The Outlook Interview: Josephine Fagan Talks to Cecilia Cassidy; Josephine Fagan, 36, has worked as a cook on fishing boats in the Bering Sea off the coast of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska for the past four years. She has logged in nearly 8,000 hours of sailing time, mostly in king crab fishing and has earned her master's license. Born in Loudoun County, Va., she attended Loudoun County High School and graduated from William and Mary College in 1970. After graduation, she worked for seven years as a social worker in York County. In 1978, she traveled to Hawaii, where she lived for a year and a half. In 1980, she sailed with friends from Hawaii to Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, one of the larger islands in the Aleutian Island chain. Dutch Harbor, 1,000 miles southwest of Anchorage, is one of the major fishing ports for king crab and salmon fishing in Alaska. Jo drove a taxi for a year in Dutch Harbor before taking the cook's job aboard the F/V Commodore. She is the daughter of Frank Raflo, currently chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County. For the past month, she has been sailing as a volunteer aboard the clipper ship "Spirit of Massachusetts" as it traveled from Washington, D.C., to its home port of Boston. By Cecilia Cassidy; Cecilia Cassidy is a freelance writer. unhealthy if they do. If they do, they do, and you handle it. Mostly I think friendships form because a lot of the guys are away from their families. They're from Seattle or Takoma or someplace on the West Coast. They're away from their children, their homes, their everything and they like to have a woman (around), somebody that's a little bit softer and a little bit more human -- that makes them some chocolate chip cookies in the middle of a storm; that remembers that their birthday is coming up. The Bering Sea can be very ferocious and very lonely, very scary. I'm really glad I'm a woman out there because I bring a little humanness in. Q: Does it get to the point that you're just one of the guys? A: When you're out fishing for three weeks at a time and you're working 18 or 20 hours a day, who has time for taking showers? The guys grow beards and get ugly and I get ugly. When you have time off, you sleep. You start to develop a rhythm as a crew. You work things out together. Your sex, age, color, all that, blends away. That's part of the beauty of fishing. Q: King crab fishing in the Bering Sea is supposed to be (one of) the toughest jobs in the world. What is your day like on a fishing boat with a crew of six men? A: Days vary depending on tides and currents and what you're fishing for. A typical day for me, being cook, might start at 5 o'clock in the morning. We wouldn't finish work until the night, unless the tides were running then we had to work during the night. They'd work all night. I'd get maybe two or three hours sleep. They'd wake me up and I would take a watch while they caught maybe two or three hours sleep. I'd fix their breakfast, do the dishes and clean the deck, feed them a snack, do some baking, feed them lunch. Q: What kind of work would you do on deck? A: Sometimes I stay inside and work in the wheelhouse, but what I do on deck is bait and sort crab. Take a pitcher, like an orange juice pitcher, with holes punched, stuff chopped herring into it, which is only used for the crab to smell a scent of the herring. Then you take codfish, and put a hook through them and slit them so that their guts are hanging out and get these combined into one hook. I sort crab, keeping the females and the undersized crabs from going in the tank. Every crew member can be fined up to $5,000 for catching an undersized crab. Q: What do you do in the wheelhouse? A: Draw the bait. I'm usually up there when the skipper and the other deckhands are asleep. I drive, do the watch, take us from point A to point B. LIVES Josephine Fagan: Fishing Boat Cook Working 20 Hours A Day, Who Has Thime for Showers? Josephine Fagan, 36, has worked as a cook on fishing boats in the Bering Sea off the coast of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska for the past four years. She has logged in nearly 8,000 hours of sailing time, mostly in king crab fishing and has earned her master's license. Born in Loudoun County, Va., she attended Loudoun County High School and graduated from William and Mary College in 1970. After graduation, she worked for seven years as a social worker in York County. In 1978, she traveled to Hawaii, where she lived for a year and a half. In 1980, she sailed with friends from Hawaii to Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, one of the larger islands in the Aleutian Island chain. Dutch Harbor, 1,000 miles southwest of Anchorage, is one of the major fishing ports for king crab and salmon fishing in Alaska. Jo drove a taxi for a year in Dutch Harbor before taking the cook's job aboard the F/V Commodore. She is the daughter of Frank Raflo, currently chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County. For the past month, she has been sailing as a volunteer aboard the clipper ship "Spirit of Massachusetts" as it traveled from Washington, D.C., to its home

Q: How do you live on a boat with six men for weeks at a time? Do any romances form?

A: Sometimes, and I don't think they're unhealthy if they do. If they do, they do, and you handle it. Mostly I think friendships form because a lot of the guys are away from their families. They're from Seattle or Takoma or someplace on the West Coast. They're away from their children, their homes, their everything and they like to have a woman (around), somebody that's a little bit softer and a little bit more human -- that makes them some chocolate chip cookies in the middle of a storm; that remembers that their birthday is coming up. The Bering Sea can be very ferocious and very lonely, very scary. I'm really glad I'm a woman out there because I bring a little humanness in.

Q: Does it get to the point that you're just one of the guys?

