Archive for Commercial Fishing Girls – Page 2

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.


Pink Harvest–A book and a reading by Toni Mirosevich

I attended a reading at a local bookstore this weekend, something I always enjoy and recommend to everyone. Readings are usually free, last about an hour, have an aura of intellect and celebration about them, and are just simply a pleasant way to spend part of an evening.

I went with my five-month old, Vincent, to hear Croatian-American author Toni Mirosevich read three moving selections from her book, Pink Harvest.  Mirosevich grew up in the Croatian-American fishing community in Everett, WA, and is now a professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University. Before leaving, Vincent and I cornered the author and asked her to sign our copy of the book.

Mirosevich wrote a wonderful message to me in which she acknowledged our similar Slav commercial fishing backgrounds and wished me luck with my own writing harvest. It is one of the nicest messages I have received in a signed  book.

My dad had pre-ordered a copy of Pink Harvest, but left to go catch Dungeness crab (for a couple of weeks) with George before his copy of the book arrived. Hence, he also missed the reading, which he too would have enjoyed, as there were fellow Slavs in attendance and the mood was light.

Here is an excerpt from an article written about Mirosevich in The Bellingham Herald:

Q: How did the Slav and the Pacific Northwest fishing communities influence your temperament, your way of viewing the world?

A: There’s a great quote from an interview with the writer Jamaica Kincaid that I use in one of my stories. “You grow up on a street and it’s a tiny street. The street may not be as big as this yard out there. But it becomes your world. It’s the only thing you know and you know it unbelievably well with this thickness, this heaviness, and you have no interest in anything else. It would not occur to you that there might be something else.”

I’ve always felt this quote described what growing up in the Slav community felt like. Until I went to public school, the world I knew was all Croatian-American; the fathers fished, the mothers stayed home and raised the families. Everyone knew everyone else and everyone else’s business, too. I knew of no other world. It was as if the entire world was that “tiny street” in Everett or on that 14th Street dock.

As I grew up I became more adept at moving between two cultures or straddling two cultures — the Slav world and “the other world,” which was anything outside of Slav world. Adept at listening in on the two languages spoken at home, familiar with eating Dalmatian brodet one night — the one fish dish I know how to make — and having American macaroni and cheese the next.

You can read the full article about Toni Mirosevich here, or you can access her personal website if you would like additional information about the author.

That’s Fishin’

I wrote a post a while back (“Business as Usual”) that described the start of almost every Washington Coast Dungeness Crab season. The past couple of days made
obvious that this year’s season was gearing up to begin in the usual way—weather delays, a couple of pumps that went out on the boat, and talk of a fleet-wide strike after one of the main buyers suddenly dropped its price.

I spoke with my family and some of our fishing friends yesterday about how this lifestyle is not for everyone. Things come up; whether it’s the engine, weather, price (you can’t fish for nothing!), catch, or crew, you simply have to accept that you have no control over any of it. The only thing one can expect is the unexpected. 

Like our good friend Adrian, who was a Bering Sea fisherman and who Vis Seafoods is lucky to have had on site for the past ten years, simply said, “That’s fishin’.”

(Chiming in simultaneously was my sister, Cassandra, who fished in SE Alaska, and Jamie, who fished in Prince William Sound, and whose parents are Alaska bush pilots. We’re a salty bunch, can you tell?)

Anyway, because of the aforementioned issues, by noon yesterday, George had not yet left the harbor to dump his gear in the Pacific Ocean. In fact, when I talked to him, he was in Olympia, getting parts for the pumps. He planned to race back to Westport to attend the 1 p.m. meeting of the fleet that would decide whether they’d stand united in the harbor and strike for a better price (not even a “better” price, but simply the going rate until the going rate was suddenly dropped) or accept the reduced price and go fishing.

The result of the 1 p.m. meeting was that the fleet would meet again at 6 p.m. The Coast weather was set to come up anyway, so there wasn’t any real rush on the matter.

Well, at 5:55 p.m., my phone rang. “Change of plans!” George said with a not-amused chuckle. He sounded distracted and I heard engines; for a second, I thought the fleet decided to strike and he was back in the flatbed on his way home for a few days.

To my surprise, George was not on his way home, but on his way out to sea.

He quickly described how he had been in the engine room of the boat, several feet below the water, fixing the pumps when he’d became aware of an increase in noise and activity beneath the sea; engines and props firing up at a rapid rate.

“What’s going on out there?” he called out to Brett from the engine room.

“Boats are leaving!” Brett announced. George knew at once the strike was broken before it had begun.

“Put your tools away!” George called next to Bryan as he scrambled out of the engine room. “Start it up!” he said, referring to the main engine.

