Archive for Commercial Fishing Seasons – Page 2

Good Times

This week, my dad sent around a couple of links to You Tube videos that featured salmon seining in Southeast Alaska. I enjoyed them so much that I am providing the links so that you can watch them also. Here they are:

F/V Quandary

F/V Pillar Bay

Admittedly, my family and I felt a range of emotions as we watched the videos. We felt a surge of excitement as we watched the huge bags of salmon spill over the sides of these boats, and a familiar pride as we watched the crew celebrate the reward of hard work. I’ll even admit to a little jealousy that it wasn’t us up there filling the hatches, or our own SE Alaska seine videos so beautifully assembled for viewing on You Tube.

My, how quickly time does pass.

When my sisters and I were working for my dad on the back deck of the F/V Vis during the SE Alaska salmon season, there was no You Tube. There weren’t even cell phones. Or i Pods.

We had walkmans and discmans, and one calling card to use at the pay phone at the top of the dock at Bar Harbor, primarily for trying to reach Mom.

But, as I told Dad last night, watching these videos transported me right back to my days as a 20-year-old leads-and-web gal. I was transformed from an anxious mother of two tiny children back to another time. I felt the old thrill of a fantastic set, and enjoyed a knowing chuckle as I watched the guy in the video stab at the ocean with the plunger pole from the bow of the skiff, determined to keep those salmon inside the net. 

Part of my family’s 4th of July celebration was spent talking about these videos and sharing our own memories of Southeast Alaska salmon seining. The other part was spent cheering Eva on as she danced in the living room, observing Vincent as he tried to stand on his own, and assembling on the deck for fireworks-viewing.

Good times, all.

Topping Off the Tanks

“No doubt about it. Fishing is a hard way to make a buck…Pile on top of that the worry about the health of the industry, the physical wear and tear, and the separation from family and you’ve got a career that is so difficult, most human beings wouldn’t last a minute in it.”

(Letters to Fishing Families

Oregon State University/Extension Sea Grant/Fishing Families Project)

 

George has been home from the Alaska halibut and blackcod season for about two weeks now. So far, the adjustment from sea to shore, boat to home, and crew to family has gone rather smoothly. Far smoother than usual, in fact. We’ve just been too busy this time around with continuing obligations, commitments, and two tiny children to allow room for our usual (loving, of course!) bossiness and stubbornness to have any real impact.

As soon as we celebrated the end of the season with the customary crew dinner, George was back to work. He’s been cleaning the fuel tanks on the boat and grinding, priming, and painting rust spots. I heard him talking to someone on the phone today about the schedule to haul the boat out in order to sandblast and paint the bottom.

I’ve been working much harder than usual on my projects and enjoying teaching Jazzercise at my new location. We finally set a date for our family trip, and the basement renovation is moving forward at breakneck speed.

Even though things are going well, I feel the slightest sense of foreboding. Marine diesel is $4.20 per gallon. To fill the boat’s tanks from scratch would cost about $36,000. However, when George goes to fill the tanks tomorrow, it won’t cost quite that much. Because they burned about 7000 gallons of fuel during the Alaska halibut and blackcod longline season, topping off the tanks will cost about $28,000.

The cost of marine diesel affects more than the checkbook, however. It also impacts what, if any, summer fishery George will participate in. The cost of fuel is currently so high that the profit margin on a summer fishery could be so narrow it may not be worth the risk to go do it.  And he isn’t alone–that much became clear  while reading through the most recent Western Fishboat Owner’s Association newsletter.

I walked into the living room today and noticed George digging around in my files.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

“A letter,” he answered.

“I haven’t seen one,” I said, mentally picturing the sort of mail I receive and deal with while George is gone fishing: explanation of benefits from the insurance company, household bills, Fidelity statements, moorage and storage from Westport to Seward and every port in between.

“Nope,” I said. “I never saw a letter.”

“It came last January,” said George.

January, January, I thought. Let’s see. George was crabbing…Vincent was six months old…I was teaching Jazzercise…

“No,” I said again. “I never saw a letter. If I’d seen a strange letter, I would have put it in your pile and waited for direction on what to do with it.”

Well. I decided my best move would be to sit in my pink chair and admire my piles of folded laundry while George searched for the letter and made a series of phone calls. I was still sitting there when he came in to give me the update on the missing letter. Following the rundown, I was awash in gratitude as well as feeling lucky that George is a good provider and a good saver.  

In between the intensity of the heat and stress the afternoon brought us today, I had the pleasure of corresponding with my good friend (and the editor of National Fisherman) Jerry Fraser. We spoke via e-mail about the impact that the price of marine diesel is having on most everyone on the industry. 

“Well, hang in there,” he wrote. “Everything is a cycle.”

I’m hanging in. We aren’t most human beings. We’re a fishing family, and we’ll last a minute.