A: When you're out fishing for three weeks at a time and you're working 18 or 20 hours a day, who has time for taking showers? The guys grow beards and get ugly and I get ugly. When you have time off, you sleep. You start to develop a rhythm as a crew. You work things out together. Your sex, age, color, all that, blends away. That's part of the beauty of fishing.

Q: King crab fishing in the Bering Sea is supposed to be (one of) the toughest jobs in the world. What is your day like on a fishing boat with a crew of six men?

A: Days vary depending on tides and currents and what you're fishing for. A typical day for me, being cook, might start at 5 o'clock in the morning. We wouldn't finish work until the night, unless the tides were running then we had to work during the night. They'd work all night. I'd get maybe two or three hours sleep. They'd wake me up and I would take a watch while they caught maybe two or three hours sleep. I'd fix their breakfast, do the dishes and clean the deck, feed them a snack, do some baking, feed them lunch.

Q: What kind of work would you do on deck?

A: Sometimes I stay inside and work in the wheelhouse, but what I do on deck is bait and sort crab. Take a pitcher, like an orange juice pitcher, with holes punched, stuff chopped herring into it, which is only used for the crab to smell a scent of the herring. Then you take codfish, and put a hook through them and slit them so that their guts are hanging out and get these combined into one hook. I sort crab, keeping the females and the undersized crabs from going in the tank. Every crew member can be fined up to $5,000 for catching an undersized crab.

Q: What do you do in the wheelhouse?

A: Draw the bait. I'm usually up there when the skipper and the other deckhands are asleep. I drive, do the watch, take us from point A to point B. I listen to a lot of music. If it's bad weather, concentrate and keep my fingers crossed.

Q: When was the first time that you took the wheel? What was it like?

A: Oh, that was a funny time. I'm a college graduate which is no big deal, but I (was) driving a cab in Dutch Harbor and (thinking), "What am I doing here." Two days before Thanksgiving I get a call on the CB radio from a friend of mine, "29, this is the Commodore. Would you like to go crab fishing?" I said, "Yes!" I went out on the Commodore, first time on the Bering Sea. I was the cook and about two, three days out we were in a very heavy sea, about a 15-foot sea, and we were still working. The skipper had been up for 18, 19 hours and he needed a break. So he said, "Watch this number," which was the cross-track index that tells you if you are off course. "Don't let it get over 10." I didn't know what that meant. He went down below for a few minutes and I just thought I was gonna die. All of a sudden I was at the wheel and this boat was going up over the waves and the number was getting to nine and I'd go, "Oh, are we gonna crash?" That's called getting broken in.

Q: You have your master's license now. What did you have to do to get that?

A: For this particular license I had to have 720 days of sea time. It took me four years to accumulate that. Then I had to go to Seattle and take a test administered by the Coast Guard on navigation, fire and safety and charts and rules of the road -- how many lights does a towboat show, who gives way to whom, that kind of thing. It was real tough.

Q: There aren't very many women cooks on these fishing boats.

A: Last season I'd say there were probably 15 or 20 women in a fleet of 400 (fishing boats). Cooks mostly. It's kind of rough. When you tie up with another boat that has a lady on board you go over and you talk. You share the things that you couldn't talk about before.

Q: How do you entertain yourself besides sleeping?

A: A good boat has a good Betamax and a stash of VCR films. You get 15 or so and you watch them all on the three days out to the grounds. Work for a week and you want new movies. You tie up next to another boat and trade tapes. A big deal. "Oh boy, we can trade tapes!" They say, okay, this is "The Godfather, Part I and II." You get about five or 10 miles away from them, put on the "Godfather Part I" and then Part II is "Tammy Goes Hawaiian." You're going to kill them because they've screwed up your whole day.

I write a lot, a journal. People write letters, work on their gear, work on the boat, play cards, talk to each other. Real natural things. Things that people normally do on the sea that seem real silly if you're not on the sea. A lot of the things have to do with keeping the boat going. There's always something you can be doing.

Q: Don't you get lonely when you're out there?

A: When I really get lonely is when I'm in the wheelhouse and everyone else is sleeping and maybe it's Sunday afternoon. I get out a lot of postcards or letter-writing material and I write to my family. I write to the people I care about because that's what keeps you going out there, memories of the people you love.

One day, I'll never forget this, it was on a wheel watch on a Sunday afternoon when everyone else was sleeping. I was kind of lonely. We were taking the boat down to the Inside Passage through Canada, British Columbia, and I looked over to the right and I looked over to the left and everywhere around us were dolphins. I went up and got the fish cakes my skipper had cooked the day before and started throwing fish cakes to the dolphins. And tried to talk to them. After a while I didn't feel lonely anymore. Because I came back to being where I was, which was where I wanted to be.

Q: What's the attraction of working on a boat and living this hard kind of life so far away from your original home here in Leesburg?

A: I don't even know. By chance I stumbled on it and I feel comfortable out there. It has to do with living on the edge. People that are on the sea are always living on the edge because your actual literal life and death are always subject to change. The boat could roll, anything. I don't think it's hedonistic by any means, it's just a matter of being out there where things are happening.

I really believe in and love the sea and I love the way that the sea feels. I don't particularly care for the hustle-bustle of land.

