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.

Peak of the Run, 2008 — Along with Madeline came Bruce, the Chaperone. Bruce is a great guy and a really good hand because he is always looking for something to do and does things that really help. But I was a bit concerned about his request to spend a few days on the boat during the peak of the run, because it's not like there is any extra room on my boat. But that was the arrangement we had for him escorting Madeline up, so that's what we were going to do.

We were already a crew of four on my little wood boat. Dave had built an extra sleeping berth in the preseason, and I cut away a bit of the cabinetry by the floor so we could even sleep five in a horizontal, fore-aft position when Madeline was on the boat, but Bruce made it SIX on board. Fortunately, he was happy to sleep on the dashboard bunk, which I cannot handle when the boat is rocking side to side, just as it does when we are anchored up on Johnson Hill or anywhere else outside for that matter.

Looking at us all on deck must have been a quite comical. There we were, six people, all living and working on a wooden Bristol Bay gillnetter that was originally built to house only two. Most fishing boats in Alaska — seiners, tenders, and gillnetters alike — had fewer people aboard!

When we hauled the net, there were two guys on either side as it was reeled aboard on the drum, and two people up on the flying bridge watching. It was kind of handy during heavy fishing, but it was pretty boring most of the time up there on the flying bridge, and there was hardly room on deck for me to pick even if I wanted to.

What really amazed me was that although there were six of us aboard, it wasn't any more crowded than with four. An unspoken systematic order evolved, where we each got our shit together and cleared out of the way, and then the next guy did the same. We were working hard, so all we wanted was to get our deck gear off, eat, get comfortable, and go to sleep. Even Madeline worked with this groove, as she was just there like a fly on the wall.

I usually do most of the cooking, but Bruce likes to cook as well, so he grabbed the helm of the propane stove and whipped up some tasty treats. It was nice to have a variety in the way our only food, fresh sockeye salmon, was cooked. And it was nice for me not to have to worry about cooking it.

What I expected to last just a day or two lasted an entire week, which was the full amount of time Bruce could spend on the boat before he had to catch his plane back home. And after he left, we kind of missed having him around. He cooked, he cleaned the deck automatically, he was there to set and haul the anchor, and aside from all this great stuff, he was just great to have around.

It was really an amazing feat to have us all sardined on that boat for so long, and for us all to be so happy about it. It just goes to show that we had some good ju-ju going on the Sunlight III in 2008.


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All Season — Back in 2002 when the salmon price was really in the toilet (only 20 cents less than it is now!), I bought another permit at a fire-sale price. That permit was in my wife Maureen's name for a few years, but she had to stay home with our 3-year-old, Lucy, and I wanted to take advantage of the regulation that allows one boat to fish an extra 50 fathoms of gillnet (for a total of 200 fathoms on board) if there are two permit holders on the boat. Add a comment

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June and July 2008 — It was a good year for permafrost in Bristol Bay this year, and the Bering Sea ice pack lingered longer than usual, which brought October-like (in Washington) weather to Naknek all summer. Add a comment

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April 15 to July 26, 2008 — My other Bristol Bay boat, the Claude M Bristol, underwent more repairs this season than I care to recall. During the 2007 season the keel was damaged, so I contracted Mike Holmes with Commercial Marine Service to do the job. Add a comment

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All Season — The Sunlight III repair job was about the only thing going on around camp in the early part of the season. Each night we knocked off around 9:00 p.m. and started drinking whiskey on the job site, right there in the stern of the boat. Add a comment

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Saturday, June 7, 2009 — As the Coastal Heritage Alliance team worked diligently on the Sunlight III, there was talk about CHA having an outpost in Naknek, providing repairs to the remaining wood boats in service, and perhaps pulling a few out of mothballs and getting them back out on the water, as well. The big dream was to restore to fishable condition the old sailboat that shared the warehouse with the Sunlight III, lease a permit, and fish competitively amongst the modern fleet. Add a comment

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May 25-June 1, 2008 — A terrible thing happened when I hauled out my old wood boat, the Sunlight III on the Peter Pan Seafoods trailer during the 2007 season. The trailer wasn't properly rigged and the supports cracked a bunch of frames on either side of the stern, leaving two depressing-looking depressions where the supports had imposed themselves into the integrity of the hull. The resilient planks gave enough so the boat held water, so I managed to finish the season, but my boat was in need of serious repair. Add a comment

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Last year before the longline season a longtime back-burner project became a reality. I created Fish for Teeth, an IRS-recognized 501-c-3 corporation that seeks opportunities to extract money from the commercial fishing industry and use it to fix kids' teeth. Add a comment

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April 27-May 3, 2008 — We had never been so happy to see Cape Spencer than on Sunday, April 27, after surviving the beating we endured on the second day of crossing the Gulf of Alaska. We were done with fishing, the last load of halibut were in the hatch, and we were steaming for Bellingham to deliver. Add a comment

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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. Add a comment

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Page 5 of 16

Inside the Industry

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has announced that Dr. Jon Hare has been selected to serve as the permanent science and research director effective Oct. 31.

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It’s no secret that fraud is a problem in the seafood industry. Oceana repeatedly touts a mislabeling epidemic. While their method has been criticized, the perception of rampant fraud  has been established.

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