Welcome to Dillingham

Christopher Wang, Posted on : October 28, 2021
Welcome to Dillingham

Well we’ve been here for about five days now and the weather has been, well, muddy.  The boat yard is riddled with huge puddles that shimmer and ooze with oily rainbows and the funny green of antifreeze.  This is a working boatyard and nowhere that I would let my dog run free in.

Here in the yard we either live on board our boats, which are up on blocks, or in the Connex containers that are used to store our gear as well as to house our shop.  Some Connex containers, dubbed to be in the “suburbs” are decked out with showers, washer and dryer, stove and oven and a comfortable living space.  We’re living onboard our boat this year and our container strictly houses our nets and the rest of our gear.  With all four of us on board, it’s a little bit tight, but it’s also what we are going to be doing for the rest of the season – so we might as well get used to it.

This year I’m working for my friend, Bruce.  Bruce is an old crabber from Vashon Island, Washington.  He usually spends the bulk of his living in Thailand – where he has been for more than twenty years.  He’s a cagey fisherman but also really values his time here in Alaska with all the old, good friends in the boatyard and in the Bristol Bay industry.  These are his family and we spend a lot of time perched up in his wheelhouse, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and shooting the shit.  Bruce has travelled all over the world and has an interesting take on his place on earth.  He endeavors to work hard occasionally and avoid bad weather.  His philosophy is whoever lives the longest wins and figures that he’ll live longer where he’s warm and comfortable.  I can’t fault his logic, I suppose.

The rest of the crew is made of Nate, Josh and myself.  Nate is also from Vashon Island.  He likes to hunt, has fished for  quite a few seasons, and is jack of all trades.  Josh is a buddy of mine that grew up in Hawaii but now splits time between Mammoth Lakes, California and Bali, Indonesia.  I met Josh at a surf break call Serangan on Bali.  He was talking to his mother on the phone but was holding the ear piece far away from his head so that the words on the other line were either inaudible or muffled enough that he could respond appropriately but not fully have to understand.  We’ve been friends ever since.  This is his first season fishing, so it’s fun to see this experience from a pair of fresh eyes.

We’ve mostly been working on our nets, doing some periodic maintenance, and getting acclimated to the weather and each other.  Because of the persistence of daylight (dusk doesn’t fall until midnight), it’s easy to forget to stop working each day and projects can be contagiously exhausting.  We are definitely ahead of schedule though and looking forward to wrapping up and getting the season on.

The boatyard can be funny in that way.  There’s a anxious tedium that goes with getting a boat ready to go out to sea.  Going through mental lists and trying to be as prepared as possible, there is a dull aching headache that settles in as one struggles to remember everything and cover one’s bases or all eventualities.  Of course this is impossible.  When we hit the water and the lines are let loose, a collective sigh is released.  We’ve done what we can and now it’s time to just go and fish.