Hooked on National Fisherman

6 12 2012

I’ve been mostly on an internet hiatus this week, friends, working on a deadline, but want to quickly share a bit of news. Some of you have asked about the piece that I read at Sitka’s maritime-themed Monthly Grind. I didn’t post it here because I submitted it to a magazine. Happy news: National Fisherman bought that essay, “After the Man in the Tote.” Thanks, NF!

Many Hooked readers are familiar with September 11’s post, “Lost at Sea: The Man in the Tote.” Minutes after watching the Coast Guard’s amazing rescue, I scribbled madly, convinced that this miraculous survival story needed to be shared. But at the same time, a second story tapped my shoulder. “There’s a different way to look at this,” it urged. “Even with the unexpected happy ending, what did this scare bring up for other fishermen?”

It certainly triggered some long-buried trauma for Joel and me.

Tele Having a Bad Time

You can read an excerpt of “After the Man in the Tote” in National Fisherman’s January print issue, available now, or read the whole thing on their website, where it’ll be posted for the rest of December. I’m grateful for their support.

Gratitude is a fast-growing creature. Since Hooked launched in March 2011, I’ve been fortunate to receive so much support from commercial fishermen and our industry advocates. Pacific Fishing linked to Hooked almost from the beginning, publishing a generous introduction article in their June 2011 issue. Alaska Waypoints offered a column upon their own web-launch, and has been a vocal promoter and good friend since. So I’m further honored that National Fisherman has added Hooked to their blogroll, a sweet spot between iconic photographer/fisherman Corey Arnold and gillnetter/direct marketer Matt’s Fresh Fish.

Over the 28 years that I’ve been fishing, there have definitely been times I didn’t feel like I “fit.” Times when my gender or left-listing values seemed to set me firmly apart from my shipmates. As I’ve observed more young people and more women enter our fleet, more fishermen identifying environmental advocacy as a necessary extension of our profession, and heard from folks who’ve found their own life experiences reflected on Hooked, that sense of other-ness has lessened. The publications listed above have helped me see our vast oceans as small, interdependent communities. They provide valuable information and advocacy, reminding us that we’re in this together – dependent on each other, regardless of our various regions or fisheries – and that there’s room at this table for all.

I’m thankful to be offered a chair.

 

(January is also National Fisherman’s popular “Crew Shots” issue, and you can look forward to seeing some familiar faces. Fellow fishing blogger Jen Karuza Schile’s husband is pictured with his longtime crew, proudly representing the F/V Vis. The Tammy Lin and Lady Linda honor multiple generations of Sitka trollers. You’ll see Cap’n J and me soaking up the rays as we cut halibut cheeks on a sunny June day. I’m delighted that we’re sharing the back page with Jen Pickett, Cordova gillnetter, blogger, Fisher Poet and friend.)





Fishermen’s Thanksgiving

22 11 2012

Earlier this week, a friend asked what I’d be doing on Thursday. When I blinked dumbly at her for a few beats, she prompted, “You know – for Thanksgiving!”

Oh. Right…

Growing up in a fractured family of three insular people far more comfortable with books and work than each other, “the holidays” don’t resonate for me. I’m not down with the history behind Thanksgiving. I’m not a Christian, and Bear the Boat Cat isn’t worked up about presents and pageantry. One of my favorite Christmases was the one I spent alone in a Californian apartment, dog-sitting for the manager of the Ben & Jerry’s shop that I spare-changed in front of. From about mid-October to after the New Year, I’m happiest to opt out of the cultural hoopla.

Joel comes from a different background. His family tree has many branches – siblings, cousins, partners – and holidays are an opportunity for bringing everyone together. They make big meals, play games, go on walks, get loud and laugh a lot and generally show how completely engaged they are with one another. Eight years in, I still feel like I’m participant-observing another species. (A generous, loving species that’s been nothing but welcoming to me.) True to my Aadsen roots, I get a little anxious as soon as there aren’t any dishes to wash or other tasks for me to fuss with. My social skills generally run out while the festivities are still going strong.

(True confession: I’m hiding in his aunt’s room right now. Slipped away as soon as the crab dip was gone. This is one of the reasons I’m so thankful to have weaseled my way into Cap’n J’s family: not only do they know I snuck away to write, it’s okay. Amazing, the tolerance these folks have.)

This all sounds bad, but I’m not a total Grinch. I believe in gratitude. That’s why I celebrate Thanksgiving in September.

