Harvey Cosky comes by fishing naturally. His great-great-grandfather Reuben Searcy was a salmon fisherman on the Columbia River in the late 1800’s, until his untimely demise at the hands of a rival fisherman during a salmon strike. Harv had no idea his gggrandfather had been a fisherman until Judy started digging into his genealogy. See Reuben's story
As a preteen in Astoria, OR., Harvey hung around the docks listening to fishermen's sea stories and giving them a hand when he could. He was 13 years old when he built his first ‘boat’ on the banks of the Columbia River and put to sea. This first trip was cut short when a passing Coast Guard boat stopped and the Captain insisted on picking Harvey off the sandbar, leaving his boat behind. “I didn’t need any help,” Harvey says. “I was just waiting for the tide to come in.”
Harvey never WARNED (good word?) Judy he was interested in fishing when they met in dry away-from-the-ocean Redding, CA., BUT, if she'd been more observant, Harv's behavior would have given her a clue about his desire to fish. (even though it was after they were married) About two months before their second child, Eric, was born Judy came home to find Harv building a skiff in their apartment. Harv said, "Well, you wanted a boat for Shasta Lake ... "Yea, right," Judy thought, knowing there was something else going on, but not sure what.
As THAT location wouldn't do, he moved the project to Judy's parents' old farm south of Redding and turned it into the 18' Fat Cat (Yes, 18 feet!), which he began commercial fishing off Ft. Bragg, CA when Judy started teaching there. A couple of years later he bought steel and welding rod for his next project, the 39' Miss Judith. Then came the 58' Royal Pacific. The last boat he built (with help from son-in-law Mike and son Eric) was the 68' EZ1 in 1989. The present boat, 47' Koko was already built, but needed extensive renovation.
Harvey does all the boat stuff, making sure they get out and back safely. Like all fishermen, he has a wide range of skills in everything from engine work to refrigeration. When ashore, he takes care of getting the albacore canned and orders out the door.
This is what cabin fever looks like.
One time, heading south across the Gulf of Alaska, Judy sat on the back deck watching the water go by when a massive whale slowly lifted the upper part of its body out of the water, its belly toward the boat. Judy had no idea what kind of whale it was so made a point of memorizing the curvature of the top of its head so she could find out. It submerged, but being curious, as whales tend to be, it lifted its head out of the water again, this time positioned so the eye could look at the boat and her. The whale watched her watching it for a few minutes, as if it was trying to make out what in the world she was. Judy greeted it, "Hi, Whale. What's happening?" Then it quietly sank again. Judy ran to the cabin and sketched the rounded off belly-view and the squared-off profile and later learned it was a sperm whale.
"We've seen many whales and they are usually as curious about us as we are of them," Judy says. "Once while travelling though Whale Pass by Kodiak Island a small whale circled our boat several times, its eye out of the water so it could look us over.
One memory I have about a not-curious whale, was out in the deep ocean ... the water was fairly calm, luckily, because I suddenly realized there was a whale sleeping right in front of us. I had to hit the Dodge button to avoid running into it. If the water had been rougher I wouldn't have seen his back peeking above the surface."
"A favorite memory is of a foggy night crossing Prince William Sound. The water was calm and the moon was bright enough to light the fog. A pod of killer whales surrounded the boat and quietly escorted us for half an hour or so. The shining fog, calm water and the whales dipping alongside ... It was an amazing, unforgettable experience."
Judy never set out to be part of the fishing industry — she had set her sights on teaching. But once it was clear that Harvey wasn't the sort to be on land much, and she didn't particularly like the idea of living alone most of the year, she joined in ..."When I saw the name of "The Reluctant Fisherman" restaurant in Cordova. AK it kind of resonated with me," she once said. However, she's found being at sea more interesting than being land-bound, in most cases, and she treasures the fishing friends she's made.
The Deck Boss
Stephanie Cosky Hopkinson is a fisherman’s daughter living on dry land. She is a writer, past marketing and research professional, and lover of animals. She caught her first fish when she was 3, a small salmon in a little ‘pond’ next to the Sacramento River. We tossed the fish back, but she was hooked. "I have to admit to taking the ‘Captain’s Daughter’ route to fishing," she says. "When it got really cold and windy and nasty outside, I’d go cook dinner while my brother or husband had to stay outside and work. Sexist? Yep. But when the choice is between sliding around on a wet deck and sorting through fish or making mac and cheese in the warm cabin … I’ll take the cabin." Stephanie takes care of the company while her folks are at sea. "I'd be out there fishing, too," she says, "if I didn't get so seasick."
The Bird Who Rules Us All
Koko is Harvey and Judy's African Grey parrot. Koko has been fishing since before she had real feathers. She’s a real talker, keeping them up on events like “It’s raining outside” and “Where’s Harvey?”. When she wants Harvey or Judy in a hurry she makes the ‘emergency engine room alarm’ beep. They always come running to that one!
