Experts teach new fishermen the ropes

The Kachemak Bay campus of Kenai Peninsula College is offering half a dozen classes for boat owners, deckhands and others next month at either minimal cost or free.

The classes include three put on by the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, which are Drill Conduc-tor, Stability Training and Ergonomics For Fishermen.

The other three are Deckhand Skills, Vessel Systems and Aluminum Fabrication.

KPC workforce development coordinator Marshall Bullock said that the target audience for the deckhand skills class is first- or second-year deckhands who want to know a little about what they are getting into.

“More than just the safety and survival aspect of it, although that is such a critical part of the job, things as simple as how to put a line on a cleat so you can help the skipper tie up the boat, and as complex a conversation as ‘if I am under contract to the boat, if I break my leg, what does that mean to me, and how does that affect my contract?’”

Bullock said it would be like drinking from the fire hose, a lot of information in a short amount of time.

He added that there is an excellent instructor for the course, boat owner and skipper for at least 20 years, Homer resident Anna Borland-Ivy, who also has a teaching background including as an AMSEA instructor.

“She’s already a skipper and she’s already lived the lifestyle, and had these kinds of challenges,” he said.

Deckhand Skills takes place April 9 and 10, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and there is a $60 fee. The registration deadline is April 7.

The vessel systems class is about inboard or inboard-outboard gas and diesel systems, including jet systems, taught by Patrick Lane, son of Homer fisherman Don Lane, who serves on the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

An outboard motor systems class was taught in late February.

“It’s about all those systems and how they depend on each other,” Bullock said.

He said it would also offer an opportunity for people to bring in questions they may have about their own vessels or systems.

He added that part of the class would include a field trip to Bay Welding to look at those systems as a boat is being built, how they work together and why they are laid out the way they are.

“It’s nice to see the boat before it all gets put together, and get a visual in why there are so many wires, and why those runs are in one place strategically instead of another, how they all work together.”

He said the class would also look at some other boats that are already fishing, with the support from Homer Boat Yard.

“You get to see what it looks like after a couple of years, versus what it looks like in the construction phase.”

He added that there is no real target audience for the class, just anyone who wants to learn more about their vessel.

“The Coast Guard says anything that floats is a vessel, and there’s a lot of moving parts. Whether you’re a skipper/boat owner, or new to the business with no official training, or walking the docks looking for work, you take any of these classes and you’ll receive a certificate, and the certificate is recognized by Homer Marine Trades and the the North Pacific Fisheries Association, and they will extend higher preferences whenever they can.”

The vessel systems class takes place April 9 and 10, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a $125 fee. The registration deadline is April 7.

The aluminum fabrication class is for people who have at least some experience with steel welding but want to expand their skill set to MIG or TIG welding on aluminum, which is more sensitive.

“This is a great opportunity to get immersed in it for a few days so you have something you can build on,” Bullock said.

That course takes place over two weekends, April 8 and 9, and 15 and 16, at 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and is taught by Keli Bottineau of Bay Welding. The fee is $250, and the registration deadline is April 5.

The AMSEA classes are free to commercial fishermen, and the drill instructor class is required by the Coast Guard for someone to conduct safety drills aboard commercial fishing boats, which are mandatory once per month and must be documented.

The drill instructor does not need to be the skipper or a member of the crew, but must be AMSEA certified.

Bullock said having the certification can be a resume booster.

“After you had taken the drill conductor class, you could conduct drills aboard (any) vessel for legal purposes. It’s another feather in your cap.”

The class takes place April 20 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The vessel stability and ergonomics classes take place April 21, with vessel stability from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and ergonomics from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Vessel stability training includes stability terminology, watertight integrity, damage control and stability guide formats, among other things.

Ergonomics teaches fishermen ways to avoid injury, a run-down on the musculo-skeletal system, workstation and tool design, injury risk factors and prevention, problems with repetitive motion, as well as stretches and exercises. The registration deadline for all three AMSEA classes is April 13.

Bullock urges people to sign up sooner rather than later.

“Typically the way it works is that a few days before the class begins is when all the registrants begin to show up and sign up,” he said, “which is awkward for us as a college because it makes it difficult for me to make sure we’ve got enough students to pay the instructor.”

For more information and/or registration, visit, or contact the college at 907-235-7743.

Cristy Fry can be contacted at