All-star Captain and Crew (picture)

Trying something new (posting a photo!)

crab boat This is a picture from several years ago; it shows what our boat looks like with crab pots on the back deck.

I am trying to upload some pictures taken of our boat this afternoon, but so far, I am not having any luck.  I am simultaneously doing dishes, learning Jazzercise routines, and planning the rest of my day and evening.

Anytime I attempt to do too much I get a warning to slow down in the form of a splitting headache—(did I mention I am not a very good multi-tasker?).

Time now to give it a rest and wait for Eva to wake up from her nap so we can continue with her special day–her birthday. 

Happy 2nd Birthday, Silly Goose!  We love you!

Crunch Time…

Last night at 5 p.m., I gave George a call. He was, of course, at the harbor rigging crab pots.

“How’d it go with the new guy?” I asked.

“Oh!” He said. “I forgot to tell you. The first flight out of Sitka was canceled so he’s coming in at 7:00 tonight. I won’t be home until at least 8 p.m.”

“Well,” I said, “Then what am I supposed to do about dinner?”

“Don’t worry about me,” said George, who is the preferred chef in our family. “I’ll just eat….”

You!” I cut in. “Forget you! You’re your own! What about me? What am I supposed to do about dinner?”

I laughed, but I was only half-joking.

That conversation signaled the official beginning of the Dungeness Crab Season for our family. Yes, George and his crew have been down at the harbor for the past month working in all kinds of weather, all week long, to get ready for the season. But until now, he was always home by 6:30 p.m., took Sundays off, and could usually be counted on for an evening cocktail and to answer his cell phone when I called.

The energy has shifted, and it’s crunch time. The daily routine that makes up the first month of gear work has come to an end. George will no longer be home at 6:30 p.m.; he’ll be home whenever the work is done. He will return my call when he has a chance. Next week, he is taking the boat to Westport. They’ll stay there working on more gear for a few days before coming back home.

The season is set to open on December 26, which means George will leave us on Christmas in order to get back to the boat and dump pots the next day.

I know better than to ask anything of George now. I don’t complain when he is late getting home. I don’t expect he will be available to help me with projects or go anywhere with me. His focus is the boat, the crew, and the season ahead, which is exactly where it should be.

This shift in energy is transferred to me as well. I know that I have to make as graceful transition as possible back into Wife Left Behind while Husband is At Sea. It’s happening to wives all over the West Coast (and for that matter, the East Coast and Alaska, too!).

A few years ago, I interviewed a woman for National Fisherman who was being awarded the title of Highliner for her work in the industry. When I mentioned during the course of that interview that I was dating a commercial fisherman, she offered to send some resources that might be of use to me.

Those booklets were, and continue to be, invaluable. I don’t know if they are still available, but if you are the girlfriend, wife, or the mother of children by a commercial fisherman, they may be of use to you also. They were published as part of the Oregon State University Fishing Families Project, which was a partnership between the Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State University Extension Services.

Topics covered included Adapting to Change, Early in the Relationship, Fishing Marriages Over Time, Transition into Parenthood, Ebb and Flow of Fishing
Family Life, and Change and Stability in Fishing Family Life.

Let me know if you would like any further information, and good luck with the start of both the holiday and the Dungeness crab seasons.

We’ll need it!


Call for Submission

This is not commercial fishing-related, but it is of interest. I found it listed on a couple of my favorite sites. It is a call for a story submission. It has a quick deadline (12/15/07) but is a good opportunity.  Write a story, send it off and see what happens. You won’t know until you try. Good luck!

For Adams Media’s new Hero series, we seek fifty 850-1400 word true stories no later than DECEMBER 15, 2007. We pay $100 per story (one per volume), plus a copy of the book, and we will also award three prizes $100, $75, and $50 for the top three stories—and a free copy of the published book. A summary of what we want, formatting requirements, and story tips follows. Please follow them carefully. Also, please click here and carefully review all the text under: “Hero Series Guidelines” where sample stories are available.

