28 Days Later
Trip Start Aug 24, 2004
41Trip End May 09, 2005
So what did I do on a squid fishing boat? A lot. Try working about 90 hours a week...smelling dead fish...getting sick. I worked on the Ocean Ranger, a boat owned by Talley's, a large NZ company. The Ocean Ranger (Ocean Danger as we called it) is only about a 50 meter boat. We were the smallest one out there, especially compared to the Russians and Koreans. I was a deck hand/factory worker. This boat had an eight on eight off system. Days no longer exist. It's just shift on/shift off. Every couple of days you would also do a two and a half hour kick shift and when they felt like it, they just made you stay overtime. I still don't know how much I'm getting paid since they're going back to the "old way" of fishing as I'm told. We're paid on percentage/performance/experience. That means if we caught no fish, no pay. We had troubles with the trawls a few times and just crap catch, but we still managed just under 170 ton. We could've fit another ten, but we tore up the net on the last day and just headed back to Port Chalmers.
So that's what I've been up to. We fished the waters south of Stewart Island (which this map doesn't show) and closer to the Auckland Islands where the weather can get to be quite rough. I was hoping to see the islands, but never did. At night the waters were like a big city. The horizon would be lit up with boat lights at different distances. Of course if I was on deck I had seconds to admire this and the rocking sky because I was up there to work. Same with the sunrise, sea lions behind the boat, hundereds of birds (albatross and pigeons, occasionally penguins), and anything else you'd normally watch. Being on deck is dangerous. Plain and simple. This one guy would always be pointing something stupid out to me (throw a bird over the side of the boat, another fishing boat, etc.) and I would just ignore him. It's all about self preservation on deck and luckily all I had was a decent fall with a cut on my back. No fingers lost or worse. The fisherman have stories. Fingers and lives have been lost on the boat I worked on and probably every other boat out there. After that experience I definitely have a greater appreciation when I eat fish and know the hell a group of people went through to get those fish, however they are paid quite nicely. The most a guy I met made (he's 18) has made in a week was $8,000, but that was during hoki season I think.
I had to bring a disposable camera and when I use it up you can see my transformation for tent dwelling apple thinner to dirty fisherman. haha. I was complete with flannel shirt and full scratchy beard. oh yes, a full, scratchy beard. It wasn't pretty folks. haha. You'll also get to see some of the 'interesting' crew I've worked with. Ernie was probably the coolest, but a few of you would probably be scared by his initial appearance (especially if you don't like tattoos). Ernst was dad's age and heading out on a boat for the first time. He didn't look as old as he is, but he kind of worked like it. Stu was a funny guy, a bit thick in the head, but a really nice guy anyway. The rest of the crew isn't really worth mentioning. Jackie was the assistant factory manager and I wouldn't even consider doing another trip with her on board (and now her boyfriend who is a psycho).
After I got past the first two weeks of being miserable and sick and just working, I became a machine and even enjoyed a few parts of it - minus the smell. Sometimes I would have to jump in the pound to kick the fish out on to the belts so we could process them. If anything was still kicking in there, out came the deck knife and it was stabbin' time! No sharks were getting me! The largest one we got was only a baby though. Probably about seven feet tall. I was going to cut the jaw out, but I was too tired and the shark was starting to smell. We also thought we had caught a blue fin (big tuna fish) at one stage, but when we went to pull it out, all we had was the head. Hopefully that picture turned out too. Other than a bit of wildlife, there wasn't anything to exciting at sea. Sometimes the rocking of the boat was a bit scary, but luckily we didn't have any accidents with that.
Well, I have a lot of stuff to do. I came back to 194 emails, plus 60 Bulk emails in my in box. I have a bit of sorting to do, plus phone calls, and other stuff to arrange. I might head back to Mot for the picking season and get a few more $$ to set me up for Fiji. I think I'll get a steak too. Until later, adios!