I had just hopped a freight train to Bangor, Maine, from the Framingham Conrail Railroad yards near Boston, Massachusetts. I was tired, thirsty and hungry! I bailed off my boxcar and walked to the fisherman’s docks along the Penobscot River. I started asking various boaters in the small harbor-like area if I could do work for twenty dollars for food. I had asked relentlessly for well over an hour without getting one offer. I had given up! I started walking back toward the mission on Cedar Street when I heard a voice behind me say, “Hey, are you looking for a bit o’ work mate”? I replied, “Yes sir”! He then stated, “Come back here mate, I have something that you can help me with”.
This guy was an Aussie. He had fished all over the world with his small fishing boat outfit. He stated that he had overheard me asking one of his crew-mates that I needed an hour or two worth of work while he was below deck on his boat. He said, “I hate seeing a man go hungry and I’m going to give you something that you can do and then pay you”. I was given a five gallon plastic bucket and a small hand brush along with strong smelling chemicals inside. “Start up at the front-end of my boat mate and scrub’er down”, was his reply. After I had scrubbed hard for roughly two hours, I was so tired. I was given $30.00 cash to eat on. Wow! This sure made my day!
I walked briskly to the corner store on the edge of Cedar Street where I bought a hot microwavable burrito, bagged chips and a strawberry soda pop. I sat down on a bench in front of the store and ate. Ah, this tasted so good being that I had gone roughly 38 hours without having one calorie pass down my gullet and into my gizzard! Mm mm! As soon as I ate my fill, I walked back down to the railroad switching yards. There I set up my camp. It hadn’t taken me long to gather fire wood, and start a nice camp fire. As I sat in my dome tent, I thought about how great it would be to drink a few cold beers! After letting my fire settle a tad, I walked back to the store on the corner and went inside, this time for cold, refreshing beer. Then back to camp I walked. Ah, how once again my taste buds cheered in joy! This time I bought Budweiser beer instead of my usual cheap Milwaukee’s Best brand, being that I now had extra money on me. I drank several cold, refreshing beers as I warmed my hands by my camp fire. It had not been long when I heard a voice say, “Is that you mate?” I right away knew the voice. It was the guy who let me clean the front-end of his boat for $30.00. I said, “Yes sir, it’s me!”
He walked into camp and plopped himself down on a small, broken fir stump. I looked around and found a small log of my own to sit on. He said that he had followed me to the store and had seen where I had set camp. He then asked all sorts of questions of me like, why did I ride freight trains, why did I prefer sleeping outside in a tent, instead of getting a house or apartment; things of this nature. He liked me because of how “unstable” I was in that I had no permanent place. Once he found out that I more or less was a transient and I would work anywhere, he then asked if I would be interested in working for him on his fishing boat as a slimer for room and board. I had done sliming work many times and places before while up in Alaska from Dutch Harbor to Nunivak Island. It was no biggie to me whether or not I got all nasty from sliming fish in preparing them for sale. To be a slimer on his boat would be a dream come true at this point! I would be able to travel and work at the same time!
I was then told he was going up north. He knew people in the township of Godthaab, Greenland, and this is where we would do most our fishing work. After boarding his boat I was introduced to his entire crew. Everybody on his boat was like family. After fishing with these guys several weeks, I had become part of their family. We all drank beer, so it was no secret to anybody that all of us had some form of alcoholic problem. This was great, because if another person was feeling a bit shaky, a beer was never too far away to get one back going again!
This is the harbor of Nuuk Godthaab, Greenland where we offloaded most our fish catch.
We fished for Herring and sometimes other illegal fish species in very small amounts. Though they always hated illegal fishing, they only did it during really tough times! Only enough illegal fish were needed to keep fuel in the tanks. This was only done two times to my knowledge, and only with about 75 pounds of fish. We would sell our fish to larger canneries at various ports along the Greenland and Iceland coasts. These canneries would then process the fish further more by filleting, then freezing them.
This was not too far from Nuuk Harbor, Greenland.
After being with these guys for several months, I gave in to the boredom. I debarked their outfit in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I eventually made my way back into the freight train scene by autumn. I then made my way out to the west coast of North America along the Oregon and northern California coastlines. I had found a bit of fishing work there, but then grew quickly tired of the fishing scene so back into my normal way of life as a hobo once again I fell!
I miss working on fishing boats every now and then. Perhaps one day I may wash another boat for $30.00 and catch a ride this time to Australia or even better yet, Antarctica!