Archive for February 2008

Post-Dungeness Crab Season Pics–Welcome Home!


Note: If you’re looking for more dungeness crab season pictures, check out the archives for February, where there are a few more.

Here are a few pictures of the Captain, Crew, and Boat upon their arrival home today.

Bryan and Brett are the Oregon Ducks fans—Brett waited until George left the boat one day in Westport before attaching and flying the Oregon flag in the rigging.

One (of two) Oregon Ducks Fan on Board

Stacked Crab Pots on Land

Busy on Deck

Captain and Crew

The Famous Flatbed Truck and Trailer

Daddy’s Home–or Will Be Soon

“All fishing families depend on the sea for their livelihood and must create a family life that involves times when husbands are home and times when they are at sea.”

(Adapting to Change-Fishing Families, Businesses, Communities, and Regions

1998, Oregon Sea Grant)



And so it begins.

I got a call from George today, live and at large from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

He’ll be home in a matter of hours.

The Vis 2007-2008 Dungeness Crab Season is officially over, and the break before the halibut/blackcod season begins. Of course, there is at least a week of boat work to get through before that break begins—unload the crab gear, load the longline gear—but never mind the details.

The boat’s home, so let’s get this party started.

And if history is any indicator, it will be a good party for a while.

“Daddy’s home!” I’ll announce to Eva, to Vincent, and to our dogs, Mandy and Toby. I’ll fling open the front door before George is even out of his truck, and proudly show off my clean floors, sparkling bathrooms, and freshly bathed children.

“Can I make you a drink, hon?” George will ask once he’s inside.

“Why, that sounds great,” I’ll say. “And how about Papa Murphy’s for dinner?”

“Fantastic!” George will answer. “Anything interesting to watch on the DVR?”

“Yes–48 Hours, Cold Case. I’ve been waiting to watch them until you got home. And by the way, are you coming to church with us on Sunday?”

“Sure, hon,” he’ll answer. “That sounds great!”

Ah, there’s nothing like the Homecoming.

Check back two weeks later. This could be the situation:

“It’s 5:15 p.m.,” I’ll announce. “Where’s my drink?”

“What, you can’t go one night without?” George will ask with a smirk. “How about Round Table for dinner?”

“No,” I’ll say. “I’ll throw up if I eat one more piece of pizza. What happened to rice and fish? That’s what we should be eating! As for the drink, spare me. Are you coming to church with us on Sunday?”

Then I’ll glance around the house. I’ll see a pair of men’s slippers that have been flung onto the living room floor instead of placed in the closet shoe rack. I’ll notice the mail dropped haphazardly onto the dining room table. Dishes piled in the sink. Pieces of paper on the kitchen counter with lists of things we haven’t gotten to yet, and probably won’t. I’ll hear Vincent crying to go to bed, Eva whining for dinner. I’ll see two lovable but big and stinky dogs sniffing around for treats.

“Argh!” I’ll say. “I can’t stand this! Everything was clean. Everything was orderly. Everything was calm. Now everything is messed up because….”

“Because what?” George will ask. “Because I’m home?”

I’ll look up at him then, this one whose hard work pays for this house, the car I drive, who does his best by his wife and his kids whether he is at sea or at home. Who listens with infinite patience to my chatter about Jazzercise, my blog, my writing, my family, our babies.

I’ll see the hurt in his eyes as he asks the question. I’ll remember quickly how lucky I am that he even came home, because not every fisherman does. Who cares about a little mess, a little disorder?  It’ll be time to make the transition then—the one from “George is at Sea” to “George is at Home.”

It should be a good run.

Hangin’ It Up

I want to thank each of you for your visits to this blog during the past week. It was fun monitoring the viewing statistics, and I appreciate the comments left here and the ones sent to me via e-mail.

On February 13 (my sister Cassandra’s birthday–I won’t mention her age), a new viewing record was set for Highliners and Homecomings. But then, on February 18th, that record was broken.

I am grateful.

To be honest, it’s been hard deciding how to follow it up. When you sum up one of your life’s greatest tragedies in roughly 1000 words, it’s hard to know where to go from there.

The sun shined bright today. I felt younger and freer this afternoon than I have since….uh…2002? I went to the gym, got the car washed, sang along with Tim McGraw when “Where the Green Grass Grows” played on the radio, and just enjoyed the moment. I felt like I was 21 again. Of course, I’m not 21. I’m not 25. I’m not even 30. Heck, my younger sister isn’t even 30. Where does the time go?

