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The Fisher Queen

192 pages

It’s 1981, and Sylvia Taylor has signed on as rookie deckhand on a wallowy 40-foot salmon troller. Looking forward to making money for university, she is determined to master the ins and outs of fishing some of the most dangerous waters in the world: the Graveyard of the Pacific. For four months, she helps navigate the waters off northern Vancouver Island, learning the ways of fisherfolk and the habitat in which they breathe, sleep and survive.

The politics of selling fish, the basics of tying gear, near-death experiences, endless boat troubles, the emotional perils of sharing cramped quarters—all are part of a steep and unforgiving learning curve. Taylor’s story captures the reality of life on a fishboat and documents the end of an era, a time when the fishing industry wasn’t yet marred by unchecked overfishing or hyper-regulation. Her lyrical, simple prose explores the tight-knit relationship of fishers with the west coast’s wild, untamed waters. Her memoir bursts with all the humour and hell, peace and upheaval that is the Pacific Ocean.

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The Fisher  Queen
The Fisher  Queen A deckhand’s tales of the BC coast
Sylvia Taylor
h e r iHt a g e v ictor i a va ncouv er ca lga ry • •
Copyright © 2012 Sylvia Taylor All rightS rESErvEd. No pàrt of thiS publiçàtion mày bE rEproduçEd, StorEd in à rEtriEvàl SyStEm, or trànSmittEd in àny form or by àny mEànS—ElEçtroniç, mEçhàniçàl, rEçording, or othErwiSE—without thE prior writtEn çonSEntof the publisher or a licence from The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency(access Copyright). For à çopyright liçEnçE, viSit àççESSçopyright.çà.
HEritàgE HouSE PubliShing Compàny Ltd hEritàgEhouSE.çà Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Taylor, Sylvia, 1957–  The fisher queen [electronic resource]: a deckhand’s tales of the BC coast / Sylvia Taylor. Electronic monograph in multiple formats. Issued also in print format. ISBN 9781927051542 (HTML).ISBN 9781927051658 (PDF)  1. Taylor, Sylvia, 1957–. 2. Women merchant mariners—British Columbia—Pa cific Coast—Biography. 3. Authors, Canadian (English)—Biography. 4. Fishers—British Columbia—Pacific Coast. 5. Fisheries—British Columbia—Pacific Coast. 6. Pacific Coast (BC)—Biography. I. Title. HD6073.F672C3 2012 331.4’8238282 C20129038326 Edited by Barbara Stewart Proofread by Lana Okerlund Cover design by Ruth Linka Interior design by Sandra Baskett Cover photo: Trolling the Southeast Corner fishing grounds outside Ucluelet, on the west coast of Vancouver Island (Paul Taylor). Frontispiece photo: A 40foot ladder for the sake of a skinny little spring salmon or two, Neptune Packers Ltd., Ucluelet (Paul Taylor) Marine charts reproduced with the permission of Canadian Hydrographic Service.These charts are not to be used for navigation.
Heritage House gratefully acknowledges the financial support for our publishing activities from the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund, Canada Council for the Arts, and the province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
For my father, Laimon Cirulis, whose greatest pride was becoming a Canadian and building a life for his family in what he called the “God’s Country” of British Columbia
They say it takes a village to raise a child; the same can be said of a book. Deepest love and gratitude to all the villagers who nurtured and guided me andThe Fisher Queenthrough this incredible voyage and brought us safely home. All the open hearts in all the places, that listened and loved the stories. This book of the watery Northwest was born in the sizzling Southwest desert, where I went to write a historical novel of the Pacific Northwest and came home with 15 stories that grew into a chronicle of a way of life lost to us, and the last vestiges of Canada’s Wild West. To the First Nations people of the Pacific Northwest who have revered the salmon and its habitat for 10,000 years, and all the fishers everywhere who risk life and limb to feed the world, all the Salty Dogs who are still with us and those who forever troll the celestial fishing grounds: may you always have a smiley on every hook. To Heritage House Publishing and its phenomenal crew of liter ary pilots and navigators, especially managing editor Vivian Sinclair and editor Barbara Stewart, whose steady hands at the tiller, unerring eye on the compass and deep belief in the work moved us always towards excellence and authenticity. Infinite thanks to all the writerfolks who tirelessly encouraged, supported, nagged and finally stood cheering on the dock to welcome
The Fisher Queenhome: agentextraordinaire Donald Maas and his wondereditor wife, Lisa Rector Maas, for lovingly reminding me to “ just write the damn book”; Esther Sarlo, whose insightful preliminary edits, passionate belief and endless cheerleading kept me afloat along with my brilliant writergroup pals, Pamela TarlowCalder, Bill Chalmers, Cathleen Chance Vecchiato, Tony Ollivier, Bill Burns, Ed Griffin, Sarah King, Rupert Macnee and world adventurer Anthony Dalton, who led me and my “darn good story” to Heritage House. To wise and loving Richard Tarnoff who saw the light inside me then and now and served as technical advisor on all the fishing related stuff, and always had my best interests at heart. Tom and Annette Phillips, Jane and Wayne Garrison, and the writing com munities of Arizona who adopted me as their own and rode herd on me for the last six years. The Barn Boys, my first “guy test group,” who laughed and wept their way through the stories, in a manly way, of course. To Paul, who was the catalyst of that grand adventure and stepped up 27 years later to make it right. To Beenie and Etta, my dear ol’ BFFs, who always loved and believed in me even when I didn’t. To Anastasia, who passed the writer gene on to me, and my brother, Martin, who always knew it was there. To Mum, who helped set me on the path by retrieving my crumpled poem from my bedroom floor when I was 12 and sending it to a CBC poetry com petition so I could win. And to Dad, who always wanted this for me.
The Legend of Sisiutl9 Vancouver CastOff13 Sointula21 Port Hardy32 Bull Harbour44 First Day Fishing55 UnDressing Salmon66 Gaia’s Whale75 Davy Jones’s Locker82 Salmon Prince94 Indian Candy103 The Quick Turnaround111 No Atheists at Sea124 Winter Harbour136 The Great Grey Beast147 HighPressure Fronts154 For the Living and the Dead167 Home179 Epilogue188 Afterword195
Jostling cheek to jowl for a spot on the wharf at the government floats in the inner harbour at Ucluelet.PAULTAYLOR
The Legend of Sisiutl
A Story of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest
From the depths of the sea between the mountains, from the doorways of the Supernaturals he fiercely guards, the great ser pent comes. Wings of Thunderbird, twin heads of Wolf, silver sides of Salmon, forked tongue of Snake, fierce heart of Dragon, earth wisdom of Bear. Travelling in seas and rain and blood and tears, he transforms himself, for he is the Shape Shifter, the Soul Searcher, the Truth Seeker. He comes to judge all Humankind. He comes to judge your courage, your heart, your soul, your spirit. He finds you in your deepest, darkest fear. He comes to you in your lifechanging times. And when his fearsome head rises from the waters and his gaze burns deep into your heart and soul, you must stand your ground and face your horror, face your fear. And when his sec ond, more fearsome head rises from the waters to steal your soul, each face will see the other, your True Self reflected in them. The ones who cannot control their fear, whose hearts are filled with darkness, who cannot hold their Truth, are devoured or turned to stone as they run from him. Those who hold Truth and Courage, who stand in their authentic selves, he blesses with wisdom and magic and bids them return to their lives as Chosen Ones, to be leaders and beacons for others.