A Christmas Tree Tale

This story was written and sent out to family as our 2015 Christmas Card. I guess it is a Christmas card to Fish=Food readers, too! 

Greg and I went on a Christmas Tree Expedition two weekends ago. When we are not fishing Greg works at the Port Townsend Shipwrights Coop. If he can’t be running a fishing boat, his second favorite thing to do is repair them. Each year the PT Shipwrights Coop picks a Saturday before Christmas to head for the hills and they invite any and all to come along. Mostly, it is Coop members and their families but other friends, many of them fishermen, often come along in search of a Christmas tree. We have been making this tree trip for at least 12 years now.

Tree Hunt 2015

Before heading up in to the Olympic National Forest to cut trees, we all meet in the morning at the Quilcene Forest Ranger Station, just 45 minutes from Port Townsend. To cut a tree legally you need to purchase a $5 permit from the ranger on duty. The permit comes with a zip tie so once the tree is down you can attach your permit tag to it. This year it was pouring down rain when we met at the ranger station but we were on a mission to slay trees so up we went into the forest, twelve cars and trucks in a row. Some years there are many more cars but the rain put off the less hearty.

The road we take into the Olympic National Forest was originally a logging road. Down low it is paved but as the road snakes up into hills that become mountains, it turns to a dirt track. At 1300 feet/396 meters the rain turned to sleet. By 1400’/427m the sleet was snow! A friend in a truck pulled over and flagged Greg and me down to ask if we wanted to jump in his truck for the rest of the drive up hill? We could pick the car up on the way down, he said. I had confidence in the VW and said, “No, we’ll be fine” and we flew by into the snowy forest. I’m from Maine and this was just a dusting of fluff.

As we climbed higher the snow was starting to pile up on the road and cover the trees all around us. Everyone had trucks, SUVs and four wheel drive cars, that is except for us in the mighty, mighty Jetta wagon. The people in the front of the line had fresh snow to drive on so they had great traction as the snow got deeper. But we were near the end of the line of cars and the snow had been packed down and slicked over by those who went before us. The road ahead of us was getting steeper and now the gentle curves were turning into sharp switchbacks. I had driven this road with ease in the VW multiple times in summer to access the Mount Townsend hiking trail but in the snow it seemed to be another place. Greg was looking a bit skeptical about my decision to proceed in the VW. I just looked at him and said, “don’t stop, honey, just keep going as long as you can!” If we stopped I feared that we wouldn’t have traction enough to get going again.

We passed through an open area where the road was wide enough to turn around. Greg suggested we park and hitch a ride the rest of the way up. I was in the ‘just keep driving, don’t stop’ mode so I cheered him on and said, “we can do it!’ as I patted the dash of the car. As it would happen, we couldn’t. Shortly after my confident declaration, the wheels started spinning as they looked for traction and the car slid sideways in slow motion toward the steep drop off to the right. It was a bit heart stopping and I grabbed for the dash again but not to pat it.

We got out of the car and went ‘hmmm.’ Luckily there was a car following us. MB and Peter piled out to check out the situation while their two little boys stayed in the car. Behind us down the road we could hear the rumble of something big and driven by diesel. We were relieved as we recognized the red truck coming at us to be that of our friend Gus who runs a tow company! Yup, just like Gus, he smiled, waved and threw snow all over us as he blasted by us and up the hill. Hmmm, again.

While Greg drove the car MB, Peter and I pushed and up the hill Greg went without me. We had decided that if Greg could get going, he should just keep rolling and I would jump in with MB & Peter. We piled in their Subaru – four wheel drive with snow chains on the tires, of course – and followed along behind.

MB, Peter and I were feeling pretty good about our pushing strength until we came around the corner and saw a very steep hill ahead of us with one black VW Jetta wagon stuck in the middle. Again, we piled out of the Subaru to see what could be done. The road was wide at this point so this time we pushed the Jetta to the side of the road, not up it. MB & Peter decided they would drive by us and see how far it was to the mountain pass where the others had parked. Greg and I were to wait in the VW while they scouted out the rest of the road. If it was close, they would walk back to get us. If it was far, they would drive back to pick us up. It seemed Jetta would miss the tree hunt but we would get to participate.

Greg and I sat in the car with the heat on, pleased that we had filled up the tank before we left but sheepish that we had not thought to buy snow chains for the car. We live in the land of rain, for gods sake, not snow! At least there was a good radio show on for us to listen to while we waited. The snow was really coming down now and the wind was blowing good. With all the snow swirling around us I felt like we were in a snow globe that had been vigorously shaken up, that is, if there exists is a snow globe featuring a stuck black Jetta as it’s holiday scene.

After a bit we saw four figures coming down the hill but we couldn’t make out whom they were though the thick falling snow. As they drew closer we could see that it wasn’t MB & Peter but four of the other shipwrights. Fresh Horses! We were less than a quarter of a mile from the pass where the others had gathered. As the four Horses and I pushed the wheels spun and suddenly the tires grabbed the road and off Greg went again to be lost behind a curtain of blizzard like snow and the turn in the road ahead of us.

Tree Hunt Pallet Fire 2015

The Horses and I tromped up the hill to the pass and with relief saw a Jetta parked, not stuck, beside all the cars, trucks and SUVs of others who had made a better choice as to what set of wheels they would take on the tree slaying expedition. The Horses asked why a girl from Maine let a South African drive in the snow? They had never seen Greg’s road rally style driving in a South African game park on a treacherous, pothole filled road – a washed out, mud slick course at best. As we grew closer to the top, we could hear the roar of a good old fashioned pallet fire and muffled voices of people clad in thick coats and boots, disguised by hats and scarves. Back in the day, there was a lot sipping from flasks and tipping back of beers around the fire. Now most of the crew have families so there is more hot coco and cider consumed. Well, there were a few flasks making the circuit around the fire but not with the vigor and speed of the B.C. days – before children!

