A Day in the Life
I always have to laugh when people ask me what I do on the boat all summer! Knit…crochet…cross word puzzles…do my nails? Not exactly.
Before dawn breaks
The day starts around 1:30 am with the roar of the engine and the rattle of the anchor. As we ease out of the harbor, the engine purrs me back to sleep. Moments later I feel the rise and fall of the ocean, as we make our way to the fishing grounds. In the darkness to the east is the bright glimpse of sunrise. When we arrive at the fishing spot, Ole makes a decision depending on which way the tide is flowing, where to set the net. (The net is set in the dark to take advantage of the morning bite).
Ole will then give me a gentle tap or a shout that I am needed on deck. It could be because there is a very large set of salmon or an unpredictable tide pattern that is pushing us into the rocky shoreline. On occasion both have caused me to lose my much need beauty sleep!
All hands on deck
I jump out of bed and put my rain gear on like a fireman at sea, moving as fast as I can! Heavy socks, boots, rain pants, coat, hat and gloves. Buttoning up my jacket, I look around me and see the distant lights on the horizon from other fishing boats. Ducking under the jelly fish ridden net, I join Ole on deck, he tells me the tide is moving twice as fast as he thought and we need to get picked up before we get pushed into the shallows. I take my place opposite from him and working together we pick the fish from our net as fast as we can. When the last fish is pulled from our net, Ole immediately starts planning where to set the net again.
First break of the day
I take alI my rain gear off and hang my gloves above the oil stove to dry. About the time Ole finishes setting the net, I have breakfast prepared. If the weather is nice enough, we will share breakfast up on the flying bridge, which is the top deck of our boat. Watching our net very carefully for logs, seaweed and kelp patches because, there’s nothing like the memory of spending four hours picking kelp and pop weed from a gill net to remind you to keep your eyes open. When breakfast is done, it’s time to haul the net in. Depending on the amount of fish I will either finish clean-up or help Ole on deck.
Setting and hauling the net again and again
This process of setting and hauling the net repeats its self throughout the day. Depending on the tides and the fish we may do this 8-15 times per day. The only change of pace is when it’s time for us to head to the tender to off load our catch of the day which we do every 24 hours. (A tender is a large boat that meets us, buys the catch of the day and then transports it back to a shore-based processing plant.) As we leave the tender to head back to the fishing grounds I make us a little snack we call Mug Up, something to hold us over until dinner.
We finish our day of setting and hauling around 9 pm as the sun is beginning to set. Often times I will have prepared us a galley treat for our hard day’s work. The anchor goes down and the roar of the engine stops. We head to bed at 10 or 10:30 for a few short hours before it starts all over again.
As the days of summer begin to shorten, our sleep increases until we are waking up at 5 am and heading to the harbor at 6 pm for an early dinner and a movie before bed. To some this lifestyle may seem daunting-the commercial salmon fishing season is open a short 14-15 weeks each year. We work hard during this time knowing, the season will come to an end. We have fun with it and enjoy the time we spend together working side by side.