Written by Mutt on 08 Mar, 2006
After a week sitting in the spa, I accidentally managed to get myself a job on a tuna fishing boat and so set out to sea for a month. The clapped-out old fishing boat was crewed by a curious bunch of misfits, a drunken Aboriginal…Read More
After a week sitting in the spa, I accidentally managed to get myself a job on a tuna fishing boat and so set out to sea for a month. The clapped-out old fishing boat was crewed by a curious bunch of misfits, a drunken Aboriginal captain, a permanently stoned Kiwi head deckhand, a bewildered Tasmanian yachtie, and myself. The job was very tiring and fairly boring, 14-hour days hooking dead squid, throwing out lines, and then hauling them back in again, but there were a few exciting moments.
One of the first things we caught was a tiger shark, the most dangerous in Oz, and while we were hauling it aboard, I lost my footing and slipped over, and only just managed to get my arm away from its mouth as it snapped shut. I now have a nice scar where it just caught me. After we had it on deck, I was examining its jaws when the head deckie saw me. He asked me if I knew that the shark was still alive; you should have seen how quickly I then made it to the other side of the boat. I treated the sharks a lot more cautiously after that, although I still managed to get swiped by the tail of a thrasher shark, which knocked me over into the hook bin and took a gash out of my scalp, which was bleeding so much, the captain made me go to bed for the day in case I had concussion, so it wasn't all bad...
Far more dangerous was the captain himself. While attempting to haul onboard a particularly feisty marlin, he decided it would help to pacify it if he put a bullet through his head, so he climbed out onto the stabiliser arm with a rifle. Unfortunately, his hand was a little shaky and the bullet ricocheted a couple of millimetres from my foot, even more worrying since I was standing on the fuel tank at the time! But our intrepid captain managed to top even this when he got us buzzed by French fighter planes by accidentally straying into the waters off of New Caledonia.
One of our more curious catches was particularly hard to pull up, as all four of us strained on the line only to discover it was a sun fish. This massive beastie is inedible, so despite the extreme strain, we set it free, but first we had to recover the hook. So big is this particular fish that the head deckie was able to climb out and stand on the fish to collect the hook! But for me the best times were early in the morning, when I would sit on the deck on watch alone, with no one around for miles and nothing to see accept the occasional pod of playful dolphins or school of flying fish.
Apart from these curiosities, we didn't really catch much, so my 5% of the catch wouldn’t have really been worth much even if I had received it. Instead, I received a call from the captain telling me he’d spent the takings in the bar. But it was worth it for the experience alone... well, that and free food, as the head deckie was a very good cook, who curiously avoided seafood but cut great sashimi fresh from the catch, while back on dry land, it was backpacker noodles again. If you want a job on a boat, sign up at the offices at the port or ask around the boats down on the wharf; something will eventually crop up.