As you all know by now, sharing stories is something I love to do. Whether it’s talking about truly worthwhile causes like the new fund-raising idea for breast cancer begun by Donna Sheehan in Toronto or introducing you to one of the many wonderful writers or reviewers in our online community, it’s always a pleasure for me … a real buzz … truly!
Today I would like you to meet Tele Aadsen from Sitka, Alaska, who is not only a gifted writer and blogger on her website Hooked, but whose day (and night) job in the summer is one of the most interesting I’ve ever come across. I know you are going to agree.
I stumbled across Tele’s blog by accident last year and have been an avid subscriber ever since. An online connection grew and I’m proud to consider her a friend. After getting to know her here, I have no doubt you are going to want to check out her posts on Hooked and her partner Cap’n J’s spectacular photography on his website.
Tele, you bring your days at sea to life so vividly we can almost feel the motion of the Nerka as she rides the waves. What is the average schedule of the Nerka in a year? What is your schedule like during the “season”? Are you able to do much writing while at sea or do you wait until you are back in safe harbour? Do you return every evening? How do you spend your off-season?
For 6 months a year, the Nerka is home to me, my partner Joel, and Bear the Boat Cat – our 43-foot universe. Sitka, Alaska, is our home port, and we move aboard in March to do boat maintenance and some small salmon openings. I hop on a friend’s boat in May to crew for halibut and black cod, then return to the Nerka for our primary salmon season, July-September.
Joel and I fling ourselves into a silver-scaled marathon, determined to spend as much time with our hooks in the water as conditions allow. Sometimes we’re trolling 40 miles off-shore, unable to see land, sleeping in the waves’ embrace. Other times we’re nestled against the Southeast Alaskan coastline, anchoring in protected coves, air heavy with the songs of Swainson’s thrush and the scent of the Tongass National Forest. We process and blast-freeze our salmon to be market-ready, which means we stay out until the Nerka is full – up to several weeks at a time.
This intense pace isn’t very conducive to writing. I prioritize getting a blog post up when we come back to land, but that’s a 1-2 day whirlwind of delivering fish, getting groceries, showers, doing laundry, any emergent boat projects. My best writing opportunities are in the off-season, when we’re ashore in Washington State. Our goal is to catch enough salmon that we can devote our winter to our respective passions – writing for me, landscape photography for him.
I love how you refer to Bear the Boat Cat as the Chief Morale Officer! Do you know how old she is? Have you ever had any other executive crew on board before Bear?
Growing up fishing with my mom, I always had a boat cat. Joel had never had a pet on board. We got together in 2004; he began running the Nerka the following year. I initially refused to work for him – had my own identity as a deckhand, and didn’t want to be “the girlfriend” onboard. But being on separate boats, waving to each other across the water for weeks on end, was a bit of a bummer, and negotiations took place… I said I’d be his crew if we got a boat cat!
Bear joined our crew in 2006. She’s remarkably adaptable, very forgiving of our transient lifestyle. She came from the Sitka Animal Shelter, and we think she’s about 9. Bear’s adoption is a fabulously Alaskan story that I plan to post in July – stay tuned!
When did you begin writing and what has been your experience so far? Do you plan to publish your work? Was it difficult to organize the writers’ group during the winter? There appear to be some very talented folks in it.
I’m an awkward, word-fumbling introvert in person. Writing has always been my safety net, the best way for me to process and connect. For much of my 20’s, though, I was more lapsed writer than practicing! I dreamed of the fishing memoir I’d write “someday,” but allowed fear and laziness to hold me back. In November 2010, I reconnected with my former colleague Cami Ostman, author of an inspiring memoir. Endlessly encouraging, she made me believe that I could write my book – if I was willing to do the work.
That was a turning point. So often, when we take an audacious “here goes” leap and truly give ourselves to our dreams, the pieces fall into place. I was so hungry for a writing community; Red Wheelbarrow Writers provided inspiring teachers, mentors, and gifted friends. I lacked discipline and accountability; my blog readers created a dialogue that makes me eager to engage. They’ve all infused me with a confidence and commitment that I didn’t have on my own. So yes, publication is a goal, and I’m preparing to shop that long-dreamed memoir.
An important aspect of your blog is the way you help the rest of us gain an understanding of the delicate balance of nature viewed from your perspective, as well as important environmental issues. What are your major concerns in this regard?
Pop culture often presents commercial fishing as a catch-all-you-can, man-against-nature fury. But for me, fishing isn’t just about making a living on the water – I’m making a life, and want it to reflect values of sustainability, quality over quantity, connection with each fish and our surroundings. As a writer, I want others to experience the joys and challenges of this stunning region. A key point is that Hooked is – as you said – from my perspective. I’m not a scientist or a journalist. I’m a tree hugging, tofu eating fisherman, a woman in a male-dominated industry, sharing my experiences at sea, in a small island community, working/living in a very small space with my sweetheart.
Your partner, Joel (aka Cap’n J) is a talented photographer. Is his work published anywhere or does he sell it privately?
Thanks for asking! Photography is to Joel what writing is to me; he gets his soul food being amongst mountains and forests. This is a relatively new passion – he’s been doing landscape photography for less than 2 years, and is currently building his website to market his work. Please watch for http://www.joelbradypower.com in the fall; until then, you can view some of his work here.
Patricia, one of the things I love about your blog is the community you’ve created around you, people coming together from such diverse life experiences, appreciating each other’s unique stories. I’m honored to be included – thank you for having me!
The pleasure was mine and my dear readers. The unique story of every single person is what makes every day such an adventure. I feel fortunate to have a platform to share these stories.
Good luck with the fishing season! We will all be looking forward to following your continuing journey both on and off the seas.
How cool is this? What’s one of the most interesting careers you have come across amongst your friends? For the writers reading this, can you imagine including settings in your work such as the ones Tele encounters? Have you ever written about the sea?