A Deckhand’s Challenges, Rewards & Proudest Moments: Letters from Amanda, Part 2

14 07 2012

Hey friends – if you’ve been following the story of Amanda, our first-time fisherman guest writer, you may be as eager for her latest update as I’ve been. The frenzied life of a tender deckhand hasn’t allowed much land time (and even less internet access), so we were very lucky to get a quick update from her in the comment thread following her first post. I’m publishing that comment as its own post so you don’t miss her latest. Be well – T

Thank you so much for all of your support all! I am so flattered that you are excited about what I have to say! It’s been about three weeks now and I’ve been so eager to respond to you all and to get another post out. This is the first time I’ve sat down at a computer for more than 5 minutes since I’ve been here. I currently have about a half hour, not enough time to produce a post that is written with the attention that it deserves. I’ve got pages of journals to turn over and will do so as soon as possible! I sincerely appreciate everything you’ve all had to say and wish I could respond to you all individually.

A few quick lists, I’ve got to get this out:

Biggest challenges: KNOTS!!@!!#$#@!, fish tickets and the simple but tedious math that goes along with, learning to sleep in only 3 hour increments, projecting a positive attitude when I secretly want to complain, not belittling myself internally when I mess up, forget, or have to be told and re-told something that seems so simple.

Biggest rewards: a wonderful crew of supportive individuals, cooking for people who are open to creativity and experimentation, endless mountain ranges and morning light, a day off at Baranof Warm Springs, the sheer amount of things to observe and take in, the massive amount of skills and information I’ve learned and will never forget, all the sources of inspiration.

Proudest moments: completing a 21 hour work day, lowering the anchor (using the hydraulics) for the first time, learning the language (the times are fewer and fewer when I look someone in the face after being asked to do something and say “I don’t understand the words that you just said”), finally being able to tell a Coho from a Sockeye from a Pink from a Dog, working a full day, cooking for three, cleaning the galley and sinking in to bed with an aching body and a nourished spirit.

More to come! Thanks and thanks again! Blessings to you all!

– Amanda

 

Advertisements




“Wait… Wait… Done!” On Going Fishing after 18 Days at the Dock

30 05 2012

Marlin, Joel and I spent the first half of May waiting to go halibut fishing.

Just getting to our destination, a shallow plateau over 40 miles offshore, required more than a day’s run. We’d been watching for a four to five day weather window that never appeared, a steady barrage of gales keeping us pinned to the dock for a record 18 days. I started to feel a little embarrassed by my near-residence in the Backdoor Cafe.

Finally, we couldn’t stand it anymore. Our captain studied the online weather chart. It showed two days of “fish-able,” immediately followed by more angry red churning across the Gulf, a windbag’s hasty breath between pontificating.

Marlin sighed. “Well, the weather looks fucking horrendous. Usually we’d sit at the dock through that, but we’re not gonna do that anymore. We’re gonna go for a very expensive cruise, and maybe we’ll end up catching some fish.”

Not much of an endorsement of our departure plans, but after investing in fuel, bait, and groceries, it was time to go. The sea that greeted us wasn’t welcoming. We crashed through steel gray walls, white spray pummeling our windows. Blue tin plates frisbee’d across the cabin and clattered to the floor. The cat began licking her lips, then threw up.

Unhappy boat cat…

After five hours of this, we ducked into a protected anchorage. And when our captain nosed out in 3 AM’s dawning light, we found a new day, a new ocean. We heaved collective sighs of relief, tensed muscles slowly relaxing with the hull’s gentle bounce.

The thing about having low expectations is that it’s easy to be happily surprised. Unsure that we’d get any fishing time, Joel and I hadn’t dreamed we’d be shin-deep in halibut the next day. We cleaned madly, guts and gonads flying into the fierce beaks of black-footed albatross. When we finally hosed off our gory raingear and stumbled into the cabin for dinner, Joel gaped at the clock. “Is it really 1:30 in the morning?”

Swimming in halibut, I stuff each fish’s belly with ice before stowing them safely in bins.

Building on that day’s momentum, the trip just kept getting better. We spent two days anchored in Lituya Bay, a dream-like oasis on a brutal coastline, stuffing ourselves with shrimp as our bodies recovered and the weather passed. We left the Bay in a haze of déjà vu: countertops cleared and apologies whispered to Bear, we braced for stormy impact, only to find a glassy calm on the other side of the bar.

The boys at the hauler, waiting to see what comes up from the depths below.

Two days later, we slogged back towards Sitka in a collective glow of disbelief, gratitude, and sleep deprivation. The boat sat comfortably low in the water, the fish hold full of generously iced halibut, black cod, ling cod, and yelloweye. Trading wheel watches and weary grins, we dared to speculate that we’d caught all of our quota – that if all our poundage estimates were on target, our longline season was complete.

“This is what’s so amazing about longlining,” our captain reflected. “We just sat around for almost 3 weeks, and then we’re done in four days of actual work. With our quota down so much, the actual fishing doesn’t take any time at all if everything goes right and we get lucky.”

Marlin raised a jelly jar glass. “To a perfect trip, with just the right crew. It couldn’t have been better.”

Indeed. It’s not very often that I get to go to sea with two of my best friends. Thank you, boys, for a safe, productive, fun longline season – it was a pleasure!

Do you have favorite recipes for halibut or halibut cheeks? I’d love to hear how you most enjoy these amazing fish.








%d bloggers like this: