Archive for Halibut and Blackcod Season

Creating Happier Homecomings

At long last, I’m pleased to announce that my e-book, “Captain of Her Crew: The Commercial Fishing Mom’s Guide to Navigating Life at Home,” will officially launch on Monday, July 9, 2012.  I’ve put my best advice concerning the commercial fishing family lifestyle into one place after six years of receiving thoughtful questions, comments, and concerns by attentive readers to this blog.

As it turns out, I’m my first official consumer of the e-book.

Yep, you read correctly. Me.

My husband, George, recently returned home after five months at sea. As always, the initial homecoming is phenomenal; absolutely nothing compares to the thrill of watching our fishing vessel steam into the harbor, seeing G in the wheelhouse, waving to the guys on deck, and hearing my children squeal with joy at the sight of their dad.

There is an exciting week of lunches and visits at the harbor during post-season gear work. There’s laughs with the crew and forklift rides up and down the dock for my four-year-old, Vincent. At night, I have another adult at home who doesn’t need constant direction or the repeating of instructions. Eva has another lap upon which to sit and read books. Hey, it’s a party! It’s awesome, it’s sunny, it’s everything we hoped it would be and more!

But then, the gear work comes to an end. The dreary rain returns. The crew goes home. My children, overwhelmed and exhausted by a change in routine and a new face in the house, begin to misbehave. Mom realizes that Dad can’t be as helpful as she’d hoped with an infant who doesn’t yet know him.

This is what I call the transition period, and it’s something I address in the e-book in a chapter called ”Creating Happier Homecomings.”

Here’s the passage I found particularly useful:

Give each other space. Your husband needs to get used to being home and you need to get used to having him home again. Adjustment periods vary from season to season or even year to year. They can take no time at all or they may take a week or two. You might spend an entire season off never getting in sync again. Don’t agonize if this is the case; life is cyclical.

The inability to get acclimated is something that will eventually cycle through, and it will be better next time. Or the time after that.

Do your best to include Dad in the family when he comes home; he needs to assimilate back into family life. If he wants to clean or cook or tuck the kids in bed and read them stories, let him. His ways of doing things and the activities he enjoys with the children may be different from yours, but compromise and remain flexible.

I do believe this about sums it up. G has been away from our family for many months in a row catching crab, halibut, and blackcod. He’s tired and accustomed to a totally different environment and totally different people.  It must be overwhelming in so many ways. And I’m tired, too. End-of-school activities and ballet recitals and soccer camps and all-night baby feedings are exhausting.

I think that giving each other space, while remaining appreciative and respectful of each other, is the way to go about it. There is a fun summer ahead and we have been waiting for months and months to enjoy it together as a family. The key now is to try and do just that.

Waiting For The Phone To Ring

I’m feeling a little blue today. Not only is the weather gray and drizzly, but I have no idea where my husband is and I haven’t talked to him in around two weeks. Actually, I have only talked to G about three times in the last couple of months, and it is starting to dawn on me that is kind of a long time to go without communicating with one’s spouse…even for people like us, who are totally used to limited and non-existent communication.

Sure, I could try calling the satellite phone, but I always hesitate to do that because once I start calling THAT phone and he doesn’t answer, the more frustrated I become, and then I grow worried. A worried momma doesn’t do anyone any good. I’m not concerned yet; I know G is likely in the Gulf of Alaska without cell phone coverage, working hard to catch that part of the halibut and blackcod quota, and then moving into Southeast Alaska.

George loses track of time easily whether he’s at sea or on shore, and he probably doesn’t even realize how long it has been since he’s called home. I have to admit though, that while everything has been going (and continues to go) better than expected with the three little ones and me at home, time is starting to drag and I’m getting rather tired.

We are still moving forward, however; Vincent finished up one of his pre-schools, Eva’s kindergarten has many end-of-school-year activities planned, and my parents returned from Hawaii. I’ve also been at Jazzercise just about every morning for the past three weeks, working off stress and weight, which is a win-win for me! At this point, if I didn’t have Jazzercise to go and see my friends, visit with all of our children, and bust a move to up-tempo music, I’m sure I wouldn’t be doing this well at home.

Hurry up and get into cell phone coverage, G! (I know he can’t read this, but maybe if I send the message out into the sphere he’ll catch it and call.)

