Yes, the day-to-day work aboard a crab ship is harrowing. But for those that choose this job, believe it or not, it can settle into a routine. "It's really only scary the first season or two," Corey Arnold, a crab fisherman and photographer, told HowStuffWorks. "Once you survive 40-foot seas, you start to realize that the boat is bulletproof."
Before the ship leaves port, the crewmen visit the butcher, stock up at Costco and plan their meals. Fresh vegetables are in short supply onboard (which reflects Alaska's produce selection in the fall more than it does the limitations of the ship).
Once the men leave port, the work schedule is erratic. They typically spend a day or so traveling to the area where they intend to set out the crab pots. The next three to 10 days may require 18- to 20-hour shifts. The empty crab pots are baited and dropped into the water and marked with buoys. After all the crab pots are dropped, the crew circles back to start picking them up -- hoping they're full.
While the crab boats have a particular number of crab they're permitted to catch before the end of the season, the ships return to port several times during one trip. The time a boat spends at sea is directly related to its size. Just as the ship can't carry too much equipment without capsizing, it also cannot carry too much crab. During the trip back to port, typically every week-and-a-half to two weeks, the deckhands sleep, watch movies, read and make any necessary repairs to the ship. At port, they resupply the boat with groceries.
Up next, get a taste for community life aboard a crab fishing vessel.