Friday, July 8, 2011


Meal times is one of the few perks on a boat that breaks up the hard work and monotony of fishing.  Eating is a nice excuse to sit down, out of the wind and rain, and have a little slice of civilization.  Or almost.  Depends on the boat.  One boat I worked on, we at nothing but cold cheese sandwiches.  Cold cheese on white bread with mustard.  Every night for dinner.  Not too palatable. Or hardy.   But, after 18 hours of baiting hooks, I still looked forward to dinner.  Maybe that was the trick all along.  Under normal circumstances, that is a shitty meal.  However, when long-lining for halibut in wet cold Alaskan September, that’s  a different story.  Same thing with cold spaghetti and mayonnaise (yes, mayonnaise, it was the skipper’s own invention and he is very proud of it) on Wonder white.  And, same thing.  After 16 hours of picking fish in Bristol Bay, where its 45 degrees and blowing, in July, cold spaghetti and mayonnaise sandwiches ain’t too bad. 
On the other hand, I’ve had octopus ceviche, Cornish game hens, caviar, homemade pizza, tempura shrimp, and pot-roast. OK, not that extravagant, but, given the circumstances.  My favorite boat meal to date was aboard the Whiskey Creek in Bristol Bay.  It was a BLT with egg and cheese.  Now that is a hardy sandwich. I sat down, or rather fell into the dining table after 13 hours of straight pickin’ and saw that plate full of goodness and thought, there is no way I could even finish one. Ha!  I ate two.  Then fell into a 4 hour coma in the bunk, got up and went back to work. 
Sometimes, so long as it’s hot, it’s good.  Top Ramen cup o noodles is very satisfying in a pinch.  Even better if it’s hit the floor first.  Yeah, that’s right.  I’ve eaten dinner off the floor before.  When you only have a few spare moments to cook somethin’ then throw it down the gullet and you’ve been working like a dog in the cold and wet.  You salivate just waiting for your water to boil for your instant salt bomb noodles with dehydrated peas, carrots, and corn.  Finally, the water boils and you brace yourself for movement by leaning onto the countertop with a wide legged stance to prepare for the coming swell and carefully pour the water into the cup, trying not to scald your hand with the boiling water while the boat lurches side to side.  You wait patiently for the 3 minutes it takes to soften that one 50’ noodle coiled into that Styrofoam cup that will outlast all of us by 100 years.  With a steady hand you peel back the lid and grab the chopsticks.  You pause, propped for the next swell.  You decide to go for it and try to make it to a chair to savor your one and only hot meal for the day.  But, before that happens an unexpected wave hits and takes your salvation along with your Top Ramen right out of your hands where it lands on the cold dirty linoleum cabin floor.  You fight back the tears and curse like your life depends on it under your breath.  Or out loud.  At this point, it doesn’t matter.  You are so deflated any action is justified.  Next, you look around, to see if someone is going to witness this gross act you are about to perform.  But at this point, you are too desperate, it doesn’t matter.  Then, you realize that you are about to do something that you never thought you would do.  You stoop down, still bracing yourself for the roll, and scrap…..your……dinner……off…….the…………floor.  Pick out the fish scales and finally have your hot meal. You smile and thank your immune system.
This last week, however, I got to live high on the hog.  My guy Vince made BBQ spare ribs on the grill.  He slathered ‘em all up with love, grilled them to perfection, and then wrapped them in foil and a towel to keep them warm.  We had them on the boat that night on anchor out on the fishing grounds.  They were still piping hot when we pulled them out.  Finger licking good, too.  And we had a great opener.
Until next time, eat fish!  


Christine McClintic said...

Hey, thanks for letting me subscribe to your blog. I'm sitting here in southern Missouri, hours away from anything resembling an ocean, and I love reading about life on a fishing boat in Alaska. I've been writing about John Deere marine engines for the past 17 years (and yes, I'm one of the few women who can claim that I write about engines for a living!). Half of the marine stories I write are about commercial fishing boats, and some of those are in Alaska. I just wrote about two John Deere-powered boats there in Cordova for this issue. Researching the fishery a bit on the internet, I came across your blog. Love your writing. I love fish, too. It just can't make it to Missouri without being frozen first, but I relish it anyhow.

I'm glad the opener was really good. Stay safe out there.

Jen Pickett said...

Hey Christine thanks for subscribing to my blog! I love hearing what readers do and where they hail from.
So, I got to ask, is the f/v Wingham one of the boats with the John Deere engines that you wrote about? He is a buddy of mine. Where can I find your writing?
Thanks again for the comment!