Written by Linc Bedrosian
March 31, 2015
Poems and Thoughts on Fishing and Life
By Rob Seitz
Rob Seitz, 2013
Softcover, 40 pp., $10.00
You get a lot of bang for the buck out of Rob Seitz's poetry collection, "2.5 gpf." Seitz, a veteran performer at the annual FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria, Ore., offers up a short but engaging collection of poems about life and fishing that will make you laugh and think a little, too.
Seitz has been a commercial fisherman for 30 years. The Soldotna, Alaska, native began drift gillnetting with his grandfather, Larry Lancashire, on Cook Inlet in 1982. Ten years later he was in Astoria, Ore., starting a career as a trawler/dragger skipper. Since 2011, he's been trawling out of Morro Bay, Calif., where he lives with his wife, Tiffani, and their two children.
He began his writing career after winning the onsite poetry competition at the FisherPoets Gathering in 1998. He's collected 14 of his poems written over the past 10 years, and added his thoughts about each one and what inspired them. The notes about each poem provide insight into them and offer glimpses of his life on the water and at home.
Now, it doesn't take very long to read through the book. It took me maybe an hour to read it cover to cover. Yet I feel like Seitz's book will stay with me far longer. If you're unfamiliar with his poems, check out his page on the Inthetote website, which features work and information for a variety of FisherPoet Gathering peformers.
Written by Linc Bedrosian
January 20, 2015
The Gods of Second Chances
By Dan Berne
Forest Avenue Press, 2014
Softcover, 293 pp., $18.00
"Mud and rain invaded my dreams after Donna's death." So begins Dan Berne's debut novel, "The Gods of Second Chances." His wife's horrific death occurred one rain-soaked night 12 years ago, and it still haunts Southeast Alaska fisherman Ray Bancroft.
Since then, Ray has been raising his granddaughter Sitka by himself. Family means everything to him. And yet family is the very thing that has turned his world upside down.
As the story opens, Ray is reading for the third time a letter from Sitka's mom, his estranged daughter Jenny, who writes that she's getting out of prison soon, is clean and sober, and is ready to come home to Alaska and re-establish contact with Ray and Sitka.
It's not shaping up to be a happy reunion; Ray blames Jenny, who was a wild and willful teenager, for his wife's death; she was driving to collect Jenny the night Donna died. He's been fighting the good fight, mainly fishing for Dungeness crab and shrimp and occasionally taking tourists fishing to pay the bills and feed Sitka's college fund.
It hasn't been easy. But Ray's collection of small statues of various gods and goddesses and the little rituals that his half-Tlingit best friend Felix performs help him navigate life's difficulties.
However, Jenny's return (as well as that of Sitka's shady father), and a lawsuit brought by a boorish tourist who loses a finger or two when he fails to heed Ray's advice, threaten to destroy everything Ray holds dear.
For all the difficult issues Berne's novel tackles — broken families, financial struggles, missed opportunities to find love, and the way grief and anger can color our memories — there's plenty to like about this story. Characters are well drawn, the dialogue is sharp, and the story moves along at a fast clip.
The fishing portions ring true, too, thanks to time that Portland, Ore.-based Berne has spent in Southeast. He's written an enjoyable page-turner that provides food for thought for fishermen and non-fishermen alike.
Written by Linc Bedrosian
December 9, 2014
Wisdom from the Sea
Stories for Leaders to Navigate through Life's Turbulent Waters
By James Evanow
James Evanow, 2014
Softcover, 67 pp., $14.95
I never cease to be amazed at all the tasks that must be mastered to be successful skipper. Knowing how to catch a lot of fish is certainly a big part of the job but it's not all of it. Among other things, you also have to be a knowledgeable and proficient repairman who can fix equipment that breaks down at sea. You have to be able to navigate treacherous waters, understand meteorology, global market dynamics, economics, political and regulatory climates and more. And as captain, you have to be an effective leader.