My Mom Is My Hero
Being a mother often proves the most difficult, and the most important, job in the world; one that includes conflict but also brings rich—albeit often unspoken—rewards. In this anthology, we seek to honor real-life mothers and, therefore, want inspiring, true, personal stories that speak to the challenges, ultimately positive experiences, and extraordinary relationships between mothers and their children (mothers of all ages, i.e., grandmothers count). The majority of stories in this collection will be written from the adult child’s point of view, but it is also acceptable to submit third person stories by authors who have intimate knowledge of the mother and her children. Also a woman who served as a mother figure, who played a significant role, or who performed a heroic deed may also be honored. Heroic deeds range from rescuing a child from physical peril to holding down a steady job and raising children with exceptional values or work ethics. As we will print very few stories focused on illness or dying, we encourage authors to choose another time that illustrates your mother’s unique character, drive, strength, dedication, tenderness, generosity, intelligence, humor, etc. Bring your mother to life on the page and show the world why she is worthy of accolades.

Deadline: December 15, 2007

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.

One Mommy: $1.49

A couple of days ago I walked into the bedroom just as George was finishing up getting ready for the day. He had on a sweater that I recognized as one I’d bought for him at Old Navy several years ago.

Time had worn the sweater out. It was stretched out too far in back, and it seemed a bit too short. 

“I don’t think I would wear that sweater,” I said.

“In fact,” I suggested helpfully, “You can put it directly into the Goodwill box!”

George paused for a moment, then turned to me and grinned.  “How about I put you in the Goodwill box?” he asked.

On Holiday?

“Oh, no!” my sister, Stephanie, exclaimed in horror when I told her what we had going this weekend. 

I’d had big plans for this Thanksgiving weekend. George and his crew took five solid days off from boat work, and I good-naturedly agreed to him using one of those days as his “free day,” to do with whatever he wanted. Unwind from boat work. Organize his desk. Make calls to his family. Watch a movie. Basically, whatever he needed to do to make a successful switch from Captain of a Boat to Husband and Father of Two.

After that, I thought we would go to Fred Meyer and pick out a Christmas dress for Eva. Go to Target to buy a cover for my ipod. Go to that new baby store and choose bedding for Vincent’s new crib. Drop off the bassinet to my friend, who has a baby due in January. We’d take our mornings slow, and we’d eat well. George would dig out the Christmas decorations, I’d burn cinnamon holiday oil in my Christmas burner, and we’d listen to the new Toby Keith double-Christmas c.d. 

What really happened was this: I went with Vincent and Eva alone to get his new bedding. The bassinet didn’t quite make it over to my friend’s house. I tried to play the new Toby Keith c.d., but there must be something wrong with my stereo, because it kept skipping. I begged my mom to come to Target with me so I didn’t have to go by myself. George did make one good breakfast, but I ate it in a huff because I was Mad.

Why was I Mad?

Because—before I realized what was happening in time to stop it—our time together went from Holiday Weekend to House Project Weekend!

George began preparing our house for the hardwood floors—yes, the same hardwood floors I have lobbied for since the day we moved in.  (Off-white carpet is not suitable for a household with two big dogs. It’s not suitable for a toddler who likes to unscrew the caps of purple nail polish or dangle sippy cups upside down. It also isn’t suitable for a mom who leaves glasses of red wine on the coffee table for toddlers to knock over.)

I thought preparing the house for the hardwoods would take one day. It turns out, however, that hauling furniture, ripping out carpet, pulling up molding and  nails, and smashing tile does take more than a few hours.

As a result, we spent half of the weekend with George doing this particular home project, and the other half fighting about George doing this particular home project. (“Why don’t you put that in your blog,” he sneered as he walked past me down the hall after one colorful exchange).

It’s hard for me to have a house out of order, and I’ll admit to a mild case of OCD. I can’t function in a house that isn’t functional. It doesn’t matter if it is for fifteen minutes or fifteen months. If the house is messy, I feel messy. If the house is in order, I feel in order. I do feel my blood pressure rising to unhealthy levels when I see Eva’s bed in our office, her kitchenette set in our dining room, her changing table in the hallway, the foot stool on top of the chair.

