My First Opilio Crab Fishing Trip

posted: 07/14/15
Amy Majors Diary Entry 3

Father/Daughter time, the beginning of hell, and pushing myself past the point of no return while fighting back tears. This is Opilio crab fishing, trip one.

I was able to get in touch with family after we had gotten all the bait and filled the tanks via my crappy cell phone that I purchased for Bristol Bay, and since I needed a pep talk and a lecture, my Father was the very first person I called while standing out on the dock."Well, hey there Kiddo! We were all worried about you. You've been the talk of the town for the last few days. What do you think of it so far?" I replied, "I can tell that you I'm the talk of at least all of Southeast Alaska, Dad. This was made evident to me when one of my buddies from Petersburg called to say that they had started a hat, and the pool was up to 1800 bucks against me saying that I wouldn't make it past the first shift on the Wizard. Good friends, can't wait to make them eat crow too." "There is no doubt in my mind that you can do this, Amy." My Father's pep talk was beginning to materialize. "If there is any woman in the world who is capable of doing this, you are. Don't ever forget that. Even when you feel like giving up, your hands are frozen and swollen, you're tired, and the guys give you s*** for being a greenhorn, just focus on the big picture here. But... if you really think you need to quit, there is no shame. You took the initiative, and you're doing it now. That says more about your character than anything else ever could." I'm fighting back tears at this point, with my back turned towards the Wizard, and all the cameras. "Dad, no one takes me seriously on here, you should've seen the looks on their faces when I stepped aboard! They think I'm a joke. It's going to be so difficult to win them over." "We are all proud of you, Amy," my Father said as he was attempting to counteract my insecurities--and the fact I was scared s***less. "Don't ever forget where you came from, or let people put words in your mouth. You're better than that. Just be yourself, and everything will be fine. You've grown up on boats, and you're more salty than most men, but the most important piece of advice I can give, is to always keep your head up and take note of your surroundings. You'll take green water over the side, so just prepare yourself. I hate to say it sweetie, but this will be the most difficult thing you've ever had to deal with." "No Dad, the breakup in October was." He chuckles. "Well, you live and you learn. At least you know that you're stronger and better than that now." " Yes, I do, Dad, and I deserve this opportunity to become an empowered young woman. I now feel like I'm ready to take on the world." That conversation with my Father will be one that I will never forget. He is my inspiration to become, my hope when everything else seems in disarray and completely unmanageable. All the years spent on the boat working for him, and seasons spent up in the woods hunting are what has shaped me into the girl that I am today. I'm not a quitter.

The most repulsive trip to the grocery store...ever.

We left for Alaska Ship and Supply to buy six heaping carts full of groceries. A cart full of produce, a cart full of bread, a cart full of crackers and cereal. Good God! I'd never been shopping for that much s*** in my entire life! The amount of food that we purchased before that first Opie trip would be almost appalling to most people. And then the fun began. For the first time in my life, I had to wrap 20 heads of lettuce in paper towels so they wouldn't spoil, not to mention all the other veggies we picked up from Dutch. After that little introduction to Bering Sea produce preservation, we dropped lines and drifted out for a while to wait for the camera crews to arrive. Then, we did a "touch and go," to drop a camera man off. It was a beautiful night. Stars were out, and we had a little bull s*** session, otherwise known as a "bow party."
Thankfully, the first day of our excursion North was decent, because I had yet to receive my sea legs. I took my first watch, and was able to see how similar our operating systems were. This one was a bit more sophisticated than the basic Nobletec navigation program I am used to, so I just pretended that I knew what I was doing on film, then, as soon as the cameras would quit rolling, I'd call Keith in to ask him if I was doing alright, which usually I was.

Day one fishing onboard the FV Wizard

It was a 48-hour run out to the grounds where we would be dropping the pots, and as we got closer to our destination, I began to notice that the butterflies in my stomach were getting almost unbearable. In all my stubborn glory, I kept telling myself that I would prove everyone wrong, and kill it, even if it meant killing myself in the process. "I am NOT used to 155 foot boats," I told the cameras when they asked me what I how I was doing. "Everything is 10 times the size of the Southeast Seiners that I'm accustomed to. Hell, it took all the strength I could muster up just to handle the God damn tie up lines, but throwing in the towel is not, nor ever would be, an option for me." I knew we'd all find out if I could really do this fishery the following morning. Scared and stubborn or not.
I woke up from the last long nap that I'd have for the next few weeks, to being thrown around the boat like a rag doll. I could tell that attempting to put my rain gear on in this s*** would be way more difficult than what I anticipated. Once I finally was able to get all suited up, I sat there with the rest of the guys in the gear room to wait for Keith to give us a call on the phone with the go ahead. The call came too quickly though. I wasn't prepared for all of this, but could I ever really be?
It was exciting to set the first string! The first time I saw a pot splash I could definitely see why people liked doing this. "Cut bait and grind bait. This is your world, Super Chick," Tyler said. "You're going to hate your life if we run low on bait, the weather comes up, and you have to get inside the cod bin to pick the stinky f****** off the bottom too. We should never have to come back here to help you with bait set ups either, so make sure that you're always caught up, because we have our own s*** going on back there, and don't have time to run over when you get backed up." I soon realized that this wasn't going to be difficult, it was going to be next to impossible for me to do this job!!

