Commentary: From food stamps to luxury yachts, a slice of Kodiak life.

It happens. You get in the grocery line with just a few items, and the couple in front of you has a great, big, cart load – so, you settle in to wait. Then suddenly, the groceries go flying out of the bags, and the clerk is swiping codes again, to deduct items.

The man looks terribly uncomfortable. Apologizes profusely. Apparently, the clerk didn’t realize he was going to use a food stamps card – and he not only went over his limit, but bought some products that aren’t allowed, toilet paper, for example. I didn’t ask but had the sense the couple was new to government assistance, that perhaps something had happened to change their status in life. They seemed so shamed by the experience.

The chef and the “interior supervisor” of the yacht, the Just B, stock up on toilet paper at the Kodiak Carrs-Safeway store.

I hadn’t quite shaken that feeling of sadness from watching the couple’s struggles, when I spotted two people in the parking lot, pushing two carts, filled high with toilet paper. I had to ask: “Why in the world do you need that much toilet paper? Do you work on a fishing boat that’s headed out to sea?”

“No,” the woman said, as they hurriedly stashed rolls of paper into the back of what looked like a brand, new rental car. “We work on a yacht. We just pulled in,” she said.

“So how many people are on the yacht?” I asked. “Two people,” the woman said. “Two people? And all that toilet paper?” I questioned. “No, no,” she said. The two people are the owners of a yacht called the “Just B,” she clarified. “We’re a crew of fourteen, and we travel the world,” she said, as she pointed to the logo on her vest.

“What do you do on the yacht?” I asked.  The woman explained that her companion, a man with an Australian accent, served as the Just B’s chef, and she was the yacht’s “interior supervisor.” Though I wondered what that meant, I didn’t ask. Maybe it was a glorified title for a housekeeper.

Later in the evening, I felt curious — and thought I go for a walk at the small boat harbor in search of the Just B. A fisherman had seen it out cruising around. He said it was a pretty big boat and likely at the City Dock.

According to SuperYacht Times, the Just B is 59 meters long and can sleep 14 guests, with a crew of 14 to care for them.

So I drove to the dock, and there she was: a gleaming white, floating mansion. A room on the top deck was enclosed in glass. You could see exercise equipment inside. I wondered what it would be like to use the treadmill, gazing out onto the ocean.

A deck hand with a charming British accent says he has been all over the world on the Just B and has enjoyed many opportunities to scuba dive.

I spotted one of the deck hands and called to him from the side of the dock. “Who owns this boat?” I asked. In his charming British accent, he politely declined to tell me — but did say he loved his job on the Just B, which he found on a SuperYacht listing. The young man said the Just B had come in from Hawaii. They had spent time in Kodiak, cruising the coast and got some amazing photos of bears with their drones.

Now this came as a surprise. He said the owners sail on the Just B for only a few weeks out of the year, but he was able to live and work on the yacht, year-round. He said there was enough work to keep the crew busy five days a week. He said they share sleeping quarters, but have a kitchen and a spacious living area.

Outdoor living space on the bow of the Just B.

From the dock, I could see a beautifully appointed outdoor living space on the lower deck of the stern, with nice sofas, big pillows. OK. Now I understand why the Just B needs an “interior supervisor.”

Suddenly I was distracted when a longliner pulled up next to the Just B — the Bristol Leader, a top cod fishing boat. The crew still had their rain pants on and were scrambling to wrap things up for the night.

The Bristol Leader is a 167-foot freezer longliner vessel, one of the top Bering Sea cod producers.

The Bristol Leader and the Just B. Two ships in the night, so different in their respective missions. I pondered the contrast for a moment, and it all came down to this: No matter how rich, or how poor, we are the same in one way: we all need toilet paper.


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