Archive for Commercial Fishing

A Valentine’s Day Giveaway on!

Is your commercial fisherman home for Valentine’s Day? No? Well, don’t worry; you aren’t alone. Neither is mine!

George is rarely home for Valentine’s Day. Way back in the day, he would plan ahead and have a dozen roses sent to me. Twelve years ago, ten years ago…I could always count on those flowers! In fact, I looked forward on Valentine’s Day to vacuuming, dusting, and making everything clean and beautiful in our home in preparation for those roses.

It’s been a while since then, though. Clean and sanitize the house? Light a special candle? Make room for roses? Yeah, right! I’ll be lucky if I get to the dishes or put folded laundry for three children (and me) put away in drawers and closets.

But, hey! I’m not complaining. I don’t get hung up on Valentine’s Day. And I know that you don’t, either, because we are tough and that’s how we roll.

In honor of all commercial fishing wives, girlfriends, and mothers on this day, I’m offering a special Valentine’s Day Giveaway.

Yes! I am giving away three free copies of my book, Captain of Her Crew: The Commercial Fishing Mom’s Guide to Navigating Life at Home. All you have to do is leave a comment, send a message through my blog’s contact form, or connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

You will have the option of receiving a free PDF or a paperback copy of the book. If you already own a copy or have made contact with me before, you are still more than welcome to participate! I know we all have friends and acquaintances who would enjoy the book.

I’m getting a late start on the day, so the Valentine’s Day Giveaway will stay open to entries until tomorrow (February 15) at 4:00 p.m.!

I look forward to hearing from you and I wish each of you a Happy Valentine’s Day. I will be sharing a heart-shaped pizza from Papa Murphy’s and presents with the little ones, followed by books in bed (Ramona the Pest and Runaway Ralph).

By the way…while I did not receive roses this year, G did plan ahead and sent cards to all of the children and me. Each card included a $1 bill….even mine!

Love to you all!

Captain of Her Crew

Another Night of Nightmares and Restless Sleep

Do any of you ever have boat nightmares? I can’t be the only one. I have boat nightmares about five times a year.  (You can read about a creepy boat nightmare I had a couple of years ago here.) Usually, my nightmares involve our boat rolling over. In this dream, I’m always watching from a distance as the boat leans port and then starboard in a regular manner until she begins to lean too far to port.

“Noooo….” I think in my dream. It never matters; the boat always leans too far until it rolls completely over.

It’s a ridiculous dream, because we have a very solid boat and G is safety-conscious. Our boat has never come close to rolling over. As disturbing as this boat-rolling-over nightmare is, it’s recurring and I’m pretty used to it.

Every once in a while, though, I have a boat nightmare that’s unique and disturbing. I had one of those last night.

In the dream, I was standing on a street. In fact, the street upon which this dream took place is a street that has meaning for me. Anyway, I watched our boat float on down the street. No lines, no captain, no crew, no nothing. Just our big green steel boat, untethered, moving along. My two sisters were with me.

“Look at our boat!” I said. “Someone untied the lines! What will Dad say?”

My sisters and I contacted Dad. “Get on the boat and put it in gear,” he said.

So, in the dream, my sisters and I followed the boat down the street of water. We could hardly move (in dreams, you can always barely move) and a few times, we almost caught up to it.

Then, before our eyes, the boat listed to port and rolled all the way over. It stayed on its side in the water for a while before it righted itself and continued on down the same street. My sisters and I almost caught up to it several more times, but it kept floating beyond our reach. Finally, we got close enough that one of us could jump on board.

We had it! We could rescue our boat, put it in gear, return it to the dock, and tie it back up.

But of course, in dreams, that’s never the way it ends. This dream was no exception. Just as we were going to jump for it, our boat reached a cliff. It was a gigantic waterfall. The boat glided just out of our reach right to the edge of the waterfall, went over the edge, and plummeted into the abyss.

“Valerie!” I said. “Valerie!”

I woke up and remembered Valerie was safe in the next room. So were Eva and Vincent. I assumed G and the boat were safe at sea.

Hmmm. Any dream interpreters out there?

The Epic Launch of the F/V Northern Leader


This past weekend, I experienced one of the coolest events ever—the launch of the brand new, $25 million F/V Northern Leader. Of course, the boat is astonishing. At 184-feet long, it will be the largest vessel in the Bering Sea freezer–longliner fleet. It will also be the most technologically advanced and eco-friendly fishing vessel ever built in the United States, and the largest built in the Pacific Northwest in 25 years.