How did you learn to be a leader? Did you take note of how the skippers you worked for handled things? Did you watch the way they dealt with crew members? How did they help you develop your leadership style when you finally became a captain?
Well, James Evanow, who boasts 24 years as a sea captain, explores the concept of leadership in his book "Wisdom from the Sea." In it, he uses his experiences at sea and relates them to leadership and life skills. Evanow's commercial fishing background informs his work today as a speaker who teaches corporate leaders how to communicate persuasively, build trust and become a strong leader that people want to follow.
In his introduction, Evanow says that he's written this book "using sea stories as anecdotes, in order to bring awareness about how we think and act, who we are and how we treat each other."
Evanow writes that people should lead "from a place of compassion, integrity, empathy and self control." That would seem to fly in the face of the stereotypical skipper who routinely screams at his crew.
In our June 1998 issue, we did a cover story on loud and proud skippers. "Everybody knows that, when space is tight, hours are long, money swims and somebody is moving too slowly, the skipper's going to be on the giving end of a blood-red dressing down," the story notes.
The screaming is just "part of the business," it continues. "And just as much a part of the business is laughing later — sometimes not until years later — about the time so-and-so lost his cool and left his crew crying like babies after an hour-long tirade."
In his early days as a skipper, Evanow may have been a screamer as well. "When I was younger, it was very difficult for me to be able to come from a position of positive leadership," he writes. "I would get very upset and angry with people when something would go wrong. I wouldn't be held accountable and, when I look back on this time in my life, I realize that many of my actions were based on what I believed I was supposed to do."
Evanow says he eventually realized that he acted that way because of what he'd seen other people do and how they reacted to situations. However, he decided to try and learn to think for himself how he wanted to act. Today he advocates developing what he calls emotional intelligence — in other words, your ability to recognize and deal with your emotions in a difficult situation and respond in a logical and controlled manner.
Interestingly, Evanow writes about how it wasn't always easy to hire solid deckhands to become part of a well-trained and efficient crew. Even so, he advocates interviewing prospective crew members properly to ensure that you hire the right people and select them for the right reasons.
I don't know if Evanow's book will help you become a better skipper. But it could make you think about what your leadership style is, and it offers up some ideas that you could add to your leadership arsenal.
Written by Linc Bedrosian
October 23, 2014
Waltzing with Lady Luck
A Novel with Teeth
By Clark Snow
Black Rose Writing, 2012
Softcover, 225 pp., $
So what would you do if you won the lottery? Would you keep fishing? Would you pay off the boat loan and the mortgage? Would you upgrade to your dream boat and house? Or would you walk away from fishing, feeling secure in the knowledge that you and your family are set for life?
If you decided that you still wanted to fish, how do you think your fellow fishermen would react to you? Would everybody treat you the same as they did before you hit the jackpot? Would some resent you? Clark Snow's novel "Waltzing with Lady Luck" raises these questions and more.
According to Snow's biography, he's worked on the water for some 40 years, the last 12 on coastal tugboats. However, he says his most memorable years were spent working on fishing vessels that helped him feed his family and his imagination, ultimately leading him to write this story.
Victor Janes, a young Newfoundland fisherman with a taste for adventure, emigrates to the U.S. and marries into a prominent New Bedford, Mass., fishing family. Then he wins a national lottery that pays off millions of dollars.
You think that the story's happy ending has arrived before it's even begun. But Victor and his wife Fabulia aren't people who only want to lead a life of leisure.
Victor decides he wants to keep fishing, but wants to try his hand at something no one's attempted before. He builds a prototype factory trawler that's equipped to fish in thousands of feet of water for royal red shrimp. Fabulia meanwhile starts a non-profit organization to help children and the elderly, and ultimately battered women; after some early reservations about the business side of her charitable work, the project gets rolling.
