27 July 1997

(Part of my Gone Fishing story)

Sunday, 27 July 1997

Day 9 at Sea

0950 Hours SAMOAN TIME (Pacific Time minus four hours)

Location: 2°12’S 168°30’W

Been a few days since I have written. I have been taking a mini vacation on this boat called Paradise.

We are currently deep in the heart of the fishing ground- aka the equator. Seems that the little tunas (or rather, not so little) seem to like the warm H2O.

We are currently headed east looking for the ever so elusive tuna, tuna. Haven’t had such good luck the last few days, though yesterday we did catch about 50 tons.

In the last four days we crossed a time zone going west, then again going east. It is like I have constant jet lag. Actually one hour is not really anything. Been getting up in the five o’clock hour and going to bed around nine. I think that this would be a good opportunity to train my body to get up at 5am, so when I get back to civilization, I can get up nice and early to exercise.

I am trying to watch what I eat here. It takes a real conscious effort as one of the only places to hang out is in the galley, where there is always plenty of good food.

There really is nothing to do at night, so it is really easy to go to bed early. There have been movies a couple of nights, but the sound really sucks. The TV sound is run through one speaker in the middle of the galley, which sounds OK while watching TV in port, but for some reason when a tape is played in the VCR, the sound level decreases. Nothing a cheap little amplifier wouldn’t fix; I will ask the next mermaid I see if she has one. Or maybe I will stop at the next Radio Shack that I see…

I have seen some pretty cool marine life out here. I saw more flying fish, several whales have got themselves caught in the net (Willy never has a problem freeing himself- a little net will never be able to stop a 30 foot whale), several sharks have been caught in the net (to later have the fins cut off to be sold to Asians for shark fin soup), and the other day our boat was being escorted by about 20 dolphins.


Sharks sometimes were byproducts of the catch

That was very cool, having the dolphins do their jumping at the bow. Very impressive to look all around the boat and see the same thing- jumping dolphins. As suddenly as they arrived, they disappeared- very weird.

I guess having dolphin safe tuna is a big deal in the States, but catching dolphin is not a problem for us. I guess dolphin do not hang out with the tuna, so never are there dolphins in the net.

I have been on this boat now for almost two weeks, with this being day nine out at sea. I can tell you that this is getting old fast. I need to keep a positive attitude so that I don’t become seasick (or is that homesick?). I am looking on the bright side when I think that this is no more boring than working as a quality assurance inspector for Robinson Helicopter.

The problem here, obviously, is the surroundings. At 225 feet long (most of it being unusable for people), the boat is a very small place to being spending a lot of continuous time. The living quarters are not that large, since with this being a fishing boat and not a cruise liner, the majority of the space is dedicated to holding 1300 tons of dead, frozen fish.


The Auro – a 225 foot purse seiner (I’m standing on the helipad at the top of the pilot house)

Now if this was a 225-foot pleasure boat- that would be a different story.

I could spend more time below deck, on the two lower levels, but they are very hot and noisy.

The boat has four decks, with a fifth one being the roof of the pilothouse, which is used as the helipad.

The upper deck is the pilothouse, as well as two sleeping quarters; one for the Captain and one for the navigator.

Capt' Joe's room

Captain Joe’s room

Below this is the main deck outside, and inside is the galley and six other sleeping quarters; the cook and deck boss share one, the chief engineer gets one, the pilot and assistant engineer in another, with the remaining three housing four deck hands in each, including me. The rooms that house four men each are nothing more than four bunk beds on one wall, and four closets and one couch on the other wall.

In my room, the couch is actually the home for a fifth mattress, to be used as a spare bed whenever an observer is on board. There is one bathroom that serves fourteen men, with the remainder having bathrooms attached to their rooms. This isn’t exactly the Hilton, but it could be worse.

mush bunk

My bunk (top one)

The next deck down is referred to as the wet deck. Here are the top of the fish wells, 22 in all- eleven each side. This is the deck where the fish are shot down chutes into fish wells. The fish are aided along their journey through the use of seawater in the chutes, of which some spills out and gets on the deck, thus the name.

On this deck are also the tool room/ maintenance shop, boat system monitoring room, compressor room (for freezing of the fish), and some storage in the bow.

The last deck is the engine level. Here is the massive twelve-cylinder engine that propels this tub. Also in this hot and noisy room are the three generators that constantly supply the ship with enough energy so that I can watch the same Brazilian Football game over again and again as I eat my Wheaties.

Farther aft is a narrow, suspended walkway that separates the left fish wells from the right. All the valves that control flow into and out of said wells line the sides of this walkway. Directly below the wooden sheets suspended by a metal framework of a walkway, is “shaft alley.” Spinning madly away is the massive driveshaft that gives this boat the ability to plod away at an astounding 13 knots (20 mph)- eating up those miles only slightly faster that an Eastern Bloc delivery boy in his Yugo.

hall between holds

The hallway between the Auro’s fish holds, deep in the belly of the beast

Further aft are three stairs leading to the top of the used oil holding tank, where, theoretically, all the used oil from the engine, generators, helicopter, etc ends up, rather than going overboard.

Up yet a few more treacherous steps is the steering room, where a pair of servos actuate arms that leads to the top of the rudder gearbox. Let me tell you, I am not so crazy about being way in the back, all the way in the bottom, of an unfamiliar boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

steering room

The Auro’s steering room – way down below deck and all the way back

Next Entry – 31 July 1997
Previous Entry – 23 July 1997