My Life as a Deckboss in Alaska’s Fishing Industry

Brian C. has 20 years in Alaska’s seafood harvesting and processing industry. He’s got tons of advice to share with Job Seekers!

Do you want to know what it’s REALLY like to work on a seafood processing ship in Alaska? Before taking the plunge you really should read this exclusive interview. Brian C. is a deckboss with more than 20 years of experience, and his tips are invaluable to greenhorns and relative newcomers to Alaska’s seafood industry.

This is a three-part interview full of advice, including:

  • How to find a job
  • Surviving life on board
  • How to move up in the industry
  • and much more

Brian covers all the bases. Here’s a short excerpt!

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Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in a small rural town in San Joaquin County, California, about an hour away from San Francisco, so you can guess I spent a lot of time around boats and water. One of my grandfathers was a Bosun for two wars and the other was a world traveling extreme fisherman so it was no surprise that eventually I would find my niche on the water.Alaska Deckboss Job photo I left home at 15 and joined a carnival so I was learning machinery skills and diesel generators and engines very early.

Like most teenagers I got into a bit of trouble that could have gotten a lot worse had I not become associated with the marine industry. As soon as I started fishing my life changed for the better.

How much experience do you have in the Alaskan Seafood Industry?

In 1989, I made my first trip to Alaska with Woodbine Alaska Fish Co. out of Rio Vista, California. I was to be a processor but by the time the vessel made it to Prince William Sound for herring I had worked my way to deckboss. The Exxon disaster ruined PWS for us so we went north.

I have held the deckboss position for 2 processing ships and Alaskan Leader longliner and was also dockboss for Ocean Beauty Seafoods in Petersburg, AK. I have also been involved with the Opilio crab fishery as Deckboss for Snopac back when they were at St. George Island.

All together I have close to 20 years in the Industry.

Tell us about the vessel you are on currently.

I’m on a 174′ processing vessel that primarily processes salmon in Ugashik Bay, Bristol Bay, then again in Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound. After that she processes cod near Kodiak, Alaska. The salmon are gillnetted or setnet caught and the cod mostly longlined or potted.

The vessel stays in Seattle for the winter for shipyard and leaves for Bristol Bay about June 1, with a crew of about 30 to 35 people. But by the time we start processing we have about 75 total onboard. The conditions are fairly cramped but most people can withstand the adversity for 60-90 days before they go stir crazy.

What are your specific duties?

I am the Deckboss therefore I am accountable for everything that happens on deck.

I make sure the common areas of the deck are kept clean and safe according to all laws and regulations.

I inspect and maintain all lines and cargo transfer equipment, such as cranes, lifts, fishpumps, and safety equipment.

When we are processing fish it is my responsibility to transfer those fish from the catcher boats to the factory lines. To do this we use fishpumps, net brailers, and hand pitching.

When we are idle or traveling I am making regular safety rounds throughout the whole vessel, including freezer holds, cargo holds, engine room, and all decks. Like I said, if it happens on deck I have to know about it.

Besides actual ‘on the job’ experience, are there any personal qualities that would be beneficial in this unique line of work?

Well to start with, you need to be able to stay on your feet working for 12-16 hours a day. Don’t be a whiner, and be able to work alone or as a team as the situation calls for. Someone who can’t get out of bed with only 5-6 hours’ sleep probably won’t last long. You don’t have to be big or strong for most positions but stamina and persistence and a drive to excel are very good qualities.

Would you recommend this line of work to others? Why?

Definitely, and I have many times and will continue to do so. This business can push you to the peak of what you can mentally and physically endure. Most people don’t even know their own potential or limitations until put into a position that truly tests that. I do not recommend this line of work if you are squeamish, whiny, or just plain lazy – it’s not for you. But if you want to make some money, see Alaska, and find out what you are made of, by all means, come on.

AlaskaJobFinder Members Get the Whole Interview. Don’t Miss Other Topics Covered, Including:

  • Proven job search strategies
  • How to prepare for your first trip
  • Typical expenses
  • and a lot more.
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