 

The Best Search Term EVER!

One of the things I’ve found most interesting since starting this blog is studying the statistics for Highliners and Homecomings. These statistics include a daily record that tells me how many people have found their way to this blog and what they were looking for when they found it.

When I log on to my “dashboard,” I can read an anonymous list of the specific things that people were searching for when they purposely, or inadvertently, stumbled upon this blog. (Again–just in case you’re wondering—no, I don’t know where or from whom the searches originate. They remain a mystery.)

For example. The following is a list that I copied directly from yesterday’s statistics page and pasted here. It shows specific items of interest that people were looking for just before they were directed to Highliners and Homecomings:

 

“dungeness crab fishing stories”

work on commercial fishing longliner

what is family life like to a commercial

dungeness crab season

pictures of f/v halibut longliners

spike walker

most deadly job and stats

halibut long line equipment

 

After I put Eva to bed tonight, I logged on and checked my stats. To my surprise and delight, I enjoyed a good laugh when I read the latest search term that lead someone to this blog. Here it is:


Today

how to deal with a commercial fisherman

 

Oh, how I wish I knew the answer.

Does anyone?!  Let us know! 

 

Celebrating Summer with Joy and Gratitude

The Writer Mama has a post up on her blog in which she celebrates the start of summer by sharing a list of things currently bringing her joy. It’s such a nice idea that I decided to celebrate the new season by sharing my own list.

  • Writing Mentors.    I am happy that I can learn from writers more experienced than me, who can point me in new directions and open my eyes to things I would never have thought about.  I can accomplish so much more by being open to the guidance of those who have already been there.
  • Jazzercise Mentors.  I am grateful that I have found a new home in which to teach Jazzercise. My new teaching environment is healthy, encouraging, and positive. I also welcome advice from seasoned Jazzercise instructors and am glad I have a willingness to learn from them.
  • Toby’s Health.  We were shocked last March when, after having his eye and tumor removed, our regal pitbull, Toby, was diagnosed with lymphoma. The cancer clinic, eye surgeons, and traditional vet told us he would have about 30 days to live. We weren’t sure he’d survive to welcome George home from Alaska following the halibut and blackcod season. Well, I’m happy to announce that Toby, thanks to diet and holistic vet treatments, is not only still alive, he has gained six pounds and is thriving.
  • Extended Family.  I am grateful to my parents, sisters, and their partners for help and laughter. They are always willing to pitch in when I need a break, ready with something funny to say when I need a laugh, and bursting with news when I’m looking for “information.”
  •  Lisa.  One of the smartest, quickest, sharpest people I know. She walks our dogs, gives us all the direction and information we need to to ensure Toby’s health, and is a constant source of encouragement and humor.
  • My Little Family. George, Eva, Vincent, Mandy, and Toby. May we appreciate who we are, look forward to where we’re going, and pray that time does not pass too quickly.

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The First Week Home

It’s amazing the way life’s pace picks up the second your husband and his boat arrive home from fishing. I felt the the change–the quickening of the household pulse–even as I stood on my porch last week and watched George and the Vis glide across the bay, home from the Alaska halibut and blackcod season.

Here on our own, the little ones and I take things rather slowly. (How fast can one move with a 10-month old and a 2-year old, anyway?) We operate on, as someone aptly described not long ago, “baby time.” We don’t plan for too much outside the house, pace ourselves when we do have things to get done, and try to take our work and play inside the house as easy as possible.

I’m a stay-at-home mom in part because when George is gone, I like our children to have one parent at home and available at all times. In addition, I choose to not work outside the home (teaching Jazzercise is a hobby) because when George is home, I want to be free to go on a trip with the family, have an easy morning, meet up for lunch, or go on a spontaneous ride to see something new without having to check in with someone.

So, I had to laugh last night. For a commercial fisherman who is home, with a wife that doesn’t work, and children too young to have anything to do but hang out with Mom and Dad, why has it been so hard to plan a family trip?

Mind you–this is not a big trip to Florida or Hawaii or even to Disneyland. This is an easy road trip to my parents’ beach house, or perhaps to my sister’s mountain condo. Places where airports and small children don’t have to mix, dogs are welcome, and we stick to our own travel schedule.

We thought it would be easy–“Let’s go to the beach from June 23 until July 8,” George suggested.

We looked at the calendar. “That’s not going to work,” I said. “The house is being used until the 23rd. Then Steph and Ryan are going on the 2nd. Cass and Kyle are going for the 4th of July.”

“How about we go July 7 ?” George said next.

“I teach Jazzercise that day,” I replied before quickly adding, “But I’m sure I could find a sub.”

“Wait, that won’t work for me anyway,” said George, who is having the boat hauled out for maintenance soon. “How about we go on July 25?”

“Sure,” I said. Then, “Oh, wait a minute. I have a CPR class on the 26th and I can’t change it.”

