I eventually got the job I wanted on the same boat as Terry but he didn’t want to fish so I was with his captain on my own. The captain bought another boat that had to finish a Halibut quota and I hopped on to help out. Myself and two men I never met before went up to the Haida Gwaii. The other deckhand was a good worker and very experienced. I struggled and dreamed of dancing.
We were long lining. It is just like it sounds. One very long (2-5 kms) line with thousands of hooks on it with bait which was normally herring. When it was hot, the bait would start to rot, combined with the swell of the ocean and smell of the diesel could bring on sea sickness…I am getting queazy right now just thinking about it.
Sea Sickness is brutal. At the beginning of my fishing days I worked on a very small boat with a couple legendary brothers, The Martinellis. I didn’t get sick for quite a while and then we would come in to deliver and would talk to Terry. He would get really sick and negative. I took his feelings on and started getting sick.
The boat was the Viking Princess. Out on the ocean is magical in some ways. We started one morning at 4 am off the north west coast of Langara Island…and worked until 3 am the next day. The entire day was a struggle until a gray whale breached right beside the boat to have a look at us in the middle of the night.
I was studying Aikido at that time and brought a book by Morehei Ueshiba onboard. The men I was working with were uncomfortable with it. At one point on deck I dropped into the splits and was ridiculed. Granted, it was a strange thing to do in that environment but I really didn’t want to be there. I needed to dance.
I hated fishing. The lifestyle and the pecking order of the men that fished were toxic. I had to dance. Mrs. Cleric told me of a dance school in Edmonton called Grant MacEwan…Des ja vous!. I called the chair, Brian Webb and he encouraged me to apply. In between openings I videod an audition tape and sent it off…..
The boat changed hands and my skipper took over and we went salmon fishing in the Haida Gwaii again. Salmon trollers are(were….I don’t think there are anymore on the west coast of Canada) odd people. Someone might be catching fish a somewhere else and that creates a huge desire to “pick up the gear” (pull all the hooks (up to 100) and line out of the water) and rush (not really rushing as a small fishboat will only travel 6-7 knots per hour approx. 10 kph) to where there could be fish. The captain of the boat I was working on was tortured and we spent quite a bit of time going between spots. Poor fellow.
One day we had a large amount of fish on deck, dieing to be dressed (gutted). I could “dress” a salmon in under a minute. First you insert the knife in the sphincter and cut to the chin (gills). Make two small cuts around the throat (gills) and if done correctly you can pull the entire intestines of the creature out in one action. Then cut along the spine (blood line) and scrape all the blood out with a spoon. Fish would shutter in pain when I did this. Connecting to the fishes pain planted a seed deep inside me.
Holding a beating heart in my hand one day I had an epiphany. If I could do this so efficiently and humans are not a very intelligent species (ie. we kill each other and ruin our own habitat) there must be another creature smarter than us that could this to us.
Weeks after sending off the audition tape I called Brian Webb…I got in! I was elated. I had a future that I had dreamed of and fishing would come to an end.
I worked hard. I wasn’t the greatest deckhand but I could work. I lost gaff hooks over the side when trying to drive the spike through the fishes skull to bring it aboard. This was cause for ridicule. But I worked.
We had agreed that I would stay until a certain time and the captain wanted me to stay another week. I didn’t want to miss that opportunity so I left. He didn’t like it and it was not ideal. I missed out on money but I didn’t care. I wanted to dance.
I through out my fishing clothes and drove to Edmonton with Terry and Harry. One week later I was in my first ballet class!
My life took an awesome turn….