A debut memoir celebrating an Alaskan author’s adventures during a life at sea.
Five decades in the fishing industry provide considerable fodder for colorful stories, and Jacobsen takes full advantage of his various seafaring roles to serve up a collection of lively vignettes. Born into a fishing family, he started plying the waters of the Bering Sea with his father at the age of 7. He has an eye for detail and the ability to weave many a short tale as he recounts his experiences, mostly as a crab fisherman in a fishery that he says “would later become known as the most dangerous fishery in the world.” Along the way, he faced the unexpected, including injuries, mechanical mishaps, oil spills, rogue waves, and crusty characters. His first-person narrative is honest, descriptive, and intimate, and one can’t help but feel the drama, danger, vitality, and humor of a fisherman’s existence. Although each brief chapter is essentially a stand-alone reminiscence, strong themes of resilience and survival run throughout the book. At times, the writing is raw and unadulterated, but there’s a fair amount of reflection, as well. One Christmas at sea, for example, weather conditions were particularly nasty, and Jacobsen sought solace in his bunk. The foreman timidly approached him on behalf of the men, who felt sympathy for him and wanted him to “pray over dinner.” The author recalls that he realized that he was “wallowing in self-pity” when “There were others who hurt, others who missed family, and others who had needs I had neglected.” His other observations are no less telling. While describing how fishermen eat at a restaurant, for instance, he writes “you may observe people wrapping their left arm around the top of their plate, often while the left-hand tightly grips a glass. They are fishermen, securing their dinner from sliding across the table.”
An engaging window into an exotic life with flashes of elucidation that offer additional insights.