Boat-Hopping (& a Request of Hooked Readers)

3 06 2011

I launched Hooked under the grim oversight of the Pacific Northwest’s lingering winter.  Between relentlessly gray days and our “off” season’s luxury of personal time, it seemed the ideal opportunity to start this long-procrastinated conversation.  To spend hours crafting thoughtful tributes to our unique industry, deliberate over the perfect photo to accompany the text, and, when the words weren’t flowing, toss peanuts to the increasingly well-fed jays and squirrels lurking outside my writing window… Add in the unexpected encouragement of supportive readers, and this venture has been even more rewarding than I’d imagined it would be.  I’m thankful to you all for making it such a good time.

Bear keeps a close eye on the Bobs (our Stellar's Jay collective)

As it turns out, my leisurely saunter-through-syntax approach doesn’t work so well in conjunction with our “real” working life.  I’ve learned there’s an ocean of difference between the posts I’d like to share with you, and the ones that actually make it up. Hours spent scraping halibut bellies were surprisingly conducive to composing stories in my head, but the ensuing tasks – icing those fish, baiting up for the next set, scrubbing the deck, unloading, a whirlwind of shower/laundry/groceries before heading back out on the next trip – didn’t allow for much personal reflection. This business of actually being a fisherman has made it tougher to write about what it means to be a fisherman.

The Charity celebrated a safe, successful longline season. Against our initial predictions, we were blessed with beautiful weather, reasonably calm seas and sunny skies the whole way through.  Caught our halibut and black cod quota in two trips, a couple weeks of long hours, good food and music, and much laughter.  By the time we hauled all of the longline gear off the boat and set her up for salmon trolling, the work’s physical demands were a fast-fading memory, evidenced only by some impressive bruises and accentuated biceps.  When Martin handed over my crew share, I marveled at getting paid to spend time with friends in the shadow of the ferociously glorious Fairweather Range, coastline I’d never have known without this profession. Truly, our time couldn’t have gone any smoother or more enjoyably.

The top of a halibut set, flagpole bobbing beneath the Fairweather Range.

(Alaska Waypoints is getting the exclusive dish on my halibut stories, but I’ll post them here 2 weeks after their initial publication.)

I signed off from Team Charity a week ago.  Flew back to the concrete chaos of Seattle, to clenching Joel’s Subaru’s “oh, shit” handle, because zooming 70 miles per hour up I-5 is terrifying after a month of sliding through the scenery at 7 knots.

We didn’t waste any time in shifting over to Team Nerka. Up early on my first morning back, we took her out for a sea trial with the diesel mechanic on board. That went well, and Cap’n J was obviously busy over the past month. There’s a strong new handrail on the port side of the cabin, excess air’s been bled from the throttle and clutch, and the varnished rails are shimmering.  The fuel truck came down to the dock, and 529 gallons later, all four tanks are topped off. Made a quick run up to Canada, to pick up some hot hoochies and other secret weapon gear from their fishing supply stores. And with only a minimal amount of fiasco that was mostly due to a way-too-late lunchtime, we lowered our trolling poles and attached all-new stabilizer lines and chain, hopefully ensuring that the Nerka will have as smooth of a trip north as the Charity did 5 weeks earlier.

With an intended departure date of next Wednesday, the remaining tasks are pretty slim. There’ll be some big grocery trips this weekend, hitting up Costco and Trader Joe’s.  Some final family visits, including moving our houseplants to my mom’s for the next 4 months. (They do better under her care, anyway – this seasonal transfer is an extended spa treatment for them.)  Bear’s been following the piles of salmon-scented clothes, books, and groceries going out the door with an increasingly suspicious gaze, and will know what’s up after Monday’s visit to the vet for a health certificate to travel through Canada.

