Happy Sunday from Seattle. As I sit here, the sun is shining and the Air Conditioning is on! This Alaska girl does not do well in the heat...when we remodeled out house, shortly before Pat's diagnosed with ALS, I requested air conditioning...any time the temperature rose over 75 degrees, our house turned into an oven! Those nights, I declared, "Cereal for dinner night" because I wasn't turning on the over or the stove to cook a dang thing. Fortunately, Brenna and Sean thought "Cereal for dinner" night was pretty fun, and as always, Pat was a really good sport.
Pat was a guy that loved the heat, the sun and doing anything outside in it. One year, he and Sean rebuilt our deck during the one week of the summer where it was above 90 everyday! And yes, those nights, he had cereal for dinner!
But, wait, I've gotten off track...salmon tendering! When Brenna posted on our Capt. Sean Dwyer & FV Brenna A FB page that it was Salmon tendering season for both off our boats, the FV Jennifer A and Brenna A, someone asked what salmon tendering was, what it entailed.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, during the summer time, our boats are like big Fed Ex trucks. We go out to the fishing grounds, and then the fishing boats come to us at the end of the day, or when they are full, and off load their salmon to us. The boats pull up along side our boat, we tie them up, and then we send a big hose over to the fish hold of the fishing boat. On our boat, we have a big pump that vacuums the fish out of the fishing boat hold, and transfer the fish on to our boat. We sort the salmon by species, weigh them, and then dump them into our fish hold.
I've posted video, from last summer, down below to show you the process.
Salmon tendering is usually 60 days long. We are contracted with a processor and we work for that processor only. After the salmon are loaded on to our boats, and we are full, or our processor says it's time to come to town with what we have on board, we will head into town.
From June 18 to about July 15th, the Brenna A is tendering outside of Naknek Alaska, in Bristol Bay. Bristol Bay is home to the world's largest wild Sockeye Salmon (Red salmon) run. The fishery has been around since the late 1800's. Back in the day, fishermen used to fish Bristol Bay with sailing vessels....those were some tough fishermen! Once the Brenna A gets done in Naknek, she heads to Ketchikan, where she will meet up with the Jennifer A, and continue salmon tendering until about August 18th.
The Jennifer A spends the summer tendering season in Ketchikan. It's the same routine there. Head out to the fishing ground, anchor in a protected bay where the boats are fishing nearby, unload the boats, and then head into town. The tenders anchor in a bay and the fishing boats come to them because it's much easier to unload a boat in the non rolling waters of the bay, as opposed to the rolly waters of the ocean.
A typical day on a tender is different from the crabbing life. Because the fisherman are working all day catching fish, the nights are very busy for the tender crew. Usually fisherman start fishing at the break of morning, and then fish until 8-9pm at night. Once they are done fishing, they head in to the Tender, and offload. The crew of the tender is then usually working from 8-9pm until about 2-4am, just depending on how many fishing boats are in the area and how many are coming in to the bay where the tenders hang out, waiting to get to work. Once the Bren or the Jen is full, it will usually take right off for town, and be ready to offload the salmon to the processor.
Because the tender crews are working all night, the days are often pretty relaxed. That leaves time for painting, beach combing, painting, and if it's not raining painting. Most of the time, we try to get the painting done before the boats leave to go tendering because you just never know how the weather will be, how busy you will be during the day. The boats are on standby during the day for the fishermen too. If they need something or breakdown, or want to come and offload early, the tender crews are prepared to help out in any way, any time of the day.
When Pat and I first started tendering, we provided groceries, parts, fuel, a shower and sometimes even a place to sleep if needed. I always had a pot of soup on the stove (when we were anchored in the bay) and homemade cookies or cinnamon rolls for the fisherman when they came onboard our boat. We loved out tendering days. But when you are young and everything is an adventure, life is good! Once the kids were born, we tried to get them onboard the boat as much as possible during the summer time.
Like crabbing, tendering is like living in your own little community for 60 days. For me, it was always the best of both worlds...being home in Alaska, being on the water, working hard, making due with what you had. When Pat and I left for our first tendering season, we were gone for six months, with one other crew member! Back in the day we did the herring tendering circuit and that started in March. So we'd be on the boat from March until September.
Our third season tendering, I was three months pregnant with Brenna, on board the boat. That was fun! Every time we stopped in a town, I would find a health clinic and go have a pregnancy check up. The doctor in Homer Alaska was my favorite...I got off the boat in June of that year. That was the year of the Exxon Valdez Oil spill, in Prince Willian Sound. Since the fishery was shut down in many areas, we were hired by Exxon to house scientists on board our boat. I decided that I probably shouldn't be around all the fumes and chemicals being 6 months pregnant, so I went to Anchorage to stay with my sister for a month, and Pat got to Anchorage when he could.
I'm sure you all know the story that Pat and I met on a boat in Ketchikan Alaska. Pat's brother Phil was on board with us as well. The Captain was a family friend. Before I worked on the Lynda, I also worked for another family friend, cooking on board another tender called the Westward. The tendering lifestyle set the pace for my life I think...when you are on a boat, you have to be prepared to take care of yourself and those around you, and learn how to deal with various people. There is a community to support you of course, but when you are out in the middle of the ocean, you have to be prepared to take care of yourself. When ALS entered our life, it was seemed to be an extension of boat life...Pat and I had each other, we had the most supportive community, a combination really, of many communities, that anyone could ask for, we had our lovely children, but in the end, Pat was the captain of his ALS ship...
Having both kids on the boats this summer, makes me happy. Brenna is on the Jennifer A and Sean of course, runs the Brenna A. People ask if I worry as much during tendering season as I do during crab season. Well, anyone who knows me knows I worry all the time! But no, there is not as much worry during tendering season and I'm mostly happy that both kids know and experience first hand what the core of our business was in the very beginning. To me there is always a certain happiness and joy that goes with tendering, and for 60 days, or for however long the charter is, life is good on a boat! Plus, Pat would be thrilled they were out on the water!
Yikes, this post got longer than I anticipated! I hope I answered questions you might have had about tendering. Check out the videos below and hopefully all will make sense. If not, send me a question and I'll try to answer it.
And don't forget to watch Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch on Tuesday. I'm pretty sure Sean starts fishing for Opies! Thanks again to all of you for all of your support. It really means so much to us.
#endals at ALS TDI.
A mom, an ALS Advocate, and President of our family company St. George Marine.