"Hurry up, Amy." Rob said, as I was struggling to maintain my balance out there with every wave we plowed into head on. "I can't believe Lenny is back here helping you cut fish, I've never seen him back here. He sure as hell didn't help me with any of the bait," Tyler told me. "Maybe it's because he likes the perfume you're wearing," Rob joked, as I was beginning to feel inadequate and completely incapable of being a crab fisherman. What in the hell did I get myself into? I cannot let the cameras see me struggle, it would be too embarrassing, I kept telling myself. I have to try and make this s*** look as effortless as possible, while being beaten up, thrown around, and in general, torn up as hell. My hands were really beginning to hurt at this point, and I wasn't even through the first shift! Were my friends in Southeast Alaska right? Would I be able to hack it? I was beginning to think that I never had even a remote chance at sticking this out for the next few weeks.

I'll never forget the end of my first shift, or the way that Rob laughed when he read me my death sentence."Alright, Super Girl. You better sleep fast." After a grueling 20 hour first shift, I had a mere four hours of downtime before I had to be back out on deck for round two. F*** my life!

Surprisingly enough, shift number one would be the most physically demanding one for me. My muscles were already beginning to strengthen and I was also learning how to efficiently spend my time, while trying to maintain the energy I needed to fight off the bitter temperatures. The cold was really beginning to take it out of me though. My hands were so swollen after the first few days that I was unable to even make a fist. I now knew what the term "crabber hands" meant as I seized each opportunity I had to stretch my hands out on any and all flat surfaces. I was up to 10 Ibruprofen a day to deal with the pain, and nose bleeds were beginning to become the norm. When I sliced my finger open an hour into my shift on day four, I didn't even care because the fishing was so good, the weather was dying down, and, well, I couldn't feel my hands to even know if they hurt. My Dad was right. This is the most difficult thing I've done in my entire life! Little did I know that it would all take a turn for the worst. That one little cut on my hand had already become infected with cod slime. I was going to get very sick, very soon and we were over 300 miles from shore.

Hot fishing, and the worst cold I've ever had.

I came down with a cold, and was in a generally bitchy mood. Come to think of it, the guys probably thought it was simply that time of the month for me or something. In beautiful weather, we filled the forward tank on day five of the trip though, so I was finally able to crack a smile. One down, three to go! The guys were now letting me do other jobs on the boat when they saw that I was comfortable enough with the way the deck worked, so I began landing pots, running the hook, and even throwing the hook. I was getting extremely sick though. The cold medication that I had begun to take was not helping, if anything, it was just worsening the illness, making me absolutely miserable and almost unable to breathe out on deck. I had never experienced anything like this before. It was almost completely unbearable! With gloves covered in cod slime as the only thing readily available to wipe my nose with most days, I turned my back to the cameras to relieve my sinuses on an absorbent pad I kept stashed below the life ring. I knew if I filled that up with snot, then that would be some kind of world record!

The most disgusting smell in the entire world...myself. After a week in the bait bin with no shower.

A week into the opening, and the smell of myself was beginning to create a feeling of nausea for most of the crew. Tyler-now affectionately nick named 'Ty Ty' by yours truly-and my room, The 'Cave' was beginning to take on a ghastly odor caused from all my crusty sweatshirts and all around disgusting attire. I was hanging one of my Victoria's Secret bras on the make shift clothes line we had made one day, when the guys came in. Robbie was holding his breath the entire time, as advised by the cameramen. "Holy s***, dude! I am so out of here! It f****** reeks in here! You see what I have to live with," Tyler joked with Robbie as they grabbed their energy drinks and high tailed it far away from our stateroom. "No one has had a shower on here for a week!" I told the cameramen when they thought it'd be good TV to capture our pungent persona onboard the FV Wizard. "We all smell like decaying cod fish and body odor, hell, I wish I could bottle the scent to keep the creepy men away. I'd definitely be able to afford my own boat then!"

Check back in next week to read more about Amy's Bering Sea adventures.
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