Alaska is a very interesting culture full of badass people with incredibly adventurous lifestyles, and some of the most interesting people you’ll get to meet are commercial fishermen.
This activity is taken very seriously and passionately by those who do it. More than that, it is a way of life.
Florian Von Derschau, also known as Murkl, is a German adventurer and entrepreneur that dreamed of experiencing commercial fishing in Alaska. When he finally made it, he fell so in love with the experience and enjoyed it so much that he teamed up with Geoff Petersen, his Captain on the Ocean Wave, to develop a tour around it.
I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, even though I had the chance to have some questions answered beforehand, but after watching the Deadliest Catch TV show I was a little nervous.
I imagined myself facing extreme cold (I live in a warm place, after all), possible storms and huge waves, and a rather stressful working environment, both in terms of fishing and shooting. I guess most people could easily picture that too.
As it turns out, the trip was much more pleasurable than that. The weather was amazing for me. It was late summer so the temperatures were cool, but easily bearable. We had some light rain, which helped me set my shooting pace: if it was clear, I’d be shooting, and if it was raining I’d put away the camera and had some fun fishing. Best of both worlds.
Geoff explained that most Captains are actually pretty cautious about the conditions in which they fish, as they like to return home safe and sound to sell their fish and see their families, and he’s very caring about the experience of his guests so he would often check how we were doing to see if it was better to go to calmer waters or if we could handle a bit more adventure.
I did end up facing seasickness the first morning but that was because I overplayed the brave part thinking I could handle the motion with my experience in small vessels around Cabo so I refused the motion sickness medication. Lesson learned, I’ll bring my own next time, guys!
Fortunately, I got my sea legs on after a while and was able to carry on enjoying the trip.
As far as stressful goes, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Florian, Geoff, and his deckhand Mike, were always there to help if we needed it. From the first moment they explained that the idea of the trip was that we could see what the way of life of Commercial Fishermen in Alaska looked like, and that we could participate in it as actively or passively as we wanted. We could choose to get up early to set up the lines or sleep late if we were feeling lazy. We could participate in pulling up the gear and gaffing and cleaning fish, for which Mike was an excellent teacher, very patient, kind and really good at explaining how things worked so we could do them safely and having fun.
We could also choose to just watch the others work, or sit inside going through food and snacks, taking a nap, or sitting next to Geoff and sharing stories.
This trip was really special, not just because of the commercial fishing experience, but because it has so much more than that.
Getting to know our hosts was really cool. For me it was mandatory to sit with everyone on the boat to hear their stories. People who do this, either for a living or for the experience of it, usually have really good stories to tell.
Geoff, Mike and Florian told me some amazing stories of fishermen and other Alaskans who have done some pretty badass stuff you’d think they got the idea from an action movie. They also spoke to us about the difference between doing small-scale commercial fishing and doing massive corporation-level commercial fishing, how that exploitation has affected and endangered their resources and way of life, and how they hope that a trip like this can bring awareness to support local, sustainable fishing.
And that’s not all. You have the once-in-a-lifetime experience. You have the connecting-with-amazing-people factor. And then you have unforgettable, awe-inspiring nature surrounding you.
Mystical landscapes, breaching humpbacks, flocks of seagulls, orcas, sea otters, sea lions. What else could you ask for? Food, of course. Our hosts provided a very varied supply of food that fishermen usually bring to their trips to eat around work: snacks, sandwiches, eggs, juices, coffee; but they made sure to treat us with something special for dinner every night. Geoff received us the first day with a delicious beef stew he made himself; the following two nights, Mike prepared two different and very tasty dishes of freshly caught salmon (as fresh as it gets!); for the last night, Geoff pulled out a delicious smoked ham to feast on on our way back to Juneau.
Furthermore, you also get the chance to meet the people of Elfin Cove, a small village built practically on water where fishermen often stop for the night and get together for a drink or to cook and share with everyone else the big catch of the day. One of the nights we stopped there, we were all invited to feast on a good catch of Crab and Halibut by one of the fishermen and Geoff took the chance to share with us some stories of the boats we found on the way to party.
Florian is very passionate about sharing authentic Alaskan experiences, you can tell by how excitedly he says ‘Yeah! That’s the Authentic Alaskan experience!’ all the time, and by how he interpreted everything that happened so we could truly understand what it means to be a commercial fisherman in Alaska.
This is a very interesting product for anyone who likes true adventure and wants to have a very real taste of this experience. To me, it was unforgettable.