Craig, a teacher from England who I recently met sailing, asked me if I came from a fishing family. When I replied no, his eyes lit up. He said one of his most rewarding experiences of teaching was to encourage each gender into nontraditional jobs. For example, he encouraged boys to go into dancing or nursing, if that’s what they were in to, and girls into trucking or engineering and the like.
His next question for me was how did I end up bucking the gender trend and get into commercial fishing. I get this question a lot. Sometimes folks beat around the bush and hint at it, other’s, like Craig, just come right out and ask.
Truth is, I really don’t know. I think maybe its not just one thing but a few different reasons. I mean I’ve always liked the outdoors. I prefer being outside in any weather to most things indoors. That carried over to my work preferences. Plus, I’m a wiggle worm. I’ve always had a hard time just sitting still. Still do. I’m wiggling around right now while writing this. Just those two factors alone eliminate a lot of job options.
Working Monday through Friday, 9-5 has never appealed to me, though I couldn’t tell you why. Just like I couldn’t tell you why I like the color blue, I just do.
But, I would have to say the biggest reason is that I never really cared for “gender roles”. I get where they came from. The men would go out and hunt and the women would cook the meat. But really, just because that’s the way it was done over 100 years ago doesn’t mean that is the way it still should be done. As a result, I guess hearing that something in a “man’s job” kind of sets off something in me that wants to rebel against that. (Did I mention that I’ve always been a bit rebellious, too? And maybe a tad bit stubborn? Just a tad.)
So I’ve worked on farms and in factories, and canneries, and hardware stores, and as a pizza delivery person, and on the oil fields on the North Slope of Alaska, and as a horse and carriage driver, a truck loader at UPS and, of course, on commercial fishing boats.
I like fishing because I like being outside, I like seasonal work, working whatever hours. I like the responsibility of making my own decisions and not having a boss looking over my shoulder all the time. I like that everyday is different, despite the repetitive nature of the work. I like getting out of town and being on the water for extended periods of time. And, I like the risk.
Not just the risk of loosing life or limb, but the gamble of it all. Its what draws people to Vegas. One roll of the dice and could make it big.
But lets take a look at what I do when I’m not fishing. I like to backpack and have done a 150 mile trip across the Talkeetna range twice. I travel alone to third world countries like Viet Nam, Sumatra, and Laos, to name a few. I was 24 when I got my pilot’s license. I like to scuba dive and snowboard. I’ve driven cross-country several times and a few of those times, alone. I like to ice climb. I’ve sailed through the Panama Cannel. I once swam to a foreign country, illegally and naked. But, that is a story for another time. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
So, when someone asks me how I got into fishing, I think I did it for the same reason a banker is a banker or a chef is a chef, or a pilot is a pilot, or a dancer is a dancer. People just tend to gravitate to what they enjoy doing or what they are comfortable with doing. It just so happens that my gravitational pull tends to take me to a little further parameters than others.