How-To Long-Distance Date a Commercial Fisherman

commercial diver chris dabney

(Pictured is Chris commercially diving for sea cucumbers in Alaska in November 2018.)

My fiancé Chris and I have done the commercial-fishing-long-distance-dating-thing for three summers now, and one of the best parts has been connecting with women since publishing this post a year ago.

They range from married women who have families with commercial fishermen to women who just recently began dating one. From the experienced to novice.

At first, I was a little wary to express my true feelings on the subject (i.e. boring fish conversations revolving come to mind), but I was relieved to know there are other women who are – I’m gonna do it – in the same boat.

Here are a few responses I’ve received from women who have been married to a commercial fisherman for over 30 years:

I really enjoyed reading it and can SO relate to so much you’ve mentioned! Having a relationship with a Commercial Fisherman takes a very special type of woman.

I enjoyed (your article) very much. Would love to get together and share some other stories if you want to add a sequel. 😊

…the experience with this fishing family thing – it’s a grand adventure.

This is from a woman who has been dating a commercial fisherman for a few years:

I love this Megan. This hits home for sure; I laughed, I cried, I sighed, I swooned 😉

Most recently, emails have blessed my inbox from ladies who are currently dating, have dated, or want to date commercial fishermen.

Reading their emails feel like I’m talking to a friend. Except, I don’t have many friends that actually date commercial fisherman so, it’s been a treat.

Here is one email that inspired this month’s series on how-to date a commercial fisherman:

Hi Megan! 

Random message, but I have to share: I found your account after googling “Dating An Alaskan Fisherman” & reading your piece from your site because my boyfriend left for Bristol YESTERDAY and this is the first year I’m actually dating him. (We only had a couple of dates before he left last summer and my goodness what a whirlwind of a year it’s been since he got back!)

Any advice for this first summer without him? Now that I’m all mushy-gushy about him, I can’t believe I have to wait for him to steal his Skipper’s satellite phone to text me at 2 a.m. on some random night over the next few weeks! 😂 I have quite a few friends I’ve made through him here (including other ladies dating Alaskan fisherman), but sometimes, it’s just nice to have a stranger’s honest advice 🤷♀️, Aubrey!

My response inadvertently became a new chapter to this story; a whole other version of what it’s like to date a commercial fisherman.

So, without further ado, here is my response to Aubrey that has turned into…

How-To Long-Distance Date a Commercial Fisherman

fisherman octopus
Chris with some bi-catch from an impromptu sport fishing trip while taking a break from commercial fishing. Because a fisherman’s got to fish. (Don’t worry. The octopus wasn’t harmed and they threw him back. )

Dear Aubrey,

I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED!

I’ve thought of your question, and have pressured myself to make sure I give you the *best* and most *perfect* advice.

Then, I realized nothing’s perfect.

So, I’m going to talk to you like I would my sister.

Here are some emotions that arise and how I work my way through them. I hope this helps!

How-To Long-Distance Date a Commercial Fisherman:

1. You’ll miss him very much, and that goes without saying. But, to harness that energy, my best advice is to embrace a new life without him.

I mean this in the best way possible.

Think of it as, being single without dating.

You now have the freedom go to yoga, or hike, or hit up happy hour or juice bar, or eat cereal for dinner without the need to check in to see if he’s down for it, too.

(I should reiterate that everything I mention, I mention with lots of love. But, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! Like watching marathons of Sex and the City [or insert favorite indulgence here]. You know what I mean.)

And by year three, you will still miss him but it will kinda feel like you are on vacation.

Kind of like, your own summer camp. 

Cordova Alaska fishing
Views from his office: This photo was taken while commercial salmon fishing in Cordova, Alaska in May 2018. Views like this mean no cell phone signal. Chris sent this to me when he returned to dry land.

2. Phone calls may be short and static-y and, as you said, come in at 2 a.m.

Yeah, it totally blows. Especially since you may feel the need to be on night watch each time a phone call may come in.

But, if you fall asleep, it’s cool. At least you’ll know by a missed phone call that he’s alive wherever the hell he is.

Because isn’t that the true worry anyway? Or is it just me?

3.  Some of your phone conversations may feel like this scene in Dumb and Dumber:

Awkward Big Gulps GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

There are many times where I’m like, “Hey! How are you! How’s the fishing? How are you mentally, emotionally, and physically? Ok, so happy to hear…….(award silence)…… Welp, see ya later!”

There’s no way about it – you are living on two different planets right now and sometimes it’s hard to connect. But, I’ve found talking about the most mundane things of my day seem to be music to his ears. Just anything! that takes their mind away from the salmon fishing grind is a welcome treat. 

commercial fisherman
My fiancé Chris Dabney sending me an, “I’m alive” selfie. He was freshly shaven the last time I saw him before this season. This photo was taken in May of 2018.

