Archive for Commercial Fishing Captain

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.

Fishermen Always Miss Out

Robin Blue, of the blog The Fishing Blues, has done an incredible job in her latest post capturing the schedule–or lack there of–of a commercial fisherman and a commercial fishing family. It’s an honest and beautifully written post, true to Robin’s form. What’s normal in a “regular” family is not the norm in a commercial fishing family, and her description of the missed birthdays, weddings, first days of school, anniversaries, Mother’s Days and close calls at Christmas is right on the money. Beautifully done, Robin!

After Five Months, Just Four More Days.

We went another couple of weeks without hearing from George. I knew I would hear from him eventually, and I did today.

After three months alone with the kids, and only one week spent as a family since January, George called bearing good news—he is on his way home.

We have only spent one week together since January. That’s five months ago!

And, that is without Skype, FaceTime, or any other “fancy” means of communication….including a cell phone most of the time. George fishes in remote areas and we do not have access to those means of communication.

And when he does come into port, he and the crew are busy unloading and getting ready to head out to sea again, and there just is never any—or enough—time.

George sounded really good when I talked to him briefly today, and I was thrilled to tell the kids that their dad will be home in about four days.

I have been telling Eva and Vincent for the past five months that Daddy would be home “in the summer.” Ironically, it now seems as though George will be home, literally, on the first day of summer.

I don’t normally toot my own horn, but I am proud. We did it. The children and I made it through. We made it through gymnastics and ballet and homework and shopping and meals and baths.

We got back to Jazzercise and learned how to cook and finished kindergarten projects. We brushed teeth and said prayers and went to sleep and woke up the next morning.

We even integrated a brand-new baby into the family.

Now, it will be time to acclimate as a whole family. Not as one mother with three children, but one mother and a father with three children.

I do look forward to a wonderful summer together as a whole and complete family of five. I can’t wait for George to get home and for the family and summer fun to begin. George has not been home for an entire summer in probably ten years.

I am excited for Vincent to get to do “boy things” with his dad, and Eva to be able to shower another someone with her hugs and kisses, and for Valerie to get to know her dad.

Whew, that’s a lot. I do believe we will take it moment by moment.

Hang On, Vincent. Daddy’s On His Way.

Last week, my four-year-old son, Vincent, came and stood beside me in the kitchen.

“You are good at cooking and making people feel better, Mommy,” he told me.

Stunned and pleased (primarily in part because he thought I was a good cook), I leaned down and gave him a little hug.

“Well, thank you, Vincent. What a nice thing to say!” I replied.

“But Daddy knows way more than you do,” he finished.

Uh…what?

Vincent went on to name all of the things that Daddy can do that Mommy cannot. I laughed and was not offended in the least; on the contrary, I was happy that Vincent remembers and thinks so highly of his dad who is away working so hard to support all of us.

Just tonight, Vincent came up to me and said he wanted to pray for all of the people who were gone.

“The people who have gone to Heaven, or the people who are just not at home?” I asked.

“All of them,” he said.

“Okay, we will pray for them at bedtime,” I said.

“No. Now.” Vincent replied.

So, we joined Eva in my bathroom where she was taking a bath. We held hands and prayed for Daddy on the boat. We prayed for Grandma and Grandpa who had been in Hawaii but were now at home.

We prayed for sweet Toby, our brindle pit bull, who died at this time last year. We prayed again for dear baby Esther, who joined Jesus within a month of her birth.

Later, I will thank God that I have a little boy who is so sweet and thoughtful. I will pray that when his daddy gets home, there will be plenty of “boy time” for them to ride on forklifts, fix things with wrenches and hammers, and go fishing together.

It can’t be easy for Vincent, who is a little boy in the middle of two sisters, the only grandson or nephew on either side, with only girl cousins, surrounded by women all the time. We are grateful for Grandpa, who comes by often in his Ford diesel to pick up Vincent and spend quality time with him when Daddy is gone.

I cannot wait for my Vincent to spend a wonderful summer with his dad, giggling and talking as they repair things at home and play together at the pool.

Only two weeks left, and Vincent’s wish will come true.

Daddy will be home.

