Marcee Gray spoke on April 26, 1996 at the Land's End Resort in Homer, Alaska for a Communities of Memory meeting where people told stories about life in Homer. In this recording, Marcee tells a story about working with crab pots on a fishing boat and dislocating her shoulder when they were still three days from land.
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Personal background and getting involved in fishing
Getting on a king crab fishing boat as a cook
The long run from Kodiak to Dutch Harbor in a 87-foot boat
Setting gear to prepare for fishing
Dislocating her shoulder
Trying to get her shoulder back in the socket
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MARCEE GRAY: I feel a little foolish being here, because I don't feel like an old voice. I'm pretty young to this community, and to the fishing industry,
and boats even –– boats for me as a young girl were a scary experience.
My father was, whew!, wild.
But that's another story.
So for me, learning about boats and the concept of people could get in them and drive them, and not, like, take their lives in their hand every time, was phenomenal.
And took a lot of faith for me to realize people could actually do this.
And so I was raised in the Midwest and knew nothing about the ocean and nothing about the sea, but a lot of curiosity.
And, so I got wound into fishing, because I ended up in this area. And it's an incredible area.
And fortunately for me, I never made any money fishing, so I never really took it very seriously.
But I got wound around in a couple of little endeavors, and I wanted to see places, and got roped into the, "Oh, you want to be a cook?"
It was back in the days when as a cook you were like a slave, literally.
You did it all. You did everything they did, and then cooked while they were laying around in piles.
And then when they got done eating and wolfing, then you cleaned up, then you got back out on deck and worked as hard as they did. And it was wild.
And so anyway, this one time –– and I had been out to the Bering Sea a couple times, and I would have thought I'd know better. And I got a chance to go on a boat out way, way, way west.
And, they were going out to king crab Semisopotchnoi in the Petrel Banks area.
And I knew this was one of my only chances to ever really get out into that area and see it, which was my first motivator.
Second motivator was, "Oh, maybe we'll make some money."
But we were only going for a month and it was a pretty small boat, and I knew that was less than likely.
So I went ahead and went along and flew into Kodiak, actually had my way paid into Kodiak, and did the grocery thing.
And started wondering when one of the crew members came back with a huge box of Big Macs.
And they went into the freezer, and I thought, hmm.
And that's what they would do, you know, for food, is come in and throw a Big Mac out of the freezer into the microwave, bit–bit–bam, and eat them.
And work. Wow! Incredible.
So anyway, and then this crew was pretty young, too, and we had a long run from Kodiak out to Dutch Harbor, where our tank inspection was.
And this was about an 87–foot power scow, the house was to the stern and all the work goes on in front of the skipper.
And we were a small boat for the fishery, without a doubt.
And this was when two blocks on each side of the boat were, like, secret weapons.
It was new. And back in those days, they actually stopped fishing for bad weather and that kind of thing.
And we were really behind because we were such a small boat that we had to be in Dutch Harbor for our tank inspection on such and such a date, and then the opening happened X–number of days later.
Well, we were so small, we didn't get out to the grounds till two days after the opening.
So we were really small, but we went for it, and away we went.
And it's very deep out there. There's a high bank, but then there's a nice little trench that they like to fish in that's super, super deep.
And the crew the whole way out –– I mean, we had a good five–day run out to Dutch Harbor, and the whole time they were supposed to be adding shots of line onto the pots, because we needed another good shot to go ahead and put the pots down.
Well, they hadn't done any of that. That's another lesson I learned.
So when it came to actually setting gear, we were two days behind setting gear.
And so everybody was pretty hyped up, and they were dumping pots as fast as they could.
And, because they were so busy they couldn't really keep on bringing shots of line out of the fo'c'sle –– they were down in the fo'c'sle.
And they were 50–fathom shots and they were pretty big. They weighed pretty much as much as I do.
Big and tall. And so, being a good cook, the skipper said, "Hey, we need a hand. You could drag these lines up. They can get these pots off sooner. We'll make money." All right.
I went down. I started dragging these lines up. No big deal.
We had a big whole stack of pots on board, and it was the Bering Sea and Semisopotchnoi.
We were three days west of Adak Island.
We were out there, and it was a normal day –– 30 foot roll, no big deal.