When Nick Delaney, the project manager for the Northern Leader and a founding member and director of Alaskan Leader Fisheries, LLC, called to invite my family and me to the launch, I felt honored and excited.

I’d love to go! But could I? George was (and is) crabbing and I hadn’t even heard from him in over a week. He obviously couldn’t come (which was a shame, because George has known Nick for two decades and has been involved in other boats owned by Alaskan Leader Fisheries. He’d have loved to see this!)  I had the three little ones I’d need to bring, including baby Valerie. I’d have to drive, find the hotel, and get to the shipyard, all on my own. Oh, and the launch would coordinate with the tide, so the party would begin at 4:00 a.m. Yikes!

Nick, being the kind and generous fellow that he is, offered to cover the hotel and provide care for my children at the launch. Nick has always been a great friend to George and me. He’s known George for about twenty years in both professional and personal capacities, and me for about thirteen years, when I met them both during the building of the F/V Shemya. Nick and his lovely wife, Sally, were great friends of ours while we lived in Ballard, and they attended our wedding. Here’s how cool Nick is; when I first started dating George, he flew me up to Dutch Harbor twice to visit George because he thought I seemed sad and lonely.

As far as the launch of this newest fishing vessel, Nick calmly suggested I think about it. After mulling it over, it occurred to both of us that my dad would probably love to attend the launch as well. Dad launched our own family fishing vessel, the F/V Vis, in 1990, and was also present at the Shemya christening in 2001. He also adores his grandchildren. Dad might love to go!

Fortunately, Dad did decide to attend. It was important to me that my dad and my kids come with. Sure, two of my three little ones could have stayed home with my parents, but I wanted them to see this event. You don’t see the launch of a brand–new, innovative commercial fishing vessel every day. My own family’s fishing and fisheries is much different, but nevertheless, this was an important and history-making part of our culture, and I wanted my children to witness the occasion.

Plus, I know that when Nick has his hand in something, you want to be a part of it. So off we went down the road—and boy, was it worth it.

Talk about cheer, joy, energy, excitement, pride, respect, hope, and optimism! That was the vibe going on at the Martinac shipyard at 4:00 a.m. on January 26, 2013. A huge food cart was provided by Martinac inside the yard, with all kinds of food available free of charge to launch attendees. There was also coffee, boxes and boxes of donuts, hot chocolate, and champagne. The Bailey’s, Smirnoff and Crown on hand made my mouth water. Had the launch just been at 4:00 p.m. rather than 4:00 a.m….ha ha!

Joe Martinac, the president of Martinac Shipbuilding, served as Master of Ceremonies and spoke about the number of local jobs the building of the Northern Leader produced (well over 100 new, full-time jobs). An Irish priest prayed over and blessed the vessel. Governor Jay Inslee gave an authentic and energetic speech (and paused from the podium to compliment my three children who were sitting in the front row—consider me a converted and lifelong Inslee fan!). There was a flag ceremony and playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

And then—the tide literally turned—and it all happened so quickly!

Nick’s wife, Sally, shattered the champagne bottle on the bow. A call sounded. Before I even realized what was going on, the Northern Leader was off! She glided out of the building leaving shouts of joy, clapping, and celebratory ribbons spilling behind her!

For some reason, I assumed the massive vessel would inch bit-by-bit out of the building. Man, was I wrong! She flew out of that building into the bay, where a tug waited to catch her. (I’ve provided a link to my launch videos at the end of this post.)

Within 50 seconds, and accompanied by cheers, celebration, hoots, and hollering, the  F/V Northern Leader left the building.

Fun Facts about F/V Northern Leader and Alaskan Leader Fisheries, LLC:

  • The 184-foot Northern Leader is owned by Alaskan Leader Fisheries, LLC.
  • Alaskan Leader Fisheries was established in 1990 in Kodiak, Alaska by seven commercial fishing families. Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation and the original founding families have an equal 50%-50% ownership interest in the company.
  • The company owns four freezer-longliners, including the 150-foot Alaskan Leader, the 167-foot Bristol Leader, and the 124-foot Bering Leader.
  • At 184′ x 42′ x 18.75′, the new Northern Leader is one of the largest commercial fishing vessels in the country and the largest fishing boat built in the Pacific Northwest in over twenty years.
  • Until the Northern Leader was built, the Bristol Leader was the largest vessel in the freezer-longliner fleet.
  • Construction cost was $25 million.
  • The freezer-longliner will fish primarily for Pacific cod in the Alaska longline fisheries of the North Pacific, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands. It’s homeport will be Kodiak, Alaska and the primary port of operation will be Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
  • The Northern Leader can fish up to 76,000 hooks and will process and freeze 1.9 million pounds of frozen seafood. The second-largest boat in the fleet, the Bristol Leader, carries 1.1 million pounds.
  • The Northern Leader is one of the most technologically advanced and innovative commercial fishing vessels ever built. It will use the latest in diesel-electric technology to power its refrigeration, lighting, and a highly-flexible propulsion system.
  • The vessel will process much of what is normally considered waste; cod livers will be processed for oil and fish heads will be ground up for meal.
  • Jensen Maritime Consultants, the prominent Seattle naval architecture firm, designed all four of the Leader boats.
  • For its design of the Northern Leader, Jensen was awarded the New Wave Award by National Fisherman and Workboat at Pacific Marine Expo 2012. The award honors the environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient design of the Northern Leader’s diesel-electric propulsion, as well as use of the first ever Z-Drive on a Bering Sea longliner.
  • The building of the vessel created over 100 new, full-time jobs jobs at Martinac Shipbuilding Corporation in Tacoma, Washington. Martinac Shipbuiding was founded in 1924 and is one of the oldest shipyards on the U.S. West Coast.

You can click here to watch a few of the videos I took of the launch! My amateur iPhone movies include the blessing of the boat, the Star Spangled Banner, and two of the actual launch (one of which was taken by my dad).

For further reading on the F/V Northern Leader and to view pictures of the interior, please see the post A Day of Celebration: The Christening and Open House of the F/V Northern Leader.

My Sweet Little Bunny, Valerie Joy, Turns One!

It’s hard to imagine that a year ago today, I met Valerie for the first time. On that day, our town was enveloped in snow and ice, but I was warm inside the recovery room, holding my precious gift. What a tiny thing she was, too, just over six pounds. She was so tiny that her exquisite little earlobes weren’t even fully developed; they were fragile, paper-thin lobes that I couldn’t stop marveling at and caressing.

You may remember that dear Valerie was quite a surprise for her father and me! You may also remember that the pregnancy was difficult from start to finish. Literally. I was sick every day and it just got worse as the pregnancy progressed. I had a terrible time with my doctors and nurses and even switched offices halfway through the pregnancy.

I felt nervous giving birth for the third time and nervous at the idea of being in charge of three children! How would I ever be able to do it? Especially with George’s fishing schedule? You may remember that while George made it for the birth, he left two days afterwards and only saw Valerie a couple of times in the following five months. This is not something he felt in any way happy about, but that’s the way it was.

There is a specific reason I chose “Joy” as Valerie’s middle name. I wanted to immediately turn the tide from a difficult pregnancy, and set an optimistic and positive path going forward. I’m here to tell you, a year later, that the name Joy perfectly captures the essence of who Valerie is and what our year together has been like.

I do not have any idea what I’d do without my baby girl. She slept with me every night for her first six months of life, because I couldn’t let her go. I wanted her with me, to stare at her and give her kisses and feel her breath. She sleeps in her own crib now, but I still carry her everywhere in the house and outside of it, giving her kisses. She brings me so much joy with her ready smile, her cute little laugh, and how easy she is to pacify. She is such a pleasant baby, full of love and cheer.

She’s also the light of her siblings’ lives; you’ll see in this photo gallery how very much they love her, packing her around and playing all day long.

George and I were truly blessed by little Valerie Joy’s arrival. I know it’s a cliché, but we truly were and are blessed. She is a baby who clearly wanted to be born, who wanted so much to join our family and enjoy life as the youngest little angel in each of our lives.

I love you, Valerie Joy! Happy First Birthday!

Precious, tiny Valerie Joy.

Precious, tiny Valerie a year ago.

Precious, little Valerie Joy today.

Precious, little Valerie today.

Goodbye, G. Love and Miss You Still.

And just like that…he’s gone.

After what was supposed to be a decent amount of time off—and was caught unbelievably short by the problematic installation of a brand new $150K main engine and other projects—G is underway towards the 2013 Dungeness crab season.

We pulled off a fantastic grand finale: I managed to secure a babysitter, and G and I went out with Bryan, Brett, Johnny, and two additional family friends. We all shared some drinks, some laughs, a few stories, and a few insults before calling it a night.

If you know G and me, you know that this has been a more difficult time off than usual for us. But I tell you, these guys are all my family. When I get to spend time with my “family” I feel renewed, energized, and better able to handle what’s coming next.

My heart sank when I watched G leave tonight. My chest tightened, my throat constricted, and I waved him off quickly before the tears began to stream and the children noticed.

