Unimak Pass 1972 - Fishermen's Finest

Bering Sea Birthday National Fisherman Magazine / North Pacific Focus Summer 2015
by Konrad Uri

As I look back upon my fishing career, many fond memories come to mind (especially as I get older and sentimental).  They might not have always been easy times fishing in the Bering Sea in the days before internet and satellite phones, let alone GPS, but the one thing the isolation of fishing in such remote locations brought to us was a team spirit to work together and get things done.  We had a loran, radar, vhf, and a single sideband radio. 

The vessel was our family vessel, F/V Rainier (110’ Martinolich Crabber) and I had my wife and two kids along as well as my nephew; the crew was completed by Arnt Jorgensen, Harold Mathisen, & Erling Skaar.

We had a load (150,000 lbs) of red King Crab (the only crab we kept in those days) and the buyer in Dutch Harbor was either not able to take our load (or dropped the price), so we ran the extra 3 days to Kodiak to offload to B&B Fisheries (Bix Bonney).   Calling on Kodiak in those days was a trip to ‘the big city’ for us – the Kraft Store, cheaper fuel, readily available dockspace, and access to vendors.

After delivering to B&B, shopping and provisioning the vessel for the trip back to the Bering Sea, we were happy to find fair weather (always the ‘finest kind of weather’ regardless of actual conditions), and were steaming back from the Gulf of Alaska through Unimak Pass to the Bering Sea. 

The crew had just finished cleaning the deck and were lounging in their raingear on the whale back deck enjoying the warm bright sunshine and flat calm seas (uncommon for Unimak Pass).  My youngest son was back with the crew and unknown to him, it was his 5th birthday.  One of his regular tasks on the vessel, aside from running the hydraulics, filling bait jars, collecting his ‘aquarium’ of sea urchins/cucumbers/etc., was keeping my coffee cup full in the wheelhouse.

I called him up to the wheelhouse from the back deck to, ‘bring me a fresh cup of coffee.’ As he was climbing the ladder to the wheelhouse from the galley, the rest of the crew came around the outside of the house and were in the wheelhouse waiting for him.  Helen had gone shopping at the Kraft store and made streamers from wrapping paper and decorated the pilot house like it had never been before (or since I would guess).

The sight of udder shock in my son’s eyes as he reached the top of the ladder with most of the coffee still in the cup is one that I will never forget.  The crew sang happy birthday, had cake and icecream and he opened his gifts (a comic book and a stapler – it was the big city, but there was no Toys R Us).  I understand from him that this is his most memorable birthday. 

The group gathered together was more than a crew – we were in this together and worked as if our lives depended on it.  Which they did – this was serious business.  When we look back upon the experience of fishing together as a family and in a fleet that treated each other like family, I have nothing but the fondest memories, no matter how hard we were actually working.

Konrad Uri, father of Fishermen's Finest General Manager (at rail, pictured above) Kristian Uri.  Konrad is also a 1981 National Fisherman Highliner Award Recipient

Konrad & Helen Uri May 17, 2014