Name: Titus Willard
Hometown: Purcellville, Va.
BS: What did you do this past summer?
TW: I worked on a commercial fishing boat. [It was a] 38-footer, kind of small, with a crew of four total, including me. We were fishing around Kodiak Island, which is the southernmost part of Alaska. If you travel across the channel to the part of the mainland that juts out, it’s beautiful there. Huge cliffs, bigger than anything we saw in Europe. Maybe similar to some in Greece, but still a lot different.
There was one day when everything was closed, so we took a skiff, a small boat that holds the far side of the net while the boat holds the other side, to explore for the day. We weren’t supposed go out to open water, but we did anyway. We go out and we see this spout, a whale spout, and we decide to go follow it. So we get as close as we can, and we can’t see it for another five minutes. Then out of nowhere, 30 yards in front of us, it shoots out of the water and lands on its side. It was incredible. We followed it around for another hour and it kept jumping up.
Another time we got lost. Our captain let us explore the shore for a while. We couldn’t find our way back to the boat. We had to build a shelter and set up a campfire overnight. And there was no civilization, we couldn’t have walked to any civilization. At first, I was worried because I thought it would get dark pretty early if we didn’t hurry up and build a shelter. But in Alaska, it doesn’t get very dark, and at the time, it was probably four hours of night.
BS: What did you do with your free time on the boat?
TW: I read a lot. I had much more free time than I thought. Sometimes I read Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”; I read “Crime and Punishment” and a Thomas Hardy novel. I read a little bit of poetry – Robert Browning – and I did a little spiritual reading.
BS: What were the Alaskans like?
TW: Alaskans are such different people. It’s almost like going to a different country. They’re a lot like Texans in that they’re really proud of their state. They don’t care about the lower 48, that’s what they call them, and the federal government … we’re our own thing. It was cool to witness the pride they had, but also very rough because the biggest city in Alaska is Anchorage, and it’s much, much smaller than Dallas. A different breed, I guess. A lot of druggies and ex-cons.
BS: What did a normal day look like for you on the boat?
TW: It varied, but mostly was arranged around the sets that we did. One set would be maybe 45 minutes. We would get it out in a big long line, perpendicular with the shore. Both ends close in a circle, and my job was to haul one side of the net in and stack in on the boat. Depending on how good the fishing was in a particular spot, we would do 15 of those from sunrise to sunset.
BS: What are you most looking forward to this year at UD?
TW: I’m really excited for our senior class. It’s our last year, and we’ve taken that to heart, and we’re going to make it the best one. I’m really excited for that and to take classes again.