When it's stormy she'll ruffle her feathers and yell, "Hang on!" When a bell rings she'll yell, "Fish on!" She has good hearing, so even if no one else hears the bell, someone goes to check!
This bird has it good. She has a big cage in the main cabin that has a clear view of the albacore fishing action, a smaller wheelhouse cage for those long night watches, and a sunbathing cage on the upper back deck. Best of all, she has 24-hour companionship with her humans.
While ashore, friends often drop by the boat to visit Koko and have a cup of coffee while watching her play with her own mug on the table. She loves to entertain people walking by the boat in the harbor. She'll whistle and talk and if she gets a reaction she'll up the volume and action. Recently she almost got Harv into trouble. One guy heard wolf whistles each time he went by the boat and didn't realize Harv wasn't alone ... luckily, he later told Harv, he realized it was Koko whistling at him, not Harv.
Judy says, "If we have Koko with us, people remember who we are, the boat, etc.,; If she's NOT with us, a lot of times they don't know us. Unless, of course, we have Pepper along.
Pepper - newest crew member (& kid)
Pepper is a black, long-legged standard poodle with a dog's usual keen sense of smell. On two occasions his nose caught the glorious scent of rotisserie chicken on a neighbor's boat and his long legs propelled him gracefully over the bulwarks and into their galley, where he grabbed and then gobbled down the entire chicken. He still slows down and sniffs as he passes that boat, but there hasn't been a third theft, so Harv hasn't had to buy yet another replacement chicken. Dog's are supposed to avoid chicken bones, but Pepper suffered no ill effects from his crimes.
Pepper can't be 'frou-frou' at the dock, so he has a low-key kennel cut; no pom poms or ribbons for him! He is very gentle and friendly when walking the dock but when he's on the boat his guardian side arises and he barks ferociously when other dogs pass by.
Pepper on guard in Ilwaco Harbor
At sea, he loves to watch the fish come aboard. He's learned the line goes taut when a fish is on and he'll look impatiently and anxiously back and forth from Harv and Judy to the line and back, asking, "What! What! When are you going to pull it in!?" On his first trip he became so lethargic H & J thought maybe he was sick until they realized that, for several days, from dawn to dusk, he'd been prancing excitedly around and following each fish from the back deck to the cooling-down area. He was just tired!
The Boat That Keeps Us Afloat
For twenty-four years our boat was the EZ-1, a big red steel boat out of Ilwaco, Washington. The EZ-1 carried us from Alaska to Hawaii and beyond. Harvey and son-in-law Mike built the EZ-1. It was hard, hard work up in a cold cavernous shed in Blaine, Washington. Mike, who until he married Stephanie had been a computer technician in Silicon Valley, wore himself out trying to keep up with Harvey.
The EZ-1 was a great boat, but after 40 years of fishing Harvey was ready for a boat that was smaller and easier to maintain. So last year he found the perfect one - a 42' fiberglass boat he named "Koko". The EZ-1 was sold in early 2013 and is headed back to Alaska to be a packer in inland waters. But the EZ-1 will still be with us in our logos, website, and labels.
In 1998 we were frustrated with the albacore markets — we had to rely on big canneries to buy our fish, but these canneries much preferred buying cheaper long-line albacore when they could. That particular year the EZ1 sat in Ilwaco Harbor with a load of excellent albacore. In fact, the harbor was full of boats unable to unload because the canneries had bought enough foreign-caught fish for their needs.
Judy, not being a particularly patient person, was at first angry when she thought of all the fishermen who needed to sell and the fish that needed to be canned — and the fact that the Big Three canneries were blocking albacore caught by Americans from getting to Americans who wanted to eat tuna. Then she realized, "Those canneries are in business, too, AND they have to do what makes sense for them financially, AND they aren't obligated to buy from American boats. On the other hand, we're not obligated to wait around for them to buy from us. I think we should start a cannery and process albacore ourselves.”
Luckily, friends decided that was a good idea and joined in, taking over the reins of building and then operating the custom cannery, which now processes albacore, salmon and other seafood for northwest fishing families and cooperatives.
On a completely unrelated note
The Wild Pacific logo comes from something that happened 25+ years ago. Harvey was fishing salmon off the northern California coast on the 39 ft Miss Judith (the boat he built after the Fat Cat). He and his friend knew that the weather was coming up, but they decided to try to fish just a little bit longer. In the morning the waves were so high and steep that his running partner could see the sky and sun underneath the hull of the Miss Judith when it topped a swell. He clicked a picture (since lost, alas) of the sun shining under the Miss Judith. Stephanie asked Harv a couple of years ago what he was doing out in weather like that. “Being stupid,” he replied. But to us the image still brings to mind the freedom and the wildness of the Pacific Ocean and the adventure of making a living off it.