were awkward, and I didn’t know jack diddly about seining. I hadn’t been seining since my dad got wrapped in the winch in ‘99. It’d been 12 years and I knew nothing. Gus had a false confidence in myself that I hadn’t yet discovered. He gave me a grinder and told me to fix the railing, with maybe two sentences of direction before he’d leave the boat and likely get caught up at a coffee shop for the next 45 minutes. He’d give me a mending needle and a shredded seine and had enough confidence in me to shrug his shoulders and say “do your best.” 

This is when I met Gerald Masolini. Gus told us we’d have a cook on board and that we’d all share 1% of our crewshare with him. Quite honestly, all of us were just there for a good time, and were happy to exchange 1% for, what would soon be, the best cheffing and chef service we’d ever known. Gerald was quiet, modest, polite, and always kept out of our rambunctious ways. A passerby from a raftup may never have known that our humble cook was actually a decorated mariner who sailed his small troller from California to Cordova at just 18 years old. He was a quiet and modest book; but when opened, one discovered a life full of adventure. From a young age, I decided he possessed the combined spirit of Mark Twain and Ghandi. He was one in a billion.  

Gerald loved to observe and listen. He would listen to Gus and I’s banter all day long. Me from the bow and Gus from the crow’s nest, who would intermittently interrupt our quarrels with “PLUNGGG.” Most would think our inexperienced opinions on world issues such as social injustices and stained societal moralities would sound pompous and all too confident despite our lack of life experience (I’m mostly jabbing at myself here), but not Gerald. He observed us with immeasurable curiosity, void of judgment.  

Gerald was a gifted writer. His style of writing was poetic, humorous, witty, and sharp, all qualities we knew Gerald to be. He was also a deep food appreciator. We took eating very seriously on the Karine Brit, thanks to Gerald’s exquisite love for self-harvested Alaskan cuisine. He once said I was his best eater (a compliment that I hold like a badge of honor). As an example of his considerate ways, he would make brownies or slice fruit, cut them into bite-sized pieces, poke toothpicks into them, and set the tray on the deck winch for us. I would wake up in the mornings with a premade mocha topped with whipped cream and nutty spice sprinkles. A couple times a season, we would each get our own free-range roasted chicken for dinner, which we would tear into like heathens. I would bet my left foot that we were the best fed boat in the Sound. That was the beauty of the Brit, life was about good times, with good fo­­od, with good company. The time on that boat would set the stage for the rest of my life.  

When you would ask Gerald a question, he would pause, give that sweet smirk he’d always give, then he’d quietly tell you he’d get back to you after thinking about it. He didn’t just practice mindfulness, he simply was mindful in everything he did. He possessed unfathomable depths of empathy, acceptance, and conscious reflection. Through observance, Gerald taught us the secrets to happiness. I will likely never meet a man who was more at peace than Gerald.  

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Through the years, him and I would correspond through letters, emails, and visits when I’d return home. He was one of the first people I visited when I came back from my first year of travel. He wanted to know everything about “Madagascarrrr,” as he’d say it, looking into the distance with a twinkle in his eye. He was most fascinated with the world and for some reason, my perception of it. He was my confidant, my mentor, my inspiration and for some reason, one of my greatest admirers. I’ll never know what I did to deserve the love of Gerald, but I am eternally grateful for the bond we had. I’ll carry his adventurous, undying spirit with me until my last days.  

I recently read an article in The Cordova Times that I think Gerald would have loved. Written by Alaska Native writer and activist, John Tetpon, it goes, “And about that thing we call death… My experience is that although our present body will cease to operate, we will never die. Instead, we will continue to traverse the universe, going from one galaxy to another, until it too, disappears.”  

The last letter that Gerald sent me ended with (in full Gerald fashion): “Okay Misa, full steam ahead, (life is so good, would we even consider going half steam??) Go, Misa, go.” 

So now it’s my turn to say, “Go, Gerald, go; full steam ahead, on to your next adventure.” 

All my love and condolences to the Masolini family.   

This story originally ran in the May 17 issue of The Cordova Times.

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