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Waiting For The Phone To Ring

I’m feeling a little blue today. Not only is the weather gray and drizzly, but I have no idea where my husband is and I haven’t talked to him in around two weeks. Actually, I have only talked to G about three times in the last couple of months, and it is starting to dawn on me that is kind of a long time to go without communicating with one’s spouse…even for people like us, who are totally used to limited and non-existent communication.

Sure, I could try calling the satellite phone, but I always hesitate to do that because once I start calling THAT phone and he doesn’t answer, the more frustrated I become, and then I grow worried. A worried momma doesn’t do anyone any good. I’m not concerned yet; I know G is likely in the Gulf of Alaska without cell phone coverage, working hard to catch that part of the halibut and blackcod quota, and then moving into Southeast Alaska.

George loses track of time easily whether he’s at sea or on shore, and he probably doesn’t even realize how long it has been since he’s called home. I have to admit though, that while everything has been going (and continues to go) better than expected with the three little ones and me at home, time is starting to drag and I’m getting rather tired.

We are still moving forward, however; Vincent finished up one of his pre-schools, Eva’s kindergarten has many end-of-school-year activities planned, and my parents returned from Hawaii. I’ve also been at Jazzercise just about every morning for the past three weeks, working off stress and weight, which is a win-win for me! At this point, if I didn’t have Jazzercise to go and see my friends, visit with all of our children, and bust a move to up-tempo music, I’m sure I wouldn’t be doing this well at home.

Hurry up and get into cell phone coverage, G! (I know he can’t read this, but maybe if I send the message out into the sphere he’ll catch it and call.)

Soldiering on…

Finally, a Phone Call From Sand Point. Ten Days Down…

One thing about me that bugs George to no end is my rather untimely way of getting to the bills. It wasn’t always this way; having a touch of OCD and understanding the importance of responsible finances, I always made sure I knew how much was in my accounts and each penny was accounted for. I also sent in my bills on time, for I didn’t want to put even the slightest dent in my good credit.

As the years have gone by, though, I’ve become increasingly slower and less interested in getting to the bills and balancing the household checkbook. (Never mind the business accounts; George doesn’t let me NEAR those!) I don’t know; I think it’s the limited amount of time I have to sit at my desk and open envelopes, review their contents, write checks, seal and stamp envelopes.

Having three children, including one infant, doesn’t leave one with much desk time. Oh, and when I do find time to sit at my desk, there are other things I’d rather do, like Facebook…and this blog…maybe a little Twitter thrown in for fun. Ha.

George has put as many bills as he can on autopay and when he’s home, he just takes over all the accounts to make sure everything is done on time. So when it is time for him to leave home, he gets a little nervous about leaving me in charge of the remaining bills.

“Please pay the bills on time while I’m gone,” he said before he left for this year’s blackcod and halibut season. “Please!”

George doesn’t ask too much of me, so I said I would definitely try to stay on top of it.

Valerie slept this morning for a bit, so I took the opportunity to get to those bills. When I opened the checkbook, I discovered a sticky note George left for me with instructions on which bills to pay and out of which checkbook. Lol! That’s my guy. Well, he needn’t worry; I managed to pay all the bills this morning and even balanced the checkbook. One month of bills down, two or three more to go.

Now that I’m truly the only parent on duty, I’ve started having ridiculous mom nightmares each night. Terrible dreams that don’t even make sense, like I can’t remember where to pick up my children or at what time. Or dreams in which I have a child with me one minute, and then I turn around and she’s gone.

I had one ludicrous nightmare already this week in which I’d become a loser mom who spent an entire day at the local casino, won $100 and was so excited that I lost all track of time and never made it back to town to pick up my children from school. Okay—now, I don’t even gamble (we work too hard for our money to throw it away!) and I obviously would never waste an entire day at a casino or forget about my children! For Pete’s sake.

These nightmares scare me because I am the exact opposite. I check on my children multiple times when they’re playing in our own backyard. I know exactly where they are, what they’re doing, and who they’re with at all times during the day. I get up and check on them several times during the night. And when I’m the sole parent on duty, I’m hyper vigilant. This is my subconscious rearing its ugly head while I’m asleep, and I don’t really appreciate it.

