Chloe Ivanoff: finding her sea legs

Commercial fishing vessel in Alaska

Chloe Ivanoff wasn’t always so passionate about boating. Despite growing up on Alaska’s Kodiak Island, she was the least likely of five siblings to spend time aboard the family’s commercial fishing vessel, the New Dawn, a 48-foot Hansen. “I was just really into sports, and worried that I’d get out of shape on the boat,” Ivanoff, now 30, remembers. “That, and even the school swing set gave me motion sickness.”

In high school, Ivanoff competed in track and cross country and wrestled in the 112-pound weight class. She went on to wrestle at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, for two years before returning to Alaska. She graduated with a geology degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2016. Shortly after Ivanoff began working seasonal jobs in geology, she started to feel she’d missed an important rite of passage by not having spent a summer living and working aboard the New Dawn. She decided to train for it by joining her father’s crew for the annual sea cucumber harvest, typically done in October. The excursions were short, just 3-5 days at a time, and took place in calm bays, which helped Ivanoff build her confidence aboard the New Dawn.

Commercial fishing vessel in Alaska

Commercial fishing vessel, the New Dawn, a 48-foot Hansen.

After three seasons with the sea cucumber dive fishery, Ivanoff tried her first summer of salmon seining (using a specialized net to haul up fish). Her father had been continually stepping away from the operation, which put her older brother at the helm as captain. Her younger brother serves as the skiffman, the person responsible for the skiff and placing the net. Ivanoff joined on as one of two deckhands, bringing the team to the ideal crew size of four. She quickly realized that she’d been mistaken about losing fitness. “Working on the boat kicks your butt,” she says. “You may not end up the fastest runner, but you will definitely get fit.”

Ivanoff has spent every summer since living and working aboard the New Dawn. She loves the strong camaraderie of her crew, and the exhilaration of living among so much wildlife—whether it’s spotting a bear on a distant shoreline knoll, or watching a whale breach in the waters beside the boat. Plus, the geologist in her deeply appreciates the ability to view the land, in all its permutations, from the perspective of the sea. In between salmon seining seasons, she works as an assistant coach for the Kodiak High School wrestling team. She recently began experimenting with cooking using sea cucumbers—considered a delicacy in China—by incorporating the echinoderms’ muscle meat into tacos and chowders. “It’s actually really delicious,” she says.

Ivanoff still experiences motion sickness, particularly when the New Dawn is underway in stormy conditions. She gets through it by focusing on her breathing, accepting that she’s going to vomit, and reminding herself that the awful feeling is only temporary. For Ivanoff, boating has its challenges, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. She knows exactly where she wants to be next summer.


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