Stresses of the Season

As always, if I were to just be satisfied with fishing my own gillnetter, the Sunlight III, I would have enough to keep me busy. But I have effectively doubled my boat maintenance burden with another boat, the Mirage, which this year, because of its essential rebirth because of all the work we did to it, I chose to rename it the Claude M. Bristol.

The rebirthing of the Claude M. Bristol was essentially my decision to install a $40,000 refrigeration system in the boat. That is $40K of just parts and minimal labor, with Matt and my man Crosby doing most of the work, along with the Claude M. Bristol crew.

It was an absurd amount of work; so much, in fact, that I am not going to list even the major components to the job, for fear I might pass out from the shock of the mere recollection of the task. I was overwhelmed, and really freaked out about the cost of everything, and I’ll tell you, even now that it is all said and done, I wish I hadn’t installed the system last year.

The problem we encountered was that we spent so much time installing the new system into the old boat that we didn’t have time to focus on the old systems in the old boat. We addressed quite a few of them, like relocating the electrical panel, and fixing the stove, and necessary functional creature-features like that, but we never took a close look at the existing deck hydraulics, which blew a few hoses during the season, or the charging system, which stopped doing its job during the season and lead to a couple of alternator replacements, the first one leading to a small but expensive fire, which necessitated the second alternator replacement, etc.

Yes, if I would have simply stuck with my single boat, I would have had more than enough to keep me busy. I totally reconfigured my hatches into six equal bins with 12 bags between the two sides, with nice new fiberglass dividers and aluminum caps, which the hatch covers rest on (it’s a really nice job — the complete opposite of how the Claude M. Bristol hatches turned out).

The other big stressor to me was the fact that Crosby was now the skipper of the Claude M. Bristol, instead of Harpo, who had run the boat for the three prior seasons. Crosby had never run a boat before, but he had fished with me for the last five years. He knew enough about catching fish, which is half the game, but I found out he was a bit lacking in the arena of keeping a boat running when the thing throws a curve-ball in his direction.

Through this learning curve, we had an unusual group of observers with us through most of the season: PSG Films, the film crew contracted by the National Geographic Channel to shoot a documentary special about the Bristol Bay fishery. They showed up in the Peter Pan Seafoods camp one day, and it was a no-brainer for me to invite them aboard for our sure-to-be chaotic seasons.

The cameral crews, for me anyway, proved to be the least of the seasons stressors; in fact it was a great stress release. I always had a commentary running in my head as I was fishing, sort of like a play-by-play, calling my every move, and adding color during the lapses in action. Well, now my mocked up world was a reality, and there I was with a camera poked in my face, just a part of the show for the whole nation to see this fall.

By the end of the season, Crosby and I were so burned out we could failed to optimize on the late run of fish. We had enough, and vowed to solve all the Claude M. Bristol’s problems in the 2007 preseason.


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