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What It Takes To Be A Bering Sea Crabber

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

There are six requirements required to work on a crab boat in the north Bering Sea, stamina, perseverance, accountability, agility, teamwork, and common sense.  Having a boat captain that knows what he or she is doing is paramount for success during a crab season.  The captain’s responsibility, above all, puts the safety of the crew on the top of his or her list.

Not having a rock-solid mindset, required to be a good crab fisherman, is a recipe for disappointment and a danger to not only to oneself, but of the crew, as well.  The idea that crab fishing on a large vessel is not that difficult is not living in realville.

Wearing proper thermal clothing, coupled with a life preserver in sub zero weather is necessary for all high seas personnel.  Keeping a good supply of vitamin C is essential.

First timers undergo scrutiny by the captain as well as the crew.  Sometimes the crew rides the greenhorn for hours if the newbie is not carrying his or her weight of responsibility.  Every greenhorn should know that one does not make promises without upholding them.

Being a crabber in this environment is a gutsy occupation and if not prepared for exhausting seasonal work, then one needs to look for another occupation.  Other vessels operate in better climates, and do not present life-threatening situations.


To ride the treacherous north Bering Seas requires good sea legs, not to mention the ability to have eyes that can scope 360-degree surroundings at all times.  Setting strings of crab pots, and then making the return trip, picking up filled pots requires hours of non-rest, and depending on the amount of pots set, might require the working crew to stay awake for hours on end.  Sleep deprivation, as well as not having breaks, is a given.

If the boat is successful in filling its holding tanks, it will head back to port to unload, and the cycle starts again.  It is usually during this time when crewmembers get their needed rest.

Sometimes ice plays havoc with the boat and its equipment.  If not kept in check, the boat can capsize due to ice buildup and this sometimes requires the crew to work chipping off the ice in between setting and retrieving the crab pots.

Perseverance and accountability

Setting a goal is important.  If a person is fortunate to earn thousands of dollars, savings can be a factor later down the road. Being a responsible person is not spending it all in one place.  The life of a crabber is either short, or it can last for years.

Having mental toughness goes without exception.  Dropping and picking up the pots can last for hours and hours, and if one is not in physical shape to endure the harshness of the Bering Sea then one is not able to contribute to the crew.

Toward the end of a crabbing season, there is a good chance that ice is going to be a problem, and this can be mentally challenging for any crabber.  With ice weighing down the boat, do not expect to get any sleep for days.

Be prepared to account for your actions.  If one makes a mistake, admit it and go forward with the task.  One thing a captain cannot accept is when a deckhand makes a mistake and not taking responsibility for his or her actions.


The key word here is mental preparedness.  An accident aboard a crab vessel is high, and it can come at any moment during rough seas, or even at the dock.

Being able to jump in any direction at any time is necessary.  Whether during rough weather conditions, or even not, a crane operator lifting and setting a 700-800 pound crap pot onto the hydraulic launcher can be tricky and dangerous, and one must move quickly to avoid injury.  This is equally true when stacking the pots for the journey home.

When a pot slides into the sea, one must be cognizant of his footing when casting the rope and buoy overboard.  If the coiled rope catches ones foot, and if not immediately freed, it will result in a certain death or serious injury.

Thirty to fifty foot swells is commonplace in the Bering Sea.  When crabbing, know beforehand where to grab hold to prevent going overboard into the freezing waters when giant waves wash onto the deck.

Flying objects, such as a hook or broken cable, is an everyday occurrence, and one should keep alert at all times.  During rough seas, large heavy rolling prep tables can be a danger.


Not being able to get along with a member, or members of the crew, can be a disadvantage to oneself as well as the crew.  The present of ill will can be distressing, and this jeopardizes ones job.  Having the right attitude is everything when working with others that share in your dreams.  Crabbers work to make money, and earning a good income is dependent on several factors, finding crab and working fast and efficiently with safety in mind.

If involved in a disagreement with another crew, calmly resolve any issues.  If the issue is not resolved then confer with the deck boss for the next course of action.  Fighting on board is grounds for termination.

There are many things to do when working on the deck.  If one completes his or her assignment, then find something else, even if it is helping another deckhand.  If one finds that two or three can do the job, then find something else to do for the captain likes this hustle.  For a newbie, the captain is watching your every move.

Common sense

Without exception, working in arguably one of the most dangerous occupation the world requires a great deal of common sense.  Losses of limbs, blindness, cuts, bruises, and sometimes loss of life are trademarks of the Bering Sea crab fisherman.  Keeping alert, not only for oneself, but also of other crew personnel is the mark of a good worker.

Avoiding confrontation with another crewmember is not only good advice but it lessens the possibility of experiencing hardship both mentally as well as physically during the short exhausting season.

Disrespecting the captain is not a wise thing to do because this will cause either resentment or, not hiring one back for the next season.  Keeping in good graces with the captain is always a good policy.

For the greenhorn, taking traditional teasing is something one must take in stride.  If one has thin skin, then do not attempt to become a crabber.





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