In addition to children, a tailgate lunch is also new to the event as mothers know children need food to keep them from whining. Greg uses this very same food tactic to keep me happy so he made sure to bring me a big bowl of chili. The other wives thought he was being so thoughtful, why didn’t their men do this for them? But I know it was just selfdefense on Greg’s part. Clever man!

Kids were making snow angels, careening down the road on sleds and the snow kept on falling. How much so far? I poked my gloved hand into the snow to find it halfway up my forearm. This was a proper snowstorm! The surprise in the weather was exciting as I dearly miss snow but in the back of my mind I was wondering if Jetta would be stuck on the pass until the spring thaw.

After libations, big stories and bowls of chili people headed out in all directions of the compass to find the perfect tree. We found a lopsided little tree with lots of character, chopped it down and brought it home. By now the snow was drifting but I am quite sure there was a foot on the ground when we loaded up the tree for the drive home. The trip down the mountain was without event as momentum was on our side and we were at the front of the line of cars, able to find fresh snow that offered traction.

Christmas Tree Expedition 2015 ended up being pretty darn wonderful! Well, that about sums up the day, except to add, festooned with lights and glitter the little tree looks quite festive.  That’s our dog Georgie snoozing under the tree. Oh, and if you are curious, here is a link to the website for the Olympic National Forest: http://www.fs.usda.gov/olympic/

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!! Love and salmon, Amy

Xmas Tree 2015

Duna Chowder of July 2014: a story & a recipe

To quote Caven on F/V Sword, the Southeast Alaska chinook opening in July of 2014 was epic. Fishermen who had been trolling for salmon in Alaska for 50 years said that the opening we just completed was the best one of their careers, one for the books. We were lucky to be there and lucky to be on the fish. It doesn’t always happen that way. We weren’t on the fish in 2015 but that is another story for another post…back to July 2014.

After bucking and bashing into the weather for 17 hours while coming in from the Fairweather Grounds, we found ourselves rafted up to the dock three boats deep in the tiny, remote village of Elfin Cove, Alaska. You can only reach Elfin Cove by floatplane or boat. Steep mountains rise up on all sides of the harbor. The homes and other buildings of Elfin Cove are pressed up against the base of the mountains. There are no roads in the village, only boardwalks that ring the harbor and connect the village’s buildings to the docks.

Red Chinook on left and Marbled Chinook on right at the Makah Tribe and Coastal Trollers Association 10th Annual Washington Troll Salmon Lunch at Lark. Photo by Marcus Donner © 2013We were all exhausted and beaten from the ‘epic’ fishing and intense weather that found the fleet on the last day of the July chinook opening. Once in port, it rained sideways and blew for three days but no one cared. Everyone was secure at the dock and sleep in copious amounts was the only thing anyone craved.

Once sleep depraved captains and crews were rested it was time to celebrate a successful start of the summer troll season in Alaska. Sharing a meal with others during fishing season is a rare treat as we are often, quite literally, ships that pass in the night. A pot of fish chowder was made to feed the crews from five fishing boats who were gathered on the back deck of Duna, under the awning and out of the rain. We made the chowder, they brought the beer.

IMG_4437We often eat chowder and fish soups on the boat. A hot bowl of soup warms your hands as you hold it, fills your belly and can be eaten when you have time. I don’t usually write down recipes as what I have on board to cook with is what goes into dinner. You improvise a lot of the time. That day in Elfin Cove Megan from F/V Island Star asked me to teach her how to make chowder so we actually measured and recorded all the ingredients as they were added to the pot. The resulting recipe is below.

It’s now October of 2015, a year and some months from when Megan and I made the Duna Chowder in Elfin Cove. We recently had chowder at our house in Port Townsend with our friends from F/V Caribou – Joe, April and their boy Ocean. The Caribous, as we call them, were there for the original Duna chowder. As we sat around the kitchen table, far away from the roll of the sea, memories and stories floated up from our steamy bowls with each spoonful of chowder. We are lucky that so many from our Alaska fishing community are home-ported in Washington and can gather with us while we are land locked in the off seasons from fishing.

Duna Chowder, the recipe that fed the crews from 5 fishing boats or 12 hungry people:

½ cup bacon, chopped

3 ½ cups onion, diced

1 ¾ cups celery, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

4 bay leaves

2 teaspoon dill & thyme, dry is fine

2 cups carrots, cut into ½ inch pieces

3 – 4 quarts fish stock

3 – 4 cups red skin potatoes or other thin skin spud, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 can corn, drained

1 pint heavy cream or 2 cans evaporated milk

3 – 4 pounds salmon, skinned and cut into 1” cubes

¼ cup dried wakame, optional

Salt and Pepper to taste

A few notes before you start:

  • The recipe calls for salmon but you can use halibut, cod, or rockfish
  • If you don’t have fish stock a quick substitute can be made by combining 1 tablespoon of Vietnamese fish sauce for each cup of water.
  • For thicker chowder, make a flour or corn starch slurry and stir in after adding the milk. Thicken to your preference.
  • Dried wakame (a type of seaweed) adds a nice dose of umami to the chowder. I crush the dried wakame a bit before adding it so the rehydrated pieces are smaller.
  • You can make this chowder a day ahead of time if you wish. Stop just before you add the fish then cool and refrigerate the chowder. One hour before you wish to serve the chowder, gently heat it back up to a steamy simmer and add the fish raw fish and seaweed. Follow the recipe from that point onwards.

In a large stockpot, sauté the bacon until the fat is rendered but the meat is not too crispy.

Add the onion & celery to the bacon, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Sauté until the vegetables are just soft, about 5 minutes.

