Archive for Dungeness Crab Season

Bon Voyage, G and Happy Birthday, Valerie!

These weeks are flying by. Even my 8-year old, Eva, said as much last night. I don’t know where the time is going but I wish it would slow down for a minute!

George and the crew steamed out of the harbor a week ago, Westport-bound for the January 12, 2014 dungeness crab pot “Dump Day.” G had a couple of days to spare after arriving in Westport, so he drove home for one day to attend an important meeting regarding boundaries for the schools our children will attend following the closure of our own dear school. I was glad G came home for that. He even went and blew up a map of the proposed boundaries, put it on poster board, and glued a printout on the back that explained why we were (are) contesting the proposed boundaries.

But he went away the next day, and it has been just the children and me since then. Back to business as usual! Of course we miss G very much and think about him all the time, but this is what we are used to!  I am accustomed to being on my own.

George is out in the Pacific Ocean dumping 500 crab pots, picking them back up, running back to town, running back out to sea, and trying to catch a couple of hours of sleep in between. In fact, I just heard from George and he said to not expect to hear from him for a week or more, as he will be well out of cell service. G and I are sort of old school; we don’t Skype, Facetime, or even simply call much when he’s at sea. He is busy working on the boat, and I am busy working at home. He always calls when it is a good time for him, though, and I always answer. This is the best system for us and the one we’ve used  the past fourteen years!

Our youngest daughter, Valerie (aka Bunny), turns 2 on Sunday. I am celebrating her birthday this evening with my  family and some cake. I just love this little doll, Valerie Joy. We all do! She was such a surprise, such a wonderful blessing.  We laugh at the way she runs down the hallway and adore the way she is starting to talk and give kisses. Even after two years, we still can’t believe we have somebody as young as Bunny in the house! We love dressing her up and giving her baths, and picking her up for hugs and kisses out of her crib every morning. Little Valerie is just too precious, as are her brother and sister. I don’t know what I would do without any of them.

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G and the Dungeness crab crew, 2014.

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Happy 2nd Birthday, Bunny!

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What “Fishing Family” Means To Me

The part about a “fishing family” operation I like the most is the part about “family.”

I don’t just mean my father and mother, my sisters, my aunt and uncle, my grandparents and great-grandparents and cousins and second cousins, husband and children.

I also mean crew.

If you’re lucky like we have been, from the time my dad owned and operated our boat until the time my husband has owned and operated our boat, our crew has been more than crew. They are family. The crew has been made up of different men, but no matter who they were and when, they’ve been like family and operated like a family does in times of joy and crisis.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog the past seven years, you know how much our present crew means to me personally. Not one of these guys is new. I met Bryan the same day I met George, thirteen years ago at Fred Wahl Marine Construction. Bryan’s best friend, Brett, came on board when my seven-year-old Eva was only nine months old. Bryan’s brother, Johnny, has been with us at least four years.

We are connected by years, friendship, family, love, laughs, and loyalty. How many dinners, pizza parties, Fish Expos, weddings, births, departures, homecomings, and nights out have we celebrated together?  Countless.

We aren’t a big fishing operation in which thirty men work processing fish for months on end and nobody knows or cares much about anybody. On the contrary, we know and care much about each other and our families. When someone is expecting a baby, we rejoice. When someone’s marriage is rocky, we see it through with love and encouragement. When someone hurts, we all hurt. When someone’s demons wreak havoc, we cross fingers and hope for the best.

At the beginning of this latest crab season, as I watched the boat glide out of the harbor, I wrote that I shed tears because one just never knows whether everyone on board will return. People can die, people can quit, people can be fired. Anything can happen. Today, I shed tears because not each member of our “family” will return from this crab season. (Note: nobody has died, been fired or injured, and that is the most important thing.)

This is my family, our family. Our fishing family. And when one member hurts, we all hurt. Bad.

But like you’d expect and hope from family, we rally. We rally with love, and support, and encouragement, and hope….for all in the family.

This is, in part, what “fishing family” means to me.

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.

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.

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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.

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

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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:

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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. :)

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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.

Fall Means Transition Time for the Commercial Fishing Family

It’s definitely that time of year again…fall. I see the wind blowing leaves all over the neighborhood and I stand in the window, watching white caps roar across the bay. The rain pours, the kids are in school, and George is long gone down to the harbor and the boat in preparation for the Dungeness crab season.

When the fisherman returns to work, whether he’s at sea or just down at the harbor, it’s a somewhat annoying transition for us here at home. Commercial fishing wives everywhere know what I’m talking about! Our husbands are technically “home,” but not home. They’re home, but distracted. They’re home, but not available.

In the last couple of weeks, G and I have had a succession of conversations like this:

Me: “Oh! I see you’re going to work this morning. Can you run the big kids to school on your way so I can stay here with the baby?”

