Monthly Archives: April 2017

Fishing the Fairweather Grounds

We are regularly in seas that are 10 to 15 feet tall. We catch fish while rain is blown sideways by winds that try to push our hull off course and me off my feet. We crash, we bash, but thankfully we also float. My hands were once so cold it was a near frostbite situation. Since then, they get cold quickly and with the cold come pins and needles that spike my fingertips and move upward to my palms. This happens a few times a day, as I am responsible for packing our fish below decks in the fish hold that is filled with ice. When dusk comes we are 70 or more mile off shore so we hove to, tie off the ship’s wheel hard to the port, let the weather take us on its own ride while we sleep in our forepeak bunks, the strobe light on our mast alerting other drifters to our location. And then comes the numbness that wakes me from my sleep. While my body works through the sore souvenirs of fishing, it is my hands that are in pain.

But I love fishing, I love being on the boat and beating challenges offered by the basic steps of living. Things that on land are done with out a thought – getting out of bed and dressed without falling not just down but over or backward or any way the boat decides to pitch me. Filling a cup with water while braced at the galley sink or even more challenging hot water in to a mug for tea or over the grounds in a cone for coffee. Yes, we have been ‘doing’ pour over coffee for decades – literally – long before it was hip. Have you ever peed while bracing yourself at a 45-degree angle? And all this happens in the time it takes to get ready for work, for the day of fishing.


Once out on deck we are greeted by the new day. Often the weather is the same or worse than what we slept through. But, too, come the days when we work bathed in sunlight, a gentle breeze caressing my cheek while I work, the same side of my face that was the day before slapped and pelted with rain. Gone is the bashing and this morning the boat is slicing through glassy water much like a skater effortlessly carves the slick ice they glide over. The Fairweather Range that was hidden yesterday is watching us today. A tendril of hair falls forward and tickles my nose. A smile pulls at the corners of my mouth. I look up as Greg lands a flash of light on deck. The first salmon of the day is caught and another day of fishing begins.

Living on a boat – its personal

Living on a boat – its personal. You get good at being alone in your head as you live cheek to jowl with two other people in a 40 ‘ x 12’ space, a space that is even smaller than it sounds. In this space you are together yet alone like never before. Consider it a subway ride that takes 85 to 100 days until you reach your destination. You sit next to a stranger, careful not to make eye contact in the confined space because that would mean you need to acknowledge the person on the other end of your gaze. Maybe even have to talk to them. To avoid this you bury you nose in the thick walls of the book you are currently engrossed in or are at least pretending to be. You feign sleep in your bunk when crew mates fail in their loud efforts to be quiet as they climb down into the forepeak. Upon waking for your watch you crawl up the ladder from that same forepeak. Emerging in the wheelhouse you nod and grunt at the person at the wheel who is eagerly awaiting you to relieve them. You hope the person coming off watch will actually leave the wheelhouse but you never know, so you stagger to the head both out of necessity and to seek few more moments of alone time before going on watch.


On a fishing boat forget any thoughts of privacy, except when you are in the head that was just mentioned. Even then someone is only a few feet away on the other side of a door that doesn’t offer as much privacy as you might hope. We are all reminded of just how human we are in these times. Your crewmates will be the other people who see you as you thought only your chosen life mate would. There you are in your underwear as you rise out of the bunk after a night of snoring – your husband says you do and now your deckhand knows this, too. With your head hanging over the rail puking up your latest attempt to keep ramen down as you pass through the three to five days it take you to get your sea legs. Singing like you are alone in the car while you clean fish a few feet away from the deckhand in the trolling pit. You are not one of those people who easily belts out tunes in front of a crowd and when you realize just how loudly you were singing you cringe a bit and keep singing but now under your breath. It’s what gets you through and you enjoy it despite the fact that probably no one else does. And on late night wheel watch, as you are jumping around to bad disco or anything loud to wake yourself up, the deckhand pops up out of the forepeak because he can’t sleep. Great. Embarrassed at being busted while shaking it down and still tired, now you need to act alert while sitting still in the captain’s chair and making conversation during what was supposed to be time alone time at the wheel.


But this goes both ways. Not only have your crewmates seen you as your most vulnerable and sometime worst, sometimes goofy self, you, too, have seen them. It’s a mutual pact of look the other way when you walk out on deck to find someone peeing and an unspoken agreement that songs that are sung unconsciously are a pact of trust without judgment regardless of how off-key the notes. You didn’t commit your life to them but you did commit a season. We’re in this together and up-close and personal.