Diary of a POCF: The Secret Life
“Diary of a Partner of a Commercial Fisherman” was inspired by Santa Barbara fish wife Margaret Holden Eaton, author of Diary of a Sea Captain’s Wife: Tales of Santa Cruz Island. Diary of a POCF is a limited series written while Jason fished sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska. I hoped to share the uncertainties, frustrations, and joys of loving a fisherman to give you a closer look at wild-caught seafood and the people behind each catch.
I hate to sound insensitive, but after I kiss Jason goodbye at the airport, I’m not sad anymore. I actually feel great. It’s a defense mechanism that I’ve perfected since our first season together. That first year, I freaked out for his safety, our relationship fizzling due to long distance, or Jason meeting another woman on a boat (because it happens!).
Reaching a breaking point and realizing I couldn’t control the uncontrollable, I started focusing on myself, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go. Since then, each salmon season has felt like my own personal summer camp. Because the secret bonus of being a partner of a commercial fisherman is alone time, and that’s when the fun begins.
For the past five summers, I road trip between friends’ homes for a few days or even a few weeks. I set my laptop on a guest room desk to work during the day and then hang with my peeps later. These summers have become sacred to me, and as much as I dread Jason leaving, I look forward to them all year.
But let’s get real — there are severe downsides to a fisherman being gone, the main one is, how should I say this, being horny AF, and I know this all too well. Our first year together, Jason and I dated long distance for seven months before going to Bristol Bay. Until then, we managed to visit each other every few weeks, but it wasn’t until we faced a three-month separation that I realized how much I sacrificed by dating him. I was 33, it was summertime in Santa Barbara, and hot guys were everywhere. I couldn’t help but tell Jason that choosing to be with him was costing more than I had planned (and he better appreciate it, dammit!). Thankfully, my words sunk in, and we soon discovered a Clone-A-Willy at the Adult Store on State Street. (Look it up. It’s worth a peek.)
Though this year, I’m addressing my sexual side a little differently, thanks to a friend’s recommendation of Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. The book helps navigate your “sexual responses and desires” to see what makes you… tick. And the best part is, all this learning makes me feel more connected to Jason because when I learn what turns me on, our sex life will be that much better. (Plus, there’s always a vibrator.)
Strangely, there was a summer I spent absolutely pissed at Jason. Like, “why am I with this man” pissed. I think this was the summer before we got engaged, and I was antsy, wondering if our relationship would move to the next level. So, when he took off for Alaska that year, I held on to those unresolved feelings and never brought them up. In hindsight, I realize that not only is communication key in a relationship — as we all know — but communicating feelings before your fisherman leaves will give you both more peace because you’ll either:
Resolve the issue.
Use that time apart to decide what works best for you and in your relationship.
Or waste time being angry all season like I did. (I do not recommend this.)
I know it can feel scary to speak your truth but living with a fire in your heart because you’re questioning your relationship is like a mosquito buzzing near you can’t seem to catch.
The takeaway? Time apart is a tremendous gift! It allows you to grow as individuals, to reunite more refreshed and ready to show up for each other. Alone time offers the space to check in with yourself and reassess what you want out of life and your relationship. It allows you to grow separately, not apart.
There’s a difference.