Q: How does it feel when the winds are 100 miles an hour?

A: That's when you wish you were in a nice little apartment somewhere. We were in 100-miles-an- hour winds one time and I didn't mind it a bit. Part of it has to do with being with people that you trust. Our wind gauge said 100 miles an hour, 100 knots, I should say, for three days. We just anchored up and weathered the storm. I never felt we were going to die. I just always felt like I had to be on my toes. That's the key to being on the sea and being on a boat or any kind of vessel. Your senses have to be tuned in and you have to be thinking immediately and right then and there about what you're going to do next because even though you can love the sea, you have to always respect the sea. It's a different world.

Q: You were a social worker for seven years, working in a bureaucracy. This is about as far away from that as you can get.

A: Which is what I wanted to do except that once you get into the middle of the sea or anywhere when you're with people, you realize that human needs stay the same. Having been a social worker helped me because I have friends and crewmates -- maybe their wife's having a baby. I can't even name how many people I know that are aboard fishing boats who have learned that their babies were born over the single wave radio. It's those kind of things that make them feel like, "What am I doing out here?" Cooks typically have the job of listening and social worker have the job of listening. People would come in and say, "Maybe I'm going to get married when I get back." "I'm going to get out of this business when I get back." They need someone to listen because you can get into doing a lot of thinking out there.

Q: It seems that life on the Bering Sea, or in Alaska in general, can be humbling.

A: Truly humbling. In Alaska you realize that just by looking at the land. Compare yourself to Mount McKinley. Compare yourself to the Bering Sea. You're a speck. The sea makes you maintain that humility because you are totally powerless over a 100 mile-an-hour wind, over a 20- foot sea. All you can do is your very best knowing the whole while that you might die.

Q: In Alaska it's hard for relationships to survive the weather and the isolation. It's the last frontier. What's it like when you are off the boat?

A: I live in Alaska (on) a very remote island about a 1,000 miles west of Anchorage. Dutch Harbor, Unalaska (Island). There are only about 1,500 people there. The first year that I went there I stayed inside almost all year except for the summer and baked bread and tried to get warm. To me it is a very peaceful place, if you like to move at your own pace. If you want to do something usually people will help you do it. That's the way it is all over Alaska. I've had my share of people saying, "Oh, you can't do that." In Alaska people go, "Oh, you want to do that? Okay, we'll help you." And that's everywhere, big cities down to the little villages.

Q: It's been said that Alaska is either the end of the line -- that people wind up there, or they choose to go there and make a new beginning, often separate from the people that they left behind. Which is it for you?

A: For me it was a beautiful mistake. I was in Hawaii and I fell in love and the guy I fell in love with said after about a year and a half of living in Hawaii on a sailboat, "Well, dear, we're going to Alaska." So we did. That's when I stayed inside for a year to stay warm. Probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. A lot of people consciously decide that they want to be a frontiersman, they want to in Alaska. I just happened there and I'm glad that I did.

I used to be a 9 to 5 person who had big goals about doing this and doing that. Now I'm more inclined to put myself in perspective with what's going on around me.

Q: Tell me a little bit more about being a fisherman?

A: Fishermen are gamblers. You might make $10,000 in a trip or you might make $500. One boat I was on I worked for 21/2 months and I made a $150. That happens because you don't catch any fish. I worked on a percentage. The first boat I was on I worked on a per diem basis. I got $100 a day. The next time I went on board I was working on a share basis -- 2 percent in cash. We didn't catch anything. We came to the port and I'd get 25 bucks. That went on 2, 2 1/2 months and I said, "This is not my idea of a good time." I learned a lot. That's one good thing about fishing, even if you are not making money, you realize that on the sea you are gaining something even if it's not financial. There are fishermen who make millions. Back in 1978, '79, crab fishermen in Alaska used to go out and in a day and a half they'd pull their boat up with crab, 250,000 pounds. If you multiply that by 2, 2 1/2 that's $500,000 in a day and a half. It's a gambler's position. You never really know. You go out and you do the best you can and what you get is what you get.

Just the idea that you are in charge, that you are going to make it happen, I think is what leads people to the sea and what leads people to be fishermen. Every time you pull a pot up out of the water, everybody's eyes are staring at that pot and if everybody is hoping together there are going to be crab, there's always the chance that that'll make them appear.

Q: It sounds like mystical power.

A: Sometimes you really feel that when you're out there. I'm not sure if it is or isn't. But it is a lot more mystical and spiritual than going to some place at 9 and leaving at 5.

Q: Your father is a well known politician in Leesburg, where everyone knows you and everyone knows him. How is it different in Alaska?

A: When I got there nobody knew me at all. In Unalaska, we have no paved streets. There's mud everywhere. You do not dress up. Dress up there is a clean T-shirt and a pair of jeans. The guy that took me up there put me in a fox coat and a fox hat. I walked around oblivious for a month until somebody said to me, "What are you doing in Alaska with a fox hat?" After I got beyond that I realized that it was a place where nobody knew who in hell I was and I would have to make it on my own. And I did. (Alaska) is wide open. You make yourself whatever you want to be. I listen to a lot of music. If it's bad weather, conce