The Kindness of Others

It would be an understatement to say that the last few months have been trying. In fact, it would be an understatement to say the last few months have been an hellish mash of ulcer-inducing failures and sleepless nights. As it turns out, starting a fishing operation is not for the uncertain or faint of heart.

What initially seemed like a great investment soon turned into a nightmare as one problem after another reared its ugly head. Electrical problems, hydraulic problems, bearings, generators, and the list went on and on. Days turned into weeks which turned into months and it seemed like the repairs would never end.

Zed trying to stay positive after a day of grinding rust

The problem was, we had already purchased the boat and started putting money into improvements when we realized how much work the boat would need. By that time it was too late to back out. The boat was in Alabama and we knew we wouldn’t be able to sell it there “as is.” We had already received and spent two generous loans from a family member and a friend for boat improvements, so walking away from the project wasn’t an option. Our only option was to press forward and try to get the boat in working order and back to the West Coast, where it could start fishing and making us money. After refinancing all our vehicles, maxing out all our credit cards, then getting new credit cards, we were running out of funds. Our home hadn’t gone up in value since we bought it, so refinancing or selling weren’t possibilities. Banks aren’t giving out “start up” loans to new businesses. We started to feel hopeless about the situation.

But every time we started thinking our goose was cooked, someone would step in and help us out. Multiple friends and family members stepped in and loaned us whatever they could afford. Total strangers heard Zed’s story and gave him amazing deals on parts. The owner of the shipyard, Joe, realized the situation we were in and vowed to help us in any way he could. He provided his own time and labor, traded with Zed for parts and supplies, and gave Zed use of his tools.

The Shipyard Crew: Joe Gazzier, Zed, Victor, Kevin, Wayne, Kelly, and Jimmy

Two friends, Rick and Justice, flew down to Alabama from Alaska to help drive the boat around to the west coast. When more and more problems delayed their departure, they stuck around and helped Zed. When Rick and Justice realized the boat wouldn’t be ready to depart anytime soon, they could have dropped it and flown back to Alaska, but they stayed for two and a half more months. Day after day of waking up at dawn and working in the shipyard till night, these guys stuck it out, knowing we couldn’t afford to pay them. They gave over two months of labor and advice and moral support, just because they wanted to help and didn’t want to see us fail.

When the boat was finally ready to depart, we realized that Zed would need to fly home to make some more money. Rick and Justice offered to take the boat as far as they could and they flew in another friend, Mark, to help them make the journey. The three of them drove the boat from Alabama to Panama, through miserable weather, and through the stress and chaos (and near collisions) of the Panama Canal.

Mark and Dora the dog with the deck load of groceries, preparing for departure. Yes, those are giant Mardi Gras beads in the foreground (when in New Orleans... )

After safely reaching the Pacific Ocean, Rick and Mark were out of time and needed to fly back to Alaska, but Justice decided to stay on for the last leg of the trip. Zed flew down to Panama City to meet the boat as it came through the canal, and our dear friend Remo cut his vacation in Switzerland short to fly all the way across the world and lend a hand.

Remo and Justice, Zed's crew, in Panama City

Zed, Justice, and Remo just departed Panama City today on the F/V Robin Blue. They head North, for what will hopefully be an uneventful and “quick” jaunt to Washington State.

This is where she's been anchored for the last week, right next to the shipping lane at the base of the Panama Canal.

The point I want to make with this post is that we have had so many individuals help us out in so many ways throughout this whole process. Some were close friends and family, and some were total strangers, but everyone was cheering us on. I think that one of the reasons for this widespread support is because, essentially, we are trying to realize the “American Dream.” Tired of working for other people and barely paying our bills, we made the decision to take a risk with the hope that if we work hard enough we can better ourselves and become more self-reliant. I think that this struggle resonates with most people in some way or another: some share the dream, while others have been in our shoes and already succeeded in realizing their dreams.

Whatever their motivation for supporting us, I just want to give a great big THANK YOU to everyone who has assisted us in the last few months, whether it be financially, morally, or otherwise. We NEVER would have made it this far without everyone’s assistance. Unfortunately, we still have a long ways to go before we are “out of the woods.” I can’t yet say how this venture will turn out, but no matter the outcome I can walk away from this all with a renewed faith in humanity.

(as Zed, Remo, and Justice spend the next few weeks making their way up the coast of Central America and North America, please wish them safe travels and good weather!)

