“It sounds so cliché, but you have to learn to date each other,” Cydney Ferris said. “Being together and having children, you have to keep the love alive. You’ll have highs and lows, which we still do…but we’re both on the same page, and that’s important.”
Cydney is a mom of three children under the age of 11. Her husband, Brandon Ferris, is a veteran who works as a deckhand on the F/V Brenna A. (The crew of the F/V Brenna A was a former mainstay on Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.)
Cydney’s story of caring for children while her husband fishes for months on end is a story of resilience – the challenge of “keeping it together” is what many mothers of commercial fishing families often endure alone.
This thoughtful woman took a moment to share with us what life is like for her and her family. That, although struggles exist for commercial fishing families, the pay-offs are bountiful and keep everyone in the game. Without further ado…
What it’s like for a Mom in a Commercial Fishing Family: Real Talk w/ Cydney Ferris
Who is your fisherman?
His name is Brandon Ferris. He fishes for cod, snow crab, King crab, and he tenders salmon in the summer and fall. He works on the F/V Brenna A in the Bearing Sea and Bristol Bay while tendering salmon. This is his 2nd-year commercial fishing.
How long have you been together?
11 years. We actually dated in high school, before Brandon went to boot camp. He’s a marine. I had gotten married and divorced. Then we ended up back together. So, about 11 years.
It’s a mental game out there. I feel that the marines and the military go hand-in-hand with the mental strains you need for the Bearing Sea.
Did have experience with the industry before you got together?
Nope. Not one thing. I learn something new every day and I love it!
What tips can you share with others navigating the PCF lifestyle?
It sounds so cliché, but you have to learn to date each other.
Being together and having children, you have to keep the love alive. You’ll have highs and lows, which we still do. I still send snarky comments that I feel bad about because I’m human, you know? But we’re both on the same page, and that’s important.
Like, he was just gone for 95 days. I made a book for him, and I sent pictures. I went into his suitcase and wrote notes. I think I wrote 70 little notes that he could read every day for positivity. It was a lot of work, but I had to do it. (He gave me the idea, so I’ll give him credit.)
It turns out that every week, he would tell me to go to a secret spot, and there would be a card there. That was so important because you can say ‘I love you’ all day. But showing it feels different. And when you’re miles apart, you don’t feel that. You can easily feel separated.
Especially in the Bearing Sea because the service is not good. We don’t get to FaceTime. The texts sometimes go through on What’s App, but that means nothing to the kids. It’s just different.
I think you really have to keep the love alive. You have to be mushy, and you have to be vulnerable.
It’s hard, and it’s not easy. But we chose this together, and we don’t regret it. He’s made for this, and he loves it.
You gotta keep that spark even if you don’t want to. Even when (you) get mad.
How did he link up with the F/V Brenna A?
He’s a marine. He loves danger. He’s always wanted to do this because he knew he could. He knew it would be a challenge. It’s exciting for him. One of the cameramen from the Deadliest Catch actually grew up with Brandon. And (Captain) Sean Dwyer needed somebody. We really just prayed for this. Thought this would be a great opportunity, we wanted to buy a house.
Getting on a boat is really hard when you have no experience. But Sean did a phone interview with him, and six days later, he was on a flight to Alaska. I believe it was meant to be. Hopefully, we can buy a house and do all that!
What is the hardest part of being a PCF?
I’m trying not to cry. There are two parts: The uncertainty of the job itself is very taxing on not just me, but I have to be strong for three other people. That’s something that can’t be taught. So, I don’t get to feel the feels. And there was a time that I didn’t feel the feels, which I don’t think is healthy.
So, every time he leaves, I bawl.
I give myself one day without the kids. My best friend takes them. I feel like it’s healthy for me to get it out and move on. This is the life we chose, and we love it, but that doesn’t make it easy.
I feel like loving someone and liking someone is really different. And I really like him these days (she says, laughing).
Being strong to 3 small kids that don’t understand the concept of time is really hard. There’s a lot of questions. “When’s daddy coming home?”
As a mom, being strong for three other people is nearly impossible at times after 95 days. You kind of break and you need to give yourself grace. That’s not taught. That’s something you live through and learn, and this being the second year, it’s been so much better on me. But I still get frustrated and emotional and everything I should normally feel, except he’s miles away.
When you’re on day 70, how do you safely break?
I send them to my best friend’s house. I lay in bed and watch a movie that Brandon and I would watch. And I just cry and think instead of turning it off. Because when I have the kids – which is all. the. time. – there’s no time to think. Then I turn on music or do something healthy for myself.
I allow myself NOT to do laundry. The dishes will get done the next day. I put a lot of pressure on myself bc I’m the only parent. I’m not having a pity party. I love being a mom. This is my dream job. But you have to give yourself time to feel. Or you will go crazy.
How old are your kids?
Braydon is 11, and younger ones, Ayva and Gunner, are 8 and 7, which are basically Irish twins. Brandon is a gunner (in the marines), so he got to choose the last baby’s name.
What the most fun about being a PCF?
The quality time you get when they return is something you can’t describe.
If you think about it, many parents both have to work. Before (he fished), he’d leave in the morning when it was dark and get home when it was dark and there was no quality time with our children. So, yeah, we do have a lot of time apart, but it makes up for it.
I’ve done both, and I would choose this life over and over again. (For example) by the time you go to work all day, you’re tired, your stressed. You work full-time, and you want to be a good parent, but it’s hard. The quality time we get when Brandon gets home is amazing. He leaves again in June, but those are times the kids will remember. They won’t remember him being gone.
The second thing is, we’re making dreams come true for our kids. Brandon had five days off in Ketchikan last year, and the kids got to go on the boat, Braydon got to sit in the captain’s chair, and it’s so exciting for them to get candy from the boat. It’s the littlest things that are so big to them.
You seem like such a wonderful parent.
Well, I try. Really hard. Sometimes I freak out and drop the F-bomb. Don’t you worry, it happens.
That’s real life, I love that!
Totally real life!
What does being a PCF mean to you?
I had a hard time with this one, and Brandon helped me with it. He said being a PCF means I get to stay home and raise our kids, bottom line. He does the job for us. It’s not easy by any means, but he does it for us. It’s a dream of mine to be a stay-at-home mom because we’ve always just worked. That’s how it affects us.
And I get to learn—the continual learning. I want to know, and I want to be involved because we live different lives at some point. Because if I don’t know what a coiler is or how a crane works, I feel alone. So, if I’m educated with that, I feel less alone. I know all the guys on the boat, and it’s kind of a family, in a weird way, because they don’t see me very much. But I feel very connected to everybody because it’s a trust issue as well.
I just love learning and hearing the excitement in Brandon’s voice, so anything that I can gain from that is exciting to me because I’m a sponge.
How can others support the domestic seafood market?
Brandon’s answer was to educate people and spread the word. It actually went with mine because I said we need to buy locally and know where our food comes from.
I feel that a lot of people aren’t educated about seafood or had a bad experience with it.
A lot of people don’t know how to cook seafood properly. If we could educate people more about how to prepare it, store it. Just the littlest things like that could go a long way. 🐟
Are you a mom of a commercial fishing family? What’s the experience like for you?
Curious about what it’s like for others to date a commercial fisherman? Catch up on the series: