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Monday, November 3, 2008

Alaska

There was a story in the newspaper last week about a fishing boat that sank and half of the crew lost their lives. Here is a link to that story. As I have mentioned before, I worked in the fishing industry in Alaska quite a bit. One of my jobs was working on a boat in the Bering Sea. Whenever I hear about these stories, I am always grateful that my experience was mostly positive and nothing truly bad happened.

Our boat was huge compared to other boats that you hear about in the news. Our boat was well over 300 feet long and was called a catcher/processor or factory/vessel. We caught the fish and then we processed them right there. We had a crew of over a 100 people. The boat I was reading about was over 100 feet long and had a crew of 11.

We worked 15 hour days, 7 days a week, which compared to cannery hours was a piece of cake! My husband and I were thankfully able to work together. Not that that meant much. We really couldn't talk because it was so loud. We did get to look at each other however. We didn't eat meals together. We didn't even get to sleep in the same room. Forget about trying to sleep in the same bed, it was a twin. We spent our first anniversary working on that boat.

It was a very different experience for me, after having worked several summers at a cannery. I remember the sobering experience of having to practice putting on a survival suit and hoping that I would never have to use that skill. Part of it felt like a school-time fire drill, the other part felt scary. We were very sheltered on the boat and we weren't allowed to go out on the deck very often. Several times we had the opportunity to go and see the captain and his view. Nauseating. The waves really freaked me out.

I only remember one time having to stop working because the weather was really bad, but that didn't mean much. We worked in treacherous conditions. We ate in them. We slept in them. Trying to take a shower was fun as well. Let's put it this way, I did not shave. There were railings everywhere and on everything. In the hall, in the shower, on your bed, at your table....for the longest time after working on the boat I would make jerking & grabbing motions if something was too close to the edge of the table.

Another sobering thing was realizing what the value of your life was worth. Once, a worker in the freezer area of the boat was blasted with something, I think it was freon. I just remember whatever it was was not a good thing. I remember watching as they tried to keep him conscious and alive, while everyone else kept right on working. That boat wasn't going to turn around for him. We heard many other stories of similar incidents, where the captain would only go as far as to meet a ship that was going back to land to save someone's appendage or life. Terrifying.

I have nothing but sadness for the families of those men and for others who risked their lives and lost them.

3 comments:

smithhea said...

Wow Jennifer, I can't believe you guys did that! What an intresting life experience!!

RORYJEAN said...

Wow! I'm impressed- you two are tough! I bet you took a long break from eating fish after that experience.

An Ordinary Mom said...

What a scary yet life changing experience. I would love to hear more about how it has shaped who you are.