Add spices, stirring occasionally until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.

Now add the carrots and stock, cooking until carrots soften slightly. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any bacon or vegetable bits.

Next add spuds, corn and cream or evaporated milk. Simmer until the spuds are just slightly soft. Remember to stir so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

Now is the time to add a slurry of thickener if you plan to use it. Stir until broth thickens. Add more or less slurry to thicken the broth to your liking.

Once the broth is steaming hot but not boiling add fish and dried wakame. Stir once so all the fish submerged and wakami is evenly distributed throughout the chowder. Simmer until fish is just cooked. Stir occasionally.

Remember the fish will continue to cook in hot broth once the pot is off the stove. Be careful not to over cook the fish or it will get tough.

That’s it! Serve with lots of bread or crackers, cold beer and call it dinner.

Martin Walks On, 1936 -2015

Martin Friedrichs 1936 - 2015Sadly, my husband Greg’s dad Martin passed in his sleep last Saturday night after battling cancer for the last ten months. We are all relieved that it was a peaceful wrap on a fully lived life. On Friday, when Greg and I heard that it was getting close, we secured our fishing boat Duna in a slip and flew out of Sitka to Seattle. Greg then headed to South Africa to be with his mom and sisters. My role was to return to Port Townsend for a few weeks on standby for whatever needed doing. I am so glad Greg flew to South Africa as with his family is where he should be right now, him supporting them and them supporting him. All will be fine with time and the Friedrichs clan knows the value and healing power of laughter through tears.

We are playing it by ear on our return to Alaska and fishing. In theory, we hope to be on the water again by July 15th but will see how it all goes in South Africa. If need be Greg will stay on longer to help his family. That is the good thing about running your own business, the flexibility when you need it.

My goofy old hound dog is beside himself with joy that he has me back to cater to his need for scratches and walks in the woods and field. The gardens are also breathing a sigh of relief for my return, as it has been hot and dry here in the Pacific Northwest. The grass is good and brown and that is how it will stay. No water for the lawn as I hate mowing that damn grass!

It is full blown summer in Port Townsend. In spite of and maybe because of the heat, the raspberries in my backyard and wild blackberries in the fields are ripe and adding up in our freezer. The berries joined 20 pounds of sweet, red cherries – pitted, frozen on sheet pans and transferred to containers – stacked in the deep freeze earlier in June. Blueberries are sure to be early due to the summery blast so soon it will be a trip to Finnriver Farm and Cidery in Chimacum for U-pick. Unlike the wild blackberries that are found low in the grass on thorny canes that stitch exposed limbs with a mesh of red welts, the task of picking high bush blueberries is painless work. For now, off the boat and out of Alaska, my focus has shifted from producing seafood to putting up landfood.

Martin & Greg at the Braai, Christmas 2013

Martin and Greg checking the Braai, South Africa, Christmas 2013

Part of me feels badly to be in the middle of all this summer with bounty and bloom, the smell of fresh hay everywhere and doors of the house propped wide open for breezes while Greg is taking his last journey with his father. My friend and dog sitter Josh wisely said, “You can feel bad about enjoying your sudden summertime at home but it won’t do him or you any good.” He is right. So I am collecting summer to share with Greg when he gets back – berries in the freezer, pictures from the woodsy walks and writing him quick messages that hopefully steal him away from the sadness for a few seconds when he reads them.

We have a good life and it was a good life that Martin Friedrichs shared with his family and friends. And it’s a good life I get to share with all of you. Thank you for being there as my family and friends.

2015 Washington Chinook salmon fishing opened May 1st – Where to buy the fish?

As sure as any harbinger of spring the return of Chinook salmon to our coastal waters signals we are on our way to warmer weather and longer days. Friday, May 1st marked the opening of the 2015 Washington commercial troll fishery for Chinook. The fishing boats are on the water and soon will be returning to the dock with silver backed salmon securely tucked into icy fish holds. So begins the 2015 fishing season and the availability of fresh, local wild Chinook.

If you are a chef or just love fresh caught Chinook you must be anticipating the chance to get your first taste of this year’s Washington hook and line caught salmon. What better seafood can you think of to accompany the tender shoots of landfood that are showing up in your kitchen? Briny and sweet, rich yet mild, Washington troll caught Chinook will shine when it shares the spotlight with the springtime bounty of produce.


You can feel good about eating Washington troll caught Chinook. Here are three reasons:

  1. Trolling, also know as hook and line fishing, is widely recognized as one of the most sustainable ways to catch fish.
  2. Washington Chinook are caught less than 200 miles from Seattle and never get on a plane so these fish have a smaller carbon footprint.
  3. Buying locally caught Chinook supports Washington’s fishing families and businesses. Keeping it local never tasted so good.


You may be thinking, “Where can I buy the fish?” Here is a list of fishermen and seafood distributors who will be able to supply your restaurant or market with fresh troll caught Washington Chinook. When you order, make sure to ask your fishmonger what color Chinook is available. Whether red, white or marbled all Washington Chinook are delicious and add local flavor to your menu or seafood counter selection.

Businesses marked with an asterisk are owned by fishermen who sell their own catch.

Cape Flattery Fishermen’s Coop

Joseph Lawrence, Manager

(360) 645-2231


Notes: Wholesale and seafood buyer

Corfini Gourmet

Bernado Jimenez


(206) 310-8386


Fishing Vessel Barcarole*

Jeremy Brown

(360) 201 2487

Notes: SMS preferred contact method, in season, by appointment. Delivering direct to select restaurants and seafood markets in North Sound area.