I finally got a chance to talk to G yesterday. I hadn’t heard from him in over ten days and was starting to worry a bit, but I abide by the saying that no news is good news. I didn’t know if he was going to start out in Southeast Alaska, the Gulf, or head all the way out west, so I just waited. Turns out he’s starting out west which takes a long time to get to, and he called me once they made it to Sand Point. He said the weather was good so they were going to get right out and get to it.

Here’s hoping they get on the fish quickly and wrap up that part of it sooner rather than later. Fishing out west is no fun; I’ll feel better once they move into the Gulf and then Southeast. It was good to hear his voice, though, and now maybe my subconscious will settle down a bit.

The May Issue of National Fisherman: Recognize That Guy On The Cover?

There was plenty of excitement around here for a commercial fishing mommy and her ducklings when the May issue of National Fisherman magazine showed up in the mail yesterday. Hey, that’s Daddy on the cover!

This was a photo of George taken by David Hills in the Gulf of Alaska during the blackcod/halibut season a couple of years ago. David has gone out a couple of times with the boat; once to take pictures during the longline season and once during Dungeneness crab season. I’m excited that his shot made the cover!

Ironically, if you look on page four of the magazine underneath the section “10 Years Ago,” you’ll see a cover shot and profile that I wrote a decade ago on my old stomping grounds of Ketchikan, Alaska. It boggles my mind that I am seeing my cover shots and stories in that section more and more. Ten years ago…before homes, dogs, children, boats…when I traveled up and down the West Coast and Alaska taking pictures and writing stories.

Fortunately, even if I’m currently unable to travel, the Internet has made it possible for me to keep writing and to expand into my current niche as a writer about commercial fishing families. You’ve got to be able to transition and grow and expand as a writer!

Also included in the May issue of National Fisherman are two shots taken by Zed Blue, the husband of my friend and fellow writer, Robin, who blogs about her fishing family at The Fishing Blues.  Zed took the photo on pages 18-19 of the Bering Sea crabbers, and the photo on page 20 of longlining for blackcod.

It was perfect timing that this issue, with a picture of G on the cover during the blackcod/halibut season, arrived just yesterday, because he is heading north in two days to do the same exact thing. Cool send-off for the boat—and maybe, a sign of good luck and a great season ahead.

G gaffing a blackcod during the Alaska blackcod and halibut season. Photo by David Hills (www.fishingpix.net).

Do Girls Like Commercial Fishermen?

I’ve written before that one of the most fun parts of writing this blog is keeping an eye on the search terms people use when they are directed here by various search engines. Many people who land here are looking for information on the Dungeness crab season and rigging crab pots, searching for longline vessels or other boats I’ve mentioned by name, or looking for quotes about commercial fishing and commercial fishing photographs.

Every once in a while, a search term comes through that really makes me smile. Yesterday, I received two such searches! Here they are:

1. Pics of a chick with the Walther PPS

2. Do girls like commercial fishermen?

Now, I think the person looking for pictures of a girl with the awesome Walther PPS (a 9mm semi-automatic pistol made in Germany by Walther Sportwaffen) made it to my blog because I’ve written before that I have my very own Walther PPS that I absolutely love.

Although I do have some video and pictures of me popping off a few rounds from the PPS at the range, I don’t think I’ve ever published them here because I know that guns are frightening to many people, and I don’t want to make my mom nervous.

As for the question of whether girls like commercial fishermen, the answer is YES!

Here are some reasons why. The following list is off the top of my head and in random order.

