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.
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