Fishing Vessel Donna Sea*

Mike Hitchcock (360) 269-7811 or

Kayla Gore (360) 878-7326


Notes: Wholesale in Lewis County and western Washington; retail off boat and Lewis County via Facebook/public media

Fishing Vessel Karen L*

Nicole Curry

(360) 305 1022

Notes: SMS preferred contact method, in season, by appointment. Delivering direct to select restaurants and seafood markets in North Sound area

Flying Fish Company, LLC

Lyf Gildersleeve

(503) 260-6552



Notes: Serving Portland, OR; retail and wholesale

Harvester’s Catch*

Jeff Pedersen




Notes: Serving Washington and Oregon; wholesale to restaurants & markets; and retail to the public at Farmers Markets and off the boat

James Island Fish*

Steve Wilson

(253) 732-4617


Notes: Wholesale & retail sales on Olympic Peninsula, in Seattle area & South Sound

Jessie’s Ilwaco Fish Co.

Pierre Marchand

(360) 642-3773


Notes: Serving Washington, Oregon & the World. Wholesale to stores, restaurants & distributors; retail markets in South Bend & Ilwaco

The Jones Family Farms

Ivan Brown

(360) 468-0533



Notes: Serving San Juan Islands, Skagit, Bellingham and Seattle; wholesale & retail

Kelly’s Fresh Fish*

Tom (t.k.) Kelly

(206) 914-1342


Notes: Seattle & into Tacoma, wholesale to restaurants and markets; retail sales to general public. Delivery arranged weekly

Kona Pacific Seafoods*

Tasha Parker

(253) 380-7255 or (260) 291-8068

tasha.konapacific@gmail.com or surfangel830@gmail.com


Notes: Serving Seattle area, wholesale restaurants and markets, whole fish only

Mikuni Wild Harvest

Jeff Griffiths




Notes: National service, wholesale & buyer

Mikuni Wild Harvest

Kevin Mock




Notes: Servicing entire USA, wholesale

Olympic Seafoods, LLC

Eydfinn Tausen, Owner

(425) 337-9105 c.

(425) 491-7425 f.



Notes: Serving Seattle, Pacific Northwest & national markets, wholesale only

Wild Salmon Seafood Market

Jon Speltz, Owner

206) 283-3366



Notes: Wild Salmon Seafood Market retail store has a sizable wholesale business. Delivery to Queen Anne, Magnolia and Ballard restaurants, always available for will call. FedEx shipping around the country.

Wild West

Preston Onkst




Notes: Wholesale on Olympic Peninsula, Kitsap & Seattle; retail to public at Port Angeles Farmers Market

Wilson Fish Markets*

Jan & Gene Panida

(253) 722-7100


Notes: Selling at 8+ Farmers Markets including Ballard, Edmonds, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Puyallup, Tacoma and Proctor

(Photo of Washington Chinook at Lark in Seattle courtesy of Marcus Donner http://www.marcusdonner.com)

My life as a Tree

My husband’s father is reaching the end of his run and it has offered us a whole different way in which to consider living in this world. My partner is quietly processing this next stage of life while I stand by, not so quiet, ready if needed with food; coffee or gin; a shoulder or embrace. The process must be with me even as I sleep because I woke this morning needing to write immediately. Here is what came of it.

This morning I woke with a strange yet pleasing thought: when I die plant a tree not a headstone. My tree would offer a most pleasant place for you to come visit me. That tree and me will be one. My limbs will be stretched out in greeting as you approach. Lift your children up into my arms for a hug and I’ll give you a break from minding them. Children always love a view from above. Think of the time your favorite adult swung you up on to their shoulders, you breathless with the new-found height and a view wider than the people below you.

We’ll share a picnic in the shade. I always have loved to have people over for dinner. If it is spring we’ll admire the blossoms my branches have produced just as we used to walk the edges of my garden at home to see what was growing. If it is fall, pick an apple. It’s what I brought for dessert. Still a good cook! And if it rains, not to worry, my sheltering arms are still there to take you in from the weather.

Maybe another will choose a tree not a stone for their memorial? If they plant their tree next to mine we’ll stand together, enjoying the changing seasons. Eventually we’ll grow so tall and strong, our spreading limbs linked as arms, hand in hand. In our companionship we’ll take a stand for fresh air, exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen. We’ll create essential habitat for things that crawl, climb and fly.

Plant me by a stream and I’ll shade the riffles and pools that wild salmon seek to spawn their young. They need cool water to be successful in their life’s work of creating the next generation. And I’ll get to see the salmon every year when they return much the same as when I went to sea each year to catch them. How right I should become a tree as my fishing boat is made of wood.

As a fisherman salmon is a constant on my dinner table. In my life as a tree those salmon will still nourish me in their death. My roots will absorb the nutrition they selflessly share. The powerful stuff will travel upward though my trunk to the greenness of leaves rather than the top down human system of feeding, mouth to body. Salmon will still be my favorite food. When I pass plant a tree so that even in death I can choose life. Join me and we’ll become a forest.

Diesel Perfume

If you never worked on a fishing boat you may find it odd but there is nothing more comforting than the faint smell of diesel. I was reminded of this as I swung back the door and stepped into the wheelhouse of tugboat Newt, scented strongly by fir with a hint of diesel. It was February and I had just suffered another of the east to west coast returns that punctuate the work I do in the off season to support my commercial fishing habit. The day was tormented by delayed flights, missed connections and the realization that I would not get to Seattle in time to make the last ferry to Port Townsend and home. A call made from Newark, New Jersey secured me a bunk on a 70-foot wooden tugboat in Seattle for the night. Well past midnight came the relief of unfurling the sleeping bag that is always on standby in the back of my car in a warm west coast wheelhouse, floating instead of flying.