G: “I can take one, but not two. I’m driving the flatbed.”

Me: “I’m getting a ‘low tire pressure’ message in my car. Can you meet me at the tire place so I can get it fixed without sitting there with the baby for three hours?”

G: “Um, I can’t today. Or tomorrow. Maybe Thursday. Oh, wait. I can’t then, either.”

Me: “Well, great. Then I guess my tire will just explode while I’m on the freeway.”

Me: “Are you going to be home for dinner tonight?”

G: “Uh, at some point. I don’t know when.”

Yep. That time of year has definitely arrived. Summer, as phenomenal as it was, is a distant memory. Time to forge ahead through the next nine months of fishing so we can get to next summer. The best bet is to jump on board (so to speak) and accept that it’s that time of year again and adjust accordingly.

I sat down and made some notes this weekend on how I can maneuver this adjustment so that I don’t feel resentful and bummed out. Actually, I didn’t sit down. I walked around the house holding my iPhone and baby Valerie while I talked to Siri, my faithful assistant, who took dictation. Here’s what we came up with:

1.  Get up thirty minutes before everyone else in the house. This way, I can sit in peace and quiet for a few moments and mentally gear up for the day ahead before the questions, demands, and obligations of a busy family set in.

2.  Create a schedule that works. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know this is a big one for me. Last year, the schedule I created for the children and me was not a success. I was determined to do better this year. So far, it has worked very well. I have, however, run into one glitch surrounding the day and time of Eva’s dance class. After two weeks, I knew it was not going to work for me or our family of young children throughout the stormy fall and winter ahead. So, I had to make the tough choice and switch dance studios. The good news is that Eva still gets to attend dance, and we’ll all be home for dinner at a normal time.

3.  Plan dinners, however loosely. G is the better cook at our house, so when he’s home, he enjoys preparing most of our dinners. Now that he is not available to do that, it’s my task. I hauled out my cookbooks, Pampered Chef stoneware, crockpot, and visited the store to buy the kinds of things I know how to make. So far, so good. I don’t plan an official menu for the week, but I do have some idea of what we’ll be having. I’ve even cooked the dinner ahead of time on some days when I had a moment, and warmed it up at dinnertime.

4.  Cozi. I am still in love with the Cozi app. It saw us through an entire summer of doctor appointments and trip schedules, and I am using it now to enter in the kids’ activities and my own appointments. I enter our appointments in the Cozi calendar wherever I am, and G and I can both easily reference what’s going on each day. He can double-check the day and time choir, dance, speech therapy, etc. are on, and there are no “I didn’t know that was today!” surprises.

5.  Don’t count on help from spouse. I can’t rely on G or assume he will be around to help out with meals, pick-ups, drop-offs, or anything else. He’s back to work, and it saves me a lot of frustration if I accept that. I must outsource other help if I need it, or simply do it myself. I’m lucky that George is so helpful when he’s home; but when he’s not, I have to quickly transition.

6.  Keep the house warm and smelling good. This creates a feeling of coziness and relaxation. I’ve put Scentsy burners in every room of the house. I don’t turn them all on at once, but they are there in case I want them. If I’m working in the living room, I turn that one on. If I’m folding laundry in the bedroom, I turn on that one. Watching TV in the family room? I plug in that one. I read recently that if you are prone to anxiety, the scent of Jasmine will work like a valium in promoting calm. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m going to.

7.  Plan time wisely. I have about ninety minutes of “free time” three days a week, when Valerie is napping and I’m not running kids around. I have to decide what to do in that time. Learn new Jazzercise routines to teach? Write a blog post? Flop on the couch? Return e-mails? Once I decide, I need to stick with the decision and not spend the ninety minutes flipping from one task to the next and accomplishing nothing.

8.  Most past failures. If I’ve hit a roadblock, a glitch, forgotten something, or otherwise, I just forget it and move quickly forward. Hey, we’re not new at this, and we’ve got a long nine months ahead to try again and do better. Plenty of time!

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I Love My Crew of Three

Bye bye, Dungeness crab pots. See you in another seven months!

Our Dungeness crab season 2012 has come to an end. The season picked up midway through, so G and the crew ended up fishing longer than we all expected.  Upon their return, the sun came out for a couple of days which was perfect for all the gear work they do to wrap up the crab season and get ready for the halibut and blackcod longline season.

The kids love nothing more than to go visit with Daddy and the gang down at the harbor, so we spent some time down there and G let the kids ride along with him on the forklift, putting the crab pots away and bringing out the longlining tubs.

The switch into the next commercial fishing season is going to be quick; G will have one week at home before leaving for Alaska. Once he goes, we won’t see him again until summer. That’s over three months that I will have alone as a mother of two young children and one infant.

Pizza with the crew.

Crab pots put away, longline tubs come out.

I am a little nervous about the months ahead of me, but I managed to make it through the crab season pretty much the same way (solo) so I’ll just take it one day at a time like I always do and not look too far ahead. I’m hoping the sun will come out and that it won’t rain for the next three months, because that would really help things.

The kids and I have settled into a pretty good routine that works well if nothing else is added to it, like an outside obligation or a sickness. Being the only parent on hand and in charge of all medications, laundry, meals, clean up, activities, and school stuff  for three children 24/7  is doable, but only if I pace myself. For the next three months, I will attempt to not take on other obligations other than the most important one right in front of me; being a strong and happy mother of three children while Daddy is gone. We’ve done well so far and I’m proud of all of us, so I know we will do just fine in the weeks and months ahead.

I actually love having three children! I laugh to myself quite often, especially in the car, when I have all three of them with me. It feels surreal; like I’m driving a small bus full of little people, and it cracks me up. And at home, there is always somebody doing something, or saying something, or drawing something, that either warms my heart or makes me laugh. There’s a warm little baby for me to hold, three little ones around for me to hug and smother with kisses, and say “I love you!” to.

So, we will enjoy this last week with G, and then it’s onward and upward. The children and I will get by with a little help from our friends…and my parents…and my sisters…and my blog friends…and my Facebook friends…and sunshine…and…knowing we’ll have the summer ahead to spend with Dad!

Happy Two Months, Valerie!

Baby Steps For Mommy and Baby

It’s become clear that I am not going to find a quiet moment to sit down at my computer, so I am using my iPhone for this blog post. Actually, what I’m really doing is walking around holding a swaddled infant while I talk at my phone using Siri.

I don’t know why I never thought to use Siri before to “write” a blog post. Although I feel pretty silly talking to myself, at least I can give some sort of a blog update this way!

Valerie is now seven weeks old. Although I am still very tired and get worn out easily, I am definitely doing a lot better. It’s not easy getting up for several nighttime feedings and then being awake and on point all day for all three children, but I am still getting a bit of help with transportation issues for the older two children, for which I am very grateful.

The other good thing is that at this point in the winter crab season, the weather can come up at any time. When the weather turns especially nasty and fishing is too dangerous, George can come home and help out until the weather calms down on the coast and he goes back out to run through the gear again.

The initial all–important push of the crab season is over and now the season consists mostly of turning through the gear and making deliveries. While there has not been tons of crab around, the price has been pretty good so that really helps!

I made my first trip out of town with Valerie a couple of weeks ago for the Jazzercise instructor district meeting. My friend, Amanda, who has a five-month-old, Violet, invited Valerie and I to drive with them to the meeting.

I had really wanted to attend the meeting but was nervous about going by myself, so Amanda’s offer to drive was an offer I could not refuse, and off we went with our little babies. All of the instructors on our Jazzercise team were fantastic help and they took turns holding Valerie almost the whole time!

I felt more confident after that event, so when our extended family trip to the Great Wolf Lodge came up this week, I felt pretty good about going. As usual, the Lodge was a good time and all three children were fantastic! Actually, make that four fantastic children, because my toddler niece was there as well!

Although I was scared I would not get much rest or sleep with a tiny baby in a new environment, the exact opposite happened. Valerie has never slept better than she did at the Lodge, so as a result, I got a little extra sleep as well.

The Great Wolf Lodge had a couple of interesting changes this year. Of particular interest and source of excitement for the adults in my family was the addition of a portable bar that was rolled into the lobby and positioned next to the clock tower each evening for happy hour, of all things!

My sister and dad happened to be in the lobby when the bartender and the bar surprisingly and suddenly appeared, and each of them sent me a text notifying me of this exciting development. George and I wasted no time getting back down to the lobby once we received the good word!

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Have three children, will travel.

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Hey, who said Vincent didn't fit in the bassinet?

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Baby Violet and Baby Valerie (JazzerVi and JazzerVal) at their first Jazzercise instructor district meeting.

In Search of a Pot of Crab Gold

George texted me a beautiful picture from Westport, Washington, of a rainbow off the stern of the f/v Vis, taken late afternoon today.

Actually, he sent it to our family texting group after I informed everyone in the group that it was National Margarita Day.

Not a tequila fan, myself, I’ll gladly settle for a glass or two of good red wine to end what has been a beautiful winter day.

Not to be outdone by a rainbow, however, is Miss Valerie, dressed in her Dungeness crab outfit. Val’s outfit is so cute, and the rainbow so beautiful, that I’m sure the pot of crab gold must surely be around the crab corner in good ole’ Westport.

Happy Margarita Day! Cheers.

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