George was home for a couple of days this week, but left yesterday to return to Westport and the boat. While he was home we intended to get a lot of projects done: make a Goodwill delivery, create a room for 6-month-old Vincent, buy new filing cabinets, make a Costco run.

We didn’t get even a quarter of it done. While I had the Lists-and-Nagging Department completely covered, we came up a little short in the Energy Department. George was sick, as well as tired and worn out. I can’t blame him.

The good news is that there’s light at the end of the Dungeness Crab Season Tunnel: George has given me the go-ahead to start making our spring break plans.

He’s had a great season. The crew is well, the boat is well, and it’s just a good time to hang it up. Of course, we don’t know exactly when they’ll haul their last pot, but we know it will be soon.

Although the Dungeness crab season can continue for several more months, the skipper generally knows when it’s time for his part in it to end.

Even if he’s had a good run thus far, things can quickly change. The price of crab can come down while the cost of fuel goes up. He can lose gear or have crab stolen right out of the pot by renegade boats that move unseen during the night. Suddenly, instead of going out on a high note, he loses his edge and ends up going backwards or sideways on it all, which he does not want to do.

In an unrelated note, my car was broken into this week. We live in a nice neighborhood, but I guess when (ahem, George) you leave the car unlocked, things are bound to happen. I lost my gym MP3 player and sports headphones, as well as cash from a not-so-secret compartment. Apparently, the thieves were not country fans: I was relieved to find Toby Keith and Josh Turner still tucked safely away inside my cd case. And, fortunately for Eva, Raffi is still secure inside her Bumble Bee case.

Never a dull moment, right?


Commercial Fishing Job Risks: Stats and a Story

The following are some statistics that were included in a USA Today article about the job risks that face commercial fishermen:

  • About 152 of every 100,000 fishermen are killed on the job, according to the latest statistics of the U.S. Labor Department. That’s the highest fatality rate of any occupation, including the rate of loggers, miners, firefighters and police officers.
  • According to a USA Today analysis, an average of one fisherman has died each week in the last four years.
  • Most fishermen killed on the job drown or succumb to hypothermia in the water after a boat sinks or capsizes, or after they fall overboard.
  • Falls overboard may result from a wave, a misstep, a slippery boat deck, or entanglement in fishing equipment.
  • Alaska’s waters are the most deadly, followed by the Gulf of Mexico and waters outside the Northeast.
  • Gloucester, Mass., has lost more than 1,100 fishermen since 1900.

A USA Today analysis of Coast Guard statistics revealed that from 1996 to December 2002, 460 fishermen were killed.

I knew one of those 460 fishermen.

Because I think you would’ve liked to have known him too, I’ve written a short story about him just for this Blog.

I wrote the story as well to honor the anniversary of a date, February 17.

Sadly, it’s not the kind of anniversary one celebrates with flowers and dinner at a restaurant down at the harbor. It’s the kind one observes with flowers and a visit to the Fishermen’s Memorial Anchor down at the harbor.

You may read the story by clicking on the new page, “‘I Read It, Brother’ — Tribute to a Fisherman Lost at Sea,”  here at Highliners and Homecomings.


Fisher Poets Festival in Astoria February 22-24, 2008

The 11th Annual Gathering of the Fisher Poets will be held in Astoria, Oregon, on February 22-24. For a schedule and a map, please click on the above link. You’ll also find a list of readers, a description of all the workshops, and the list of venues. The organizers have added a fourth venue this year, which gives the impression that the gathering is gearing up to be bigger and better than ever.

The commercial fishing industry is unique in that it is especially full of talented writers, poets, and musicians. I’m trying to keep this post short, so I won’t go into my theory as to why that is. Needless to say, about 70 people with ties to the industry will be presenting orginal poems, stories, and songs over the weekend. In addition, there will be a variety of workshops (ranging from boat and cannery tours to songwriting), a story circle, and a live auction. Fisher Poets gear and memorabilia will be available for purchase.

In addition to the exciting news that special guest Ray Troll will be in attendance, I was happy to read that some longtime participants have stepped aside to allow more newcomers time to read their work.  I did notice a few missing names from the roster as I scanned the schedule, and I imagine this explains why.

I won’t have the pleasure of attending the Festival this year (I’m fairly certain that 2-year olds and infants aren’t allowed inside the VooDoo Lounge), but I have a word of advice for first-time attenders: Bring your friends!

