When our 3-day halibut trip turned into 10, I’d kick my boots across the cabin, just for something different
There are a lot of exciting aspects to commercial fishing in Alaska’s, but monotony is certainly not one of them. Fishing is rife with it. We do the same thing, over and over and over again. Yeah, sure the tides changes, the weather changes, the day changes, the fishery changes, but the work is the same.
Take long-lining for example. First, you cut one piece of bait and don’t stop until that’s thousands of pieces of bait. Then you bait one hook and don’t stop until thousands of hooks are baited. Later you set them all out, wait and pick them all up. Afterwards, you clean one fish, then another, then another, you see where this is going? And what do you do when it’s all done? You do it again. And again. And again. Day after day, month after month, season after season.
Want another example? Let’s go gillnetting. First, you need a net. You can build your own! First, tie a piece of string into a circle by making a knot. Then do that for every cork. Next, string hundreds and hundreds of corks along the cork line. Do that about 300 times or however many hundreds of corks you have on your corkline. Then tie one cork to your cork line. Then do that with all 5000 or so corks. Next, tie the corkline to your weedline, tie your weedline to your mesh then tie your mesh to your leadline with about a billion knots. Put the net on the reel and go fishing.
Follow this step by step guide to gillnetting. Step 1) Look for fish. Step 2) Set the net anyway. Step 3) Pick the fish out of the net. Step 4) Set the net back out. Step 5) Pick the fish out of the net. Step 6) Set the net back out. Step 7) see step 1-6 and repeat every hour for the next 12, 24, 36, 72 hours until the fishery closes. Step 968) Deliver your fish, get fuel and grub, clean the boat, fix everything that broke, including your net – just tie thousands of little knots into in and it’ll be fine – shower, change your clothes and sleep (this portion of the step is optional), eat (also optional), then get back out there and do it again for the next month or five, until the season closes! Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Fishing is the art of doing the same thing over and over and over and over again. Do you know what the definition of crazy is? Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. It’s very similar to the definition of fishing, isn’t it? Very similar.
|Gillnetting on the Copper River Flats in the Gulf of Alaska
Does this tedium repetitiveness remind you of something else? Does it remind you of that day we had in 2020? Remember that day that has lasted two lunar cycles and counting? I think it was in the month of MarchAprilandsoontobeMay. While fishing has certainly made me a connoisseur of monotony, even this lockdown is starting to grate my nerves. Just a little.
I mentioned in my last post about a 3 day halibut trip that turned into 10 and kicking my boots across the cabin before getting out of the bunk just to break the monotony. That was a miserable trip. Not just because it was in March when it’s still dark, cold, and snowing in Alaska. But the other deckhand was fresh out of prison, a bit of a jerk and a princess all rolled into one. He refused to eat non-breakfast foods before noon nor breakfast food after noon. So, no eggs or breakfast sandwiches after 12 PM and no regular sandwiches, soup, or anything he deemed non breakfasty before noon. A tall order for a cook/deckhand who’s baiting and unbaiting hooks minute after minute, hour after hour without the knowledge of the day, let alone the time (aka, me). As if that wasn’t enough, he wouldn’t mix ethnicities of food. Who’s even ever heard of such poppycock? Who even thinks up such nonsense?
So, no white bread with spaghetti because our bread was American and spaghetti, of course, is Italian. And folks, we were not on a luxury, factory trawler. We were 3 people on a 42 ft (13m) gillnetter fishing snap-on gear. Oh yeah, no tacos with salad and French dressing, and for crying out loud, where are you going with that Swiss cheese?
I remember this vividly even though it was a long time ago, because I was the cook. Seriously, I can’t make this shit up. Who knew prison was so accommodating? Did I mention this guy was fresh out of prison? His behavior was only sufferable the first 5-10 minutes of the trip. About day 7, of our planned 3-day trip, when we really started running out of food, it was less amusing. When I made my annoyance painfully obvious, he was finally smart enough to realize that if he didn’t stop complaining about my cooking, he was soon going to be part of the meal. Just as I raised the cleaver, he announced that he was going to cook. Already? It’s only been a week. He declared that he was going to make a fine meal, with the proper food to be eaten at the correct time of day, with no mixing of food nationalities. Be my guest. I was happy that for once I wouldn’t have to hear about my cooking for the next gazillion hours on deck and that we were going to have something different. We’d already gone through the old, dented, slightly rusted mystery cans that had lost their labels the first winter they froze in the cupboards. There wasn’t much else left to eat. Except, of course, for the thousands of pounds of fresh, wonderful, Pacific Halibut that we were catching. But no, skipper wouldn’t allow us to dip into our profits by eating one of those. But he did let us have a grey cod we were using for bait. A grey cod? You mean that bluck fish that’s riddled with worms? Gah. I’m having flashbacks. Yeah, I mean that. We can eat that.
So, Chris, the ex-prisoner/world’s pickiest eater, who also didn’t want to eat the worm riddled flesh of a grey cod, stripped the roe out of a cod. He took that cod roe and mixed it with pancake mix. He mixed it with pancake mix, fried it in bacon grease and served it with, not syrup, because we ran out of that about 4 days ago. Not ketchup because that was somehow mixing nationalities (I never figured out how, either). No, he served it with peanut butter.
Oh my god, where do I start? Not that cod egg pancakes would have been good with anything but there are no words revolting and repugnant enough to describe how utterly awful and disgusting that meal was. It tasted just exactly as you would imagine sweet pancakes would taste with salty, fishy fish eggs would, topped with Jiffy peanut butter. The worst part, wasn’t that he used the last of the pancake batter. Nor the last of the peanut butter. Or the fact that he had the nerve to serve it at all. The old boot in the fo’c’sle would had made a better meal. No, the worst part was that he had the nerve to serve it for dinner! Can you believe that? Pancakes for dinner. Pancakes after 12PM!
So, what’s the moral here, you ask? Being bored sucks. The monotony of doing the same thing, day in and day out without really knowing what day it is sucks. Eating the same foods over and over again sucks. Fishing with high-maintenance ex-prisoners sucks. But, nothing is as bad as eating cod-egg pancakes with peanut butter for dinner. So, hang in there and it will get better soon.