Heroes of the sea: catching Dungeness crab from the Pacific is one of the West's deadliest jobs. A father-son team in Washington share stories of life at sea.
KYLE: It's a 58-foot boat that carries 400 crab pots that weigh 100 pounds apiece, empty. We've got two deckhands and one skipper. We're one of the last derby fisheries: Our goal is to catch as much as we can as fast as we can.
What's life like at sea?
KEN: Anytime you go out on the water, it's like the ocean is trying to kilt you--and all you're trying to do is stay in your boat. I've fished Alaskan king crab in the Bering Sea with occasional 30-foot swells and 60 mph winds. There, you're out for weeks, months at a time in a no-foot boat, 100 miles offshore. You go 20 to 30 hours straight without sleeping--and when you do sleep it's in your rain gear, on deck, napping between crab string checks. You live off cases of Coca-Cola and M&M's, and you're so tired your brain literally stops working.
What's your scariest moment?
KYLE: My first time. It was a three-week winter trip in Alaska. I'd never been on that much ocean. The seas were 20 feet high. Pots rolling, falling. I kept thinking: What did I get myself into? Just take me home. No one is going to take you home.
KEN: I was in my 20s, fishing Alaskan king crab in 70 mph winds. We were waaay overloaded with 1,000-pound pots. Swells were so high our boat was basically underwater; we were sinking and I didn't even realize it.
What's your happiest moment?
KEN: Now. I live in Anacortes, Washington, fishing Dungeness crab in the winter and spot prawns in the summer. My crew is my wife. We wake up at 4:30 a.m., drive 15 miles to where we fish, set out on the water and pick pots all day. Later, I'll drive our catch 80 miles to restaurants and stores in Seattle. It's about a 12-hour day all in. I make a decent living--but not as much as I used to in Alaska.
KYLE: Coming home to my wife.
FACTS OF LIFE
Average amount Alaskan Bering Sea crabbers make in a season
Licensed commercial fishing vessels in 2008 in Alaska, California, Oregon, and Washington
4 to 1
Ratio of Northwest Dungeness crabbers who die on the job compared with other commercial fishermen
Average number of hours worked per day For Washington coastal Dungeness crabbers
Kyle Crews, 28
Fishing for 16 years Fishes Washington coastal Dungeness crab, Alaska halibut, and black cod up and down the coast
Ken Crews, 55
Fishing for 35 years Former Alaskan king crabber in the Bering Sea, now fishes spot prawns and Dungeness crab in Puget Sound
BY RACHEL LEVIN | PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN CLARK
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|Title Annotation:||Ken and Kyle Crews|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2009|
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