75 days on a Prawns Traveller

hammock on boat

These are my entries from Facebook starting day 6. I have written about my first impression and some facts about prawns fishing in previous posts. The first week was hell. You can find a detailed post here. After that I started to tell about my life on facebook…

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Day 6

I’m still alive after going through hell, 5 days with non-stop accord work and very little sleep, for some of us not more than 5 hours in total. Picking prawns, boxing, transferring in the -40 degree freezer, boxes, picking….. 24 hours, hardly any break.This is a very delicate situation were everyone reaches his limit physically, mentally, emotionally. I did as well. I never thought that this could be that hard… in three cases even too hard, they couldn’t stay the physical and mental pain anymore and left yesterday and got replaced. I thought about it as well but i decided to stay. Fortunately, I’m still treated like a girl and get a tiny bit more rest than the others… I know this will go on for another two weeks before we slow down. And I’m really looking forward to the point where i can actually enjoy the beauty of the ocean. I never knew how lack of sleep can kill you like that. I think this is one of the hardest jobs in the world. But i asked for an adventure… well, this is definitely one. 

Day 9

News from the front: what is worse than working until exhaustion? Working with 3m waves! The good news: unloading the first catch we did slow down a bit and everyone got to sleep again. Plus even though i feel like on a rollercoaster, i did not get seasick at all yet! Today our engine broke down and a helicopter dropped down some parts to fix it. This is like a movie! I’m feeling better. Also because the new team works quite well. Maybe it’s also because there is now another girl on board. Her name is Deb.

Day 10 

Sometimes the madness is replaced by ridiculous moments: When i see Deb walking around like a maniac and saying “it is what it is”; the fact that they call me “cookie” and love the food i cook (really?!); the skipper who never seems to sleep. Who is stuck in the skippers cabin only to be fed once in a while.

I try not to look like an idiot but most of the time the Australian fisherman gibberish is very hard for me to understand even though I think I’m pretty good in English. There is also something positive about being in the hard nature with all the waves and dirt on the boat. It makes you realize again how great things are when you’ve taken much for granted. I never knew how much relieved I could be just to mark and fold boxes, clean the kitchen or bake a cake. Then you forget for a second the massacre in the process room, the many fish that die, the yelling and screaming, wet hands and feet, sore skin and the worst: working day and night…and i can only write this because there are no prawns in the net right now.

Day 14 

From hell to heaven to being stuck in the open sea.  After the first five days it felt like a total relief not to catch too many prawns. We were having days and days of getting back that lack of sleep. It really felt like heaven. But now it’s day 14 and the boat is not moving anymore. Last night the propeller kinda fell off and we are waiting to get towed to cairns for repair. The guys were laughing hard this morning about it… in fact it’s not funny at all. It means for at least two weeks no fishing in the peak of the season. And when we get back the chances decrease to get a good catch that pays off for the hard work (well at least for the endless first five days)… guess its bad luck. So what to do? Guess we’re getting wasted now with some vodka punch….

Day 22 

Finally got to Cairns after a week of towing and boredom. It’s been exactly one month since i left Cairns. I never thought I would come back by boat. We’ll be here for a couple of days until the boat is fixed and ready to go again. Until then, freedom in civilisation! Best part: i got my own room!

Day 24 
Days on shore feels like a family trip. Only that i feel like the mom to actually tell them not to do this and that… those fishermen are grown up kids unable to handle money and freedom. Geeezzz. Yes, you guys know what I’m talking about!
Day 27 
Back on the boat! After one week we’re going back out on the ocean! It was a nice relaxing week in Cairns but it’s also nice to be back at “home”. Now that my roommate brought his dead friends ashes (supposed to bring luck!) in the room we better catch those 50 tons of prawns to make the trip worthwhile!
Day 31
Back in the game! First day catching some prawns again after almost three weeks. Looks like a lot but in two hours actually less then half a ton processed. But anything is better than nothing. One ton counts for about 200$ in my pocket… Oh well.
Day 37
There are some strange things caught up in the net. I feel like a child again full of curiosity when all these creatures are brought up to light (mostly dead unfortunately). These ones got back to the water alive though after a little fotoshoot with me – well, the lobster not. That is one of the greatest things, you can’t get fish any more fresh than here. But also the sunsets are amazing and i saw dolphins in front of the boat jumping! And a huge turtle! And since we are in Australia, of course also many sharks. Mostly small ones. By the way, the snake I’m holding is one of the most poisonous, really scared the shit out of me holding it like that.
Day 43
We don’t catch a lot these days just some more weird creatures…
Day 49
Good news – the vibe is quite good on the boat, it was a torture before, but – bad news – we’re the second last boat on the fleet with a total catch of about 50 ton. The top boat got over 130 ton. And it doesn’t look like we’re having anymore big days. I mean it’s like looking for a needle… Oh well, guess you have to make the best out if it! Fingers crossed for a miracle we catch that needle or (and I’m also okay with that) let’s have an early finish of the season. I’m already used to it but it would be nice to get out of this washing machine… the sea is all rough these last couple of days.
Day 58
Did i ever mention that this job is really tough? If there would be a list of the hardest jobs in the world it’d be definitely on it. Let me tell you about a normal fishing day: Starts at 1am processing for about 2-3hrs, go to bed for 2hrs, get up at 5am, working again for 2hrs and make breakfast, go to bed at 9am, get up at 11am, work and make lunch, go to bed at 2pm, get up at 5pm, work make dinner, go to bed at 10pm, wake up at 12am… and it starts all over… (that was my whole last week) – this routine makes me go nuts! And it’s nothing compared to the big days in the beginning where you couldn’t even think about sleeping… I’m glad we’re now on the way to Darwin for unload and refuel.
Day 59
Short break in Darwin before we hit the wide isolation of the ocean and no internet for the last time again. Looks like we’re going into extension… grrr. Somehow the lucky straw was dismissed for this boat for good. Mhhh, im wondering what good will come out of it for me?! At least Kelly – one of the deckhands – always makes me smile.
Day 67
All i want is go back to shore. We don’t catch anything so we all only hang around on this boat prison which is in quite rough sea right now…
Day 72
Two more days! It feels really like the last meters of a marathon. You know its not far but you just suffer the most. Time is going like a snail…
Day 75 of 75 days in prawns fishing
Very tired but…. MADE IT! 2 1/2 months torture is over! 70 tons of prawns processed (which is really bad, most got over 100), probably earned much less than expected (the last cook walked away with 28K from 160 tons), hopefully around 10K. Survived 66 days on open sea with no privacy what so ever, prepared about 200 meals, crying only 5 times, seasick only once but no throwing up, saw 3 turtles, many many dolphins, some beautiful sunsets and learning how to live and work on a rollercoaster. Worst experience: first week with no sleep and crew drama. Best experience: mhh i don’t know. I enjoyed the few times being on shore for grocery shopping ; -P. I never do that again. This was really dirty work, but it was good to get tougher – physically and mentally. Now, five more days here for refit work and then on my way back home to Germany. Yeahhhhhh!!!!


The final question: would I do it again?
I made the money I expected and I worked harder than I thought. It is a very hard question to answer. In terms of the money you are able to earn it is quite tempting but you suffer a lot for it. It was a crazy experience and I think it was good to have gone through with it. But my answer is no. I will never do that again.

One thought on “75 days on a Prawns Traveller

  1. Hi, it sounds very interesting, demanding of course hope you can look back and laugh about it though…. Any tips for helping me to find this sort of work? P.s it was a nice little read.

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