Why Girls Like Commercial Fishermen

1. They are adorable in their baseball hats.

2. They look hot in Carhartts.

3. They are strong.

4. They’re tough.

5. They have endurance.

6. Fishermen will work through sickness, injury, and weather to get it done.

7. They enjoy sitting around a galley table, telling stories and laughing.

8. A fisherman is a man’s man.

9. Fishermen are grateful and appreciative of everything their wives and girlfriends do for them.

10. They are tough and brave, but they don’t boast about it. They simply let their work speak volumes.

11. Fishermen are generous with their money and will help out friends and family in need.

12. They generally have good taste in music.

13. They’re usually up to go out and have a good time in town.

14. They are smart.

15. They can read charts and navigate a boat through storms.

16. Fishermen are not afraid to get their hands dirty and their clothes greasy.

17. Fishermen clean up very well.

18. They like to read.

19. They don’t have to be entertained every second of the day. Are fine with solitude.

20. They can kick a** when they have to, but they don’t let anyone know that until it’s already been done.

21. Fishermen are quick to forgive and move on.

22. They are cute.

23. They have a sense of humor.

24. Fishermen can tackle house projects and complete them with ease.

25. They’re able to identify and troubleshoot almost any car or house issue.

26. They look good riding around in their trucks.

27. Fishermen have steady natures for the most part.

28. They’re quick to smile.

29. They’re loyal to their friends and family.

30. Fishermen are easy to please and are not overly demanding at home.

31. Most fishermen can cook.

Okay, there’s my first thirty-one reasons why girls like commercial fishermen. As always, feel free to chime in with your thoughts!

First Week of Kindergarten: So Far, So Good.

Well, here Mommy sits. Alone. In a quiet house. About to nod off for the lack of little voices, activity, and general family energy. Thank goodness for my dog, Mandy, and the baby twirling in my tummy, or I’d really feel lonely! If it wasn’t for this harsh fall cough I’ve developed, I’d be at Jazzercise with the rest of the moms!

Dad’s down at the boat, fixing crane leaks and getting ready to haul the boat out before the Dungeness crab season festivities begin. I’m not sure why he’s hauling out the boat this time; it seems like he just did it not too long ago, and our boat isn’t the kind you just haul out of the water at random. I was surprised when G emerged in Carhartts this morning, even though he insisted he told me he was resuming boat work today!

Vincent, of course, ran immediately back to his room to put on his work clothes as well, and I took him to preschool dressed in brand new Carhartt overalls just like Daddy.

Eva started kindergarten last week and so far everything has been fine. I was pretty sad the first morning and just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my first-born baby was sitting in a classroom and would be there all day long. Without me. Eva has been involved in preschool, gymnastics, ballet, and Jazzercise since she was born, but these are things I’ve been involved with right alongside her, and they were controlled environments with parents and children I knew and approved of.

It was strange not recognizing any parent or any child at school. I did see my neighbor, though, which helped. And I am so glad that I know Eva’s kindergarten teacher personally and have full confidence in her professional, family, personal, and educational ethics. Other high points included the fact that the school is tiny and there is just one small kindergarten classroom and one kindergarten/first grade split.

I returned several afternoons last week to have lunch with Eva, I joined the PTA, and filled out classroom volunteer paperwork. You better believe that Momma will be at school with her eagle eye out, sharp and focused, as often as I can. It’s important for me to see who Eva is sitting with at lunch, how the other kids behave, and get a feel for the parents. In fact, I was there so often last week that some of the kids on the playground thought I was on official duty and came over to show me things like the lady bug they’d collected and saved in a jar.

We don’t live far from the school and there’s no real reason for Eva to ride the one bus that services the school and the neighborhood. I was not planning for her to ride it this year at all and was only half-considering it for next year. Eva, though, had other plans.

“Ke’ala rides the bus! Danielle rides the bus! Isaac and Zane ride the bus!” she insisted.

I agreed to “think” about it. Then, I met with the bus driver one day after school. I met with the driver again the next day and accepted the bus paperwork. I asked questions about exactly who rides the bus, what the rules were, and how they ensured safety.

“We haven’t lost a child yet,” she said, smiling.

On the third day, I boarded the bus with Eva and sat her down in the front seat closest to the driver. I explained that this was the only seat I would allow her to sit in and she had to follow Mommy’s rules. I observed every child that boarded the bus before I left Eva.

I stood and waved as the bus pulled out, then drove promptly to the bus stop where I picked Eva up. George and Vincent were there too, along with our dog, Mandy. Vincent wouldn’t look at us, though, because he was mad he couldn’t ride the bus with Eva. When the bus arrived and Eva climbed down the stairs, Vincent ran to to her and wrapped her up in a big bear hug.

It looks like we’ve got a school Open House this week and a school-and-church sponsored Southside Community Meal that we’ve been invited to. I have Eva’s daily class schedule here with me, so I know exactly what she’s learning and what she’s doing every hour of the day.

Quick stop at Lowe's before heading to a princess tea party.

First day of preschool. Dirt rocks!

My little scholar.