And so I was using the roll of the boat to help me.
I had to wedge these shots of line into the stairwell and get them on my shoulder and go with the roll and just eke up, dee–dee–dee.
Everything was going well, and I'd been it for a lot of hours, and was probably starting to get tired, but didn't really notice because you're fishing in Alaska. And away you go.
And I'm going along. And, sure enough, I go to roll, and I go and the line doesn't.
Well, boom, foomp, my shoulder goes out of the socket.
And I go to put my hand on my shoulder, and it's down here and I go, "Uh, man."
So I kind of climb out of the shot of line and walk up to tell the crew, whose madly dumping pots over the side, that I'd dislocated my shoulder.
And they don't even hear it.
They don't miss a beat. They don't even look at me. Talk about community?
But luckily, the skipper was listening. The loud hailer was right there, and he was looking at me, and he said, "What's going on?"
And I said, "Ah, I think I dislocated my shoulder."
"Well, get up here." Well, get up here.
And I turned and looked and there was a stack of pots to the wheelhouse.
I couldn't –– you know, it was climb up this stack of pots, pitching, 30, 35 foot seas.
Get up here. It was the only way in there.
I looked at the rest of the guys, and they're still pitching pots over, and they're mad 'cause now they've gotta send a guy down to do what I was doing.
So I go over, and I start climbing up this stack of pots, and I get to a place where I really can't do anything else.
I've got to reach up with this arm that's dislocated or pitch off.
And so I look around, take a deep breath, no one's watching, no one cares, and reach up.
It hurt a lot, but, boom!, got up there. You know, stumble into the wheelhouse.
This guy looks over at me and kind of shakes his head and I'm shaking my head back at him going, huh?
And we haven't missed a beat, we're still dumping pots to beat the band.
And he looks over at me and goes "Well, you know, I'm a motor cross rider and I've had my arm dislocated a million times and I had -- you know, I'm sure I can get it back in."
And I'm like, "okay". Because I don't know if you've ever had a body part out but life just isn't right until it's back in.
It just isn't. Nothing's comfortable. And so I am going to completely believe - right on, you know.
So he was way over on the other side of the wheelhouse and he'd look at me.
And then he'd come over and he'd grab my arm and he'd go .
And I'd go, "Uh-uh. That didn't work."
So we tried that three times. The third time, I said, "Let's stop that."
So something they used to have on these bigger boats when they went out was these huge medical kits.
And they had detailed instructions on what to do with certain injuries, and they used to even have drugs on them until the guys really got into them, and so --
so there aren't many of those anymore.
And so this guy didn't have one, and he called a buddy over there and said, "Yeah. I've got a person injured, and it's a dislocated shoulder. Could you open up the manual and read to me about a dislocated shoulder."
And this guy started, "Heh, heh, heh. Yeah, sure."
He goes, "Oh, man, that guy must really be whining, huh?"
And Paul looks over at me, and he goes back and goes, "Well, thank God, it's a woman, and she isn't saying a word."
So he opens it up, and he goes, "This is what it says in big black letters: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RELOCATE AT SEA.
Evacuate the victim immediately."
Paul looks over at me; I said, "Tell him to keep on reading."
I was three days from Adak and then that was a helicopter ride to Anchorage from there, so there really wasn't any help there.
So he starts reading and they had a couple different procedures for trying to put it back in.
And the first thing said this process will take anywhere from five minutes to 32 hours and the victim will have to be totally knocked out to re -- put the bone back in. I'm going, "Whoa! Bad news!"
So he starts reading. One technique was to lay on a table and lean the shoulder over and tie a weight to it and lay there and relax until the muscle could let it out far enough to go back in.
Well, this boat was pitching around like a ridiculous amount, and that wasn't gonna work.
So I said, "Tell him to keep on reading. Let's try something else."
So they had another procedure where I would lay on my stomach and he would put his foot in my arm pit and just slowly traction the arm out until it would go back in.
-- And my hand goes Foomp! whoom!
And we both look each other and I went, "Yeah! Whoo!"
And in it went, and, by God, it was fine.
And we tied it up and I saw a doctor a month later and it was pretty incredible.
But, whoo!, I'll tell you what –– relaxation has its place.