Soldiering on…

Finally, a Phone Call From Sand Point. Ten Days Down…

One thing about me that bugs George to no end is my rather untimely way of getting to the bills. It wasn’t always this way; having a touch of OCD and understanding the importance of responsible finances, I always made sure I knew how much was in my accounts and each penny was accounted for. I also sent in my bills on time, for I didn’t want to put even the slightest dent in my good credit.

As the years have gone by, though, I’ve become increasingly slower and less interested in getting to the bills and balancing the household checkbook. (Never mind the business accounts; George doesn’t let me NEAR those!) I don’t know; I think it’s the limited amount of time I have to sit at my desk and open envelopes, review their contents, write checks, seal and stamp envelopes.

Having three children, including one infant, doesn’t leave one with much desk time. Oh, and when I do find time to sit at my desk, there are other things I’d rather do, like Facebook…and this blog…maybe a little Twitter thrown in for fun. Ha.

George has put as many bills as he can on autopay and when he’s home, he just takes over all the accounts to make sure everything is done on time. So when it is time for him to leave home, he gets a little nervous about leaving me in charge of the remaining bills.

“Please pay the bills on time while I’m gone,” he said before he left for this year’s blackcod and halibut season. “Please!”

George doesn’t ask too much of me, so I said I would definitely try to stay on top of it.

Valerie slept this morning for a bit, so I took the opportunity to get to those bills. When I opened the checkbook, I discovered a sticky note George left for me with instructions on which bills to pay and out of which checkbook. Lol! That’s my guy. Well, he needn’t worry; I managed to pay all the bills this morning and even balanced the checkbook. One month of bills down, two or three more to go.

Now that I’m truly the only parent on duty, I’ve started having ridiculous mom nightmares each night. Terrible dreams that don’t even make sense, like I can’t remember where to pick up my children or at what time. Or dreams in which I have a child with me one minute, and then I turn around and she’s gone.

I had one ludicrous nightmare already this week in which I’d become a loser mom who spent an entire day at the local casino, won $100 and was so excited that I lost all track of time and never made it back to town to pick up my children from school. Okay—now, I don’t even gamble (we work too hard for our money to throw it away!) and I obviously would never waste an entire day at a casino or forget about my children! For Pete’s sake.

These nightmares scare me because I am the exact opposite. I check on my children multiple times when they’re playing in our own backyard. I know exactly where they are, what they’re doing, and who they’re with at all times during the day. I get up and check on them several times during the night. And when I’m the sole parent on duty, I’m hyper vigilant. This is my subconscious rearing its ugly head while I’m asleep, and I don’t really appreciate it.

I finally got a chance to talk to G yesterday. I hadn’t heard from him in over ten days and was starting to worry a bit, but I abide by the saying that no news is good news. I didn’t know if he was going to start out in Southeast Alaska, the Gulf, or head all the way out west, so I just waited. Turns out he’s starting out west which takes a long time to get to, and he called me once they made it to Sand Point. He said the weather was good so they were going to get right out and get to it.

Here’s hoping they get on the fish quickly and wrap up that part of it sooner rather than later. Fishing out west is no fun; I’ll feel better once they move into the Gulf and then Southeast. It was good to hear his voice, though, and now maybe my subconscious will settle down a bit.

A Sunny Departure to Longline Season 2012

Well, Siri is going to help me out again with composing a blog post. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to sit down and type, but it isn’t going to happen. So, here I am again, holding baby Valerie, talking at my iPhone!

George and the crew got underway to Alaska last Saturday evening. They steamed out of the harbor underneath a beautiful spring evening sun.

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They have a lot of halibut and blackcod to catch, so I hope they get on the fish quickly and get it caught before too long into summer. I am so looking forward to summertime and George being here for most of it!

George had one week off in between fishing seasons, but that one week occurred at the same time as the kids’ spring break, so that worked out well. I was able to get in a much–needed hair appointment while he was here, and I even got a pedicure. There was not any time for a massage, but that will leave me something to look forward to when he comes back!

Eva and Vincent have done very well regarding their dad’s departure. I think watching Daddy leave in the sun helped. It’s not as dreary or depressing as watching him depart underneath dark clouds and pouring rain, like during crab season.

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We had a little Easter celebration the morning George left. The Fisherman Bunny came early and the kids had a great time searching for eggs, not to mention the fun they had coloring them the day before. They decorated eggs with our friend and babysitter, Hailey, and they also decorated some with me. The eggs they colored with Hailey were a lot cuter than mine!

