National Fisherman

At Sea Diary

Matt MarinkovichMatt Marinkovich’s weekly At Sea Diary entry is a popular feature of the National Fisherman Web site, and now you can post your own reflections on Matt’s experiences fishing in the Pacific Northwest and North Pacific.

April 26-27, 2008 — All day Saturday, April 26, was more of the same, but worse. The wind had shifted more directly onto our bow so we were heading straight into it, plus the wind had picked up.

It must have been blowing at least 40 knots sustained, and gusting beyond 60 knots, and I am not one to exaggerate; we were eating shit. We were making only 2.5 knots through the water for about 10 hours, which advanced us only 25 miles toward Cape Spencer.

Our bodies were battered and abused. There is no comfortable place on the Discovery in the first place, but when the tormenting swells turn your bunk into a surreal hang-gliding crash simulator, it seems totally senseless to camp out down in that hole. I felt like I was taped to the blade of an eggbeater as it spun around and around and around.

Up in the wheelhouse, the seats have zero back support; Mike salvaged them from the Goodwill's garbage pile of old office furniture, and then bolted them into place in the wheelhouse. After already suffering from the enhanced bedsores of our acrobatic bunks, it really adds insult to injury to sit on those chairs during wheelwatch. But the boat rocks back and forth so violently, wedging yourself into them is about the only way to stay put while on watch, else you would be tossed across the wheelhouse like a catapulted stone by the heaving, side-to-side motion of the Discovery.

I found solace in my usual spot, sprawled out on the galley bench, wedged between the bench and the table. It is a much better ride there, since it is situated more toward the center of the boat, but it is not a very accommodating resting surface.

The lip around the edge of the seats that hold the cushion in place is not exactly posturepedic, and the corner of the table gets in the way; but on the contrary both of those things help hold me in place. In the final hours of our hell-ride across the gulf, I resorted to laying the bench cushion on the floor in front of the table and sleeping sprawled out in the middle of the walkway.

On my last watch I took the boat from 30 to almost 20 miles from Cape Spencer. Since the weather was from offshore, the giant swell had reduced somewhat and we managed to bump up the throttle, speeding the engine up 50 rpm to 1,180 rpm, and bringing our speed up to almost 4.5 knots.

After my watch, I knew the end was near. In the past 24 hours I had eaten cheese and crackers just twice, and puked them up both times. I returned to my somewhat comfortable spot on the galley floor, and crashed out dreaming of eating a Costco salmon patty, and drinking lots of water. When I awoke at 4 a.m. on Sunday, the seas were calm and we were at the Cape Spencer entrance. Breakfast was served as fast as I could cook the salmon patties.

Once again, we had survived a shitty crossing. It wasn't the first abusive crossing, and I don't think it will be the last. It's all a part of the long run home.


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The Center for Coastal Studies recently announced that Owen Nichols, Director of the Center for Coastal Studies’ Marine Fisheries Research Program, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the John Annala Fishery Leadership Award by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. 

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