Typical Work Shift on a Factory Trawler

Let’s go through a typical day on a factory trawler whose crew works twelve hours a day, on a “six on, six off” schedule. Your position is a driver:

    5:15 am: Wake-up call. The factory foreman comes by and pounds on your door to wake you up. You get dressed, trying not to bump into your roommate, who is also dressing, and go up to the galley for breakfast and coffee. Breakfast is always the same: scrambled eggs, pancakes, and hash browns.

    5:45 am: You go to the rain gear room with about thirty other people on the same shift, all of whom have also just woken up. It sure smells of fish, but by now you don’t even notice. Get on your rain gear.

    6am: On shift. You relieve the driver who has been operating the filleting machine since midnight. The fish keep flowing onto the belt in front of you. You grab them, 145 fish a minute, and put them in the passing trays. Minutes slowly turn into hours. The fish keep coming in an endless flow. The machine never stops.

    9am : Finally, after about three hours, the foreman taps you on the shoulder and tells you to take a fifteen-minute break.

    11:50 am: You start looking at the waterproof watch that you had hung on a hose in front of you, and start praying that your relief comes soon. You start to wonder what’s for lunch today.

    12pm: Your relief, the driver that you relieved at 6am, shows up to take your place. Quickly you race the others on your shift for the spray-down hoses so that you don’t have to wait in line. You wash all the fish scales off your rain gear and head back to the rain gear room. You put your gear away in the locker that you share.

    12:10 pm: You’ve decided that this is your “shower shift,” and from your reflection in the mirror, with fish scales all over your hair, you need it. You take a quick shower, and hurry upstairs to lunch before they close the lunch line at 12:30.

    12:45 pm : You sit in the galley with your new friends eating lunch and talking about all the strange things that happened to you in the factory today. Did anyone else see that shark that came up the net? It’s nice to relax and unwind.

    1pm: You’re just about to head off to bed, but you decide to pop by the TV room and see what they’re playing. You haven’t seen this movie before, and you sit down. “Just for a couple of minutes. I’ve got to get to bed,” you tell yourself.

    2pm: Wow, look at the time! Off to bed.

    5:15 pm: “Wake up time!” You get up, scolding yourself for getting to bed so late, and head up to the galley for dinner.

    6pm: Back on the machine.

    9:20 pm: Break comes a little later this shift, but you are glad to get it at all. The fish have been exceptionally large, and hard on your wrists and back.

    11:50 pm: You look at your watch and tell yourself that you are going straight to bed after midnight meal. No shower this time.

    12:15 am: It’s great to be off. You sit in the galley with your friends and try to figure out how much money all of you are making this trip. Watch the clock. There goes your sleep time again.

And that’s how it goes.

To help make a seemingly negative situation more positive, keep in mind that because there is so little to do besides work and sleep while at sea, most everyone saves their earnings.

Accommodations and food are provided, and unlike their shoreside counterparts, workers on factory trawlers have neither the temptation nor the opportunity to spend part of their paycheck on Yukon Jack or concert tickets. An offshore worker’s wallet is far more likely to be that much fatter at the end of the season than an onshore processor worker’s wallet. The only unavoidable cost is that of purchasing rain gear, which is usually sold in the ship store. Check into this before you go. Rain gear on the boat usually costs about $175 – $250 for a full set of boots, rain pants, and a rain jacket.

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