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Life at Sea

What's it like to be a fisherman?

 

Growing up in a fishing family, our lives have followed the movement of the tides, the seasons, and the fish. During the winter, we are busy on land with Salmon Sisters, but we return to the sea each summer alongside an incredible community of fishermen who partake in the pursuit of fish together. We feel fortunate to fish with our family and with friends who have become family on the backdeck. 

Summers on the boat are long days of endless sunlight and salt spray–the routine of pulling on raingear and boots, setting the net, picking the net, salmon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a little sleep in between. When the fishing is good, sleep is secondary. When the fishing is slow, we take time to bake bread in our tiny boat oven, read the books stashed at the foot of our bunks, and write letters to friends on land. We are too far from home to return during the summer, so on days when fishing is closed, we anchor the boat in a favorite cove, hike to a blueberry patch and fill our buckets for the next morning's pancakes. 

Because we live on the boat together all summer, captain and crew has to trust each other and develop strong systems for communication. We all have specific roles on deck, and we all have different strengths that contribute to the efficiency and moral of the crew. We look out for each other, and when things go wrong, the weather gets rough, or we're sore and tired from endless work, we endure together. The best days fishing are hard to beat, but the worst days of fishing can be the worst

Our workplace is wild and wondrous, but some days the natural beauty of Alaska strikes us to the core. Porpoises play in our boat's wake as we travel towards town. A Grey Whale tale splashes us. Glaciers and gushing waterfalls surround us on all sides, and we pull aboard chunks of glacial ice floating in the ocean to cool evening drinks. Brown bears roam the beaches, fishing for the same salmon we are, and tundra spreads wide like a green carpet over rolling hills. Our souls soar on these day, and we can't imagine more rewarding work. 

In the fall, the summer fishing season comes to an end. Fishermen return home, put their boats away, and the fishing stories begin. For most, winter months are a time for reflection, potlucks, and a slower pace. Darkness returns to Alaska and with it brings our creativity and the closeness of community. By the time spring rolls around again, fishermen have forgotten about all of fishing's hardships, and are called back, once again, to the sea. 

 

Photos by Scott Dickerson