The smell of a diesel powered wooden boat is something you cannot shake for once you have stepped foot on one. Its warm breath permeates your nose, clothes and memory. The combination of wood and diesel is a different perfume. This is not the smell of diesel vapor that rises from a deck fitting as you nervously fill the boat’s tank at Petro Marine. Not the acrid scent that creeps closer to your nose while you eyeball the level of the tank through the crescent space left between the nozzle of the hose and the wall of the fuel fill fitting. You tune your ear to the sound of free flowing fuel that will change to gurgling foam threatening to gush on to the deck just before the tank is full. The sound of free flow is trance inducing and like a genie from a bottle random thoughts waft up on the vapors, lulling you to another place until you jerk back to the present for fear of over flow. Nor is it the smell left on your hands after you pick up the fuel spattered diaper once the danger of over flow has been narrowly averted by your trigger finger quick reaction to the slightly hollow sound that lies between free flow and the gurgle of full. Another trip to the fuel dock completed without a rainbow sheen of shame surrounding your boat like a slipped halo.

And it’s not the hot smell of steel, leaked oil and diesel exhaust that hits you as the engine room door slides back on its pocket track.  That wall of air is just as thick as the door you just opened. Stepping into it is done gingerly while eyes quickly assess belts, gages, Racor filters and shaft for anything loose, leaky or not dripping enough. Back out of that room respectfully as it has been said to you, “Never turn your back on a moving engine or a man.” Close the door on the raucous din of another event free engine room check. Seal in the good fortune of this place specific stink that keeps parts turning freely and water gliding by your hull. Feel lucky as you skip up the ladder for the hard working smell you just left has been known to cause some bellies to boil if the sea is thrashing and your boat is bucking through rather than riding with the waves.

The comfort scent I am recalling is salty and slightly sweet, a combination of past trips, cedar planks and the sweat of hard work. It is a lingering smell that for those of you who do not know could be best described as pipe tobacco when it is sparked but not fully lit, the sulfur from the match and the resulting smoke rounding out the leathery bouquet. It is a smell that for days on end scents your waking hours, tea breaks and dreamless sleeps when the deck work has battered you just enough to hurt but not break you. It greets you as eyes flutter to the sound of the 671 alarm clock or maybe yours is a Deere John. In any case, your good skipper has the coffee on, it’s own aroma a consolation prize for the push out of your down filled nest as you fledge for another day of fishing. Diesel perfume is a smell you eventually wash from your clothes after a few weeks back on land when season is done but one that never leaves you. It will summon all of Alaska back to the surface when on a dark night it unexpectedly greets you at the wheelhouse door in Seattle.

GoGreen Seattle Conference 2014 Presentation

On April 30th I joined a panel of business leaders at the GoGreen Seattle Conference to talk about what sustainability means to them. With businesses like Boeing and CenturyLink Field represented, trust me when I say Duna Fisheries, LLC with only two employees was the smallest in the pack! Crazy, huh? Anyway, here’s what I had to say:

Coho and Amy

Coho and Amy

My name is Amy Grondin. Part of the year I make my living as a commercial salmon fisherman. When not on the water, my work is in Commercial Fisheries Outreach with a focus on sustainable food systems. I rely on salmon to make a living and see them as a very important business partners.

F/V Duna, our 40’ wooden fishing boat, was built in 1936 in Tacoma. My husband Greg and I fish together. Sometimes we’ll hire a deckhand for a few weeks if the fishing is predicted to be particularly good and a third set of hands would be helpful.

Greg and I fish in Washington and Alaska. Our salmon fishing season begins off the coast of Washington on May 1st. Towards the end of June we’ll stop fishing Washington waters and start the trip to Southeast Alaska where we’ll fish for the rest of the summer. Come September the fishing slows down and the crew of two is getting tired. This time of year each day starts and ends wondering if the autumn storms are coming and if it’s time to stack the fishing gear and head south with the geese that are flying overhead. It is a good life for us and we look forward to working on the water.

F/V Duna trolling for salmon

F/V Duna trolling for salmon

We catch salmon by trolling, which is often called hook and line fishing. Trolling is a very sustainable fishing technique as each fish is caught one at a time. If the fish caught on a hook is too small to keep or not of the right species it can be released alive to swim away. Often trolling is confused with trawling as the names of these two fishing techniques roll of your tongue in a similar way but the similarity stops there. Trawling involves catching fish with a net that is dragged behind a fishing boat in deep water very near the sea floor. Fish caught by trawling are not alive when they are landed on the boat so there is no chance to release fish that are not your target species. In the jargon of fisheries, trolling is a selective gear type while trawling is nonselective.

When we are fishing our boat is our world. We take care of our boat as if our live depended upon it, because they do. Each year before we go fishing Duna is hauled out in the boatyard where we clean and inspect the hull, make necessary repairs, apply fresh paint and back in the water she goes. The engine is tuned; the wiring and hoses all checked; and safety gear inspected.

F/V Duna hauled out in the boatyard

F/V Duna hauled out in the boatyard

We trust our boat is safe because we know that we have done all we can to make it that way. Once fishing begins we want our time to be spent fishing, not trying to make repairs at sea or worrying about breaking down. That is not to say that boat maintenance ceases once fishing begins. It just becomes part of our daily routine, which is something like this:

Morning comes. First thing turn on the computer, GPS and navigation program. If they don’t launch on the screen nothing else happens until the system is up and running. Next down to the engine room to start the engine but first check the oil level. All day long while fishing watch the engine gages for temperature and oil pressure. Look in the bilge many times a day to see if any seawater is gathering. Water should be outside of the hull, not in it. Also, look in the bilge for oil. An oil leak is bad for both the engine and the environment. Watch your fuel level to make sure there is enough to get you back to port after six days of fishing.

