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!)