A job on a prawns boat – my first impression

cook

From paradise to … prawns fishing.

So, you want to work in prawns fishing?! – Yep. – Have you ever worked on a boat? – Nope. – Do you get seasick? – I don’t really know. Maybe… – Can you even cook? – Nope.

Hard, almost hilarious laughter.

You are crazy.

Yes, I wanted to work on a prawns boat as a cook for the banana prawns season – meaning being out of sea for almost three months. Maybe some people had a better idea of the kind of job I was gonna go for and just looked at me in doubt. It’s true, I didn’t really know what I was to expect. I had never really been on a boat before. I never worked in a kitchen and I didn’t know if I was made for this fishermen environment. But frankly, I didn’t care. I remember my meditation teacher said:

Go for the things that seem to be the most difficult. There might be something there for you.

So I never really got worried that this might not be the right job for me. I was approaching this with a very open mind-set: what ever happens, happens. All I knew were some facts I got out of google which I put together here.

So, I planned to just go to Darwin and show up at the harbour around mid march to look for a job. But it turned out that my Facebook contacts served me well. I gained the contact to one of the crews from Raptis fleet, the biggest company out here. A short Skype interview followed and soon after I was in contact with the fleet management for paperwork. The lady was very nice and the image of the company seemed pretty good. It all went uncomplicated, and smoothly like going with the flow. I got my first assignment promptly: send in the food stores order. For this, I received the list of last season.

And that’s when it hit me.

Getting cold feet: okay, the cooking might be a problem

Like a slap in the face I just realised: OMG, I will need to cook!!

cooking

This instant fear went deep in my guts. I haven’t made a meal by myself for months. I couldn’t even imagine holding a knife in my hand, let alone cooking three dishes a day for seven people!

At that time I was still in Indonesia with my italian honey who just knew too much about making food. He would shake his head in doubt when I explained him how I would make a certain dish. He just made me realize, I had no clue about cooking.

I think he was explaining to me several times how to make a good tomato sauce and a simple pasta. I didn’t stop asking him until I even recorded his instructions. I wrote down all the stuff I used to know when I was still a student: Okay, lasagna, mashed potatoes, pasta bolognese….mhhh what else?

But what really saved me was my list of downloaded recipes. In the end my initial fear turned out to be my greatest strength. To my crew members I seemed to deserve the name they gave me: “cookie.”

Brisbane Pearl

Nice to meet you “Brisbane Pearl” – I’m not sure if we are gonna be friends

I left the Indonesian paradise and flew over to Australia with short stops in Darwin and Cairns and an 11 hour bus ride until Karumba.

Karumba is a tiny town at the Normanton river flowing into the gulf of Carpentaria. It only gets busy when the fishermen arrive. The city itself inhabits only about 200 people.

I arrived at the point on the 23rd of march and felt quite excited.

I was welcomed by the first mate and taken to the “Brisbane Pearl”, one of thirteen prawn boats of the Raptis fleet and my home for the next three months.

I got a little tour through the boat to understand how the boat was structured.

Basically, there are three floors. The upper floor is the deck with the skipper cabin. The lower floor all the work and living happens. And the “basement” consist of a huge freezer.

Galley

Inside of the boat, after passing the toilet and a shower you get to the heart of the boat. The “galley”, the kitchen and sort of living room connects to the crew cabins, made for two to three people.

I felt rather uncomfortable inside. The main reason for this was the set temperature in the galley and with that, also in the crew cabins. Coming from an average temperature of about 30 degrees outside and high humidity, the Air-Con regulated inside felt like a freezer. It was only bearable with a thick sweater and socks and even then you would still be cold just sitting.

I also had to deal with a shared cabin where my whole stuff just made it into the available space of two shelves. My privacy ended with the limits of my own tiny bed. Also on deck, there was really nowhere to escape, nowhere to chill. Everything was kind of wet, rusty and smelly.

And the general folk walking around here were of a certain kind. I could see the roughness of the sea and the hard work on their faces and on their sun-dried skin. Rusty, worn out, dirty, tough guys and also girls (very few) were creating that certain fishermen vibe.

I had problems to understand that Australian fisherman gibberish and besides there wasn’t a lot of warm talk anyway (so it seemed at first). Inside, I was laughing hard at my naive self. On the outside, I was quiet.

The truth is, I was shitting myself. I felt lost. I felt like an alien to this place. I couldn’t imagine me working here at all. Maybe I was a little princess after all?

Leaving the harbour – excitement replaces anxiety

After a couple of days it got a lot better. People were helping me with the galley and showing me around. I found myself getting more comfortable with structuring the kitchen and finding my place in the crew. Even the bed didn’t seem so bad after all. Besides getting the galley and food ready, I was helping folding all those boxes. But it was nice because the crew did it all together.

boxing

But I really got excited when we left the harbour for “sea trials”. That’s when the boat is getting checked out on the ocean, if everything works and so on. It was only a day but like a big test for everybody. That’s when I also cooked the first time. Spaghetti bolognese…not so bad.

I did feel a little motion sick but luckily only that one time. I remember I was thinking; that’s how it’s gonna be now, staying on the ocean. And still, l wasn’t so sure what to expect when we really get out there…

So far to my first impression.

To be continued…

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