Wednesday, July 26, 2017

When in Dutch Harbor- Tour Crab Boats & Eat Crab!

Last night's Deadliest Catch episode inspired me to share with you a special tour I got while I was in Unalaska for the Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Bombing of Dutch Harbor and Aleut Evacuation- a crab boat tour!  My friend and Unalaska resident, Lydia, surprised me with arranging a tour of her friends fishing vessel- F/V Baranof, on a rainy Saturday when all the warbird flights were grounded due to the lousy weather.  I was stoked!  I have been watching the Discovery Channel's, Dutch Harbor based crab fishing show for the last nine years, not in an effort to learn more about crustaceans but in a effort to learn more about the Aleutians itself and the type of environment that my grandfather would have encountered while flying P-40's there. It somehow connected me to his experience.   As a positive result,  I now have a new found appreciation for the fishing industry. 

Deck of the 180ft F/V Baranof

Anatomy of a crab boat: the launcher, the block, coiler and the crane (left).

F/V Baranof Captain Patrick Sjodin. Good sport.  Thanks for your time. 

I took quite a bit of teasing for my viewership of the show and especially for the LFS Bering Sea 2017 sweatshirt I donned while at sea during the WWll history tour that took us out along the chain to Attu and back.  Now understand, some people from those parts, have a beef with the show;  how is has become dramatic, fake, exaggerated, over glamorized (is that even possible of a fishing show?) and in a sense, invaded their community.  All sentiments I agree with especially in the latter years of the show but it is television and most TV shows are like that.  Real with a hint of exaggeration or outlandishness.  They almost have to be in order for the show come across the tube as compelling enough to watch.  It is the nature of television. It is 'entertainment' after all.  How entertaining would it be if the people on the show were as boring as dirt?  Exactly.

My buddy and retired Bering Sea crab fisherman, Travis Lofland
BIG props to you Travy and friends.  I don't know how you did it...

Aside from the stretch in reality that it may be at times, a positive aspect of the show is that it brings light to one of the many overlooked industries that we so easily enjoy the fruits of.. or in this case, the meat of.  These guys work in some horrendously treacherous conditions just so we can eat crab and other sea foods!  And after watching an episode a few weeks back where they fished through 30 foot seas and 50mph winds,   I have even more appreciation for those who catch the crab I eat.  I mean, I know what 10 foot seas feel like (see my short, measly in comparison, video below) and that was plenty enough.  And I was just sitting in the wheelhouse never mind running around on a pitching and rolling deck with freezing spray.  Seriously- that is some unbelievable shit they go through.  Almost unimaginable.  So why not recognize them- we (and I don't mean me.. just to be clear) celebrate the Kardashian's and Honey Boo Boo for goodness sakes and they provide us with nothing! I 'd say we owe these crab guys a great big freaking thank you!!!

Oh dear... and I digress, the crab boat tour...right.   Lydia, sweet soul Lydia, being the good sport and human that she is, indulged my inner guilty pleasure and set up a tour.  Alex, one of the CAF warbird pilots, came along and boy was he glad he did.  He and the engineer had a blast talking mechanics.  I thought they were never going to emerge from the three floor engine room.  The F/V Baranof is not your standard crab fishing boat, it also serves as it's own processor.  It processes and boxes all it's own catch right there on board to ensure the highest standard of quality and freshness.  The frozen and boxed product is then shipped and sold mostly to Asia.  Why? Simple. Supply and demand.  They are huge seafood consumers, much more than the U.S. and they buy the stuff up.   Luckily for us, not all of it went west that day, we were sure to leave with two boxes of freshly caught crab to be enjoyed on our last day of the commemoration.   And it was scrumptious!

Lydia and I on deck of the F/V Baranof
Alex, one of the CAF pilots with our dinner! 2- 11lb boxes of crab.
Scarlet King Crab (front) vs. Tanner or Snow crab (back).  Scarlet all the way.

Alex & Cricket enjoying a well deserved crab feast after a weekend full of flying.

So, I'll continue to withstand the friendly jabs at my show preferences because in the end, I actually feel grateful because it inspired me to learn more about the Aleutian Islands and what my grandfather persevered in the 1940's. It peaked my interest, and it helped motivate me to travel there. And look what has come of this so far?   No complaints here... nothing but smiles.  Fish on.

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