Hard work of fishing makes for a summer well spent


Posted: Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Most of my friends spend the summer vagrantly wondering what to do with themselves. Getting a job is usually at the top of their list, next to having fun, which may consist of staying up till 5 a.m. drinking Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew during a movie marathon. Yep, summer can be rough. Especially mine, since I annually spend it across the bay from Homer in Halibut Cove.

Now, residing in a richly inhabited, wildlife prominent, sun-drenched little cove for roughly 2 1/2 months may sound deeply relaxing and laid back — but it’s not.

I don’t spend my days vagrantly wandering about, wondering who to call, or what I’m going to do for the day.

Instead, I get dressed, taking optional weekly showers, and put on pretty much the same ravishing attire I wore the day before. This usually consists of a very attractive Deep Creek Custom Packing sweater, some faded, dirty and ratty jeans, a random not-so-flattering T-shirt, and some Xtra-Tuff boots.

My family and I, which consists of mom, dad, and a little brother, spend the first couple of weeks “cleaning up” our humble abode. On the first night upon arrival by our boat, my dad and I have to hack our way back through a devil’s club infested forest to a light-plant shed wielding machetes in order to turn on some electricity.

Then we have to check our water spring, regulate the pump, and make sure the hose hasn’t been chewed or stabbed anywhere, so we can have running water.

After hauling all of our backpacks, groceries, three little dogs, cat, and mandatory tools up the beach and into the house, we check to see what damage has been done. Usually, a squirrel gets in and leaves us a present of shredded paper towels or coffee can lids. My mom then proceeds to open the refrigerator and discovers leftover items forgotten in the previous years in the haste to pack up and leave before storm season prevents escape — which is never pretty.

After a few weeks of improvements, commercial fishing starts. That is when the real work begins. Setnet commercial fishing isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, nor is it the most difficult. But it is tiresome and sometimes grueling. Hauling hefty nets that absolutely reek of decaying kelp and fish, running an unwilling outboard, hauling totes out of the hold of the boat, wearing raingear (which usually consists of bibs, cotton gloves and boots), constantly carrying heavy equipment of some sort up or down the beach, and running equipment of some sort, is all work present before, during and after fishing season starts.

If you think waking up any time before noon is early in the summer, imagine a not-so-pleasant awakening at 4:30 a.m., putting on 20 pounds of gear, and running out to set the nets from a skiff that is not easy to maneuver inside of. I’m constantly tripping over the fish holds in the skiff, bail buckets lying around, fish nets stinking under burlap bags, gaff hooks threatening to stab me and even my own two heavy feet — not to mention the absolutely freezing ocean air that pierces your lungs and makes your eyes water.

It’s not easy to concentrate on work when the only thing on my mind is crawling back into my sleeping bag for the next few hours. So coffee and sleep become my two best friends during fishing. Most of the time, I get up and my dad and I go out to check for fish, pick them if there are any, and then go back home to sleep for a few hours.

Then we wake up around 10, pick again, eat food, and then go about doing projects outside, pausing at intervals to repeatedly pick the nets throughout the day. We get weekends off, and those are the days we haul off to Homer to stock up on groceries and movies, because watching the same movies every single night gets rather redundant.

Despite all the tiresome work I suffer through, I find the things I learn and see are worth it.

Like watching the sun rise and breathing the ocean air, meeting cancer survivors and being able to brighten their lives with new experiences, catching glimpses of porpoises, whales and seals. Or catching octopi and eating them, feeling a hard days work, learning common sense and strength and testing the bonds between each other.

All the elements of work and play combined make up my ideal summer and I usually come out of it a lot stronger and more self sufficient than when summer began.

Sophia Taeschner is a sophomore at Skyview High School.

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