Alaska Tender Boat Employment - Life on a Tender
Steven Weakley of Portland, Oregon, worked on a fish tender for a summer. He was able to make the jump from processing plant to boat by dock stomping.
I had some friends who knew people at a processing plant in Valdez who said I could get a job there easily, so I decided to head up there for the summer without getting a job first.
The first week I just tried to take it all in, and the second week I started looking around for fishing work. I started hanging out on the docks in my spare time, and by my second week I had found a job as a deckhand on a tender. There weren't tons of jobs available on boats in Valdez, but I met several guys who did the same thing and found fishing jobs. Most jobs were with seiners, who went out on fishing trips for three or four days at a time.
Our boat was a converted crabber that the captain had turned into a tender. We basically carried fish from the salmon hatcheries and took them back to Whittier. I lived right on the boat, which had room for six. There were only five of us: the captain, mechanic, deckhand, seafood supervisor (who actually worked for the seafood company and was only on the boat part-time), and myself.
After the first few days the cook quit, so I took over the cooking duties. Cooking for five hungry guys was always in the back of my mind while I was doing my deckhand work. Usually I would get up around eight or so and make breakfast for everyone.
Sometimes we would work 24 hours a day and sometimes we'd work only two hours a day. We had to deliver the fish from the point to the dock as quickly as possible to preserve freshness, so we just worked until the job was done.
This position was a great opportunity because it paid a lot better than the canneries and I got a place to stay for free. I saved a lot of money and still had a lot when I got home. They just paid me by the day, the same rate whether I worked three hours or 24 hours, but it worked out to a lot more money than I was making in the cannery.