At the beginning of my contract, mid-January, I got lucky (yea right!) and got assigned to a flatfish trawler, the Tremont. Used to be called Alaskan Rose, sister ship to the Arctic Rose (now on the bottom of the ocean). Despite the association, this boat was actually not that bad. The crew was friendly and the captain and mate were cool and we traded lots of stories. After a week or so, I got myself into a decent routine and the sampling wasnít even that bad anymore. I guess the biggest hassle was the erratic work/sleep schedule, and dealing with the variety of fish from the bottom of the ocean. These bottom trawlers pull up many species of fish with each tow and unfortunately, most of it goes overboard dead. I got used to smelling like the fish I dealt with every day, cleaning the bits of dirt and fish scales out of my beard after exiting the factory. After about 2 weeks on the boat, I met most of the crew of 29. There was quite the variety of folks on this boat considering its small size. There were about 10 guys from Vietnam. I found myself fascinated by their language of tones. They sit together at one end of the galley and fix interesting dishes consisting of fish, fish eggs, and exotic spices. Communication between them and I was a bit limited, but they were nice and were eager to share their food with me. I was the only white boy who really showed interest in them or their food. The other guys on the boat were mostly white but are from all over the US. I got through the limited movie selection on the boat very quick. I started working a bit on my cycling website updating photos, and listening to music. I learned the assistant cook is really into crafts and is a pretty good artist. I decided to make a hemp necklace for him because I remembered when I first got on the boat, he asked me about mine. He was very happy to receive the gift, which only took me about a half hour or so to make. In return, he tossed me something he had just finished, a beaded lighter sleeve. Itís a pretty cool thing to have, even though I donít use a lighter much. Now I can spark up in style!
I started practicing Spanish with a couple of guys from Central America. One guy in particular, Renaldo, was always eager to speak with me in Spanish. I look forward to really getting into it when I start listening to my Spanish CDs and working through my grammar workbook, which should be soon.
After a month on the Tremont, my services were no longer needed on that boat. I had about 4 days in town before I was assigned to another boat. It was exactly what I had hoped for. The only bad thing was the weather. It was pretty rainy and cold, so I was unable to do any exciting outdoor activities. I was able to hang out with some old friends (co-workers) that showed up for a day or so while their boatsí offloaded. That was nice. I visited the community center in town that has a swimming pool and work out center. It was nice swimming even though I donít have much experience in the sport. I enjoy getting in the water and moving all my limbs. I could feel the workout really get to my untrained muscles as I did a few laps. I quickly retreated to the sauna! It makes me look forward to getting back on the bicycle and getting back into shape. While on land, I also enjoyed many meals prepared for me at restaurants. When we are unassigned to boats, as I was, we get $45 dollars to spend daily in Dutch Harbor. Even though prices are high up here, that is a lot of money. Needless to say, I ate well. All my fun land time came to an end when they told me I was going to be flying out of town to a small island called Akutan, which is just northeast of Dutch Harbor. I would be taking a small float plane called the Goose. Iíve taken it before and itís quite a ride! It can take off and land on both land and water. The first day, the flight was canceled due to weather, and the second day, I waited at the airport as they kept postponing the flight every two hours. The wind was too strong. So finally, they canceled the flight. The next few days werenít looking any better so they ended up switching my assignment to a boat out of Dutch Harbor called the Western Dawn, a 115 foot (40 m) boat that catches Pollock and returns to land to unload it for processing. These boats are pretty much the easiest for me to work on. The workload is very minimal at sea, and we come in every few days to land. Quite the assignment! Unfortunately, this boat only needed minimal coverage and kicked me to the curb after a week of fishing. The boat had 4 other guys on it. They were pretty easy going guys and the food was also very good. We traveled about 30 hours North before even beginning fishing. That is pretty odd too. But they are looking for fish with the best row (eggs), which is where the money is at. We were in the middle of the Bering Sea. There is land around here, however, a few islands called the Pribilof Islands. I was on one of them a couple years ago, St. Paul. I flew in to get on a boat. They are populated by native Aleutians who were transplanted here by the Russians for fur trade a long time ago. They are also home to many fur seals which I had the opportunity to see during my few hours on the island. It only takes 2 tows of the net to fill up this small and then we head back to Dutch Harbor to unload the catch. Then my job is to monitor the offload back at the processing plant to account for a few species of fish, mainly salmon. During my free time, Iíve read quite a bit of a book of travel stories compiled by Outside Magazine. Iíve also watched a few movies.
I just got on my third boat, the Aurora, one of the nicest of the catcher boats that I just described. I should be on this one for the next 3 weeks. I discovered a great find while checking out the vessel, a stationary bike! So, I plan to put many hours on that thing during some of the free time I have while we are steaming to and from the fishing grounds. I just might be in decent shape by the end of this contract!
That is about all thatís new with me. The next part of the trip has been on my mind a whole lot and I am very eager to start back up. It looks like the beginning of May in Mexico!
Thanks for hanging in there during my hiatus from journal updates. More updates and photo postings coming soon...