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Expert Opinions

“Fish Tales”

In any competitive job market there is a certain way and character that the hired employee presents himself to the job description hired. My name is David Hopper and I learned rather fast of cultural and perhaps ethical standards for presenting one’s self to the job and working associates in the mid to late 1970s. From the shores of Southern California to the ocean’s most northerly shores and archipelago of Alaska I have experienced the fishing industry’s tenacity no doubt. I’ll speak of the consumption of alcohol as an imagined precursor for attaining the physically demanding and job witty “Right Stuff” ingredient that needs to be exhibited to gain and secure crewman-ship in an abiding form. The sentiment that can be applied is keeping a good saving grace attitude of “Whatever it Takes” type thinking and be able to perform physically both fast and furious as captains will demand.

The first category of ethical comparison I will readily use is the subsumption power that the sea conveys to say the least. The past data as humans and the seas traveled give a little indicator of all seagoing operations from Christopher Columbus to Jack Sparrow have at more than a little in common. This sign and signal worldwide is usually printed in the galley clearly that “Skipper is Lord”. The ethical dilemma that I have fondly experienced with great memories and respect is the natural fact that consumable alcohol in grain form or distilled is a staple in the state of Alaska. This report from my own experience of critical thinking while existing on the Kodiak King Crab fleet in the 1970s. The critical but epic Magnusun-Stevenson act was passed forbidding any illegal substance aboard a vessel in 1976. This included alcohol in some ambiguous cases in dry Aleut native villages depending on the mood the constable of that village or by the rule of the skipper of the boat in that village fleet. There is about an 80% alcoholic rate in the state of Alaska that figure should come as no surprise. (Ritz-Timme, 2006)

The young man that I was at that time I felt that I was a very industrious critical thinker and I even felt like a college graduate. I had an Associate of Arts degree in general education from Citrus College in Azusa, California that I had traveled to Alaska a few summers to put myself through school. I was always working in the fish processors realm of production and watched the fisherman and knew without a doubt that I was one of them. Two times I had driven to Alaska once in 7 and other in 11 days.

My father Delbert Hopper was a Battle of the Bulge WWII sergeant tank driver and an army vet. Together we fished rivers together and gigged many frogs as I had a gut feeling that I would fit in and right away and I did. I was hired as the bait boy for $200 a day, and we had a near death accident on deck with an experienced deck boss getting crunched in the pot launcher and had to be plucked from our deck by helicopter. I was given a raise to crewman-ship with a share of the gross and on that day I became a pitch full share crewmen of any vessel that I have been on since. Pat Langdon was the deck boss and suffered a crushed spleen but was at the dock when we arrived. I learned a lot through that trip and orientation of crab fishing and have gathered many stories and shared the experience of 19 crewmen that I knew real well that didn’t make it home. Pete Kendrick who is veteran Kodiak crab skipper used to have a saying after putting the cap on a full load of crab as he would yell “good job boys, it looks like ‘13 Dead and No One Injured’” so let’s go to town and deliverer.” Pete had another myth that was essential and a custom used by Norwegian halibut fisherman. The captain of the vessel pours a snifter of spoils for each crewman just before pulling the just set miles of long-line that the crew was now ready to start pulling from the other end. This sacred action is always performed as complete allegiance and regard to the catch that was going to take place exist in bounty form in a day or two to come. (Ritz-Timme, 2006)

This essay was mainly about the choice to fly into a village that is dry by law for alcohol for instance. Let’s consider the substances in abundance of tendered supply’s that board a vessel from cigarettes to Alaska’s famous bottled “Everclear” brand grain alcohol. Me being a fisherman and having your attention I’ll share a story that I promise that Phil Harris would have told by now I’m sure. I feel entitled to tell this one because of knowing Phil and the King Crab fishery well.  This takes place before the Magnusun-Stevenson (zero tolerance) and aboard the famous “Cornelia Marie” which is filmed and storied on Televisions “Deadliest Catch”. I knew Phil before the show and by delivering salmon to him as that’s what crabbers do in the off-season. This was in 2005 when Phil was a sober man and after the zero tolerance days. (Ritz-Timme, 2006)

My ethical evaluation of the consideration if I thought of problem side of this disclosure that I will share is there wasn’t one. This is about a crab fishing skipper that made himself famous because he mastered the technique that I will talk about. I am proud to say that I don’t think there was an ethical breach in this before zero-tolerance days of pulling pots of King Crab so full that you could not fit a gloved hand in the pot. Those were days when necessity was the mother of invention no doubt. (Lefkowitz, 2004)

Phil Harris was a High Liner always, and he had a story that among the fleet-members was kept in a polite down low fashion of awe feeling by fellow crabbers of knowing just how Phil would fill the boat up quicker than most and this consistently lasting through the early 1970s and High Lined for as long as he did. This story covers also the Industrial Psychology question of the “Right Stuff” in perspective to the time and the laws that encouraged or discouraged this style of fast and furious super sport techniques in the crab fishery in Alaska seasonally.

Phil was known to take a pound of Cocaine and keep it in a shoe box on the galley table. He and the engineer would make sure that there was a small square cut from the top of the top of the box taped tight with two straws stuck into the spoils that were powered. The crab deck runs like a clock pulling gear contiguous til the vessel is full. The deck boss would observe one mate at a time taking the spoils by nose without even pulling wet gloves or rain attire off and the 4 crew members would then succeed the rewarding task in the galley and the Deck boss would remove his gloves and light 4 cigarettes and plant one in each crew member’s mouth. We pull gear gusto and usually not miss a beat as the gear and crab kept coming over the rail in production like clockwork. The laughing nudge it seemed that Phil had told to fleet-members that the crew always looked forward to the lit cigarette that would be planted in their mouth by the deck boss. The trick that Phil endorsed is that with knowledge Cocaine it’s like fuel and you cannot run out. The message being that after substance has made a impact on your life it is time to be responsible for the proper method and steps to take of future symptoms and plights that come your way.

Anchors Away,  David A Hopper

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