Oceans can vary in personality and temperament. The Bering Sea is belligerent and smothers a ship in frigid gray or emerald green. The South Pacific can change at the whim of an errant breeze, slapping sailors in a tanturm of blue and white. Coast Guardsman Charles stands on the deck of a ferry bound for Ketchikan, Alaska, his new duty station. He watches a whale breach the waves, remembering his violent past and addiction. Charles feels as if he was airlifted from a sinking ship. His son stands by him, while the seaman and his dear wife marvel at the miraculous healing in their family. Charles has made the “Vow of a Sailor,” a commitment to serve God wherever he sails or anchors.
In 1963, Larry Buster is 17, and a messman aboard the ferry MV Matanuska, sailing the Alaska Marine Highway. Like the rivets and welds deep inside the fresh-built ship, Larry settles in for a lifetime as a seaman. Men toughened by the brutal knuckles of life show him how to wrest hellish satisfaction from every port of call. Enjoying the “Fair Winds in Ketchikan” for decades, Larry becomes an icon in the port town, as owner of the historic Arctic Bar. At times, cocaine fuels his ambitions. When his beloved wife, his “Italian sweetheart” gives him an ultimatum to kick his addiction or lose her forever, the reality of being truly alone sets him on a fresh tack — in his despair, he meets Jesus Christ and ties up in the safest of all harbors.
Of the seven stories in Testimony I wrote two: “Vow of a Sailor” and “Fair Winds in Ketchikan.”