Dean Moon was a kid beyond his years. Only nineteen, this was already his third season with Mark Coulthurst. Earlier that season, he’d gone north to Togiak for the herring run; by the time of the murders he was already deep into the rhythm of commercial fishing.
The only person on the Investor with more boat experience than Dean was Roy Tussing, with eight years on Mark’s crew. And Roy was gone. Such was the regard for Dean that Roy taught him how to run the seiner’s skiff. When Tussing quit the boat, barely a month before the murders, it was Dean who took his place as skiffman. He was no longer a kid. That promotion got him a two-percent pay bump.
It also caused more than his share of scrutiny once the murders occurred.
One of the topmost qualifications for a skiffman is superb boat handling skills. After the skipper, there are no more important roles on a commercial boat than the engineer and the skiffman (Roy Tussing was both). The ability to handle the skiff — to keep the nets taut and straight, to make the sometimes tricky pass-off of the net to the mother ship at the end of each set — was a study in mastery.
On the day of the Investor fire, witnesses couldn’t help but notice the mastery of the skiffman seen fleeing the Investor. How he knew to navigate around the bouy that marked the rocks off Craig. How he made a power-landing once he reached the Craig docks. This kid, whoever he was, knew what he was doing.
It was without hesitation that Sergeant Stogsdill made the trip south to San Francisco. Armed with several photographs, and accompanied by inspectors from the San Francisco homicide department, Stogsdill made his way to Fisherman’s Wharf on March 24, 1983. He was looking for anyone who’d seen what the Bellingham witness had seen. He was looking for Dean Moon.
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2019). All rights reserved.