Last night at 5 p.m., I gave George a call. He was, of course, at the harbor rigging crab pots.
“How’d it go with the new guy?” I asked.
“Oh!” He said. “I forgot to tell you. The first flight out of Sitka was canceled so he’s coming in at 7:00 tonight. I won’t be home until at least 8 p.m.”
“Well,” I said, “Then what am I supposed to do about dinner?”
“Don’t worry about me,” said George, who is the preferred chef in our family. “I’ll just eat….”
“You!” I cut in. “Forget you! You’re your own! What about me? What am I supposed to do about dinner?”
I laughed, but I was only half-joking.
That conversation signaled the official beginning of the Dungeness Crab Season for our family. Yes, George and his crew have been down at the harbor for the past month working in all kinds of weather, all week long, to get ready for the season. But until now, he was always home by 6:30 p.m., took Sundays off, and could usually be counted on for an evening cocktail and to answer his cell phone when I called.
The energy has shifted, and it’s crunch time. The daily routine that makes up the first month of gear work has come to an end. George will no longer be home at 6:30 p.m.; he’ll be home whenever the work is done. He will return my call when he has a chance. Next week, he is taking the boat to Westport. They’ll stay there working on more gear for a few days before coming back home.
The season is set to open on December 26, which means George will leave us on Christmas in order to get back to the boat and dump pots the next day.
I know better than to ask anything of George now. I don’t complain when he is late getting home. I don’t expect he will be available to help me with projects or go anywhere with me. His focus is the boat, the crew, and the season ahead, which is exactly where it should be.
This shift in energy is transferred to me as well. I know that I have to make as graceful transition as possible back into Wife Left Behind while Husband is At Sea. It’s happening to wives all over the West Coast (and for that matter, the East Coast and Alaska, too!).
A few years ago, I interviewed a woman for National Fisherman who was being awarded the title of Highliner for her work in the industry. When I mentioned during the course of that interview that I was dating a commercial fisherman, she offered to send some resources that might be of use to me.
Those booklets were, and continue to be, invaluable. I don’t know if they are still available, but if you are the girlfriend, wife, or the mother of children by a commercial fisherman, they may be of use to you also. They were published as part of the Oregon State University Fishing Families Project, which was a partnership between the Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State University Extension Services.
Topics covered included Adapting to Change, Early in the Relationship, Fishing Marriages Over Time, Transition into Parenthood, Ebb and Flow of Fishing
Family Life, and Change and Stability in Fishing Family Life.
Let me know if you would like any further information, and good luck with the start of both the holiday and the Dungeness crab seasons.
We’ll need it!