4. On that note, leave long, rambling messages about your day on his voicemail.

It will be a gift to hear your voice when he gets signal. Plus, it will make you feel better that you’ve made him a part of your day.

5. Don’t listen to anyone who says fishing is dangerous – because we already know it’s true, even when our fisherman assures us it’s not.

I mentioned this in 9 Things You Should Know When Dating A Fisherman, but it still works for me:

Pray for a bubble of white light to surround him and trust that.

6. Prepare to drop some dough at Trader Joe’s for a care package.

Go to the USPS, grab a flat-rate box, and just shove as many energy bars, jerky (or whatever treats your Love, loves!), then tape it up and drop that bitch off.

The large size flat-rate box is $19.95 and should get there within a week (depending on where he’s fishing and when/where you are sending).

I just sent one Monday from Wilmington, North Carolina and it will be in Naknek, Alaska by Thursday of the same week. I know. Crazy fast, considering the distance.

Side note: For the first package I sent this year, I asked Chris if Fed Ex or UPS would get my (mom’s) homemade cookies to him faster, and he said USPS is the only service that delivers to these remote locations. I’m not sure if this is true, but with four day delivery from the East Coast to Alaska, I say USPS is an easy way to go.

To properly address your care package, find out the P.O. Box for the boat, and use “F/V” (which means “fishing vessel”) to address your man:

“Peter Pan” or ” Alaska General Seafoods” or Whatever their fishery hub is

Attn: F/V (Insert Boat Name), (Insert Your Partner’s Name)

P.O. Box……

trader joe care package commercial fisherman
My first care package to Chris this year included protein bars, chocolate, gourmet cashews, cheese straws, and homemade chocolate and toffee cookies. I also threw in a love note and photo of us, too. I sent this on a Tuesday from North Carolina and it got to Alaska by Friday.
This is what a Trader Joe’s care package looks like: 6 GoMacro bars, 2 bags of trail mix, 2 bags of dried mangos, 1 bag of chocolate nut clusters, 2 boxes of peanut butter cups, 1 box of chocolate-covered espresso beans, 1 bag of dried pineapple, 1 bag of Turkish apricots, 2 bags of sweetened cranberries, and I can’t remember what else. Total cost at Trader Joe’s = $92.00. I sent this two weeks after I sent the first package as seen above. I also threw in a love note that was written on the back of my grocery list because I did not plan in advance for this one. Tip: Always keep packing tape in your car so when you want to send an impromptu package, you aren’t stranded in line at the post office without it!

7. I’m gonna go here: You will be horny and it will suck and you will wonder if your man knows how much you are sacrificing by dating him.

You may want him to feel bad about it.

You may even mention something.

(Yes, I did all these things. And I’m not sure if it was a good or bad idea. Maybe an immature idea?)

But, seriously, you’ll be like, WTF.

And that’s when all the hot guys you’ve never seen in town before start popping up out of nowhere. I mean, it’s summer for God’s sakes. Can it be any more torturous?!?!?! 

But, I digress….

Sister friend, find a little vibrator from one of the several shops in town.

This is the perfect time to explore that sexual side of yourself so when your fisherman returns, you will have a more exciting reunion and can show him what to do. 

8. Also, you are allowed to innocently flirt with cute guys.

A smile from across the room never hurt anyone. You are still young, not married, and good looking.

It’s ok that other’s notice, too 🙂

commercial fisherman alaska
…and then you’ll get another selfie from your man and realize he’s worth the wait. In this photo, Chris was fishing salmon in Cordova, Alaska. This was July of last year.

9. Make new friends! Kind of like asking a dude out but you’re asking a girl.

Even if it’s for coffee once, it’s nice to get out the bubble of friends you and your man share.

This also means more opportunities to talk about something other than fishing. #winning

10. Think about what kind of life you want for yourself. Because, in the end, it’s all about your happiness.

Yeah, these long stretches of not seeing each other are hard, but is it holding you back from what you want in a life partner?

For me, it works great. I thrive in long-distance relationships (which may tell you a lot. I’m just not sure what).

I like the independence. It’s a nice balance.

It seems to make the relationship more nurtured, in a way. A chance for you both to grow as individuals – separately, not apart because there’s a difference.

During this time apart, you’ll both have fulfilled personal needs which makes you all the more ready to show up for your relationship and bring your A-game.

Do you date a commercial fisherman and can you relate? What is it like for you? Please share in the comments below!

Catch up on the Dating a Commercial Fisherman series!

