Friday, March 25, 2005

Close Calls/Various Injuries

They say that commercial fishing is the 2nd most dangerous job in the world. While I may not agree with that assessment, it is no walk in the park. This will be a running sample(s) of my various unique experiences as a commercial fisherman.

Let's see. There was the time that we were 130 miles from home with a leaky stuffing box on the rudder.

A stuffing box is basically a hollow nut that contains a cotton-like packing that compresses down onto a shaft or a rudder where it comes through the hull (boat) to keep the water out.

A
fter one trip my buddy Derek, who was captain at the time, decided that he didn't need to fix the stuffing box while we were at the dock. So, later that night we headed out without a care in the world...or so I thought.

When we got to the fishing grounds I had noticed that we had water all over the deck. Now, the boat that I was on at the time never had ANY water at any time on the deck so I knew that something was wrong. I opened up the lazarette hatch (the hatch that opens into the space under the deck at the back of the boat) and saw that we had a shitload of water in there. Not only that, the bilge pump (the pump that pumps water out of a boat) had died. Now we were faced with a problem. We were 130 miles from home in a 15 foot sea during February with a sinking boat.

Not good.

The lazarette was approximately 22 feet wide by 15 feet long by 8 feet deep. Needless to say, it held a lot of water. Not only that, but we used to keep all of our spare rope in there. That proved to be a bit of a problem. Apparently, while the boat was filling up with water it was sloshing
the bags of rope around. The reason that it is significant is that the rope, combined with the shitty weather, caused the rope to wrap itself around the shaft of the rudder. With the rope around the rudder we couldn't screw the packing nut back down so we could stop the water from pouring in and save the boat from sinking.

The "Captain goes down with the ship" apparently didn't apply to my buddy Derek. While we were all staring down into the lazarette watching 2 foot waves go by ON THE INSIDE of the boat he says "I'm not fucking going down there!!"

My reply- Well, you're the idiot that didn't fix this at the dock after I told you about it

Derek- I don't care, I'm not going down there

Me- the last time that I checked you were still the captain

Derek- I don't care!

Me- you're a pussy...you fucked it up, you fix it... if you don't we are going to sink right here and now

Derek- I don't care, let's sink

Me- seriously?!?!?!?

Derek- I'm not going down there

Me- You are simply amazing... don't worry, I'll fix it for you, you asshole!

Derek- Would you?

Me- you're a dick

So, then I jumped down there with a knife and a sense of purpose. Well, let's just say that the 36 degree water was a bit startling.....to say the least. Not only that but the waves on the inside of the boat proved to be quite an obstacle. All I remember is freezing my ass off, reaching down as far as I could to cut the rope out by feel while trying to avoid dunking my head into the ass-freezing cold water. I did end up cutting the rope off of the stuffing box and screwing it back down so we didn't sink....but I didn't enjoy it. Not only were the waves inside the boat knocking me over, but I ended up with a good case of hypothermia that took the better part of the day for me to come out of.

After I got out of there it took Derek and the other crew member 6 hours to fix all of the shit that we destroyed. Like the auto-pilot, the hydraulic steering ram, the bilge pump and various other things. At least I got to chat away to other boats on the radio while they did it.

I never did get my hero's medal.

--------------------------

Another time that didn't end up being terribly dangerous, but quite startling happened on the way in one day....

We were on our way in after a hard night of catching slime eels, better known as hagfish when we had a problem. Our generator had been leaking a small amount of coolant for a few days and we hadn't had the chance to fix it yet, so it would shut off every now and then when it got low.

Well, after hauling gear all night I had retired to my bunk while letting one of my crew members take the helm on the way home. After what seemed to be a short nap, I awoke to him shaking me and saying "The generator died again."

I didn't think too much of it at the time and slowly stumbled up into the wheelhouse. While still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, my crewmember said "Is there supposed to be all of that smoke coming out of the exhaust?"

Knowing that we shouldn't be emitting any smoke, I went outside to see for myself. As soon as I got out on deck, I knew that there was a BIG problem.

There was a cloud of white smoke billowing from the exhaust pipes like a bi-plane on a crop dusting run in Indiana.

Now wide awake, I immediately sprinted downstairs and opened up the engine room door to see what was going on. I was greeted with a thick, acrid, solid white cloud of smoke. I couldn't see 2 feet into the engine room!

I sprinted back upstairs (I'm not sure if I even hit a step on the way up) to shut the boat down. I woke up Chickenhawk (another crew member...I'll explain his nickname another time) and told him to get the life raft off and throw it over the side....just in case. We happened to be on a fiberglass boat and with the resin in fiberglass being made from petroleum, they tend to burn hot...and quick.

I stayed in the wheelhouse as long as I could radioing for some other boats to come and help us. At this point the smoke was unreal. You never realize how thick and stifling that it can be until you have experienced it.

To make a long story short...after 45 minutes the smoke started to clear up enough so I could get back into the wheelhouse with the aid of a respirator and see that we weren't still on fire. The problem ended up being a major generator fire with the 2" copper coils in the generator end looking like someone took an acetylene torch to them. Apparently the wash down hose (although ours was a pool pump) had a leak and squirted salt-water onto the generator end.

Water and electricity....not good.

3 Comments:

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Wheel Gun Bob said...

approximately 22 feet wide by 15 feet long by 8 feet deep

You gotta great big fat one

 
At 10:17 PM, Blogger The Cod God said...

that's what your wife said

 
At 11:30 PM, Blogger B-Face said...

I remember one time I was on a boat.

 

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