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Each day for the kids and me is incredibly full. We move from one task to the next until about 8 o’clock at night, at which point all books are put away, teeth are brushed, everything stops, and we all go to bed. Even Mom!

Eva is a great little helper and she gives me a small break each evening when she holds Valerie so I can get up and do a couple of things like empty the dishwasher or put laundry away.

I think we have a pretty good system going for now. If we can just keep it up for the next three months and nothing throws a wrench into our routine, we will be good to go.

 

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The May Issue of National Fisherman: Recognize That Guy On The Cover?

There was plenty of excitement around here for a commercial fishing mommy and her ducklings when the May issue of National Fisherman magazine showed up in the mail yesterday. Hey, that’s Daddy on the cover!

This was a photo of George taken by David Hills in the Gulf of Alaska during the blackcod/halibut season a couple of years ago. David has gone out a couple of times with the boat; once to take pictures during the longline season and once during Dungeneness crab season. I’m excited that his shot made the cover!

Ironically, if you look on page four of the magazine underneath the section “10 Years Ago,” you’ll see a cover shot and profile that I wrote a decade ago on my old stomping grounds of Ketchikan, Alaska. It boggles my mind that I am seeing my cover shots and stories in that section more and more. Ten years ago…before homes, dogs, children, boats…when I traveled up and down the West Coast and Alaska taking pictures and writing stories.

Fortunately, even if I’m currently unable to travel, the Internet has made it possible for me to keep writing and to expand into my current niche as a writer about commercial fishing families. You’ve got to be able to transition and grow and expand as a writer!

Also included in the May issue of National Fisherman are two shots taken by Zed Blue, the husband of my friend and fellow writer, Robin, who blogs about her fishing family at The Fishing Blues.  Zed took the photo on pages 18-19 of the Bering Sea crabbers, and the photo on page 20 of longlining for blackcod.

It was perfect timing that this issue, with a picture of G on the cover during the blackcod/halibut season, arrived just yesterday, because he is heading north in two days to do the same exact thing. Cool send-off for the boat—and maybe, a sign of good luck and a great season ahead.

G gaffing a blackcod during the Alaska blackcod and halibut season. Photo by David Hills (www.fishingpix.net).

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!

G Has Arrived…Will Summer Follow Suit?

Well, I’ve finally made it to the second trimester, but I’m not feeling any improvement in yucky pregnancy symptoms yet. I feel awful most days, which accounts for the continuing delay in blog posts! The good news is that so far, all blood tests and ultrasound measurements show a healthy little baby in the works, so that is a relief.

In each ultrasound, the baby’s been flipping and twirling around, which is amazing to see. At the last one, the baby even appeared to give me an excited wave with its tiny hand before the machine was shut down. I keep that image in my mind when I start feeling sick and frustrated. I won’t be able to find out whether it’s a girl or a boy for seven more weeks.

George and the crew arrived home last Saturday. They arrived in port accompanied by rolling thunder several hours earlier than expected. I knew they were going to be early, but I was a bit startled when I looked out my window and saw the boat coming across the bay. You couldn’t miss it; the rows of bright orange buoys tethered on top of the substantial steel shack can be spotted miles away.

My heart pumped with excitement as the kids and I flew out the door, down the stairs, and into the car in a race to the finish. Who would be the first to arrive at the harbor; George or me?! George won by less than ten minutes.

The next day, they unloaded the final halibut delivery (George took some pictures for me, seen below) and the kids and I went down to visit later in the afternoon. Vincent has been asking to drive the boat for the past few months, so G waited for us before moving the boat over to its normal spot in the harbor.

The kids wore their life jackets and boarded the boat, settling into the wheelhouse with Dad. The crew was cute and played along; after the lines were untied and they were ready to move away from the dock, Bryan yelled “All clear, Vincent!” up to the wheelhouse. That made me laugh.

I met them over at the dock across the harbor where I climbed aboard. Johnny showed the kids around the deck and answered their questions and Brett gave them donuts while we all got caught up on the past few weeks and months.

The post halibut/blackcod gear work finished up in what seemed record time, and the crew was picked up by friends, girlfriends, and wives within four days. Now, if our summer would only begin…it’s cloudy, windy, and cold today. Vincent has a bad cold and stayed home from preschool. I love November in July!