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21 thoughts on “The Kindness of Others

  1. What a touching story! I had no idea there have been so many roadblocks. My faith in humanity is boosted just readiing about your journey and I have faith that you will reap the rewards of your trust. Way to go you two – you are an inspiration to all who are carrying a dream.
    Many blessings for safe travels and good weather to carry everyone safely home. Would love to come see this beauty when she docks in Bellingham
    We love you guys. Ella

  2. Congratulations on finally having the ROBIN BLUE heading home to Washington!! We have been following your blog since some time last year. We can relate to the stress you both have been under as we too did a major overhaul on a pleasure vessel we purchased in late 2010. I have to keep reminding myself that all of the “blood, sweat and tears” will be worth it in the end! Check out our blog at http://www.mv-shad.blogspot.com
    Congrats again!
    Dave & Misty M/V SHAD

    • Thanks Misty,
      It’s always nice to hear from readers who have been following my blog! I just jumped over to your blog and read a few posts… very nice! Your boat looks lovely too. I will be a regular reader of your blog from now on.
      Thanks again for your comment,
      Robin

  3. Robin, this post literally made my eyes well up with tears of gratitude for all of these people who have stepped in and offered assistance along the way of this incredible journey. Your writing about them and describing what they’ve done was so beautiful! It’s an amazing story. Keep these blog posts coming! This journey is so interesting to follow! 🙂 Also loved all the pics and seeing the faces to go with the names. Nice job!

    • Thanks Jen,
      I really think that it takes a village to raise a child, and it also takes a village just to live a satisfying and meaningful life.
      Life just kind of falls flat if you don’t have deep friendships with people who are willing to stick their neck out for you.
      Although it’s not a good feeling owing people money, it is very nice knowing that we have so many great friends looking out for us. I just hope we will have the opportunity to repay the favor someday.
      Zed and the boat are currently in Nicaraguan waters. So far they have had pretty decent weather, so let’s hope it stays that way!
      -Robin

  4. I just signed up for your blog. I was born in Bellingham and grew up in Alger. My son, Jaymz, is a fishes out of Westport, where I live. Looking forward to future blogs and good and positive thoughts are being sent your way!

    • Nice to meet you Cherie!
      Our boat will be crabbing out of Westport (when it gets back in the states), so you will probably see it around. I wonder if my husband knows your son?
      Thanks for subscribing, and for your well-wishes!
      -Robin

  5. Last night I left you a belated comment on your “headed home” entry. Now I have just fininshed rereading your “kindness” entry, in the more coherent light of late morning. Again, all I can say is keep up the good work. For this oldster, who remembers you as a toddler and your sister as a baby, coming by with your mother Lynn to our South Fork farmstead, it is more than satisfying to see young people giving their all in pursuit of a dream, not settling for a humdrum life of mere security. You’re right, commercial fishing is not for the feint of heart– one reason I did not pursue it as a career!

    • Thank you Paul, for your thoughtful comments. To be completely honest, I feel like Zed is the risk taker and I am just tagging along. This whole process has been absolutely terrifying to me, but it has forced me out of my comfort zone and I think that is a good thing.
      I hope you and Victoria are happy and healthy!
      -Robin
      p.s. I have been enjoying your book and I feel like I’m getting a good history lesson at the same time, Thanks!

  6. “I really think that it takes a village to raise a child, and it also takes a village just to live a satisfying and meaningful life.”
    This rings the truth ! I myself really love how there are so many people from all walks of life and different backgrounds who are willing to go out of there way it seams at times to help others no madder how big or small. Either with a few leftover $ from there own “paycheck to paycheck” lifestyle or those long after hour workday’s and nights . Or the extra hours put in watching the kids while some of us are away doing what we must to keep the bill collectors off our backs. I realize the only way to live a healthy sustainable lifestyle is to go out and do what needs to be done to accomplish that . I want my children to grow up with morals and good ethics that will help them on there own journey. It takes more then me just being a good parent to do this. It takes other people in our lives to help us grow and reach our goals in life. It really shows how amazing people can really be!
    As for these next few months this is more then just a “summer job” for me . I hope to become apart of the lifestyle the comes along with being a “Fishing family” . To find myself my place in this world.Where I can be in charge and in control of my life’s outcome. Where I come from now my children will have no options of having a better life and will unfortunately be worse off then I am now if things continue to even slightly go in the same direction.
    I think reading the story’s of people’s life’s and what they share with the world is amazing and I want to thank you for putting your family’s story out there for us all to enjoy during these endless hours of getting to know people from all over the world !
    well off to continue the Journey !
    Tom Jr

    • Thanks Tom Jr,
      I’m glad this post struck a chord. The great thing about the commercial fishing lifestyle is the closeness of the commercial fishing community. I can’t think of another industry that promotes closeness and community like fishing does. Even fishermen that compete with each other on the water will help each other out on land. Because of the difficulties, hard work and uniqueness of the industry, I think there is a bond that connects fishermen all over the country/world. I know that I have made many friends from all over through this blog and through facebook groups for fishing families.
      I think that if you show enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard, you will find people who will give you a chance.
      Thanks for reading my blog and Good luck!
      -Robin

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