A tuna season come and gone~

I went tuna fishing for the summer season. I've described it to people that it's as if I took a long, overseas airplane flight and instead of losing a day, I lost a season in time. I left before summer started and came home October 2nd. 

I loved this experience and am so, so, so thankful for it. I've made several Youtube videos to document the season. 

Here's a few sections from a long entry I wrote during the last trip of the season. 


I’ve been at sea for the last 4 months. It has been an incredible experience. I’ve cried, in sadness and in awe, in fear and in shame. My breath has been taken away and I haven’t grown tired of the environment. My love for the sea and diesel stoves remains as strong as my admiration for fishermen. 

Each morning I get up when the engine starts, put on freezer gear, scrape plates in -40 degree wind blasts, then race up for the last cup of coffee in the first of the days pots. Afterwards, I head out to the stern to await the bells signalling a fish on the line. 

Albacore tuna numbers have been abnormally low this season, for the entire fleet. There are 3 deckhands and a skipper on this 63 foot troller, the Tequila. At first, there was the thought that we were low on numbers from slow greenhorn deckhands (err, myself), but it eventually became apparent that it was a more common situation among the fleet. 


We’ve headed west, into international waters, as September 15th marked the date that Canadian licence holders had to be out of American waters. We’re offshore now and the tuna don’t seem to be. 

Time passes by watching movies, cooking and talking about the upcoming gale and storm force warnings up north- where we’re headed. 

I wonder how much I’ve changed. Have I gained or lost weight? Were my legs always this soft? My hands are swollen and callused and my face is darker from the suns rays bouncing off the water. Maybe those two parts of my body have aged, but that could be it. The rest of my body has been safely cocooned, beneath layers of wool and rubber rain gear. My feet, insulated by Bamma socks for all daylight hours, are winter-time soft and brushes glide through my crystallized salt mane with a welcomed ease. 

Before starting this season, it had been a great fear that I would become a harsher soul. That the rough atmosphere I’d chosen would rub off and sink in. I don’t feel that at all. The guys, intense and determined, have teased, taught and supported me. From the absolute basics, like the proper way to cut carrots and pull a line in, to gaffing techniques, splicing and mixing spices for steaks. Terminology too, so much of it. I hated watching the surprise on their faces as they realized I didn’t know or understand something second nature to them. 

My spirit feels softer too. Although I swear more, aloud and in my head, I feel more humble and vulnerable to this life. 

We’ve been out at sea for about 32 days now. I’ve had two periods and two showers in that time. I’m 24 and my skin still looks like an adolescent some days. Sometimes, I wish I could look like the women we see in evening movies or in magazines- small boned with long, thick hair, spotless skin and well proportioned. My arms aren’t long. They can’t measure out a fathom for lines like the guys. They say that my feet look like Hobbit feet. My legs are starting to look that way too. I met the wife of a captain at the start of the season. She looked so capable and feminine. Oh to embody it all~ I’ve just heard she raises goats too #womancrush. 

*Interruption* - We’re catching fish now and the swells are coming up. They should look like mountain ranges soon.  

Between writing sessions, I just admitted to snowballing, in regards to getting into junk food, and Merrick commented that it was more of an avalanche occurring. 

Merrick has asked if this experience is just a vacation for me. It is in some senses and isn’t in others. I’m just as scared to go home as I was to come. These guys are looking forward to going home. They have a home to go to- I’m still in the process of building one.

Perhaps at the start of the season I did have more of a cruisers mindset than of a fisherman. I would read books between steady bites, have my camera out at the worst times, be journaling (like now) when there was other work to be done. I would be the last one out of the bunks each morning and ask if someone was going to cook breakfast while fish were on and the adrenaline from the bite was flowing. I do think I got better. I ignored books for weeks, kept my camera out for quiet moments, learned to ignore hunger and trust that food would come, or run and grab a granola bar. I surprised myself by becoming the first one out of the bunks, after the skipper had started the engine. I learned that fish were money and to try my best to pull faster. My heart would sink when I lost a fish.


As the season has progressed my awareness of boundaries has grown. I still leave too many things around the boat- books, camera gear, sweaters, etc. But I have caught onto a few things as well. It’s easier to pick up when someone doesn’t want to talk while eating, or when the joking has gone too far. Last night I concluded that although questions are good, asking ones that could have been thought out diminishes confidence in capabilities. (I asked if the marks on the radar were squalls or freighters last night and wasn’t woken up for a wheel shift.)

“To each their own.”

I’ve made so many mistakes. There were tangled lines, lost fish and overcooked roast and tuna dinners. 

Each time we were in port I felt on edge. Would they ask me to leave? Was I too slow? Were they losing money by having me on the boat? Was I selfish and evil for wanting to be here? They could do the season without me. On the third trip I asked the skipper if I was close to getting fired. He said not at all, and my heart rested. 

My own mind truly was the worst critic. I read books and listened to podcasts to try to get a grasp on it. With time and persistence, the harshest thoughts did subside. 


Every time I saw an albatross, I thought of a friend, a beautiful sailor-ess that I look up to. Knowing her inspired me in many ways; to be strong and brave and connected, empowered and empowering.

There were many things that even by the end of the season I didn’t do- stacking fish, pulling in the stabilizer, tying and organizing lures and hooks, cooking ribs. I did claim cutting bate, scraping and sweeping freezer plates and baking for my own.

The freezer reminded me of hell sometimes. I was scared of it. Surrounded by death in a place I could imagine freezing and being left behind. Most of my crying was done down there. Sometimes, too, it would be a welcomed change from above deck life. When I felt really cold or sad, I would pray- or just talk to or think of those in my life who had passed on. Especially those who had gone by choice. I would think to myself- although I’m not in the best place, I’m still strong, I’m still here, please be with me, help me. I could climb up the ladder and grab a warm cup of coffee and watch a pink sunrise- heavenly. Oh, the contrasts. 

Being the only female on the boat was no problem at all; I basked in it. Although I was not always the best example of the species. 

We all reflected and I asked lots of questions. Eager for their masculine wisdom and perspective. We would eat 3 meals of meat a day- at first it seemed a bit much- but I began to like it too. Once I tried making a lentil dish- it did not go over well. 

Lunch is ready now and we’re heading Northeast, towards the top end of Vancouver Island, to find shelter from the weather. The season is almost over. I made it, knock on wood. I can do 100% more pushups than when I started and I’ve spent time on the sea, in all it’s glory. 

I’m scared for what is to come, for it is completely unknown. I hope I can be brave moving forwards- towards love, adventure, and home. 


Post Lunch: We aren’t heading to Vancouver Island. We’re going to brave it and head North, now, maybe I’ll understand what storms really look like. 


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