The shrimping expedition goes well, but the boat's net also comes up with manganese nodules, which, to the delight of a shrewd Vietnamese crew member, contain petrified shark teeth at their core. The crew member begins storing the nodules against Victor's orders.
And when a multi-national mining corporation learns of the manganese modules, and Victor's fishing operation gets a whole lot more complicated, especially when he's charged with harvesting the nodules without a permit — even though it's questionable whether their harvest falls under NMFS' jurisdiction. Eventually, things get crazy enough that Victor must relocate the boat and his family all the way to Brazil to try, with the help of the family lawyer, how to extricate himself from what's become an international mess.
It's a lighthearted tale that largely makes for pleasant reading. I doubt many of us are likely to hit a huge lottery jackpot anytime soon. But dreaming about what we'd do if we did costs us absolutely nothing.
And if in the process, we figure how we'd want to treat people if we came into megabucks, how we'd want people to treat us if we did and how we'd treat those around us who hit it big, well, maybe we'd be richer for it. Of course it'd be nice to have the opportunity to put the answers into practice.
Written by Linc Bedrosian
September 2, 2014
Of Sea and Clouds
By Jon Keller
Tyrus Books, 2014
Hardcover, 336 pp., $24.99
Maine's lobster fishery is apparently fertile ground for novelists. Not so long ago, I reviewed "Vacationland" by Nat Goodale, which was an enjoyable read. "Of Sea and Cloud" by Jon Keller, also set in the Pine Tree State's most profitable fishery, is a darker ride, but no less of a page-turner.
Things get ugly in a hurry. Nicholas Graves has raised his sons, Bill and Joshua (known as Jonah), to be lobstermen. But when Nicholas is lost at sea, the mystery of his death sparks a chain of events resulting in a war between the Graves boys and Osmond Randolph, a lobsterman and former Calvinist minister, as well as their father's business partner for more than 20 years.
With Nicholas out of the picture, the powerful and unsettling Osmond, aided by his grandson and heir, Julius (a deeply unsettling guy in his own right), moves to push the Graves family out of the lobster pound Nicholas and Osmond ran at any cost. A trap war develops as Osmond sets lobster traps on the Graves family grounds mere days after Nicholas is lost at sea.
Jonah cuts about $5,000-worth of Osmond's traps. In retaliation, Julius sets his gear directly on top of the Graves' traps. And as the Graves try to figure out what happened to their father the war escalates from there.
But the story isn't solely about an ugly trap war. Keller worked aboard a Down-East Maine lobster boat for several years after graduate school, and during that time, he said in a Tyrus Books interview, he "began to see within the land and people something nearing on the epic."
"When I started writing 'Of Sea and Cloud,' I fell immediately into a voice that felt to me to echo this epic starkness — and more importantly than echoing, I hoped that the voice would resonate in and through the novel in the way the coastal landscape resonates in and through the Down-East world," he explained.
Keller said he he's lived in enough small towns to be aware of when a place is undergoing a serious shift.
"I'd call it a cultural unraveling, perhaps, and it results in loneliness and desperation that I hoped to capture in the book," he said. "It's the confusion that results when a sub-culture doesn't evolve as quickly as the culture that surrounds it. The technology has changed, the standards of living have changed, the world has changed... yet the way of life has not, and the result is a cultural tailspin, a potential breakdown."
Furthermore, Keller said the region's isolation doesn't protect it from a changing world as much as it exposes it. In the book, Osmond sees that global markets are going to affect the lobster industry and the aging lobsterman is desperate to protect his family and ensure that they will survive those changes.
Keller says "Of Sea and Cloud" is "a book that asks something of the reader, just as the coast of Maine asks something of those who inhabit it." It's a story that should be food for thought for 21st century fishermen, be they veteran harvesters or young bucks trying to make their mark on this historic industry.
