Between the first and second contract

flying back to Dutch Harbor, it's damn cold outside

Fishing company will pay for your return flight from Seattle if you complete your contract, so don’t quit!:) Back in #dutchharbor #alaska. #fishing #beringsea #plane #nature #sea #winter #north #northern #dark #wild #clouds #mountain #flying #badweather

I returned to Seattle knowing that two weeks later I would be returning on the ship. The way I saw it, the purpose of the first contract was to make a good impression so that they would want me back onboard. You will not earn much on the first contract because you’re only new. There was at least three shares waiting for me on the second contract. If you are planning this journey and really wish to make some money, two contracts are the minimum you need to undertake. Surprisingly I didn’t sleep that much; I have adapted. I got out of some bad habits such as staring aimlessly at the computer screen. My bank account also went through a big change. If you can survive the work on the ship, Alaska is definitely the place that shows appreciation for your efforts.

Second Contract

The fishing boat was familiar grounds for me this time around. Seasickness did not come back, as it generally shouldn’t. I wasn’t off the ship for long enough to get used to the life of a regular city man again. For a beginner I got sufficient respect and got paid very well. On the other hand I wanted to show everyone that this was well deserved. This motivated me to put in even more effort.


rock in the Bering Sea

#Aleutians, #fishing in the #beringsea #rock #mountain #mountains #sea #alaska #north #northern #nature

I finally got to work on the backline, but this bit me back. We were fishing Arrowtooth Flounder and Greenland TurbotGreenland Turbor during the previous trips. Both types are big fish, quite easy to differentiate, so working backline wasn’t all too difficult. For most of the second contract we were fishing Yellowfin SoleYellowfin Sole This is a relatively small fish that has two relatives; Flathead SoleFlathead Sole and Rock SoleRock Sole. They were nearly identical to me as I was still quite a beginner. Yet, I had to differentiate between them in literally the tenth of a second and throw them into the correct bin. At the same time I had to get rid of waste that came along with it like dirt, little fish, and fish that we were not allowed to catch, or we had no use for. Being the first in line I also had to take care of Pacific CodPacific Cod – sometimes even a ten kilo fish. I had to grab the Cod with one hand and cut it with a knife, but quickly enough to keep up with the rest of the fish. From time to time we got a net full of Cod. The intensity of this job cannot be compared to anything I have experienced before. On top of that, anytime I happened to miss a fish the guys behind me made sure I knew about it – and I missed many. The important thing was that I kept improving. That meant, I could finally be an asshole too.


on the deck - fishing boat, Bering Sea

#workinghard – taking pictures of #myself. In #ropes and #chains #deck #deckhand #fishingboat #fisherman #trawler #factorytrawler #beringsea #boat #maritime #north #northern #fishingnet #fishing

On the second trip I was called on the deck. I became a combi. One of the deckhands’ drug tests came out positive, so that freed a spot for me. The share of a combi starts at 3.3, I was already getting that with my bonus in the factory. My dream job became a reality – although only for a little while. We got a new deckhand after this trip so I was returned into the factory. However, anytime I was free after that (because there was no fish), I did not go to sleep but I went on the deck to help out.

Full-time freezer rat

During one of the trips two out of our six freezer rats got injured. Both of them fell on their back during bad weather, so I took over. This meant sixteen hours of sweating in -20°C; another challenge. I didn’t mind it. The freezer hall was a calm place compared to how intense the factory was. There were just two of us, and during short breaks we even chatted sometimes. My cramps came back so I didn’t get to sleep much.

Second Illness

fishermen are bunch of floating homos - Big Bill

This photo tells a lot about what goes on on a fishing boat, when the nets are empty. We can’t go to our rooms when we are on shift, because we might wake up those who are off shift – so we sleep anywhere we can – in this case canteen 🙂 #fishing #sleeping #beringsea #tired #alaska #nofish #crew #fisherman #people #fishermen #sealife #sleep

Next trip we got a new pair of workers for the freezer, so I returned to my regular eight hour shift in the factory for the second half. I even started to be fond of the freezer puller job. I told myself: “when I return back from the ship I want to look like a tank”. However, foreman kept sending me on the backline. In my opinion there were more experienced people which could have done that job much better than me, but maybe they wanted to take it easy. The intensity of the backline work along with my work as a freezer rat claimed their price. I was very often sweaty moving from backline to the freezer, as I didn’t have time to completely change my clothes. I got sick instantly. My cough-filled nights came back along with the cramps in my legs and sometimes even in the back. This time it was not only for nine days like in the previous contract, but for three whole weeks. At this point I wasn’t only choking with cough at night, but also during my 15 minute breaks and at dinner time. I didn’t complain about it as this kind of behavior was expected from everybody. Reputation was everything to me, and I also wanted to find out how much my body and mind could handle. There were two strange days we didn’t catch anything; I tried to sleep any opportunity I got. With my high orange consumption we soon run out of them and had to resort to sickly bitter grapefruit. I couldn’t eat much anymore, and I didn’t sleep much either. Three weeks later the illness disappeared. My body survived, but there were consequences. I lost a lot of weight and I wasn’t as strong as before, so my output went down. I still tried to work as hard as I could. Work wasn’t as easy as after my first illness during the first contract. I’m grateful for these experiences; it was during these moments that I learned the most about my potential.


storm in the Bering Sea

#Fishing would be no fun without the #waves. #beringsea #sea #storm #wind #deadliestcatch #north #northern #nature #alaska #cold #badweather

Fingers often get injured during work on the ship. The ‘fish bricks’ fall on people’s toes from time to time. My toe nails were black for three months after my return home. I got most of these injuries while working as a freezer puller. I worked with a bruised index finger the last three weeks of the contract; it turned out to be fractured. I wasn’t the only one with injuries; most of us had some. I often met fishermen with back problems. When I returned from the ship I had a five centimetre bump on my lower back, right beside the spine. This luckily went away about a month later without any treatment. The skin on my hands was rubbed off, I had near fatal frostbite on my feet, and I had second degree burns on my stomach (and lower) due to my carelessness with boiling water. I worked without rest. Every time I thought “this is too much”, I told myself four magic words:

LIFE OF A WARRIOR – and I didn’t mind the work any longer – for a while anyways.