*****

Fishermen’s Thanksgiving began in September 2010. The salmon season had ended, and the Sadaqa was making the run south with another troller. Midway down the Canadian Inside Passage, they tied up together in Bishop Bay Hot Springs. Marlin cooked a chicken and Stovetop stuffing, opened a can of cranberry sauce, and offered thanks for the season’s harvest.

Joel and I got in on this tradition the following year. With both the Sadaqa and the Nerka spending the winter in Sitka, we had serious chores to do before anyone could hop on a plane and ditch our boats for six months. But in the midst of all that frenzy, we agreed: there was time for Thanksgiving.

Though smaller, the Nerka was in slightly less disarray than the Sadaqa. So at 6:00, down the dock marched our friends – Marlin, Ross, and Mikey – pushing a fully-loaded cart. They handed over one delicious-smelling pan after another; I struggled to wedge everything into our tiny galley. Marlin roasted a chicken, onions and potatoes in a cast iron skillet. I made mashed sweet potatoes and squash, and a piece of salmon for the non-bird eater among us. In addition to a five-gallon bucket full of Black Butte Porters, Marlin brought a fancy ginger ale for me. Marking a long, challenging season with joyous reflection, we basked in the glow of gratitude for plentiful salmon, good weather, well-behaved boats, durable bodies, and beloved friends.

I credit Marlin with instituting Fishermen’s Thanksgiving as a tradition. One of his deckhands, Mikey, has attended all three years. In a bit of serendipitous timing, he called just as I began writing this piece. When I asked if there was anything he wanted to say about our tradition, Mikey didn’t hesitate.

“Fishermen’s Thanksgiving ruins regular Thanksgiving – or ‘Lower 48 Thanksgiving,’ as I call it. It hadn’t been a super-commercial holiday until pretty recently, but people are promoting the Black Friday thing now to the point that it’s fucking stupid, right? And having that mess sitting right next to ‘Here are my good friends, being thankful for the season we all just shared, made some money, had some good times’ creates a pretty stark dichotomy. Basically, regular Thanksgiving kinda sucks after you’ve had Fishermen’s Thanksgiving.”

*****

My November Thanksgiving did not suck.

It involved a ridiculous abundance of good food, shared in a warm house, among loving family. When we couldn’t eat another bite, we put the leftovers in the refrigerator and scrubbed the dishes with seemingly endless clean hot water. All of us are reasonably healthy and able-bodied – even the 93 year old – and hold similar social justice ethos. Each plate included a bookmark with this quote from civil rights leader Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go out and do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

It was a good day.

And because it was a good day, I felt like that much more of a jerk. Mikey’s analysis of the two holidays rang absolutely true for me. This arbitrary autumn Thursday didn’t carry the profound seasonal punctuation our September gathering had. When Joel and I drove home tonight, we talked about why that was.

“This feels random,” he said. “That’s not to say that I’m not thankful for this time with my family, because I am. But in September, we’re actually marking a seasonal transition. There’s something specific on the line: we’re giving thanks for a safe harvest and a finished season, with friends who are our family, who we’ve just shared these intense months with, and now we won’t see much – if at all – until next summer. We’re marking the end of one side of our life and moving into the other. Thanksgiving in Alaska just has bigger meaning grounded in place and time.”

Maybe that’s what it is. November Thanksgiving provides a day to enjoy family we otherwise rarely see – but for me, it could be any day. Fishermen’s Thanksgiving carries the weight of intentional change. We recognize what’s been with gratitude, while inviting what’s next with openness. As challenging as seasonal livelihood is, it presents a rare gift of reflection. Deliberate demarcations of life.

Still, I know both Joel and I will be thankful tomorrow morning for leftover pie.

Despite what may come across as a curmudgeonly attitude, friends, I hope you had a lovely day, wherever and however you spent it. You’re in my best, most appreciative thoughts, no matter what the season.





The View From Sitka: Arrival and Appreciation

17 06 2011

After doing such extensive work on the good ship Nerka this winter, her insides pulled apart, mucked about, and put back again, we left Bellingham riddled with anxiety. Would everything work? What gremlins would reveal themselves? Spend time with boats, you quickly learn they’re full of surprises, and not the party-and-ice-cream kind.

