The Rhythm of the Sea

Bridgette reflects on fishing life

The Rhythm of the Sea

The sound of an engine starting half wakes me from sleep. Footsteps on the deck, the hydraulic whine of the anchor winch, and the loud clang of the chain and anchor being brought on board brings me further out from sleep. As my husband navigates the boat out of the safety of the anchorage we stayed in that night, the swell and the hum of the engine lulls me back to sleep.

I used to get up with him every morning. Back when I worked on a tender, there was always work to be done when the engines started. Buying fish from trollers, pulling the anchor, making sure the galley and deck were seaworthy were all work that required the entire crew. But on a small family troller, this is not always the case. I sleep a bit longer and wake up to the smell of spilled coffee and the sound of gear being pulled. Peaking out of the foc’sle, through the open door and out on to the deck, I see salmon after salmon come over rail. I take a deep breath and get ready for a day of hard work.

“Slaughter’s full!” my skipper/husband yells as he sees me clumsily navigate coffee and breakfast. Sometimes he’s joking with a goofy smile. A lot of the time, he is not. If the “slaughter,” the central part of the fishhold where we toss our cleaned fish ready to be iced, isfull, I climb directly down into the hold and begin my day with cold hands and “fishhold yoga.” The April L. has a small fishhold and one has to get into very tricky and precarious positions while placing the fish in neat puzzle layers, maximizing space and minimizing wasted ice.

Once the slaughter is clear, I get back on deck to clean fish, run gear, or climb back down and start fishhold yoga all over again. Almost every summer day ends with running our boat into an anchorage while making dinner and cleaning the deck. Sometimes we run into town to sell at the plant, and other times we stay out and sell to a tender. This rhythm is constant through most of July, August, and September. Days of the week become irrelevant, but we know the date only to keep track of how much fish we catch each day–294 on the 14th, 314 on the 15th, 181 on the 16th. We live in this rhythm, one that is much simpler and a bit more brutal than most modern lives.

~ Bridgette Reynolds, F/V April L.