I began working as an Alaska fisherman in 1988. My main motivation for doing this was the money. Quite honestly, that’s the only reason I took the job.
And if you’ve ever seen that movie “The Perfect Storm” or watched those shows on the discovery channel, you have an idea of what it’s like to fish in Alaska. My own story isn’t much different and it taught me why being an Alaska Fisherman is know as “The Most Dangerous Job In The World”. The winter of 1995 had been an especially bad winter in Alaska. Fishing boats and fishermen's lives were being claimed by the Bering Sea almost weekly. I was working on the outside deck after dark and we were in an unbelievable storm. It was the worst I'd seen in my 7 years of fishing.
The kind of thing you only see in the movies. I was scared to death! But I had my own way of dealing with my fears. I'd never look out at the horizon when we were in a storm like this because I didn't want to see the big picture. I didn't want to know how high the waves really were. So I'd just concentrate on my job, which was to get all the fish onto the boat. As long as I did my job, and didn't look up, I could almost convince myself that the storm wasn't that bad. While this certainly wasn’t the best way to deal with stress, at the time, it was the only way I knew how. As always, the captain was in the wheelhouse driving the boat.
His job was to keep an eye on me and watch for the dangerous rogue waves that would come out of nowhere and slam into us broadside. He'd tell me if I was in any real danger. And then it happened! I heard the captain's thundering voice over the intercom system. Kevin! Hit the deck! Before I could react, I was buried under a wall of water that hurled me all the way across the deck of the boat, face first into the railing on the other side. When the water settled, and I realized what had happened, my immediate thought was, "Thank God I'm still on the boat" The impact had knocked out my front teeth and caused serious facial damage, but at least I was still alive, and on the boat. If that wave would have lifted me just a few inches higher, I would have been thrown right over the top of the railing into the freezing waters of the Bering Sea.
And there's one thing I knew for sure. In a storm like that, there's no way in hell the captain would have got that boat turned around in time to save me. I would have died right then and there. It was at that moment I decided my life as an Alaska Fisherman was over. While it was a great experience, I’ve never regretted my decision to leave the fishing industry.
They were in a bad storm, but it appears that they had also encountered a real freaque wave. That's certainly not an uncommon occurrence. It happens all the time and that's why they are in the most dangerous job of the world. I don't think anyone would second guess his decision to quit. Watching the Discovery Channel show "Deadliest Catch" would certainly convince anyone that's most definitely not a job for everyone. At any rate it's of interest for me to have another real life eyewitness account of an encountering with the potential deadly freaque waves. We still have no idea how frequent or not frequent or where those kind of things happen. A real life experience is always helpful!