Other than an initial scare that we were on our way to Alaska without a working stove, she was indeed a “good ship.” We enjoyed a record-quick trip at 4 days and 8 hours, our smoothest yet, the miles flying by with lovely weather and conversation. (And yes, hot food. Cap’n J saved us from days of PB & J when he triumphed over the reluctant stove.) Our friend Sean, deckhand to the Five Girls, hitched a ride and proved an excellent travel companion. Bear the Boat Cat threw up only once. Glassy-eyed in disconcertingly calm waters, she howled for Sean to move his feet from her preferred puke site, then appeared to gain her sea legs.

We pulled into Sitka at 2 a.m., Tuesday morning – perfectly timed to get a few hours’ sleep, then make it to the Backdoor’s opening for pie and coffee. We’ve nestled back into the community and have been dividing our days between tinkering on the boat, rigging up for our king salmon season to open on July 1st, and reveling in the rare opportunity to relax in town. Plenty of writing time for me, hikes and photo missions for Cap’n J. Bear’s been nosing around on the cruiser parked next to us, perhaps a fan of how rarely it leaves the dock. Pretty content, all of us.

Last night we parked ourselves on a shoreline at the west end of town, waiting for the sun to wink below the horizon. Up here these days, that’s a long wait; sunset is listed as 9:59, but the sky remains permeable for another hour. Joel got some great pictures, his first opportunity to reconnect with Sitka in the way that’s most meaningful for him. (And skilled? Oh yes. You can check out some of his work here.)

Cap'n J and Mt. Edgecumbe, reunited.

Yep, feeling pretty full of the warm-fuzzies. So it was good timing for a fellow fisherman to tell me a story of how he ended last season. He was on the run south, traveling with another boat. They stopped one evening, rafted up together in the anchorage, and cooked a Thanksgiving feast. It didn’t matter that it was late September. Their season’s salmon harvest bountiful, they gave thankful acknowledgement for the life they’d taken.

This kind of thing warms my tree hugging, hippie heart. Inspired me to give my own pre-season thanks here. I’ve received an awful lot of kindnesses that deserve public appreciation, and some of these accolades are shamefully late.

Several months back, I joined She Writes, an online writers community. After years bemoaning the lack of writers’ energy in my life, She Writes has meshed beautifully with my migratory lifestyle. The wealth of experience and project diversity is at once humbling and invigorating; I’m thankful for the inspiring conversations and new friends.

One of those happy She Writes connections is Fl (Girl with a New Life). Tina, the author, celebrates women’s stories with an eclectic blend of writing prompts, film reviews, and personal reflections.  She’s tireless, maintaining a faithful schedule for her readers, posts rich with her warm, conversational tone, with remarkable consistency.

In May, I came back from sea to find that Tina had posted about Hooked, naming this fishy little site as one of her favorite travel blogs. Her praise was a delightful surprise, a powerful example of the way stories bring people together. We live on opposite sides of the country, in daily routines that are worlds apart, yet when we share reflections of what matters to us, what’s life giving and what keeps us awake at night, we find kindred spirits. Thanks to you and your husband, Tina – I’m glad our virtual paths have crossed!

The past month was very good to Hooked. Pacific Fishing, leading business journal for the West Coast seafood industry, ran an “Introducing the Blogger” story in their June issue, and has generously posted a link on their homepage. I’ve been a Pacific Fishing reader for decades, so this was particularly touching to me, and has greatly increased Hooked’s audience. Thanks, Pacific Fishing, for your support; it’s much appreciated.

I’m thankful for a whole mess of goodness. For May’s longline job, a safe, successful, laughter-filled season with my fantastic “brother” and a good-spirited crewmate. For the Backdoor for being my Sitka haven, and for Bernadette and Sotera singing out, “Welcome home!” without hesitation or qualifier.  For all of Cap’n J’s work on the Nerka while I was gone, and the fantastic dinners he prepared upon my return. “You just keep writing,” he insisted, when I was deep in the words and would’ve ended up scrounging for a bread-and-cheese midnight snack, if not for the delicious meals he set before me.

"Dinner with Steve." A delicious sandwich, a story for another day.

Five days ago we were running up the coast of Baranof Island, glassy water pierced only by humpback exhalations. The cabin filled with a collective pulse of excitement and relief. We were reluctant to speak of the magic we were feeling, jinx-wary, but Sean, Joel and I all agreed: this season just feels good. Hopeful. With plenty of time ahead to be smacked by reality, we’re enjoying the positivity of the present.

As we approach next week’s solstice, may it be so for you, too, sweet reader, that the light in your heart reflects that of these lengthening days. Be safe, be well, and be sure to find time for pie.

Thanks, Bernadette and crew... Love you guys.








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