Written by Linc Bedrosian
April 22, 2014
Man Plans, God Laughs
By Nat Goodale
Bowditch Press, 2013
Softcover, 242 pp., $14.99
When I think of Donny Coombs, a fifth generation Maine lobsterman who's the hero of "Vacationland," the immortal words of Popeye the Sailor Man, pop into my head — "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!"
It will take him awhile to get to that point, though. Coombs is pretty much an independent live-and-let-live kind of guy. He's largely content to go lobstering, accompanied by his ornery, territorial, yet faithful and loyal dog, Tut.
However, Coombs' placid life is about to become more stressful on several fronts.
First there are his new neighbors, Delano and Eliza Nelson. The Nelsons are, as Mainers say, From Away. And the missus in particular is hell-bent on, as Goodale puts it on his website, "saving Maine from the Mainers."
Job one in this quest is getting Coombs to remove some items they deem unsightly from his yard. Thus begins what will blossom into an increasingly ugly battle between the two neighbors.
Then there's Shelly Payson, an attractive junior at Harvard, where she's an outstanding member of the crew team. Shelly's impetuous, and like her well-to-do father, Chase, used to getting her way. She's attracted to Coombs, which displeases daddy greatly. His mission is to kill the growing relationship between Coombs and his daughter.
And last, but certainly not least, there's lobsterman Stanley Maven, who covets Coombs' territory. He ignores signs to back off and becomes increasingly bold about setting traps where Coombs fishes.
All of these battles get ratcheted up to a fever pitch. And when Coombs reaches his Popeye-esque breaking point, things get very ugly indeed.
Goodale's crafted a fast-paced page-turner, filled with strongly drawn characters. At first, I was disappointed in the ending. I suspect I'm too used to watching movies where Hollywood wraps everything up neatly to send us smiling out of the theater.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it really rang true. When it's all said and done, "Vacationland" proves to be a highly entertaining story that's well-worth reading.Add a comment
Written by Linc Bedrosian
March 11, 2014
From Hooks to Harpoons
...the Story of Santa Barbara Channel Fisheries
By Mick Kronman
Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 2013
Softcover, 261 pp., $24.95
When we embarked on producing North Pacific Focus, a Pilothouse Guide-inspired supplement for Alaska and West Coast readers that mailed with our April issue, we decided it'd be a good idea to profile fishing ports in the region. Conveniently, I'd just finished reading "From Hooks to Harpoons: the Story of Santa Barbara Channel Fisheries," which led me to profile Santa Barbara in the Winter 2014 issue of NPF.
The book's author, Mick Kronman, was a great source for the story. Kronman, 65, has been the city's harbor operations manager for 14 years. He's also a former commercial fisherman and he served as NF's Pacific bureau chief for a number of years.
He also proves to be the right guy to tell the story of the city's fishing history. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum asked Kronman to chronicle the port's fishing heritage, which dates back to the 1850s.
"The maritime museum wanted me to write 10,000 words," Kronman says. So he dived into his research.
As part of his research, he poured over the museum's voluminous collection of photos of local fishermen and boats that defined eras past. And Marla Daily, president of the Santa Cruz Island Foundation, gave Kronman access to her file archives, which contained letters, narratives, newspaper accounts and other data about the city's fishing past.
Eventually, Kronman's original 10,000 words would blossom into 75,000. Alas, his manuscript grew dusty sitting on the shelves for several years as the museum went through some changes.
But eventually museum officials realized it needed to be a book. His work made it into publication last fall, some 13 years after the project began.
Happily, the book is well worth the wait. It's an entertaining history of Santa Barbara's fishing history, told via the five gear types used in the various fisheries.
"I thought the only way I could get my mind and ability around the project was to break the story into gear groups," Kronman says.
The gear types that Santa Barbara fishermen still use today date back some 3,000 years to when Chumash Native Americans used early forms of nets, harpoons, hooks, traps and dive gear. Those gear types have helped local fishermen catch a wide variety of fish and shellfish, including spiny lobster, rock crab, ridgeback and spot prawns, squid, rockfish, swordfish, halibut, blackcod, sea cucumbers, abalone and sea urchins.
