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.

March 6-7, 2006 — I woke up on the morning of Tuesday, March 6, knowing I had two full days to work on my Puget Sound gillnetter, the Satisfaction. This was the first time I had to work on it since the season, and the time spent on it then was mostly for emergency repairs. I would basically be living on the boat in La Conner during this time, just like many guys live on their boats when they work on them in the yards in Bristol Bay.

I had a long list of projects, but I only managed to get a couple of them done. For one, the boat was so messy that I dedicated the first two hours of the morning to restoring order and organization to the vessel. Another delay was the weather, which hampered my painting and porthole project; I managed to paint the hatch covers, but I only got one porthole installed between showers.

The biggest mess of all was my bilge, which was a huge oily mess from the leak in the oil filter during the season. I worked on that for way too long, wiping up the oil with oil diapers, because I didn't want the oily rinse water to drain into the storm drain if I had washed it out with bilge cleaner.

I noticed a layer of diesel oil — much more than a sheen — on top of the water in the bilge when I arrived the night before. I inspected the oil filter that I relocated when I changed the water pump early in the fall season, and I found no leaks. It wasn't until I peeked into my freshly cleaned bilge a few hours later that I realized the diesel was leaking through the aft engine room bulkhead that drains from the shaft alley. Further inspection took me aft of the hatches into the under-deck compartment in the stern where the fuel tanks live. Sure enough, my port fuel tank was leaking.

It was a slow leak, but was a leak indeed. I had no intention of fixing it now; the starboard tank was fine, and such a project would be better for the winter, when the boat is stored on the island. My task now was to pump the fuel out so it wouldn't leak out over the spring and summer and make a huge mess.

I had to run to Anacortes to buy clean drums to store the oil. While I was there I picked up a transducer for the fathometer; another project that didn't get completed because of the weather — it was 35 degrees and blowing 30 knots on the second day. I basically only had time to get back with the drums, get the oil pumped out, and then get the boat cleaned up and left in a proper and organized fashion so when I return to work on it (probably after Bristol Bay) I can get right to work instead of spending half a day cleaning.

Before I knew it time had totally elapsed, and I was SCRAMBLING to make the 5:15 p.m. ferry to San Juan Island, which I made, but the lady at the toll booth informed me that the ferry was scheduled as a passenger-only ferry to Friday Harbor, and I would have to take the 8:25 all-stop that would get me home at 11:30. I would like to say I took it in stride, but I was really pissed. Who makes up these damned ferry schedules?

With so much to do before I left for longlining, I decided to use this time wisely. I immediately zipped off to Burlington, a 20-minute drive, to bang out a list of semi-important errands that I may not have gotten to otherwise. I smelled like the boat and looked like a bum. My hands and face were filthy, and there was nothing I could do about that. I improved my attire by putting on a sweater I found on the boat that looked good but smelled like an old gillnetter, then I turned my filthy sweats inside out so the exterior coating of grease and oil didn't show to the general public. I was now presentable to the public.

I had about an hour and a half to do my thing before I had to get back to Anacortes to catch the ferry. I went to seven stores in that time and accomplished everything on my list. I was in a rush, though. In Costco I set my cart in the back of the line at the checkout, ran to the bathroom and took a quick whiz, then ran back out and got back in line just in time to push my cart forward (and no, I didn't wash).

I made it to the ferry on time, but it was delayed because of the windstorm, so I didn't get home until well after midnight. But my wife was waiting for me upon my arrival, and she wasn't even turned off at my smell.
I was glad to be done with that trip to the mainland.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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