Hi everyone, I know that it looks like i have been sitting in the Seattle airport for about a month but those are only rumors. I finally have a bit of time to catch everyone up on what the heck I have been doing and what it is I will actually be doing for the next three or so months. So lets get to it.
I am now living in Anchorage Alaska (temporarily), while here i attended a three week training to be come a certified National Marine Fisheries, Groundfish Observer. What you ask is that? Great question. I am a representative of the National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) and it is my duty to collect information from commercial fishing boats that operate in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands(BSAI) Fisheries. My job is to go out on to these vessels and to collect species composition data, Sex/Length/Weights, Otoliths (fish ear bones) and some other things. All of this data is used in real time or near real time to manage the north pacific ground fish. All of the rules are provided through the Magnuson-Stevens Act Revision 2006. Fishing vessels that wish to continue to fish (with some exceptions) are required to carry an Observer (that is me). It is going to be a very different job then i have ever had. I am excited about getting back to sea rough or not and I am still getting to do something with my hands outside (even when it is –40, ugh), so really it is going to be a great job.
My three week training was intense! In three weeks I learned how to identify fish that could be found in the fisheries that I could work in, I also learned that my attention to detail (read as anal retentive) when filling out paper work finally paid off. Paperwork is the name of the game for this job, I have six types of forms, minimally, that i have to fill out for just one fishing vessel. doesn’t sound like a lot but one of those is a raw data form called a deck sheet and every time I sample I have to fill those out. Most of the time i will be filling out like four to five a sample with six samples a day giving me a grand total of 30 deck sheet a day. Lots of writing. We also learned a lot about random sampling and how it applies to real life situations. I can finally say that I am starting to grasp what they were trying to teach me in stats class so long ago.
This training I said was intense, and that is truly an understatement. classes started at 0800 every day and went till 1700. There is also the fact that I walked to training everyday which is a mile and a half each way. These were long days of going over the manual, going over homework, Fish ID labs and test taking. The pressure is high due to the fact that if you don’t do the homework or fail any test, which is anything below an 80%, you were dropped from the program. Unfortunately we lost two people during the course of training. We lost one after the first test and one because of homework. Homework, this is not your average everyday run of the mill homework, most of the time it would take four to five hours to complete the written part filling out the various forms that we use. Even when you were done with that you still have a few hours of reading every night with reading questions. it was insane! Thankfully I did my work every night when I got home, after the briefest of conversations with my wife. Sorry they were so short baby.
The best day of training was our survival training. It was a whole day dedicated to what to do during emergencies at sea and what we should do to survive should an accident happen at sea. the biggest part was us at the pool donning our immersion suits and getting into the pool and boarding the survival raft. the immersion suit, also called a Gumby suit, is the one piece of survival equipment that will hopefully save our lives if we have to abandon ship. they taught us different was to link up in the water so we could stay together, how to turn over our raft should it flip and how to get into the basket that the Coast Guard uses. We also learn how to throw life rings and life slings to a person who might have fallen overboard. here is a picture of me in my survival suit.
It was a welcome break form the rigors of class.
I am happy to say that I successfully passed the class!!!! It was such a relief to see my final grade (93%) on my final exam. So now I am an official North Pacific Groundfish observer.
So the next steps, first I will be getting a physical on Monday. Apparently they need to make sure i am breathing before heading out to sea. From what the Priors (the people who have had contracts before) tell me it is a joke. After the physical on Monday the plan is to fly out to Dutch Harbor on Christmas Eve and then board my boat on the 26th. the current plan is for me to be on board a Longline vessel for my entire contract which should take me to March of next year.
What else has been going on…
Not much to be honest. I have been getting used to the time difference between Ohio and here, I always have to remind my self that Gina and the kids day is pretty much over by the time I get home from training. I have also been getting used to the short ‘daylight’ hours here. Not really much daylight but a brightening of the sky really. The COLD is something else that I am becoming accustomed to as well. Last night was our coldest night since i have been here (-7) but I have slowly gotten used to the fact that everything here is cold and covered in snow.
I have also seen two birds here that made my life list the Black-billed Magpie and the Bohemian Waxwing.
last night I went out to purchase my work gear. I will have photos later to show everyone.
You might notice that the photos are not of my usual quality, they are from my phone and they are good for what they are. I was sitting down today to start blogging when i realized that i had forgotten my card reader in Ohio and i didn’t have a cable to connect my camera to the computer. If that is the only thing i forgot at home then I am ahead of the game. I plan on heading out to WallyWorld today or tomorrow to get a new one and some other odds and ends that i still need.
I will post more later.
and so we go…