The salmon season brings a tremendous amount of pressure, as we try to make our year’s livelihood in 3 months, and Cap’n J and I are a pretty driven team. If I’m honest with myself and you, I can already guarantee that the internal conflict between those dream posts in my head and the sparse, sporadic ones that will appear here will only increase over the season. I wonder, what’s most valuable to you, sweet reader?  If Hooked updates are fewer and farther between, what would you most like to read about?  Any fishing/Alaska questions you’d like addressed?  Let me know, and I’ll do my best to put them at the top of the list.

The sun setting on the Charity's longline season, on our final run back into Sitka.




11 responses

3 06 2011
Vicky Wood

Dear Tele…………….Good to hear the longline trip was successful. I am enjoying your writings, love hearing you thoughts and feelings.
Good luck in the salmon endeavor………..may you have calm seas, fair winds, full hooks and keep the Red side down!!!
Be Well,

3 06 2011

I think one of the most awesome things about your posts is that I never know what you’ll write about next. I’m just grateful that you do write at all and I can have a few moments living vicariously or thinking “Ah, so it isn’t just me!” Have a pleasant trip North.

3 06 2011
Cami Ostman

Oh how many brilliant bits of writing I’ve composed during a long run, only to find that running was all I had spare time for that day! But we’ll take what we can get from you, Tele, and will wait patiently for the rest. Welcome home – how ever brief a visit it will be. Safe travels on the Nerka!

3 06 2011
Uncle Jed

Remember how I told you your Facebook entries would make a wonderful first sentence for a chapter of an awsume book? Just expand on whats on your mind and in your gut by a paragraph or two. You can keep it short. Don’t second guess your self. What ever you tell us will be facinating and well writen.

6 06 2011

Aww, thanks, Uncle Jed! Funny, I just read a Mark Twain quote the other day: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Definitely a struggle for me to use less words, to share a story and conveys its points in a more succinct, speedy manner, but a good challenge. Hugs to you and all; hope you’re having a lovely June!

4 06 2011

I completely agree with Uncle Jed – I think that what emerges from the depths out there on the boat will be exactly what we need to hear. Ultimately, it’s about you and you’re writing – we’re just (happily) along for the ride. And looking forward to it!

4 06 2011
Jen Pickett

Hey Tele, I’m in the same boat. Figuratively speaking, that is. I’ll be picking fish and think of something stellar to say. But, by the time I get to town after several back to back 36 hour openers with 5-6 hours of sleep in 3-4 chunks my brain falls out and I loose the will to write. Plus my hands hurt. And who has time anyway? I’m trying to carve it out. Uff-da. If you figure it out, let me know!

Btw, saw you in a article in Pacific Fishing this months. Congrats!!

Fish on!


6 06 2011
(FL) Girl with a New Life

I really enjoying reading these journal posts. I wouldn’t change a thing.

6 06 2011
Karolee Joel

Argh! keeping up with the dang world while trying to stay on top of fishing is an impossible chore. Greg Friedricks and I took this weekend off – based on a NW 35 forecast from Canada. It did not come true and Jeremy and a few other guys are out there.

To compensate we had a Sunday night barbeque – fresh king snapper and oyster-kabobs. Friends with the sail boat in San Blas Islandscame for the night so we had a great time. But it was not fishing or making $. Fought with the lawn and watered plants. Cats are good with their sitter. Dead lawnmower to Steve’s small engine in Sequim and off to the coast Tuesday.

6 06 2011

Damn, Joel, sounds like you’re living the hard life! Oyster kabobs, indeed… The BBQ sounds wonderful, and I’m glad that you guys had the weekend off, even if it wasn’t weather-necessary. Sounds like it was soul-nourishing, anyway.

Good luck as you head back out, good fishin’, calm seas, clear skies, and all that. We’ll leave B’ham on Wednesday evening, and will transport the 5 Girls’ deckhand along with us. It’ll be a good time. We’ll check in with you from the other side! (Bear gets her health certificate tomorrow, so she’ll be transport-legit.)

8 06 2011
Heading North, Take Two « Hooked

[…] was pretty confident in last week’s post.  It’s possible that the universe heard my confidence as cockiness: “With an intended […]

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