After Fishing the Bering Sea, You Appreciate the New FirstWatch Life Jackets & Flotation Gear

August 5th, 2011 | Posted by SavvyBoater in Everything Boating & Fishing | Life Jackets & Flotation

trawler in rough seas

Not our boat, but this is a good representation of moderately rough conditions you commonly face fishing in the North Pacific and Bering Sea

I grew up in the commercial fishing industry, and spent several seasons working trawlers fishing Pacific Whiting off the Pacific Northwest, and Yellow Fin Sole in Alaska’s Bering Sea.  It’s grueling work in tough conditions.  We would work around the clock in 6-8 hour cycles.  It all starts when you hear the diesel powering the hydraulics fire up.  That’s your 5 minute warning and you jump into layers of sweatshirts, long-johns and coats, to protect you from the cold, then don your Alaskan Tuxedo – a set of orange Helly-Hansen or Grundens foul weather gear and rubber knee boots and 2 pair of gloves.  This ensemble was accessorized with a few wraps of duct tape at the wrists and ankles to keep waves from splashing up to soak your clothes.

Once suited up, you then hustle outside to pull the gear, where one of the three deck-hands operated the winches and net reel, and the other two would act as human level-winds to make sure that 1000’s of feet of heavy steel cables that connected to the net winds onto the drums smoothly.  Eventually the doors (1000 lb. steel “kites” that exert an outward pull to keep the mouth of the net open) will come up and be tied off to stanchions on either side of the boat.  Next the net will be brought aboard and wrapped onto the net reel, – a big hydraulic drum.  As the net comes up, the catch is forced down into the “cod end”, a removable section of net with a draw-rope closing the bottom.  As the cod end slides up the stern ramp, loaded with up to 20 tons of fish, you’ll run out and wrap a steel cable around the bag and shackle it off.  The bag will be lifted off the deck, repositioned and dropped back down and the crewmen would disconnect the cod end from the net and wind the net back up.

While this was going on, the skipper will hale the factory ship and they will drop a long hawser back with an empty cod end attached.  You’ll  watch the big Polyform A-5 buoy float past, then grapple the hawser and pull the heavy sodden rope around the stern and up the stern ramp where they can lock on to it and pull the empty cod end aboard.  After the cod end has been reeled up, You will connect the cod end full of fish back to the hawser, then signal the skipper to pull away so that the bag of fish is drug back down the stern ramp and hauled in by the factory ship.

Your next task will be to shackle and stitch the empty cod end to the net and set it again.  All told this will take 2-3 hours to complete.  When that was done you had 3-4 hours to handle other tasks, like cleaning, mending net,  taking care of the various engines and hydraulic systems, cooking, eating and sleeping before the hydraulics diesel would howl back to life starting the entire process over again.  You do get used to it as the typical trip is 30-60 days in length.

When I was fishing, I would have loved to have had a warm, well-engineered exposure suite like the new models offered by FirstWatch.  Here at SavvyBoater we had a chance to handle and try on these suits and PFD’s.  I’ve got to say I was really impressed by both the design and workmanship in these new products.  Because of the time and expense in getting a new design Coast Guard approved, established lines don’t tend to get changed very often.  FirstWatch is an exciting addition to the high end life jacket and float coat market.  Ross Johnston, designer of many of the Mustang Survival products had the opportunity to take everything he has learned over the years and build a next generation line of life jackets, including recreational vests, commercial life jackets, inflatable life vests and floatation wear.   These new designs include innovative touches like a wave barrier on the inflatable PFDs that helps protect the wearer’s face from wave splash, while the Float coats, bibs and exposure suits feature a number of user friendly design improvements, like curved sleeves that allow for more natural fit, and pockets located for easy access whether your seated or standing.

Stop by SavvyBoater and check out the full line of FirstWatch products we are offering.  We think you’ll be impressed too!

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