Engine started, up the ladder and out on deck. When the anchor is hauled check the chain for wear. Look up to see how the rigging above the boat is holding up. Any chaffing of lines or burrs on the stainless cable that tension the mast and poles to the deck? While at it check the sky, it will be obvious if it’s raining. Take note which of side of your face is the wind hitting. Scan the horizon for clouds or clearing, white caps or any other changes that might be coming your way. Sniff the air. All should be briny sweet since the deck was scrubbed after fishing yesterday. Smell fuel, other chemicals or a ‘hot’ smell? You shouldn’t and if you do drop everything until the source is found as it could signal a problem. Now make coffee and run out to the fishing grounds.

Maintaining the boat is only part of the equation. It is equally important to maintain the crew. Get sleep when possible, eat when hungry and drink if thirsty. Check the level of the fresh water tank, as drinking water is a precious commodity, maybe even more so than fuel. Keep dry if possible as it makes it easier to stay warm. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses or safety glasses when fishing. A hook in the eye is nothing you want and it happens to people every year.

Greg catching coho

Greg catching coho

Be safe on deck and don’t do stupid things. Think it through, look where you step, put things back where they belong, especially knives. Secure loose lines, tie down things on deck, wash slippery fish guts off the deck. Watch out for the other people on the boat and lend a hand if one is needed. Do everything you can to stay on the boat.

What does any of this have to do with sustainability or sustainable business practices? On the water Greg and I are very tuned into our fishing world. We monitor the boat, weather, sea conditions, fish and ourselves for changes. We conserve water, fuel, cook only what we will eat and in general try to keep all in balance because we only have what is on board the boat. The goal is to create as little waste as possible because there is nowhere for it to go but on the boat with you. This is the sea going equivalent of ‘pack it in, pack it out.’ We fish responsibly while trying to catch what fishing regulations allow us. If we take care of the fish the fish will take care of us by providing us with an income and food. When we do all these things the quality of life while fishing is very good. We make a living with a hard working crew while acting as stewards to salmon and the ocean. This is how our small floating business achieves triple bottom line results – a balance of people, profit and planet.

When fishing season is over and we are back on land, civilization at first overwhelming. Our home on land doesn’t roll around while we are sleeping. There is a seemingly endless supply of water from the tap. The garbage and recycling magically go away each week. The flick of a switch provides light and power that is not from a battery bank that is constantly in need of charging. Should the car run out of fuel you don’t need to worry about drifting onto the rocks like you do on the boat. Just call a friend, a tow truck or Triple A. No need to ration food, the grocery store is minutes away but why cook when you can go out to eat? Slowly, all the convenience dulls our survival instincts. It can be very easy to take for granted the resources that are just there for the taking. We become disconnected from the natural world and our role in it. How do we remember to live deliberately?

This is when lessons learned on a fishing boat about the stewardship of nature need to be recalled. Don’t get me wrong, civilization rocks! I love my warm, dry home; going out to dinner; the mixed blessing of constant connectivity through my smart phone; and knowing I can sleep through the night without getting up to check the weather.

Greg taking a look around

Greg taking a look around

The difference is that when Greg and I are on the boat, at sea and away from land we are very cognizant how our survival is directly tied to the quality and amount of resources we have access to, both natural and man-made. We don’t take any of it for granted or get casual about the value of fuel, shelter, water, or food. We are constantly aware of our connection to nature and the need to observe and respond to ever changing conditions.

At sea we share the ocean with the salmon we catch. We are part of the marine food web in the role of top predator. Back on land we are still connected to salmon but in ways not always tangible or as obvious as sea spray in your face. Fishermen return to land after fishing season closes. Likewise salmon leave the ocean to swim inland and up streams to spawn after their life at sea. Now the water connection to salmon is fresh, not salty. We need fresh water for drinking, washing, irrigating crops and creating hydropower while salmon need the water simply to spawn and complete their lifecycle.

No matter how you make a living – fisherman, computer programmer, construction worker, lawyer or [fill in the blank here with your own profession] – the fact that you live in the Pacific Northwest connects you to salmon. Streams and rivers thread from land to sea, stitching the two together inseparably. Choices and actions made daily have impacts beyond the four walls of our homes or four wheels of our cars. We may live in ‘rain city’ but water can’t be taken for granted. We need to protect it; keep it clean and remember that the less we use the more there will be for salmon. Living deliberately doesn’t have to mean a life of less. It means more for later.

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What to bring on a fishing boat?

It has been a long time since my last post! Here is one to get started again:

This Spring a Seattle Chef asked me what to bring North to Alaska for her three day guest visit on a commercial fishing boat that was going for herring out of Sitka. Not grammatically correct or in any order, here is a list of things I bring if I am going out on a fishing boat that is not my own.

For you: Layers of clothing, warm hat, gloves, base ball cap, sunglasses, strap to keep glasses on head not over board, sunscreen, your own water bottle (no more plastic in the sea, please), extra socks, flip-flops or other easy off shoes (not Crocs – to slippery) so you don’t wear boots all day on the boat (sweaty feet get cold), phone with charger, camera & iPod. A Ziploc bag for phone, iPod & camera if splashes of h2o will zap them. Your own reusable, non-breakable coffee cup. Headlamp & batteries. A pocketknife. I like my Victorinox Swiss Army 3 1/4″ serrated knife with plastic sheath – good for everything and not too expensive to replace if it goes overboard. Rain gear if you have your own. A survival suit if you have your own. A book as you may have time on your hands until the action starts.  A bath towel and a hand towel – no telling if you’ll want to use the ones on the boat. The hand towel is good for a face wash after a salty spray and you won’t chance getting fish guts on your bath towel. Tampons if you’ll need them. Tissues to so you don’t use all the toilet paper for a runny nose or if someone else used up all the toilet paper. A sleeping bag.

