09 August 2014


Two monkeyfist knots I tied with an old buoy line

The monkeyfist knot is tied from a single line and adds weight so that the line may be thrown more easily between a boat and the dock. 

A line with a monkeyfist is often attached to a much larger and heavier tie line and is thrown first by a deckhand or dockworker so that the heavier tie line may then be pulled through the water and ashore or aboard. 

Additional weight may be added to the monkeyfist by tightening the knot around a small sandbag or ball or rock. But too much weight will weaponize the monkeyfist, transforming it into a dangerous missile when hurled. 

30 July 2014

Art of the Forklift

Greenhorn (Part 1)

 My roommate rushed into the break room.

"There's a woman looking for you," he said. "It's about a boat. It's urgent."

"What woman?" I said.

"She's outside now with the boat captain."

I quickly put my computer in my locker. Outside B. the cannery QA manager was standing with the skipper of the Kamilar. She introduced the skipper, L., who was her husband.
There had been a problem with one of the crew members and the replacement deckhand showed up drunk that morning and was immediately fired. Did I want to replace him? The boat left in 30 minutes. It would be a one week black cod long lining trip through Prince William Sound and east to Yakitat and on to Petersburg. It was the last trip of the season to fill out the remainder of the boat's quotas. I would receive a half crew share and if we caught what was expected I could make $1000. I would fly back to the cannery after we offloaded in Petersburg.

As I considered my losing my employment at the cannery and being jobless after a week, B. added that she had spoken with the plant manager and the deck foreman and they had okayed my leaving and return.

"Then I'll go," I said.

The skipper smiled. "You're sure about it?"

"Yeah, I'm sure."

"Do you have rain gear?"

"He can take a set from the cannery."

L. shook my hand. His fingers were massive, as large as two of mine put together. "I'll see you on the boat in 30 minutes."

"We'll drive to your room for your things," said B. "Then into town for your fishing license."

I hurriedly packed my clothes and sleeping bag and tossed my duffel bag into the back of B.'s pickup. At the hardware store I bought an AK resident commercial fishing crew member license, good for one year. I also bought two boxes of Bonine sea sickness tablets. I did not think I became sea sick but as we were a crew of three that normally was four, my possibly being incapacitated could not be risked.

On the ride back B. told me she had seen me work on the dock and had no doubt I could handle it on the boat. She believed my personality would be a good fit. She let me out where the Kamilar was tied up. I threw my bag onto the deck and climbed down the ladder. For the first time I was boarding a fishing boat without a hard hat and life jacket. No longer was I a dock worker at the cannery. I was finally to be a fisherman.

12 April 2014

Idiots for Dinner

I will be eating idiot rockfish for the next few nights. Although prized by the Japanese for their soft, buttery meat, idiots are not well known in the United States. Idiots are the tastiest species of rockfish and sold by the cannery for more than a dollar a pound.

23 March 2014


18 March 2014

Pacific Cod

Pacific Cod season has opened on the Sound. The Russian boatmen returned Monday for ice and bait (Argentine squid). Some will fish for halibut using pollock. There will be a mass of heavily loaded boats arriving later in the week. 

09 March 2014


As pacific cod season came to a close we worked 15 hour days. We worked in driving snow and rain. Without the sun it was very cold. A wind came down from the farthest north and blew against us on the docks. It was almost too dangerous to operate the cranes. The Russian fisherman continued to arrive, boats riding low in the water with p-cod, their holds and decks overflowing. They came in one after the other as the week came to an end. It was necessary for the Russians to arrive before Sunday so as not to violate the Sabbath. Their wives met them on the dock, dressed in long colorfully patterned dresses and their heads wrapped.
We unloaded boat after boat, the Filipino pitchers down in the holds filling buckets and me and the other forklift driver emptying those buckets into totes and weighing them. When the sun went down behind the mountains the wind blew upon us and the dock turned to ice. 
On Saturday night the ice machine broke. The blue crane began to leak hydraulic fluid and quit. One of the new guys had had enough in the hold and climbed out of the boat. He was done. Boots was now down there alone and I turned the forklift over to the crew lead. I took the lifejacket off the new guy as he came up and I went down myself.
It was the slimmest of holds, hardly room for a man, and the p-cod were stacked far back into it in both directions. I called Boots up and went down. I sunk down deep into the blood and guts and began gaffing p-cod in the eye and throwing them up to Boots who tossed them in the bucket.
We worked that way until it was done. I was back on the forklift for the last boat. The long-bearded Russian followed me to the scale to verify the weights on the totes of fish. We would finish before midnight and the Sabbath. We removed the fish off the decks of the three other Russian boats and delayed the unloading of the holds until Monday.

01 March 2014

Back in AK

When the rains ended and the mist from the melting snow had parted, the proud mountains were again visible. It was cold and clear and we worked four Russian boats, each with 35,000 lbs of pacific cod and some skate and rockfish and pollock mixed in. We separated the large sized p-cod from the smaller and sent the separated fish to different lines for their processing. A sea otter swam on his back in the turquoise waters of the harbor, snacking and rolling playfully. A pair of bald eagles landed on the ice house and watched us on the dock.
We worked into darkness. The bearded Russian fisherman looked on. They let their beards grow after they married. The only boats in the water fishing p-cod were the Russians. At $0.30/lb. it kept many of the long line boats from fishing.
The Conquest was the final boat of the day and from it I selected a beautiful 8 lb. yellow eye rockfish to purchase from the cannery. I paid the wholesale price which meant the freshly caught yellow eye was just $5, food for this night and perhaps two more. After finishing the boat, I fileted it on the dock, careful to avoid its sharp and dangerous quills. It cooked quickly in the pan and made for a fine supper. It was very good to be back in the far North.
Copyright © S O U T H