 

The Light At The End Of The Blackcod Tunnel’s In Sight!

I know I’ve been going a while longer in between posts, and it’s not that I don’t have anything to write or say (that would be a cold day in you-know-where!). It’s just that every time I sit down to type something, this 11-week old pregnancy nausea kicks in and I just can’t do it. It’s still pretty bad and again, much worse than I recall with the first two children.

I do remember that this horrible feeling did go away at week fourteen each time, though, so I hope that within a couple of weeks I will feel a lot better. I think G feels for me; he’s called me twice from sea via satellite phone which is something he does not do. I can’t even get him to pick the phone up 95% of the time on the rare occasion I call it!

Anyway, the first time he called, I wasted no time whining about how awful I’ve been feeling, how overwhelmed with the house and getting kids to and from activities, taking care of dogs, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, shoveling dog poop, and everything else that we married single mothers do mostly alone. I said there was so much to do, I didn’t even know where to begin. Further, even if I knew where to begin, I was too tired to do so.

This is not like me at all, and nothing l’d say except when pregnant (or the kids and I are all sick). I come from stoic and hard-working stock on both sides of my family. We don’t whine and we don’t cry over being alone or working hard. But, hey. Sometimes it sneaks up on you. And the minute I heard G’s voice, it did.

“Just pay the bills, Hon,” George said. “Get the mortgage and credit card paid. Get the bills paid on time and don’t worry about the rest. And there will be checks arriving; get those in the bank. Do those things first and I’ll help you with the rest when I get home.”

“That’s not a lot of help,” I sniffed. “You won’t be home for like two months.”

“Actually, I’ll be home in about two weeks,” he said.

I was too ill too express much relief and joy over the news right then and there, but I’m thrilled. G and crew caught the halibut and blackcod quota quickly this year and the fish were big. Both of those things are excellent, especially the part where he comes home around three months earlier than last year.

Now, not only will G be around to help out for a bit without having to rush and get the boat ready for the next fishing season, but he’ll be able to attend the county fair with the kids and me, watch the kids’ swimming lessons, and even go to my parents’ beach house for a mini vacation. He’ll also be able to view an ultra sound in a few weeks and be there when we found out if our unexpected baby-in-the-making is a girl or a boy.

A Special Father’s Day for G…Father of Three?

About eight years ago, I started to wonder why G and I didn’t have any children. Specifically, I wondered why I could not seem to become pregnant. Everyone else seemed to have the answers, though. Here’s what I heard when the matter was brought up in discussion:

“You’re too anxious.”

“You drink too much.”

“You should stop smoking.”

“You worry too much.”

“George isn’t home enough.”

“You need to relax.”

“You just need a vacation.”

Not only were these comments offensive and uninformed, they made no sense. After all, I was relaxed. My days consisted of going to the gym, walking my dogs, doing a little freelance writing, with no real obligations or anything asked of me. Vacations? George and I went on vacations all the time back then, usually to sunny Florida where we enjoyed rustic beachfront hotels, sun, and surf. I had nothing to worry about or be anxious over, for G took care of everything.

I finally went in to see a doctor who could help. While G was in the middle of the crab season, my mom came down to stay with me for a week and I went in for an exploratory surgery. The surgery confirmed what I knew all along; there were two reasons why I was not conceiving any children. The doctor made a temporary fix and told us we had about three months to conceive before the fix ran out and I’d need to have surgery again or explore alternative options.

Long story short, we conceived Eva during the second month of that window. I called G via satellite phone in Alaska (now in the middle of the halibut and blackcod season) and shared the amazing news. When our miracle Eva was ten months old, and not wanting to take any chances on more delays or problems, we tried for a second baby and that’s how our second miracle, Vincent, came to be.

Flash forward six years, and we have two sweet, smart, and precious children. They are close in age, good friends, and the light of our lives. Now that they are “big kids,” we got rid of all of our baby things. Bye bye two changing tables, two cribs, two car seats. Goodbye bottles, pumps, Desitin, baby bags, tons of diapers in two sizes, high chair, swings, play gyms, blocks, and stacking toys.

Hey, pack your bags everyone! We’re taking trips again! The house is free of baby clutter! We have everything in order with a bit of energy to spare. The kids dress themselves, they’re easy to take everywhere, and becoming more independent everyday. For our baby fixes, we get to love our niece and cousin, “Baby Autumn” and go to Jazzercise and see sweet smiley Bella. Everything is perfect!