[UPDATE] 9 Things To Know When Dating a Commercial Fisherman.

Dating A Commercial Fisherman: Q&A w/ Photographer Bri Dwyer

Sex & Dating a Commercial Fisherman

Curious how I met my commercial fisherman? Full story here!: Unperfect Love Story (Part 1)

12 thoughts on “How-To Long-Distance Date a Commercial Fisherman

  1. OMG girl, I totally relate to all of this. I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost 3 years. We initially met on a boat In Alaska because I used to fish too, everything was great until 7 months ago when we both decided to stop fishing & so we moved to Las Vegas so I can pursue real estate & interior decorating. But soon after he left again for Sitka, AK and this time it’s been taking a toll on me!! Your writing is so true, I love my alone time and working on myself but I’m just sick of not hearing from him. I’m glad I found your article, someone who can relate!!!

    1. GIRL! WELCOME TO THE CLUB! I am so happy to know you virtually. First of all, YOU ARE A TOTAL BADASS. I bet you have a million stories of what it’s like to commercial fish in Alaska as a woman! That is so inspiring for young girls to know that women fit in the industry, too. MAD RESPECT. Next, I checked your website and congrats! It looks like you have a fantastic business in Las Vegas! I know it keeps you busy, but not completely busy where your man’s absence doesn’t bother you. I know, not hearing from them is THE WORST. You just gotta trust that he’s ok. And truly, this works for me: that white light, man. Put vibes out that it protects him and the crew. It will ease your heart. And if Sitka, AK is anything like the Bristol Bay fisheries, he should be home in a few weeks! The middle and end of the season is exhausting for everyone – even those waiting for their partners to return. Just as a reminder, you’re doing great. Keep working at your amazing design biz, soak up that alone time, and he will be safe in your arms before you know it. Thank you so much for reading, connecting, and reaching out! It’s so nice to have another friend out there who gets it, too! xo

  2. As expected, can totally relate as most of this is relavent to having a rotational yacht captain as a life partner, too… Except #6 (he’s provided for better on the boat than at home, lucky bastard) and #8 (because we’re actually married). #3 made me giggle because even after almost 8 years, still true. I’ll be sharing this with a few friends because it makes us all a little crazy sometimes and just knowing there’s a whole tribe of “us” out there makes our situation a little easier to manage. Thanks my friend – keep up the good advice. 🙏🏻 #sharingiscaring

    1. LES!!! I love that we can relate on the crazy boat life – whether a commercial fishing boat, a sailboat, or dang yacht! That’s hilarious about #6 – he def lives a different life at sea than anyone I know! As for #8, totally hear you but we ain’t there yet. 🙂 Just kidding. Kinda. #3 cannot be denied. It’s hilarious sometimes and I have to call it out, even when we’re on the phone together. Also, can’t believe y’all have been together for 8 years! Congrats, that’s freakin’ awesome. So much love, so much work (in a good way. Most of the time. Am I right? 🙂 ) OMG THANK YOU FOR SHARING! That explodes my heart with joy. Thank you for adding more to our tribe. (Insert crying with joy emoji here.) Love you, girl. And thank you for being a part of the conversation. Your input means so much and helps others out there, too! xo

  3. Full relate! My care packages are insane (like full forage mode for a week and half, just sent him a chocolate shaped fish [like 12 inches long]…figured he may be tired of eating real salmon?? You get the idea).

    The hardest thing for me is the reluctance to convey “the real feel” (and understand this is different for every fisherman) but my man is hyper focused during his time up there, to the point where he lovingly checks in but it’s pretty checked out. Hard for me cos I’m over here like waxing poetic in love letters about relationship philosophy.

    Otherwise, yes to being single without all the terrible sexual stress of being single! I love this and I love having more time for yoga, zero jokes about my face mask habit, getting on an earlier time schedule (sooo easy to sleep in/stay up late when cuddle factor is present). Although I will say I appreciate how much J slows me down (I can get kinda scary “on point” when he’s away to the extent that my nervous system is like WTF.

    You feel me!

    Lots of love aaaand they’re home so soon!

    M

    1. GIRL!!! This is so good, I laughed out loud several times. Especially about “full forage mode” and “over here like waxing poetic in love letters about relationship philosophy.” TRUTH! Also, I had to put your original comment about the piece in this post, too. 🙂 You were actually the first woman that I felt “got me” in that way. Someone from outside of the family that could relate! Can’t wait to meet you in person, which is crazy since I feel like we’ve already hung out. But, I guess that what we writers do – hang out through words. 🙂 Have a great rest of your “single” summer! Aaaaaaannndd they’re home soon! xoxo

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