RX: seasick meds (take one the night before you get on the boat), sleeve of Saltine crackers for queasiness, packet of ramen helps settle the stomach too, remember it’s always better to keep your stomach slightly full rather than empty – nibble all day. Single serve Miso packets are good, too. I crave salt when I am queasy. Peppermint tea. Some like ginger tea but I prefer peppermint or chamomile. Your own bottle of preferred pain killer.

For the boat & crew: Write down a couple good fish recipes in case someone asks for one. Have them loaded on your phone so you can email them rather than have to write one down on the spot when you are seasick. Bring some of your pickles or jams for the crew and a block of cheese that goes well with them. Any t-shirts from your restaurant? Good to have as trade items. Chocolate you can’t buy in Alaska. Cookies & magazines for the crew. Magazines like People, Outside, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair – really – generally please most. Money for the first round of drinks once back in port and off the boat – it may be the only round anyone remembers so belly up to the bar with cash in hand right away. Business cards so the crew can come find you and your restaurant when they hit Seattle with their wallets full of herring season bucks!!!!

Don’t forget: Above all, keep it small. Only bring one duffle or backpack (not a suitcase if you can help it, bad luck) and a computer if you can’t live without it.

It never hurts to have a few snacks in your backpack for yourself so you don’t need to bug the crew when they are busy with fish and you are starving. Share the snacks if someone sees you eating them.

Pack a good attitude and a sense of humor even if no one else the boat brought theirs. The ability to wait and entertain yourself is also good to have on board a fishing boat.

When Oysters and Seawater Don’t Mix

Two weeks ago the Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall, CA hosted a tour of their shellfish farm. The goal of the tour was to raise awareness of ocean acidification. Coordinated by co-owners Terry Sawyer and John Finger; Dr. Tessa Hill from the UC Davis Bodega Bay Labs; the Ocean Conservancy and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, the tour would also showcase how the Hog Island Oyster Company has responded to ocean acidification. The collaborative research project to monitor the seawater pH of Tomales Bay that is conducted on site at the shellfish farm with Dr. Tessa Hill is one such response and a major part of Hog Island’s plan to stay in business in times of uncertain ocean pH.

Those looking on at our group gathered on the edge of Tomales Bay would have thought we were enjoying a leisurely day in the late autumn sun. And we were. What they might not have thought was that we were addressing a serious topic. That day ocean acidification was discussed and many questions asked as we slurped oysters, a briny sweet reminder of what we stand to lose if we don’t get a handle on carbon emissions that cause the pH of seawater to drop.

Why is a drop in the pH of seawater an issue to be concerned about? When the pH of anything drops, it becomes more acidic. For many people it helps to consider their own backyard to better understand why pH levels matter. Even if you aren’t a master gardener you have probably heard about acid loving plants and plants that like ‘sweeter soil’ or soil with a more alkaline pH. Maybe you have asked a salesperson at your local garden center if a particular plant will be happy in your yard and heard in response, “Is your soil acid?” Perhaps like me you took home a tempting plant only to have it fail and wither as it didn’t like the acid soil on offer in your garden beds. When you were digging in the acid soil filled corner of your yard did your hands get burned by the soil with an acid pH? No, but the plants that died in the same soil sure had a different response. Substitute you in a swimsuit splashing unaffected in an acid ocean amongst struggling oyster larvae and a mix of other microscopic members of the marine food web and you’ve got it.

A drop in the pH of seawater affects the ability of juvenile shellfish and other zooplankton to form their first protective layers of shell. Without protection these microscopic animals can’t survive and mature to the stage at which we identify them as seafood. This is also a problem for the larger members of the marine food web like salmon and tuna as small fish are eaten by big fish and really small fish eat zooplankton.

For some people on the tour of Hog Island Oyster Company this was their first introduction to ocean acidification. Others in the group could and do lecture on the implications of changes in seawater chemistry. Regardless of how much was known going into the tour, all left well fed, more informed on ocean acidification and inspired to cut carbon. But if you were like me, you still had questions about what could be done.

Later that same week and up the coast to Washington State, a similar tour was hosted at Taylor Shellfish Farms Quilcene Hatchery on Dabob Bay. Again the goal was to raise awareness of ocean acidification and to learn how Taylor Shellfish Farms are responding to the threat ocean acidification poses to their business and the more than 3,200 jobs the Washington shellfish industry supports. This time the tour guests sported raingear and wool hats, not sunscreen and sunglasses. In spite of the howling wind and threatening rain and because we expect this in the Pacific Northwest, there was a great turn out.

The tour groups at both the Hog Island and Taylor Shellfish sites were diverse and included journalists from media sources covering topics ranging from the seafood industry, environment and policy to food and sustainability. Chefs, shellfish farmers, and nonprofit organizations rounded out the tour groups for truly diverse sets of individuals who came together to learn more about ocean acidification. In addition, the Taylor Shellfish tour group brought out University of Washington faculty and students and members of Washington State’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification.

The Washington State Department of Ecology website offers this description of the role of the Blue Ribbon Panel. “In December 2011, Governor Gregoire convened a Blue Ribbon Panel of leading tribal, state, federal and local policy makers; scientific experts; public opinion leaders; and industry representatives.”

“The Blue Ribbon Panel has focused on documenting the current state of scientific knowledge, ways to advance our scientific understanding of the effects of ocean acidification, and recommend actions to respond to increasing ocean acidification, reduce harmful effects on Washington’s shellfish and other marine resources, and adapt to the impacts of acidified waters.”

After a year’s work, on Tuesday, November 27th  the Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification will release their recommendations to Governor Christine Gregoire. Along with Dr. Jane Lubchenco from NOAA and other guests, the 28 members of the Blue Ribbon Panel, will gather at the Seattle Aquarium for the morning event and press conference.

