Expect the unexpected.

Today I was told to be ready for pickup from my hotel by 7am. I was downstairs, checked out and sitting waiting patiently like a good on time soldier in the army. 15 minutes early. That was a mistake. For two reasons, one – I’m on Fiji and nothing here runs on anything other than Island Time, and two – the communication between the company, the boat, and the port agent up until now has not been exactly stellar. By the time 8am rolled around I had begun to realize this and asked the front desk if I could take my breakfast (which was included with the room) in the lobby. They were happy to bring me a plate with scrambled eggs, sausage, fruit, and toast. And one glass of delicious island juice. I have no idea what kind of juice it was, but it was sweet. I can rule out mango since I know the taste of mango like nobodies business (thank you Davao!).

Then 9am rolled by. Ok, I’m starting to worry at this point. What kind of time am I going to have getting to the boat, on the boat and settled before we weigh anchor and set sail on our voyage. Yesterday I was told that we were leaving at 10am. It was getting close. I think my regular check ins with the company were starting to drive poor Karen crazy. She kept echoing “just wait, just wait” to me, as if I was gonna take off and go on a pirate gold seeking adventure or something. At this point I didn’t know anything other than sitting and waiting. I was getting really good at it too.

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The Waiting Game

Be prepared to be patient when you get out here. They make it sound like everything is a hurry up and go no culture, but in listening to all these tales from other tuna pilots I seemed to forget that we are on Island time over here. Things are very much done at the pace of “when it happens it happens.” I’m sure the boats are different, and working. But for now, I checked into my hotel last night and was told that an agent would pick me up this morning and take me to the boat.

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The Adventure Begins

Today I started on the way to the South Pacific to take on an adventure of a job. What some might call the true last bastion of the “wild west” for helicopters, I was hired recently by Tropic Helicopters to fly on one of the Tuna Boats that was out fishing the region. They say that this is the adventure. They weren’t kidding. I’ve spent the last two weeks putting in my notice, packing out of my apartment, moving out of my office and packing and repacking my bags for the trip. One year, that’s the length of my contract – so I’m bringing a lot of gear with me. It’s probably too much, it almost always is, but I’d rather be over-prepared than under-prepared.

An adventure. It started before I had hardly left my home. My original plan was to fly from Spokane to Portland, and then from Portland to Los Angeles and on to Brisbane. From there the idea was to fly into Honiara in the Solomon Islands and go over to the company base, do some training on the MD 500 I was going to be flying and wait for my boat to show up.

That plan changed. As my plane landed in Portland, my first stop, the familiar buzz of my phone going off in my pocket exploded. Message after message came in – naturally I was curious. HR wanted to know where I was, was I with my luggage, what kind of time did I have in Portland and again in LA, where my bags checked all the way to Honiara or just Brisbane – and they needed to know now.

It would seem they needed me somewhere else. Instead of going to Honiara like originally planned, they wanted me to divert and go directly to Fiji, where I would meet my Korean fishing boat, and climb aboard. Her name, the ‘Caribe’.

Of course I had questions. What about my training, what about my schedule, how many pilots would be on this boat, what was the plan going forward. It would seem I was to meet a senior pilot in Fiji and he would train me – on the boat – during the sail from Fiji back to Honiara. Where he was done with his contract. Well, isn’t that fun.

I’m writing this passage from Portland International, waiting for an email with my new tickets and for my plane to board. Still bound for Brisbane, over-nighting in Fiji, then getting onto my Korean boat. No better way to learn how to land on a moving ship in pitching seas than to do it for real the first time right? The Adventure Begins.

Gone Fishin’

A lot of cool things have been in the works for some time now, but I’m happy to say that as of right now, as I’m writing this – I’m officially roaming again. I took a job with Tropic Helicopters flying with a tuna boat. I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my first flight of many to relocate me to the other side of the globe. This blog will be updated whenever I get back into port, as I’m going to try and really document what it is exactly to be a tuna pilot and what I’ve gone through getting here.

My plan is to draft the first big post while I’m flying between here and there, detailing what I did to get here, and how I prepared. For now, I just want to say thank you to everyone for their support, and I look forward to seeing you all out there!

Spokane to Portland, Portland to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Brisbane, Brisbane to Honiara. I’ll post pics.