Archive for Lost at Sea

Commercial Fishing Deaths: Fate, or Something Else?

One of my favorite things about writing this blog the past seven years continues to be reviewing feedback. Whether that feedback appears in the form of comments on the blog, questions submitted through the contact form, or comments and likes left via Facebook, I read and analyze it all. I study the search terms that lead people here. What are people looking for? Searching for?

I received a unique inquiry recently. Honestly, this was one of the most thought-provoking requests for insight into the commercial fishing life I have received in a long time. It comes from British journalist and author Richard Benson, who is based in London and the author of The Farm: The Story of One Family and the English Countryside.

Here is the inquiry:

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I am a British journalist and author based in London, and I am looking for someone who might be willing to tell me a little about the commercial fishing life you write about. It is research for a story I am hoping to write for one of our newspapers over here. I write quite a bit about people who do dangerous or challenging physical work. 
My most recent book, for example, is about one side of my family who worked in coal mining. The men in the family suffered several serious accidents underground, one of them fatal. When these accidents happened, people who might have been on the scene, but had by chance avoided it, often talked about fate, and say they believed that your life was all planned out for you, and when it was your time to go, you would go, etc.  It was basically superstition, but I think deep down a lot of people did believe in it, and had ideas about how and when fate really worked. 
I have come across similar ideas in soldiers and shipbuilders. I am trying to write something about this idea of fate, and how it seems to quietly crop up among people doing extremely dangerous work. I am interested in whether it affects people in countries outside Europe, and so have been trying to look up writing about Alaskan fishermen, as I know the job is incredibly dangerous. I wondered if you had any sort of experience or insight of fishing people thinking or talking about this sort of thing? Not necessarily in a big, dramatic way – it could just be a short observation. Or is it something that actually never occurs to people? That in itself would be interesting, too. I do hope this makes some sort of sense! I would be fascinated to know what you think.

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I am currently in the process of sorting through my myriad of thoughts on this topic. I invite you all to weigh in. I don’t think you need to be an Alaska fisherman; I think the subject applies to all commercial fishermen and fishing families. It especially applies to all fishermen and fishing families who have lost a friend or family member to the sea in a terrible fishing accident.

What do you think? Fate? Not fate? What are your thoughts? Please share them here or weigh in on the Commercial Fishing Families & Friends Facebook page, where I plan to post the question. Let’s help Richard by sharing our commercial fishing insight.

Celebrating Those Who Have Returned From Sea, Mourning Those Who Will Not.

George and the crew have returned from the 2014 Dungeness crab season. I have not yet gone down to the harbor to snap pictures of the post-season gear work that consists of getting 500 pots off the boat, stacking them in lockers at the harbor, and a variety of other tasks. This year’s crab season was not great, as there were very few crab around.

The upside is that George said there were many “recruits.” Recruits are all the female and young crab the guys throw back into the ocean. These crab indicate a potentially boom season in the next couple of years. Fishing seasons run in cycles, and we don’t get too upset about a slow season, knowing it will come back around as it always does.

The important thing is that everyone arrived home safe and alive. You never know, when you wave the boat off at the start of a season, if that will be the last time you see one of the guys you are waving to. Without fail, I go to the harbor and wave and hug and send the boat off  at the start of every single season, because you just never know.

Tragically, the Oregon commercial fishing community will not receive one of their fishermen home this year. Just last week, our sister fishing community lost one of their own to the Bering Sea. Eric Eder, who by accounts from every single person in the Oregon fishing family was an upstanding, awesome, fun, friendly, wonderful man, leaves behind a beautiful wife and young family. You can read more here.

This hurts everyone. Personally, news like this always causes me to reflect back to 1997, when my own brother-in-law, Danny, was lost to the sea during the Alaska crab season. Married just a few months, my sister’s vibrant and exuberant husband was never found. I’ve written a bit about Danny here. I have never shared much about the grief of our families on my blog or otherwise, because the grief is so private and painful.

However, I will never forget going about my regular morning all those years ago. Then, the phone call. The panic. The confusion. The denial. The hope that it was all a mistake. The realization. The horror.

The fact that another family is experiencing this right now leaves us all with a heavy heart. We welcome and celebrate the fishermen who have returned safe to the harbor, but mourn the ones who will never return. We cry for  their wives, their children, their families, their friends.

And please, don’t forget the Lady Cecelia. Just two years ago, in March of 2012, I wrote about my thoughts concerning the tragedy of this Oregon trawler that disappeared into the sea in a matter of seconds off the Washington Coast, taking all four crew members with her. You can read that post here.

If you are able, I encourage you to take a moment and give to the family of Eric Eder. Donations can be made here.

Imagine if you were a fishing wife one moment and a fishing widow the very next. If financial giving is not an option, please pray for Eric Eder and his family. I can tell you that time does not do much to ease the excruciating pain of a fisherman lost, but every little bit of kindness, love, and support does help.

God Bless, Eric Eder.

God Bless, Eric Eder.