But wait…I don’t feel good. Something doesn’t feel quite right. Maybe I should count back some days and study last month’s calendar. Then I move to the computer for some quick research. Next, I go to the store for an unlikely purchase and make a joke to my friend, who is working the register. Cross your fingers, I say.

Back home, I unwrap the box—a three pack. (You girls know what I’m talking about.) I take one. My eyes must be tricking me. I try the second. What? I move onto the third. No way.

I sit on the surprise and shock for ten days before I can reach George, once again in the middle of the Alaska blackcod and halibut season, via satellite phone.

“You’re going to be really mad,” I say. In retrospect, that was probably not the best opening I could have come up with. George thought I had bought a new car! By the end of the conversation, I’m sure he was wishing it was only a new car.

Now nine weeks along and slowly overcoming the shock, it looks like George is going to be a father of three. This has been an extremely long several weeks. Wow. How to sort it all out? With thanks to my Jazzercise friends, the crew, our families, and a book or two, we are slowly getting used to the idea.

I’ve seen the heartbeat on the ultrasound screen and could not believe my eyes. That little peanut with the strong beating heart blew me away. It reminded me what a miracle growing life is, and what a strange thing to be experiencing it again after all the heartache and grief we went through to get our family started in the first place. 

I have a lot of questions, though. Aren’t we too old for this? How on earth did this happen? How will I ever nurse a baby all night and then get up to take my two other children to kindergarten and preschool every morning? How will I take care of three children under six, often without G? And for that matter…will I be giving birth without him this time? The baby is due during the most critical portion of the crab season in January. He absolutely cannot miss that part, for it’s a huge amount of our income for the year. If he cannot be here, which friend will I choose to help me?

Aaah. As my dear friend Amanda pointed out, that’s why we have nine months of pregnancy. Time to get used to the surprise, time to work it all out and get used to the idea of a new direction for the family. G has been a real trooper; shocked and confounded at first and experiencing a bit of denial, he has come around as he always does. Thanks also to our crew; you guys are beyond awesome. They were genuinely excited and full of congratulations for George, and as I’ve experienced, that support, understanding, and joy carries you through the doubt and concern.

Oddly, once this new baby is born, there will be about a dozen kids among G, Bryan, Brett, Johnny, and Oscar. What a great boat family, Jazzercise family, and blood family to belong to. Love all of you so much!

So, Happy Father’s Day, George. I love you for your hard work, loyalty, dedication, strength, perspective, humor, and acceptance for what is. Your two—possibly three—children love you, and so do I. More than words could ever, ever express. I would not want to go through one day of my life without you.

Waiting Impatiently

I’m currently waiting for G to call from somewhere around Kodiak because I have a message for him. The last time I talked to him was ten days ago for a few minutes. I hoped he would check in via e-mail or the satellite phone in the meantime, but he hasn’t! I take that as a good sign that they’re into the halibut and blackcod and he’s so busy and exhausted he doesn’t have one spare bit of energy to call. I’m anxious to hear how the fishing is!

I never call the satellite phone myself because it just makes me more frustrated. And I always end up calling the wrong satellite phone from the wrong phone which can be costly. Several years ago we had a home phone bill for about $4000 and just recently, my cell phone bill was around $400 or something because I didn’t realize it was an international call and I was being charged. Whoops! George doesn’t often answer the sat phone anyway because he’s on deck working and I end up just calling repeatedly and getting more and more frustrated when there’s no answer. So it’s better just to chill and wait impatiently for him to get into cell coverage and give me a call when it’s a good (and cheap) time.

Vincent had a virus and cough for about two weeks, and just when we thought it was over, it settled into the croup. It actually hit me as well for about ten days, and I never get sick! And just when I thought Eva was going to skate through free and clear, she got it as well. We did make it through the fall, winter, and most of the spring without any sicknesses, though, so I still think we did well this year. Hopefully soon the sun will shine and that natural vitamin D will do everyone a bit of good.

Until then we keep on waiting….

Couldn't resist picking up this bottle of red.

Sick sleeping Vincent.

Sick sleeping Eva.

My dad, hanging loose in Honolulu with Mom! Could I be more jealous?

 

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