The release of these recommendations marks an important milestone in the recent history of ocean acidification. The actions of Washington State in response to the recommendation made by the Blue Ribbon Panel will be watched by the whole world. The attention is definitely not the Oscars type of hype. The proceedings will be followed by a smaller, more specialized sector. Some might suggest it is a somewhat geeky population of the world but they/we/me are people who are concerned for the future of our oceans. I have to admit I am strangely hopeful and anxious to hear what is recommended by the Blue Ribbon Panel. We need some direction and leadership to pull us out of the ‘nothing can be done’ funk that a problem as big as ocean acidification can bring on. We are watching you, Washington.

Note: follow this link for more information on Washington State’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oceanacidification.html

Halibut, spot prawns and chanterelles

Note from Amy: In mid June I abandoned my computer and Fish = Food posts for the decks of my fishing boat Duna. A summer in Alaska away from my office strengthens my desk weakened frame and restores my sanity. It also reminds me of why once home in Port Townsend I work to keep commercial fishing a modern-day trade and not a tale of yesterday to be viewed in an exhibit at a maritime museum or read about in history books.

When done right, commercial fishing is sustainable for the fish and the fishermen who make a living at it. Each boat and the crew that fishes that boat are unique, often to the extreme. They inspire me to do what I can to keep wild fish coming over the rails, into the holds and wages in the pockets of fishermen who will spend that money in their home ports once fishing season is closed. Call it a triple bottom line result or just good business. Either way, we should be proud to support our fleets and thank them each time we sit down to a dinner of wild caught seafood.

The boat is tied to the dock in Port Townsend and I am trying to reacquaint myself with my keyboard. Here are the results…

Greg and I made the decision mid September to call it a season. With the last salmon off the boat, we stowed the trolling gear away and turned Duna, our 40 foot wooden boat, south for the trip home from southeast Alaska to Port Townsend. Our route down Chatham Strait would take us by the Baranof  Warm Springs. The magnetic pull of hot water bubbling from the ground into rocky pools was more than we could stand. A turn to the starboard and we soon found ourselves sliding up along the floating dock in Warm Springs Bay.

Sarah, captain of the 82 foot power skow North Wind , saw us coming in and as good neighbors do, she  was soon taking the lines from my hand. With a few easy turns she had Duna secured to the dock. On the way back to her boat Sarah called, “Come by later for dinner after you’re done soaking.” A highly coveted spot at the dock, a friendly welcome, dinner plans and hot springs only an easy walk away through the woods; as Greg likes to say, “It’s all coming together now.”

Fishermen simmering in the Baranof Warm Springs

Power skows are famed for their welcoming galleys. The cooks who work these galleys know how to tease from an unruly diesel stove meals that restore a hard-working crews’ energy and improve sullen attitudes at end of a day. Lazy from our soak in the hot springs we climbed the steps to the North Wind’s galley knowing we were lucky as good food was just through the door ahead of us.

On the menu that evening were halibut, spot prawns & chanterelles, all beer batter coated, fried crispy and light. I have to admit I had my doubts. Halibut, yes, but spot prawns and chanterelles? These aren’t pub fare and are darn expensive if you’re buying them, hard-won if you are pulling shrimp pots or hitting the woods to forage for chanterelles. We cracked a beer and settled back to watch George work his galley magic.

With tattooed arms efficiently working a sleight of hand, George lowered beer battered chanterelles into hot oil, rendering them golden, delicate and sweet . This was totally different from my method of a dry saute for chanterelles followed by a hit of olive oil and butter with leeks added last and moved around the pan until just past wilted. As for the spot prawns?  Like the chanterelles the plump spot prawns responded nicely to George’s beer batter treatment. Who ever has enough of these critters to do anything other than boil them in salted water or saute them in garlicky goodness for a peel and eat treat?

In this case, the answer to the question of who has both the luxury and bounty of wild caught and foraged foods to stray from tried and true cooking methods is commercial fishermen. To answer your next question, no, chanterelles are not a staple food of commercial fishermen. Come mid September fishing season in southeast Alaska is winding down as the gale force winds are winding up. You find your boat with more frequency tied to the dock or swinging on anchor as you wait out the latest blow. With any luck, if so inclined, it is only a short jaunt to the forest to kill some time and slay some chanterelles.

Folklore tell us that Eskimos have a gazillion words for snow due to the sheer abundance of it. Anthropologists have disproved this tale but concur that without a doubt keen understanding of snow in all its forms has allowed indigenous people near the Arctic Circle to survive. On commercial fishing vessels our great abundance is fresh caught fish.

As fishermen, we eat what we catch as meat in Alaska is expensive and not always of good quality. If you have a boat load of [insert your target species here: Chinook salmon, halibut, blackcod, spot prawns, etc.] you get really good at finding ways to make your staple protein taste different at each meal. It is hard to imagine that a person could tire of eating any one of these fish or that the words ‘salmon again?’ could ever be uttered. But if that is what you catch, that is what you eat. The dinner time utterance will change as the fishing seasons change: salmon season rolls into Dungeness crab season, Dungeness crab into spot prawn season. If you hold individual fishing quota for halibut or blackcod, one or both of these fish will make it to your galley . Blackcod again?

To be honest, I never tire of eating fish or seeing the fillets on my galley table. However, this isn’t always the case with your crew. Each meal is an opportunity or an Iron Chef challenge, depending on my attitude that day, to see what can be done with the catch. Sometimes I reign victorious in Iron Chef Kitchen Stadium and other times it’s back to Alaska’s Test Kitchen to see if I can save dinner. In any case, there is plenty of product to bake, grill, fry, saute or poach if your culinary  imagination runs wild and time allows for other than throwing together a quick meal to refuel the crew.

The next time you don’t know what to do with your fish, ask a fisherman, preferably a season galley magician.