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.

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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.

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