Fisher Poets venues fill quickly and one can feel lost and overwhelmed if not anchored to a group of one’s own. Tables become crowded with friends and comrades that meet year after year, and it can get quite clique-oriented. One year I actually watched one well-known individual get up from his table to leave early because he felt overwhelmed by it all.

Each year has been different for me; I’ve shown up and had lunch with locals, hustled up writing jobs, chatted with friends of my dad’s, participated in workshops, and caught up with fishing friends from my summers in Southeast Alaska. I’ve also ended my participation early and hurried to cross the bridge out of Astoria to meet up with friends in Long Beach instead.

I’d go every year if I could, though. Anytime you have the opportunity, you have got to support the industry and celebrate the art and culture that comes from within. You can see your old friends, or you can meet new ones.  

If you attend the Festival this year, have a great time and let us know how it was.

Possible Technical Difficulties Viewing Crab Pics

I’ve heard that there have been some problems viewing the pics, so I’m trying it again. It’s weird; sometimes the links work, and sometimes they don’t. Sorry for the hassle!

Setting Gear

Bryan, Brett, and a Container Ship

Hauling Pots

Brett, Brian, and Bryan

Mama Knows Best

The role of wife and mother in a commercial fishing family is not easy. It consists largely of trying to maintain a delicate balance of activity and rest for herself and her children, and adhering to as consistent a routine as possible in the midst of the coming, going, and reshuffling that accompanies the life. Conserving energy is a must, because these seasons are long.

I love it when George comes home. I look forward to eating something good for dinner on those nights, and I savor the easy mornings that follow. I ask George for the latest on the pounds, price, and crew. I ask if he has read my blog and roll my eyes when he says, “I’d love to, hon, I just haven’t had the chance.” Of course, I know he hasn’t had the chance. I like to roll my eyes, so I ask anyway.

When you’re the sometimes-single mother of a six-month old baby and a two-year old toddler, you face special challenges. To begin with, you’ve got two cribs, two changing tables, two sizes of diapers, and four car seats (two for the car and two for the truck).

You exclusively nurse the infant for his first six months in part because the merest suggestion of bringing out a bottle causes so much distress on the part of the toddler it just hardly seems worth it. When you start your baby on solids, you make two servings as a matter of course because your toddler insists upon eating a bowl of rice cereal right along with him.

At bedtime, you lie the infant down in his crib and shut the door. He happily drifts off into dreamland. You walk back into the living room to discover your toddler lying on top of the boppy—the boppy that not even the baby uses anymore. She’s covered herself with an infant blanket and inserted a stray pacifier into her mouth. (Never mind that she never used a pacifier herself, even as a baby, until the day her brother was born.) She hands you the book she wants you to read: I’m a Big Sister.

“Baby, baby!” she says as she points to her chest, with such urgency in her voice, such hope in her huge blue eyes.

“Yes,” you say, as your heart cracks a little. “Mommy is so lucky. She has two babies! A big-girl baby, and a little-boy baby.”

You reassure yourself with the knowledge that your toddler has learned so many new words: boat, up, tickle, spider, ride, crab, nose, puppy. She loves to dance and clap with you when you practice your Jazzercise routines, and she fills every bouncy seat, jump up, swing, and carrier in the house with her own “babies.”

Nevertheless, you’re pretty worn out when you receive an invitation to a baby shower for the newborn son of a dear friend. It’s her second baby. It’s scheduled for 6 pm on a Friday night. You don’t have a babysitter, because your husband is gone crabbing, and your parents are at the Coast. The hour of the party is also dinnertime and bedtime for your babies, and they both have coughs and runny noses.

“I’m too exhausted to go,” I say to my mom.

“That’s right,” she says. “You can’t make it.”

I fill her in on the latest at my hobby-job, teaching Jazzercise, which suddenly feels like more job than hobby.

“That’s right,” she says. “It’s too much.”

It’s why I love my mom. She is the wife of a fisherman and the mother of three girls, each three years apart. Although she’s just under 5’2″, she is the most capable, strong, dependable, and stubborn lady I know, with a Puritan work ethic.

When she says it’s too much, it’s too much.

I don’t have to explain or feel bad or make excuses. She understands.

Dungeness Crab Picture #3

Bryan, Brett, and a Container Ship

This container ship was headed to the Columbia River.