An Ode to the Mothers of Salmon Shares

Mothers run small-boat family business

An Ode to the Mothers of Salmon Shares

Mother’s Day 2018

We recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with two mothers involved with Salmon Shares, Dawn Young and Chelsea McCleod. They’re fishermen and a mother-daughter duo married, helping to run the small-boat, family businesses they own. We wanted to hear about their experience as mothers and family members on the F/V Bella Dawn (named after both Chelsea’s daughter ‘Bella and her mom).

The F/V Bella Dawn is an exquisite craft. Its fifty-four feet of floating steel is outfitted with a state-of-the-art freezer. This allows Dawn and Mark to freeze their fish immediately after catching it, making for some of the highest quality seafood available. Essentially a fishing boat and processor all in one, it allows them to stay out fishing for weeks at a time. With kids that need to get to school, paperwork, and other jobs, the fishing season means Chelsea takes on a lot of the family and business responsibilities back on terra firma.

“I take on a lot of the behind the scenes stuff,” Chelsea says--not even mentioning she also works as an ultrasound technician at our local hospital in Sitka.

“We (Dawn and I) wear a lot of hats.”

During the busy fishing season, Dawn co-captains the Bella Dawn alongside Mark, spearheading quality control and keeping the whole operation running smoothly. “It’s a lifestyle,” Dawn says. “You grow to love the outdoors -- it’s not your 9-5 job, you’re working 18 hours some days and that’s the norm.” she remarks.“You're on your feet for that long, but it’s beautiful, and you’re away from phones and emails.”

The F/V Bella Dawn, and Dawn Young crushing some paperwork.

The F/V Bella Dawn on the left, and Dawn Young finishing some paperwork on the right. 

Dawn and Mark raised their daughters, Chelsea and Kaisha, on boats. The whole family was -- and still is -- involved in the fish business together. Chelsea and Kaisha grew up deckhanding with their mother, father and uncles. “Growing up fishing gives you a really good work ethic,” Chelsea says, reflecting on the experience. “Kids learn a lot about practical skills, safety concerns, and real life consequences, because on the water, on the ocean, there are real risks involved.”

Now, with four kids of her own, Chelsea experiences much of what Dawn went through as a mom. Although she’d like to be on the boat all the time, she can’t because she needs to stay back and take care of business, her job, and the kids. Her husband, Dustin, knows who to call when there is something their business needs back on land. Whether it’s resupply, a spare part for their boat, or some last minute paperwork, Chelsea keeps everything in line.

She’s also no stranger to exposing her kids to the lessons only imparted on a fishing boat.

“My kids love being on the boat!”

Her youngest, Henleigh, already has a mini toy fishing pole, and the older ones, Isabella (who they call Bella), Lorelai, and Mason, are learning to be little entrepreneurs by selling roe for bait to other fishermen. “They learned to walk on a boat and play on a boat,” she says.

Chelsea and her family

Chelsea, Dustin, three of their kids, and one smiley pup. 

The real life lessons learned on a boat have been especially true for Chelsea’s eldest, Mason. He narrowly avoided losing a few fingers when he unknowingly left them wrapped around the side of the boat as its full weight crushed them against the dock. Chelsea was 16 weeks pregnant and on the boat when it happened. This incident might sound harrowing enough to convince even the saltiest of fishermen to put down the line, but Chelsea and Dawn exude a sense of pervasive pragmatism. Accidents like this happen on fishing boats. Luckily, Mason recovered well and his hands are now totally fine.

Needless to say, when it comes to small-boat fishing families, the mothers shoulder a huge burden. Chelsea said ”It’s a hard lifestyle, and moms have to be strong by handling things on the forefront, and taking care of the kids. The husbands feel bad because they miss out on a lot. You have to be strong for the husbands and for the kids.”

Chelsea & Dustin

Chelsea was the one who initially exposed the rest of the family to Sitka Salmon Shares. What did she like about our company?

“We like that our company pays  fishermen fairly, I like the educational component, I like to get food in a more direct way to consumers, and it’s really changing the quality standards. A lot of people don’t take it into consideration that much, and that whole component is really engaging. It’s interesting to see how it’ll play out.” We’re glad she brought the whole family on board. Suffice to say, fishing would be close to impossible without mothers and wives to co-captain and co-own the family business that is a small-boat fishing operation. In closing, Chelsea reflected with a smile: “You can’t do anything without mom!” We certainly agree! So here’s a tremendous “Thank You” to all the awesome mothers out there.

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