Dungeness Crab Gear Work Part One: Painting Buoys.

The Dungeness crab season begins each year with between three and four weeks of gear work before the boat is ready to go. The first part of gear work usually begins with buoy painting.

George has about 600 buoys to paint. Some buoys are new and need to be painted for the first time, while others are older and have peeling paint that needs to be touched up.

Buoys must be painted so that the gear of each boat is distinguished and recognized from that of the other 220-plus boats in our Dungeness crab fleet. If each boat did not have its own original buoy-paint scheme, the buoys would all look the same and nobody would know whose were whose. A picture is also taken of each boat’s uniquely painted buoy and sent to the State for filing.

It takes George and the crew about five full days to paint and tie (attaching the line that will secure the buoy to the crab pot) all of the buoys.

One year, George and I were taking an easy drive through Oysterville when, to George’s surprise, he spotted one of his crab buoys attached to the buoy-decorated fence surrounding the home of a coastal resident. Apparently, the buoy had broken free from its accompanying crab pot out on the open ocean and washed ashore. (About a month later, we got a phone call that one of his crab pots was sitting upon the dock in Ilwaco, just a little further south. Coincidence?)

Fishing wives and other family are not exempt from buoy painting.

I’ve painted buoys at the beginning of more than one season. My dad has helped at times, and so has George’s dad when he’s visited from Florida. It’s not an easy job: The weather is freezing and the work is long. It didn’t take long during my first year of buoy-painting before I marched down to the fisheries supply store and purchased a full Carhartt insulated suit to wear to keep out the chill.

I’m not painting much these days (at all, actually). Brett and I recently offered to trade places for a day (he’d take care of the kids for an afternoon, and I’d show up to the harbor in my painting gear) but G wasn’t having it. Hey—don’t say I never offered. :)

100_3562

Our dear, sweet Toby, who “helped” paint buoys for six years before he passed away from cancer. We miss you so much, Bo Bo’s.

Two months after our Toby passed away, I found out I was pregnant with Valerie. Here she is with Dad on her first buoy-painting experience.

Johnny and Bryan.

Brett, Johnny, and Bryan.

Comments

  1. Wow, cool to see the set-up, Jen! (I’ve painted a couple buoys in my day, just filling in for the regular crew, but never anything of this scale. How’s the engine project going?

    • Hi, Tele! Thanks for asking! Well….the engine project is just big and never-ending. My children asked G the other night why he “looks so sad.” After teasing them that he looks that way because “he’s just a big, sad man,” he assured him that he wasn’t actually sad, just really tired. I guess there’s just never a good time for this kind of project and it’s really draining. :(

Leave a Reply