Deadliest Catch

There is a job out there that has been deemed the most dangerous for anyone to attempt. It is King Crab Fishing in the Bering Sea of Alaska. It has been Hollywood-ized a bit by the famous TV show, The Deadliest Catch, and many people have lived the life of a sailor through that series. However, until you have actually been out there, on the high seas, you really cannot know, or experience what it is really like to brave the elements, and put your self out on a limb. Well, all that to say this, I have not, and probably will never end up on a Crab Fishing Boat. However, I have experienced a job that I would put very close in the rankings of dangerous jobs, and it does take place on the high seas. I am talking about Commercial Fishing for Salmon off of Kodiak Island.

Now just because it is not taking place in the Bering Sea, Does not mean that it isn’t adventurous or dangerous, so let me paint the picture for you. You are on a big boat, 58 feet long, which is longer than

most houses. It sways constantly with the roll of the swells coming in from the Stormy Pacific. You are living off of four hours of sleep, and no showers for weeks. You have not stepped on land for 16 days, and its starts to show. The meals are hearty, but nothing fancy. The morning starts with the raise of the anchor, and as you roll out of your bunk, your feet hit the floor, and you are off into another day. You shove down some cereal and coffee to get you going, and as you slip on your extra tuff boots, the salty air, and the salt stains in your clothes hit your nostrils. Not just salt, but seaweed, and fish, lots and lots of fish. However, by this point, after being out on the water for so long, you really don’t smell anything irregular, despite the wreak of your own stench, due to the lack of cleanliness. You pull on your rain gear, which is cold and damp from the previous days work. Orange gloves and ball cap complete the uniform. Now it begins.

The guy in the skiff takes off, attached to the net, which is neatly stacked upon the deck, and begins to

unravel the corks and leads that string out for nearly a quarter of a mile. Meanwhile, the skipper maneuvers the boat into position, along the shore line, or off of a rock fixture, and this allows for a 30 minute window to catch up with the day, which is how long the net sits there, gathering fish, until you are headed out to man the ropes and stations. This style of commercial fishing is called Purse Seining, which is where you bring together the two ends of the net, and pull the rope on the bottom portion of the net, which forms a purse. Your job then is to take all the extra net that is floating around, and stack it carefully on the deck of the boat. Now this may seem like an easy job, but now lets throw in the variables that make it interesting.

First off, the position you are in is the Leads, which is the heavy portion of the net that weights the net on the bottom. Each side of the net must be stacked, separately, corks on one side, leads on the other. This means that you are holding your hands up in the air, to stack the line on the deck. kodiaknet.jpgNot only that, you are in a hurry, to get done and get the fish on board as quickly as possible. And also you are in 10 foot swells, with water sloshing over the sides of the boat that are only a foot tall, so they would do nothing to aid you in the event of a fall. The net always passes over your head, which is filled with not only salt water, but also jelly fish! They get caught in the net, and as it is swinging around in the wind and roll of the boat, it tends to slap you right in the face, and causes a very painful sting, but there is no rest for the weary. So then add the fact that there are fish that get stuck in the net that must be retrieved ASAP, and your skipper is yelling at the top of his lings at you, and you are messing up, since you are quite knew to the position, and on top of that, you have up to 30,000 lbs of Salmon, that are waiting to be rolled onto deck once the net is all done being hauled in.

Finally, the net is stacked, the fish are stored, and the skiff takes off once more for another round. All of this

takes place in the matter of about 20 minutes. Sounds like fun huh. Well I didn’t really think so at first, and there were many days during that month aboard the Millennium, that I wanted to quit and be done with it, and actually sleep. But that was not an option, and the longer it went on, the tougher and more knowledgeable you become. And also after it is all over you look at the paycheck, and all of that hard backbreaking work seems to fade into history. But the experience is still there, and the memories never go away. It was one of the best and worst experiences of my life, and I was so privileged to be on a boat with such a great crew, and one of the best skippers in Alaska. We worked very hard, and stayed busy even way past the ending date for the other boats. So it was an amazing experience that was multifaceted. We saw bears on the Island of Kodiak, met some very interesting people, went dear hunting, worked on boats, washed dishes for a month straight. That would not be the last time I would be on a boat on the high seas, and the skills gained on that trip helped me to enjoy the trip on a catamaran in the BVI inĀ  2006. However it wasn’t all just a good time. I actually learned a great deal from this adventure.

There was a saying that my Skipper, Jerry, always said. “There are two things that make boys into men,

Commercial Fishing and the Marines.” I believe it, at least the fishing part of it. The skills gained, physically and mentally were huge. Some of the things I gleaned from that trip were as follows. In those tough situations you must man up, and get past the physical affliction, and take control and make something happen. You cannot let your emotions get the best of you, when that person is dishing kodiaksharks.jpgout some discipline for the mistakes you made. You still need to accept it, move on, and learn from it. Also it is amazing how quickly you learn something when you jump in and do it, even though you don’t have everything figured out. That’s how it worked on the boat, you take a task, and learn it by doing it, and yes you may mess up, but its the learning curve. Also, I learned about team work, and knowing that we must keep the team together. There is definitely no room for fear, when the going gets rough, and it is up to us to make the best out of it. These principles can be applied in many areas of our life, and when those times get tough that is when our true colors are shown.

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