Waiting for Word

Fishing families are known for having strong family ties that help them manage the daily strains of fishing.”

(Fishing Families Project/Oregon State University 1997)


One of those daily strains: Worry.

Now, I seldom worry about George’s safety and well-being when he is at sea. The boat is well-built, seaworthy, and solid. Its engines and equipment are current and top notch. The crew is smart, experienced and responsible.

George is an intelligent and talented Captain who operated boats in the Bering Sea when I met him. He has fished all over Alaska and has both the natural know-how and certification to run a safe and successful fishing vessel.

Because I grew up in this lifestyle and fished alongside my sisters in Alaska for my dad during college summers, I know enough about life at sea to understand how a guy might lose track of the days, come upon unexpected weather, or simply be too exhausted to make a call.

I bring up the subject of “worry” simply because my phone call from George, who is fishing his way home from the Alaska halibut and black cod season, is a few days over due. I’ve tried his cell phone, which (as I expected) goes straight to voice mail. I tried the satellite phone (for the first time this year), but there is no answer.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have the luxury of calling my dad on non-existent cell phones and satellite phones–we waited (and possibly, worried) for days or weeks until he got to port and called us.

Through the years, I’ve learned that there isn’t any reason to work one’s self into a panic, because a late phone call always turns out to be nothing, and all one does by worrying is waste precious energy.

I also rely on the old saying, “Bad news travels the fastest.” In other words, if I haven’t heard anything, everything must be okay.

I bring this all up for the sole reason that anxiety felt by waiting family onshore is as much a part of the commercial fishing lifestyle as anything else, and worthy of mention. This is a blog, after all, that celebrates the commercial fishing life–the good and the troublesome.

I know that everything is fine and that the lack of communication boils down to one of two things, as my dad (fourth-generation fisherman and original owner/operator of the family fishing vessel) so eloquently pointed out,

“He’s either working or sleeping.”

There’s also the very real possibility that George didn’t even hear the satellite phone ringing, as the ring is rather soft and nearly impossible to hear over engines, hydraulics, or a movie being watched in the tophouse.

In addition, you can hardly–bless his heart–get that guy to give you a call when he is at home with his phone in his pocket! He honestly operates on “George Time” and usually has so much going on that some things, like checking in, escape notice.

So, I’m just awaiting word. Wondering how it is going, how the weather is, how much quota (if any) is left to be caught, where they are, and when he expects to be home.

I got a reassuring e-mail from my dad today:

“I checked the weather for where G is probably fishing, and it’s ‘good’ and the outlook is ‘good’ and the extended outlook is ‘good’-so it looks good.”

Eva is in bed, Vincent is in bed, dogs have been fed. Now I just stay busy and calm as I wait for my phone to ring. 


  1. Jen I go through the same range of emotions when I can’t get a hold of Scott at sea. I have to remember that when the news says the weather is bad, or I hear the howling outside my window at night, that he is likely 2-3 days away and in totally different circumstances. Conversely, he reports really bad conditions when I have no clue.

    Like you I try the cell but to no avail. The boat phone (sat phone) that used to let me reach him always, no longer works. I mean it does sometimes but the sattilite that it uses rarely works now. The one thing that is pretty solid is Boatrax.

    I’ll share a story with you….Boatrax as you know, is a sattilite phone company, where on the boat you have a keyboard to punch in letters. They then get, via sattalie to a company in California. They in turn either call the recipient or email the message to an email addy. Before I had a computer they would call and say, “We have a message from the Seafarer…” after trying very hard to give me the message the man would say, “I’m sorry, I can’t make any sense of this.” You see my husband isn’t a very “good spella” LOL. Couple that with the fact that you have to pay per charector, and that the guys like to shorten the message.


    Translation: Hi Hon, doin ok, did you pay the oil bill, tell Mike we need another six inch mesh.

    Joking aside, it’s really hard no to know what’s going on. I will say Scott is really good about calling me whenever he can. We have lost way to many friends and mates to the sea for him not to be aware of our concerns.

    Great job Jen
    I’m loving your blog!

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