And then, he was gone.

Watching the boat glide out of the harbor on a cold and dark night is both sad and beautiful.

Watching the boat glide out of the harbor on a cold and dark night is at once sad and beautiful.

At a Commercial Fishing Mother Crossroads

If you’ve been a follower of this blog for a while, or you have read my e-book (also available in paperback) then you know that about five years ago, I came to a crossroads. George was fishing a lot and not readily available to the kids or me. Eva (two at the time) was sick with staph and pneumonia, and I also had baby Vincent to care for. Our young dog, Toby, had been diagnosed with cancer.

Ugh. It was a lot, and I was starting to falter under the pressure. I had to make arrangements to ease my load and get some relief, and I did.

Everything went a lot better after that. Now, I’m at another crossroads. I feel again like I’m faltering under the pressure of being a seasonally single mother of three. I am vacuuming, mopping, attending events, returning phone calls and making appointments, reading e-mails, attending meetings, buying and wrapping Christmas presents, sending Christmas cards, hosting parties, opening mail, and making meals. 80% on my own.

George may be “here” but he’s not “here.” He’s at the harbor for ten or so hours each day, installing a huge and expensive new main engine on the boat, and this extra work has cut into his “home time” by three months. When you are married to a fisherman, he may be gone several months a year, but when he’s home, he’s usually “home”. Home to play with kids and help with shopping or even just watch TV. When your fisherman has been gone and then returns, yet he’s still not home, this causes a lot of strain.

I’m starting to get short of patience. I’m annoyed. When will we relax and enjoy the holiday? How lucky for the crew (whom I love and appreciate dearly), who always get to go home and have time off with their families while G still goes down to the boat each and every day to work. I can’t believe some of my girlfriends, who whine about how sick they are or how they couldn’t possibly get through a sick day on the couch without their husbands’ help.

Seriously? I was throwing up all day yesterday. I still had to get up and scrub toilets from sickness left over from my children. And I’m also nursing a baby and mopping floors and trying to organize Christmas alone.

If I sound annoyed, it’s because I am.

Just as I was five years ago, I’m at a crossroads.

In the New Year, I plan to reassess the areas I need extra help (regular housecleaning, for one) and create a new schedule that includes that help.

Mind you, I know how hard George is working. He’s not down at the boat sipping cocktails and laughing with his buddies. He’s crouched down, greasy and cramped, in an engine room. He’s sore and tired and equally as annoyed as me. I know he would rather be home with us than on the boat 24/7.

This is our life, and this is our reality. We live it and for the most part, we love it. The commercial fishing life has its rewards, to be sure.

But when the rewards seem fewer and further between, it’s time to reassess and adjust accordingly.

National Fisherman Blogroll: Fishing Families Matter!

If you haven’t checked out the new blogroll at National Fisherman magazine lately, now’s a good time to do so. You’ll see a handful of newly added commercial fishing—industry blogs to check out, including Highliners and Homecomings.

As I considered the inclusion of my bio and photo for the NF blogroll, I felt a bit of panic. Although I’ve written professionally for over ten years, and Highliners and Homecomings has existed for over six years, I felt some personal pressure.

“I need to publish posts more often! All those drafts? Need to edit and publish more quickly!”

I saw the list of blogs also included. Active fishermen and women! Although I come from a multi–generation fishing family and fished several seasons alongside my sisters aboard the family fishing vessel, I don’t fish now.

Now, I’m a mom! A wife!

Do I still count?

Do we count?

I told myself that as soon as my daughter Eva’s birthday celebration was complete, and my son Vincent’s VIP week at school concluded, and baby Valerie recovered from the croup, I would start rolling out posts more quickly.

In a commercial fishing family, however, things rarely go according to plan.

The week of birthday, VIP, and even the croup will pass. But you know what? Other “things” will always come up.

We’ll say hello to the holiday season and goodbye to Dad for the crab season. Art, Jazzercise, choir, homework, writing, doctor appointments, PTA, and likewise will all come a’calling. And like you, my fellow commercial fishing wives and girlfriends, I’ll be tackling these things from shore, often alone.

That’s how I roll and exactly what I write about: Life, one fishing season at a time.

We may not be at sea, and we may not be fishing, but we still count.

Believe it.


Family, Friends, and Free Goldfish at Fish Expo 2012

Vincent looked around tonight at the dinner table. It seemed something (or someone) was missing.

“Where Dad is?” he asked.

“Westport,” I said. “Don’t worry. He’ll be home tomorrow.”

