Design beginning

I grew up working on a factory trawler. Where I got my first taste for the bond of man and machine.

Growing up on a commercial fishing vessel is what gave me an appreciation for good design. To think long term. “Are the nuts stainless steal? Did you add neverseeze? Did you label it - port – starboard – top – bottom – front – back – bow and stern? Will the person after you know what they’re doing, did you build it for serviceability? Did you. . . build it for the guys at sea?”

From the beginning my dad was adamant about serviceability. Re: Accessibility. If it took an extra month to fix a net winch pin and $15,000 so be it. Nothing was built in the mind set of obsolescence. Work was to be a seamless closed system with no outside input. A continuum. Or continuous concept.

Ask my mom. They bought a vessel with the intention of turning it around in two years and stretched it to seven plus $500,000.

Most people including my mother never understood this.

His obsessiveness to design so intimately the details that were going to be torn apart and go unnoticed at sea. Because in the end they always came back. The boats came home to him for servicing.

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Working with dad taught me a lot.

But what he really gave me was place of grace. A place to learn and a say “I don’t know”, then strap my boots and iterate.

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A place to fuck up and recover in real time, and to know that it was okay.

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“Draw it. Sit on it, then draw it out it again.” “Make time to do it right the first time. The function invisible. So you don’t have to come back to it again.”

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Once caught fish gets sorted on the deck via a process called deck sorting. Different than presorting, which boats have to have a permit to do.

Fish the vessel is allowed to keep gets processed on onboard then frozen in plate freezers. “Bycatch” such a halibut or salmon have to be returned into the sea and genetically sampled for data. Government employees or third party contractors called “observers” oversee and take notes on what the vessel is catching, while “flow scales” weight and count the amount of fish being processed so the Amendment 80 vessel doesn’t exceed its right or quota limit.

Once frozen the fish gets placed into fiber or brown bags then store in the fish hole below the factory. Boats can offload at dock or by tramper (other boats at sea).

From there, fish is loaded into shipping containers and sold by brokers to other areas of the United States or overseas. Curious about my interest in business? You can thank my dad. It started with crude oil, exchange rates and fishing.

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My dad and the captain’s son Storm. Photo above is my dad and I taking a tour of the U.S. Intrepid, another Amendment 80 vessel to discuss third wire cameras and fish behavior.

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Third wire cameras are under water cameras that allow captains to see what they’re catching real time. Vessels still use analog monitoring systems but the cameras are more accurate: Captains can see what and how much they’re catching and, understand the species they’re they both are and are not fishing for.

Example: Slow the boat down to 2 or 2.5 knots and the halibut will swim in front of the net. After an hour the Captain can slowly lift up the net.

Without catching the exhausted halibut the captain can then move to another fishing ground repeating the process again. The slower fishing is easier on fish, fishing grounds and gear and paying for itself in fuel savings, data and avoiding unintended catch.

Added Bonus? Companies can see if their flume tank technology and net design functions as intended.

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Where we dock in Kodiak also houses a cannery. Needing a break from work to clear my head I walked in and asked the person in charge if I could help clean fish. Tom, the guy looking up in the last photo, gave me a nice smile and position at the table deworming fish.

IMG_0390Tables are illuminated to see through the flesh better cleaning the fish. My problem was that one) my knife skills are the equivalent to someone who can’t even butter toast and two) I’m a perfectionist.

After an hour Tom gave me a nice smile and pat on the back recommending I pursue a different profession.  “You good worker. Good hard worker. But too slow.”

Ah geez, thanks Tom. 

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F/V is an acronym for fishing vessel. Amendment 80 vessels use  C/P for catcher processor though I use them interchangeably as I worked with both catcher vessels (trawl vessels without factories) and the Golden Fleece is the smallest CP in the fleet.

See black and gold boat to the one behind it.

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Storm is our captains son who also grew up on the Golden Fleece. Storm went out to sea with his dad while I grew up on the business and maintenance side of the vessel.

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Storm and I on a helicopter ride. Thanks Mark.

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This is Minivahn. I call him ‘M’. His passion is welding though like the rest of us that work with my dad he’s a generalist. Painting, soldering, carpenter work, you name it. If we can’t do it we learn it.

Top photo he’s soldering our shore power cord.

It blew out because of a short so we had to fix it.

I was standing on the back of the boat having a conversation with someone when it exploded? I duck and a wave of heat rushes the back of my legs. The shore power cord blew out behind me.

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Trawl door sensors with Hula hair on the cod end.

Photo below is Storm and I practicing how to make net webbing also called mesh.

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I originally got flown up to help fix the net reel. The flange pin in the motor got sheered so while we took it apart while taking notes American motor, metric flange (centimeters off can cause big problems) then painted and put it back it together again, I went to visit the wind mills.

Pretty cool technology.

Good job GE.


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Captains are often sent to Denmark or Norway to study, design and take part in the net manufacturing.

Blue collar jobs sometimes get bad rap. Know that those who can are trying.

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