Watching this video makes sleeping in my car and eating ramen three meals a day seem like a luxory vacation! I've seen cleaner bathrooms in highway gas stations,and the food makes me want to barf just thinking about it!
So, to the few of you on here who have done this. Is life on a tuna boat really this nasty, or is this just the one out of a hundred bad boat? And what do you do if you can't take it? Are you just trapped out there at sea?
The conditions are as good as the company that owns the tuna boat fleet, its captains, and crew. Some are worse than what you see and some are better. In fact, what you see in the video is nowhere near the worse.
I did South Pacific tours with Hansen Helicopters. During my time, some of the Taiwanese boats were among the worse. The larger companies like South Korean Dongwon Industries were among the better fleets. Dongwon is one of the world's largest tuna catching companies with a fleet of 36 boats. Dongwon currently owns the brand name Star-Kist Tuna.
However, you’re right, many don’t make it pass the first off-load. That first island stop and their gone. To some it will be an abrupt culture shock, you’re now the little American (minority) that needs to adapt to their Taiwanese or Korean culture and food.
Tuna fishing off large purse seiners is tough work and these Taiwanese and Korean crews are hard working and tough individuals. You have to earn their respect and if you as a pilot show weakness (crybaby, mama’s boy, wimp, pantywaist, etc.) and can’t man-up to your position as a pilot, your tour won’t be very pleasant.
Your helicopter company back at home base can help during your transition with supplies you request, like canned foods, drinks, books, etc. They are sent out from Guam along with your mail on the service ships that fuel and supply each tuna boat.
You normally sign on for one full tour, which was normally 11 – 14 months depending on the captain; however, around the sixth - seventh month they may return to Guam for ship repairs and servicing.
In any case, if you decide to depart early, you’ll have to pay your own way back home. If you leave without advance notice, they normally withhold all pay and you’re on your own getting back home. Once you’re back home you can try and get some of your unpaid salary.
If you can last until the mid point when the boat returns to Guam and you’ve given advance notice and they can find a pilot to replace you, sometimes they’ll pay your way back home, if you were on good terms.
An old Hansen memorandum that went out some 20 years ago:
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: All Pilots
FROM: JON D. WALKER
1) Always secure the rotor blades when helicopters is on deck. Right after shutting down engine and strong wind prevails apply forward cyclic and aggressively apply rotor brake upon reaching 150 rotor rpm. All Rotor blades to be tied down when helicopter is secured for the night. Any rotor blade tail boom strikes caused from inadequate blade tie down are responsibility of pilot & mechanic.
2) HUGHES engine compressor to be washed daily when flying. (Failure to do so is immediately able to be seen upon inspection.)
3) Failure to untie all tie downs before flight normally results in instant death. No remedial action need be taken.
4) Contract wages will be paid on the first of the month or the first working day thereafter. Payment will be made to one location only. If wages are to be deposited to a savings or checking account, it is best if they can be deposited into your personal account.
5) Orders for helicopter parts will be taken at any time, (This also applies to any emergency need that may arise) personal items may be ordered only every two weeks. Orders may be made fax. Fax no. 00 1-671-6499582.
6) Personal conflicts between pilot-mechanic-captains are cause for immediate dismissal. Settle all disagreements yourselves and peacefully.
7) Orders for alcoholic beverages will be limited to two (2) bottles of hard liquor or two (2) cases of beers. We are having too many complaints of excessive drinking. Any complaints from captains about excessive drinking are cause for immediate dismissal, and you will be charged for all cost involved for your replacement.
8 ) Any complaints about the helicopter and/or supply of parts should be directed to Hansen Helicopters and not the Captain of the boat. Violation of these instructions will be ground for immediate termination.
9) Hansen Helicopters has been taken advantage on many times by people needing advances. If you need money in order to make the trip, a personal loan will be arranged. We are not a bank, but if we are going to made to function like one, we will do business in the same manner that they do. Some kind of collateral will be required for any personal loan. Loan will be made at the beginning of the contract. Anything after that, go to the bank.
10) There have been four instances in the last 5 years when a new pilot has gone on a boat for the first time, apparently not realizing that he is going to be away from his mommy for the first time. The trouble always starts 7 to 10 days after the boat leaves. The first thing we hear is a radio call that either the person is (sick, has a dire emergency at home, or is afraid that one of the crew members is going to kill him). The person then refuses to work anymore. These forces us to find a replacement, get him to wherever he can meet the boat, and try to humor the captain of the boat, and its owner. If you are not happy with your situation, please have the courtesy to tell us before the boat leaves so that we do not have all of the down time. If you do not, and go on the trip, and then decide to go home, we will definitely take you to court and recover all of our expenses. This will not be good for either party, so please finish what you start.
11) A "trip" starts and ends in Guam. A return to Guam for emergency purposes is normally not the end of the trip. The Captain of the boat will tell you when the trip has been completed. We will not replace pilots until the end of the trip or end of contract. There will be no exceptions to this.
12) Flight duration not to exceed 2 hours. This is strictly enforced.
13) One (1) passenger only.
14) No night flying!!! I've received reports that some of you are doing this. I want this stopped.
15) Aircraft should be ready to fly when the captain ask (within 5 minutes).
16) Don't depend on rain to remove all the salt spray from the helicopter.
17) The helicopter can and should be landed on the deck gently. The controlled crash theory is bullsht.
18) After a reasonable length of time, a pilot should be able to land on the boat while the boat is travelling full speed.
19) Helicopters will easily hover downwind. However, downwind take off's and landings are unacceptable.
20) Only one (1) radio beacon to be carried.
21) Call the shop by SSB when the ship is headed to port for discharging. (So we can get your mail and beer to you sooner.)
22) Don't let the crew paint the helicopter when they paint the boat.
23) If the ship runs out of water for helo washing, call HH ASAP.
24) Shut down the engine before refueling. No hot refueling.
25) No landing on islands or airport without HH permission.
26) Do not land on water unless it is an emergency.
27) Send weekly trend check/Hobbs time and total flight time for the month.
28) Maximum allowable downtime for maintenance. Two days.
29) Change engine when TOT reaches 700°C.
30) Balance the Tail rotor every 50 hours.
31) Use of satellite phone on the boat for personal call will be deducted from your salary except calls to Hansen. Avoid using the phone. It's expensive!
32) Don't miss the boat.
Edited by iChris, 20 June 2014 - 10:37.