On the upside, I feel my character growing with each new project George undertakes and I live through.  And I know well that I am lucky to have a guy who can single-handedly haul 2500 lbs of hardwood floor up the stairs to our living room, hang Christmas lights, install a new kitchen faucet, rip up carpet and tile, cook meals, hold Vincent so I can get in a couple of hours of uninterrupted sleep at night, feed Eva her breakfast, and show up smiling for Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt’s house.

Lucky, indeed.   

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m posting this early, because I can see that tomorrow is already getting away from me. In addition, George has declared another Family Day for Thursday, so this is my best opportunity to post a Thanksgiving message.

Unfortunately, George is late getting home from the harbor tonight. A random boat cruised in and tied up in George’s permanent spot at the float while George had the Vis at the Sawtooth dock.  The guy just steamed in, threw off his lines, hooked himself up to the shore power, turned on his TV, flung his galley door wide open…and then left his boat. As a result, George has been waiting half the evening for the harbor to get a hold of the guy somehow and send him on his merry way so that George can get his spot back.  

Both of the babies are in bed now so there is, at least, a quiet evening ahead. We could both use one!

What would a Thanksgiving post be without a brief list of just some the things for which I am thankful?

  • Of course, my angels, Eva and Vincent. Each of them is a miracle and a blessing, and I absolutely mean that. It took a long time and a lot of heartache before we were blessed with these two, and blessed we are. I have so cherished the entire experience with each of them that I would have had four kids if we had been able to get started sooner. However, God knows what He is doing, and I am confident we are right where He wants us to be, with the exact two angels He had in mind for us.
  • Jazzercise! The ladies at Jazzercise—instructors, customers, daycare staff—they have been my great friends and supporters since I met the lot of them. They have shared their stories of being mothers and grandmothers with me, cheered me on when I was a new mother with Eva, when I was pregnant again with Vincent, and at every turn in between. They have literally helped me in the door to the studio and back out again. They are a wonderful group!
  • The Girls,” whom I have known now for 28 years. Our monthly dinners, our laughs, our memories (which stretch from kindergarten, to college, and beyond). There is nothing like seeing a group of girls who have known you for this long and who are still your good and loyal friends. They are the best!
  • My Parents. I can literally see the enormous love that they have for their grandchildren pass over their faces each and every time they see Eva and Vincent. The depth of that love–the love from a grandparent to grandchild–is powerful. I am thankful for their excitement, involvement, and help in all of our lives.
  • George. Of course, the guy who makes it all possible. The guy who manages to muster up excitement over almost every goofy thing I say, do, or try, just so my feelings won’t be hurt, no matter how tired or busy or worried he is. Who would go to the ends of the earth for his family, and who is the best hands-on Daddy there ever could be.


Business as Usual

The Dungeness crab season begins the same way each year, with the same questions.

Will it start on time? When, exactly, will that time be? Will the crab crew from last season be back? Will there be a strike?  Will there be weather issues on the start date, or issues surrounding the readiness of crab to be caught? When will the best weather window occur to get the boat to Westport?

Each year has gotten off to a different start.

One year, the start date was the day after Thanksgiving. I drove to Westport that year with our dogs (a one-year old Mandy, and a 6-wk old Toby) and enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal in the galley of the Vis with George, Bryan, and Andy. Doug spent the evening with his friends somewhere in Westport.

It was a great time. We went to the Red Apple to shop for our meal and ran into other captains and crews, along with some of their families, who had also made the trip for the holiday. 

I’ll never forget the way the cozy light glowing forth from the galley windows of the crab boats tied up one after another along the docks lit up that dark and rainy night. That Thanksgiving evening became one of my most cherished holiday memories.

Another year, the crab season was set to begin within a couple days of my due date with Eva, and we weren’t sure how that was going to work. Would I deliver my baby at the hospital with the help of a friend, or would George get a relief captain to dump the pots so he could be there? (In the end, George was there for the birth, and the crab season started two weeks late).

George took yesterday off from gear work and declared it Family Day. We packed up the little ones and headed down the road to attend the  baby shower of his cousin, Arthur, and his beautiful, seven-months pregnant wife, Marie.

Arthur mentioned to George that he had heard of some kind of problem with the California crab fleet. When we arrived home last night, I turned on NW Cable News and read on the ticker that Washington crab fishermen were preparing for a delay to the start of the season.

Business as usual!