In moments, they too raced out of the harbor. He learned on his way out what had happened: Instead of waiting for the 6 p.m. meeting, one boat unexpectedly left the harbor, followed by two of the bigger boats, effectively ending the chance for a better (original) price.

“So much for solidarity,” said George, who estimates he was the 15th boat out of the harbor. He watched as the lights and engines of the rest of the vessels in the harbor lit up behind him in a domino effect.

“Well, like Willis says,” George had said earlier that day, quoting Bryan:

“That’s the way it goes

When you wear

Rubber clothes.”

Good News for Commercial Fishing Girls

Am I behind the times?

It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to discover that I am.

I just received the latest issue of National Fisherman magazine and was reading through it when I came upon an ad I had not seen before—one for raingear designed specifically for the commercial fishing girl!

They did not have these–(“Women Bib Trousers”)– when my sisters and I were commercial fishing.

The description for the raingear reads as follows:

The Only Commercial Grade Bib Trousers Especially Designed for Women.

Highlights include:

  • Chest high front and special cut for a better fit
  • Double layer on the front, triple inside layer used as pocket for knee pads
  • waist adjustment
  • adjustable suspenders with heavy duty buckles
  • color: orange

If I was still fishing, I would definitely check these out. They are from Guy Cotten and the web address is

My husband happens to have a heavy-duty sweatshirt from Guy Cotten with our boat embroidered on it, and the quality is excellent.

“They need to go!”

I’ve decided that the summers I spent working on the crew of our family fishing boat in SE Alaska were some of the best training I could have gotten for my future gig as Wife and Mother.

Due to ongoing home-improvement projects, this week has been a tough one at the Schile house. Today is Sunday, and I have only just returned home after being gone all week.

You just can’t get major house projects done with a Mommy, a baby, and a young toddler in the house. And a Mommy can’t get her stuff done with all sorts of workmen in the house. On Tuesday, the beginnings of a migraine landed me on the couch for a brief moment, which was just never going to do.

I was stressed. I’d gotten up the night before and realized I was literally walking down the hallway on dirt. Eva had been sleeping in her own room (which had been reduced to a plywood box with only her crib inside), until her crib was finally dismantled and she was moved into Vince’s crib in our room. Vince got moved out to the living room and slept in George’s arms all night. My last free space was taken when the dogs were moved into the living room and gated in.

So, I finally made what I like to call a Mommy Decision: The kids and I would have to go. George, his crew, and the work crew would be able to move more quickly and really knock this stuff out if we weren’t in the way. My decision was validated a day later when I overheard the Contractor inquire of George “what the family situation was,” which I knew was code for, “They need to go!”

This week, I drew from the life lessons I learned while fishing with my family and the crew when I was a deckhand on our boat. Here are only a few:

  • Even without sleep, you still have to be able to function.
  • You can’t yell at people even if/when you want to.
  • In a small space, you have to be mindful of others and keep your ship tight.
  • Expect the unexpected because things rarely go as planned.
  • Learn to adjust.
  • You can do more than you think you can.
  • The crew may be tired and worn out,  but the Captain must set the example and forge ahead—as pleasantly as possible.
  • You must find your hidden strength when you think you can’t do one more thing.
  • Don’t take anything personally.
  • When you are done, you can feel proud. Strong. Accomplished. You did your job and you did it well. Your energy is renewed and you will finally be able to rest.

A captain and crew all work together, as quickly and as hard as possible, to reach a common goal. Whether that is a hatch full of fish or the creation of a beautiful home in which to live, one must keep the goal in mind at all times and find the joy that’s there along the way. There’s plenty of it to be found if you remember to look.

On a commercial fishing boat, joy might be found in a secret or a joke shared with your sisters on the deck. Or in the smile and apologetic shrug you offer to the skiffman after you drop the line that he threw to you back into the ocean. In the way you stand and eat an ice-cream sandwich on the tender while keeping record of the fish that your fellow crewmembers sort in the freezing cold. In waking up the morning after the opening and seeing the box of donuts bought and placed on the galley table by Dad, who got up extra early to treat everyone. In adding up the figures after the delivery and realizing your hard work just bought your tickets to Hawaii.

In your gig as Wife and Mommy During a Construction Project, joy is found in the offer of your parents with a place to stay and immeasurable help with your kids. In Dad helping your husband with the construction clean-up. In your boat crew generously helping with your projects when they certainly don’t have to. In Mom making a family dinner for everyone, and in your sister calling with an offer of a bacon burger and a place to hang out. In returning home and seeing the beautiful results of your husband’s hard work and that of everyone else’s.

The work and the joy are endless.