It’s 6:00 in the evening and G is at the Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen Association’s annual meeting in Westport, Washington. The kids and I are at home; it didn’t work out for us to attend this year, although it is an event I do enjoy. Who doesn’t like dinner, drinks, and chances to win tons of of cool things any fishing family would appreciate, like pallets of free crab bait and hand-woven doormats made of crab line?

Meanwhile here at home, I’ve got baby Valerie asleep, all three children fed, and I’ve snuck away to my new Mac for about the next three minutes to write this blog post.

We had a great time at Pacific Marine Expo (Fish Expo) last week. I spoke at a fishing families keynote address along with Lori French and fellow fishing family blogger, Robin Blue. We each took a turn at the mic and distributed handouts, and then I spent the rest of the day walking up and down the convention aisles, running into tons of people I know and haven’t seen since last year’s Expo.

As always, I was blown away and overwhelmed—in a good way—by the event. I look forward to Fish Expo as much as I do to Thanksgiving. I often link the two events together, as they run side-by-side each year in November, and each event is filled with friends, family, love, fun, smiles, and genuine goodwill. All three of my children attended, as well as my dad (Grandpa Jack), George, and Brett.

Brett somehow secured Eva a “free” goldfish at Expo. She brought the “free” goldfish home in a rinsed out 7-Up bottle. Now, her “free” goldfish is enjoying a $120 starter aquarium with three additional fishy friends. Thanks, Brett!

I plan to have my Fish Expo handout from the fishing families forum available soon as a free download on this blog.


I love this picture. Lori French, of the Faces of California Fishing, is at the podium. Robin Blue, of The Fishing Blues, and I wait on deck.


David Hills, everyone’s favorite commercial fishing photographer, and me.


Grandpa, Jack Karuza, with our newest Fish Expo attendee, Valerie Joy.

Thankful for Awesome Commercial Fishing Kids and a Great Crew!

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I’ll say that I’m very thankful for G and the crew, who work hard in scary ocean weather all over Washington and Alaska throughout the year to provide for their families.  I’m especially thankful to have had the same group of guys around the past five to twelve years. We get to hang out each pre-and-post season, celebrate marriages and the addition of children (there’s about a dozen kids among us all), sympathize during hard times, and continue strengthening bonds year after year. It’s not that common to have the same crew season after season, and we are fortunate.

I’m also thankful for my fishing kids, who never  complain or feel sorry for themselves that they have a father who must go to sea and be away from home. On the contrary, they are proud of their dad. They understand who he is, what he does, and they have pride in their family and heritage. They also love Brett, Bryan, and Johnny, and visiting the harbor to see the operation at work.

As a matter of fact, I am proud of all the little fishing kids I know in my community. These little ones range in age from ten months to seven years old and beyond, and they could not be a sweeter, more caring, smarter bunch of children. They come from  responsible and hardworking families, and their resilient spirits are a credit to their parents.

Vincent’s best friend in kindergarten is actually a little fellow whose father is also a fisherman. When I told Vincent that H’s father was also a crab captain, Vincent could not have been more thrilled.

“So we have the SAME DAD?!” he asked, beaming from ear to ear.

Uh, not exactly…lol!

A funny thing happened yesterday for which I’m also thankful; G sold his flatbed truck. He’s used that faithful Ford for years to tow thousands of pounds of Dungeness crab to various fresh markets, as well as stack it sky-high with crab pots and tow forklifts and everything else.

G recently bought a new truck for the same purpose, but hadn’t yet listed the original flatbed. It was on his “to do list” along with a million other things.

However, out of nowhere yesterday, a random man at an electric shop the same time as G leaned his head out of his own truck window asked if G was interested in selling his flatbed. Interested? Heck yeah! Two hours later, the truck had a happy new owner. No listing, fielding phone calls, or detailing necessary. Sweet!

Now, getting back to Dungeness crab gear work in the pre-season…

After buoy painting, George and the crew move into splicing lines and rigging crab pots.

For readers unfamiliar with the term “splicing,” it involves taking apart the end of a line (rope) and weaving the strands of the end back into itself to create an “eye.”

The guys go over and through each of the 500 crab pots, checking for holes, making repairs, putting on the new zincs, and getting them ready to load on the boat.

Here are a handful of pictures of George and the crew (Bryan, Brett, and John) overhauling pots five years ago:




And here are the same fellas just yesterday (along with Eva and Valerie. Vincent was still at school).

Happy Thanksgiving, all! Time to take it down a notch, relax, and enjoy a day with the fam. :)

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. :)


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.