Kronman looks at not only the development of each gear type, but at the fisheries that spawned from them, and the people who helped them grow. The book is filled with anecdotes about the port's commercial fisheries and loaded with photos from the past and present.
"From Hooks to Harpoons" is an engaging and informative look at Santa Barbara's commercial fishing history. But I think the book may say as much about Kronman's affection for the city's fishing industry. And that affection shines through "From Hooks to Harpoons," separating it from garden-variety history books. You don't have to be a Santa Barbara fisherman to appreciate that.
Written by Linc Bedrosian
December 5, 2013
By William B. McCloskey Jr.
Skyhorse Publishing, 2013
Hardcover, 400 pp., $24.95
You'll get a taste of "Warriors," the prequel to William B. McCloskey's previous novels "Highliners," "Brokers" and "Raiders" in our January issue. The "Warriors" excerpt that begins on page 26 focuses on fishing in the early days of Alaska's king crab fishery. But the novel is about much more than that.
The "Highliners" trilogy focuses on the story of Hank Crawford's journey from green cannery hand to respected fishing captain in Alaska, a tale that spans from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. Three important characters who appear in the three novels return as the main characters in "Warriors."
Crawford's future mentor, Marine Sgt. Jones Henry, Japanese officer Kiyoshi Tsurifune, and anti-German Resistance fighter Swede Scorden struggle to return to a normal life after World War II. Each man is wrestling with all they've endured during the war and want nothing more than to return to the fishing life.
For Jones, that means returning to Ketchikan, Alaska, to fish for salmon and king crab. Swede, too, settles in Ketchikan where he throws himself into work at a cannery, eventually becoming an executive. Kiyoshi returns to his family, trying to deal with the lost honor of his country's defeat, eventually helping his local fishermen get back on the water and becoming a seafood buyer. The three men's paths cross throughout the book, as Kiyoshi eventually becomes an ambassador for the Japanese trade.
But the fishing world is changing. Engines are replacing the sails on fishing boats that Jones and other fishermen have relied upon for years. A new union calls a strike during the height of salmon season. And an impending deal to allow the Japanese to fish Alaska waters angers many Alaska fishermen for whom memories of the war against Japan are all too fresh.
Each character's perspective on the war is enlightening. The passages about life in post-war Japan are compelling. So are those in which Jones wrestles with his war experiences; Jones just wants to fish and be left alone, and not have to think about what he saw in the war.
Against the backdrop of the changes in their lives and Alaska's fishing industry, each man must find a way to make peace with what they've experienced and with the changes coming to the burgeoning Alaska fisheries. All in all "Warriors" proves to be a worthy addition to the "Highliner" novels.
Written by Linc Bedrosian
October 15, 2013
Four Thousand Hooks
A True Story of Fishing and Coming of Age on the High Seas of Alaska
By Dean Adams
University of Washington Press, 2012
Softcover, 270 pp., $16.95
One of the neat things about Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle is the Author's Corner and Bookstore, where you can get your mitts on a wide range of books about fishing. Plus there's seating and a special section for book signings, discussions and more.
It's easy to see why Dean Adam's book "Four Thousand Hooks" was featured at Pacific Marine Expo last year. Want to find out what's on tap in the Author's Corner this year? Just click here and scroll down for the 2013 show's lineup.
Written by Linc Bedrosian
April 18, 2013
By Roderick Haig-Brown
Harbour Publishing, 1948
Softcover, 240 pp., $14.95
You will forgive me if I'm mildly puzzled as to why "Saltwater Summer" is classified as "juvenile fiction." What we have here is a story about fishing, plain and simple. Nowhere in this book appear any vampires, werewolves, zombies, dragons or sorcerers of any kind, which would seem an immediate disqualification for being labeled as teen fiction, or at least what passes for it these days.
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