When Cody Vandecoevering decided to leave a well-paying fishing gig to set out on his own and take over the F/V Karen, his late father’s 75-year-old, 58-foot wooden dragger, everyone told him he was crazy.

“I had a lot of people telling me, ‘You’re crazy for leaving’ or ‘You’ll never get a job this good again,’” said Vandecoevering. “But I had some key people in my life support me, and that’s all I needed.”

His father, David, faced similar criticism when he bought the boat in the early 2000s. The engine had been previously destroyed, and the boat had been sitting for a long time — the bow was white but looked green from the algae that had a chance to find a home there. But he was determined to buy it on the cheap and turn it into a shrimp boat, no matter what anyone thought.

Vandecoevering was admittedly suspicious of his father’s choice in a project boat, but that all turned around one day on the water.

“We were all out one day shrimping, and he came by me with his table loaded with shrimp and a big ole smile on his face,” said Vandecoevering. “And as he went by, I couldn’t help but think that, wow, he really did it.”

When his father passed away last spring, Vandecoevering knew he wanted to go to the Karen.

“There’s obviously a bit of work I can do to her, but I can say I’m falling more and more in love with her every day,” said Vandecoevering. “My mom was either going to have to sell the boat, or I was going to have to jump on and make it work.”

Having only been on the boat for about three months, Vandecoevering is just getting started, but is optimistic about learning the direct-marketing game and potentially launching his own seafood business in the future.

In the midst of figuring out a new boat and business, Vandecoevering is also coming to terms with the death of his father. But he might not be approaching this new venture entirely on his own.

This past summer the boat was already prepped for shrimp, and Vandecoevering thought he’d give it a go. When loading the boat up for the first time, he was in the wheelhouse when he heard a noise that sounded like someone taking bolts off the shrimp gear. Other folks told him it might be his dad, ready to go out shrimping.

“Never could figure out what that noise could’ve been,” said Vandecoevering, “I don’t know what the whole story brings when people do leave this world… but someone people believe there are people always looking down on you. I guess I just feel safer out there a lot of the time thinking about it like that.” 

Boat Specifications

HOME PORT: Garibaldi, Ore. OWNER: Denise Vandecoevering BUILDER: Coos Bay Boat Shop, Coos Bay, Ore. YEAR BUILT: 1945
LENGTH: 58 feet WIDTH: 16 feet FISHERIES: Prawn, tuna, crab, pink shrimp HULL CONSTRUCTION: Port Orford cedar MAIN PROPULSION: 855-hp Cummins



Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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