We decided to just hold off and take our family trip in August this year. The sun will be out, and the beach house will be available to stay in as long as we want.  Boat maintenance will be over, classes will be over, and we can truly relax.

But wait. George might be in the middle of his summer fishery then. And Mom just e-mailed and said she and Dad were going to the beach house for two weeks in August. 

We just laugh. For a guy home from fishing and a stay-at-home mom, scheduling has suddenly become rather…difficult.

How’d that happen?

Halibut and Blackcod Offload Pictures Part 2

Halibut Unload 5

Bryan pitches halibut into the brailer. (A brailer is a small sling net that lifts fish off the boat to be sorted and weighed on the dock.)

 

Halibut Unload 4

Bryan helps guide the brailer out of the hatch and off the boat.

 

Halibut Unload 9

A tote of Yelloweye Rockfish.

 

Halibut Unload 10

A tote of Lingcod.

Halibut and Blackcod Offload Pictures Part 1

View of Vis from Porch

Our boat, the f/v Vis (rhymes with “fleece”) coming across the bay as George and the crew arrive home from Alaska.

Halibut Unload 8

Kelly, Bryan, and Brett pitch halibut out of the back hatch and into a brailer.

Halibut Unload 2

A brailer of halibut is lifted off the boat. It will land on the table on the dock to be sorted and weighed.

Halibut Unload 3

Same as above.

Halibut Unload 6

A tote of 60-80 pound halibut.

Five Days and Counting

Dialing…881631530…for the fifth time in a row.

“Hello?”

Finally! The long-awaited answer.

“What are you doing?” I ask G.

“I’m driving the boat home,” he answers.

“What were you doing?” I ask.

“Bringing in the last of the halibut,” he replies.

“Where are you?”

“In between Yakitat and Sitka.”

“When will you be home?”

“I expect to be home on the 11th.”

“Well, I was worried when I couldn’t get in touch with you,” I say.

“You have to not worry, hon. Everything is fine, just like it always is.”

 

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. 

Fishin’ His Way Home

“Fishing families experience many benefits from the lifestyle that commercial fishing brings, but they also experience challenges in adapting to husbands’ trips to and from the sea.”

(The Ebb and Flow of Fishing Family Life—Oregon Sea Grant)

 

I got a call from George while he was in Seward last week getting ready to deliver his latest load of longline-caught halibut. Although there haven’t been many outstanding loads to deliver so far this season, George and the crew have been, as we say, diligently scratching away at it.

Bit by bit, little by little. Or, as my dad used to say during Alaska salmon seine openings when we committed to scratching away in one area of fishing rather than running around and burning fuel to chase fish, “Stick and stay, make it pay.”

George has a certain amount of halibut and blackcod quota that he must catch. If fishing is good, he can catch the quota quickly and come right back home. If fishing is scratchy, he simply stays in Alaska until it is caught.

The good news is that he has started fishing his way home–the bulk of the quota has been caught and he feels confident he can grab the rest of it on the trip South.

George is an optimistic guy, though, and operates on something my family calls “George Time.”

For example, George has estimated he’ll be home in about 10-14 days. We automatically adjust this estimate and figure to see him at the dock in about 14-21 days, barring any mechanical problems.

Regardless, whenever he shows up, it is an understatement to say how happy and excited I will be to see him, and I’m just glad the countdown has begun.

After a fun and sunny Memorial Day weekend, last week went all downhill. It was just awful–but because Nobody Likes a Whiner, I won’t bother you with the details of losing the hearing in my right ear (now restored), or how Vincent cried for four days straight, or how I had to take Toby to an emergency vet appointment for another cancer treatment, or how Eva locked me out of my bathroom.

Things are turning around now, though, and balance is being restored: As I told the neighbor who came over to yell at me through my porch window one evening during dinner about one of the construction trailers parked in front of his house,

“Hey, I know we’ve all got a lot going on. We’re all doing the best we can!”

Toby is eating again and is actually gaining weight.  My sister and brother-in-law have helped me out a ton. My friend, Tish, came to visit. The construction is moving forward on our basement. I finally decided to accept an offer to teach two Jazzercise classes per week. My parents will be home from their (ahem, too long!) vacation to Hawaii on Tuesday. And within the month….George will be home.

Whenever I get into my car after a trying morning as the only parent currently available to meet the demands of a young and needy household, I play Trace Adkin’s new song “You’re Gonna Miss This,” at least a couple of times. Next on my (custom mix) c.d.–and I’m not kidding–is Ronnie Milsap’s “She Keeps the Homefires Burning.”

“She keeps the homefires burning
While I’m out earning a living in a world
That’s known for its pouring rain
She keeps the homefires burning…”

If I can just keep these homefires burning for a couple more weeks, we’ll be good to go.