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Alaskan Odyssey: Fishing Fleet Workwear

No matter where we are in our lives, there’s an adventure to be found in all of us. Enter Grant Hanson, a student of history on summer break from college who ventured to Alaska looking for work. I asked him about his experiences with the commercial fishing fleet because this region has a reputation in the maritime community—you either stay vigilant or get swallowed by the frigid surf. Grant’s sea stories brought the fury of Triton into a frightening reality.

“The worst [weather] that we went out in was ten-foot (three-meter) waves, in about three-second intervals, with 25-mile-per-hour (40-kph) winds…We got pretty good at moving around the boat despite this, ’cause we still had work to do…”


Hauling the net into the skiff. Image via Grant Hanson.

Ever since the fabled voyages of Odysseus, the sea has stirred leadership in those who catch its wrath. Make no mistake, the danger is as real today as it was centuries ago. Fishermen across the globe pay a heavy price to earn a living. The skiff—or small boat—that Grant was piloting that day not only carried valuable equipment but it held human lives within its open hull.

“In my case, I was a skipper so I had to really keep myself squared away and upright…I was driving one of the skiffs and I was in charge of another crewman; my bowman [who helps hoist the nets]. Every now and again you’d catch a wave wrong…we usually had bruises from [that].”


A 2011 storm wreaked havoc in Alaskan waters. This fishing vessel fell victim in Nome. Image via Chron.com

Rolling seas and small boats leave little margin for error. Like in the Greek classic mentioned above, the Alaskan commercial fishing fleet embarks on its own seaborne odyssey each year—not in search of home but in search of livelihood. Grant Hanson of Texas joined them in the summer of 2023 and experienced the terror and triumph for himself.

Luckily for us, while performing hard work, he put his clothing to the test. In this interview, he shared with me some key takeaways that workwear aficionados will thoroughly enjoy.

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