On the Water

Fisherman’s Knife

A good, sharp knife is an essential tool for fishermen working on the fish deck of a catcher-processor. Aboard the Alaska Ocean, each deckhand carries a “Vicky,” shorthand for a Victorinox knife. This example is 7.5 inches long, including the handle. It is used for mending nets, cutting lines, and for general duties like cutting up cardboard for the on-board incinerator. The holder for this knife has weathered a lot of use, evidenced by the tape repairs.

In a June 2007 interview with deck boss Brent Walter (who was in his twelfth year working on the Alaska Ocean) and deckhands Ben Boyok and Matt Prebezac (who had been with the Alaska Ocean for seven years and two years, respectively), they agreed that net repair was the hardest part of the job. The main difficulty involves learning to conceptualize the repair. Because the net mesh is so huge, it takes time and experience to understand how to make the repair correctly. At the time, the Alaska Ocean was fishing in waters about 50 miles off the coast of Washington State and using a mid-water trawl. Repairs to the nets were minimal. The deckhands expected to do more net repair later in the season when the vessel moved to the Bering Sea, where the nets get torn from bottom-fishing.

The Alaska Ocean is a 376-foot-long vessel in the Seattle-based catcher-processor fleet. Workers catch, process, package, and freeze groundfish—mostly pollock and Pacific whiting—in the Bering Sea and in the waters off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

ID Number:
Victorinox Swiss Army
Place Made:
Monroe, Connecticut
metal; plastic
ca 2007
knife: 7 1/2 x 3/4 x 3/8 in.; 19.05 x 1.905 x .9525 cm
Alaska Ocean thru Jeff Hendricks