Meet the crew of the F/V Audacious
Thais Taylor was born a long way from Alaska. “I grew up in Puerto Rico and I now live in the Virgin Islands,” she says. “I’ve been working on the water for about ten years, mostly on charter boats.” She is in her element at sea.
Thais met Drew Terhaar, captain of the F/V Audacious, by chance at a mutual friend’s wedding several years ago and he introduced her to what Alaska had to offer. “He brought some delicious king salmon for the wedding and I was just like, ‘Oh my god, where do I get some of that?’” After working as deckhand on the F/V Audacious this past fishing season trolling for salmon, Thais has found an answer.
Growing up outside Chicago, Drew wasn’t always a seasoned salmon fisherman. “I went to school for geology,” Drew remembers. “When I was doing geology, part of what I liked about it is that we did a lot of field work and got outside.” For Drew, the career path of a geologist left a lot to be desired. “It was hard because all the jobs start out at 25 grand, and you get two weeks vacation time,” he recalls. “It didn't sound very good.”
As he was deciding on his future, one of Drew’s friends spent a summer deckhanding on commercial fishing vessels in Sitka. Drew liked what he heard enough to drop everything and fly up to Sitka. “I went up there and I stayed in the hostel and I got up every day and walked around and talked to all the fishermen I saw until I found a job,” Drew says.
Drew enjoyed the experience so much he bought a boat of his own. He met Marsh Skeele, co-founder of Sitka Salmon Shares, through mutual friends and he joined as a fisherman-owner during the winter of 2014-2015.
Drew bought the F/V Audacious in January of 2020 and its size necessitated some help. “Drew posted on Facebook that he was looking for a deckhand and within minutes I replied ‘I'm in!’ without thinking about it, which is usually how things go,” Thais remembers. “Two weeks later, I'm flying to Alaska.”
As the rest of the country was bombarded with news about the early stages of the pandemic and the 2020 election, Thais enjoyed the isolation of working on the sea. “Not having contact with the world through a phone, I'm used to that,” she says. “It's something that I love and I seek those moments of being completely disconnected.”
Nutrition, always a focus for Thais, became important during the long trips at sea. “I grew up eating a lot of seafood on the islands and Puerto Rico,” Thais says. For the past 15 years she has followed a pescatarian diet.
“Seafood is very important in my life and I care about what I put in my body.”
Thais says the Sitka Salmon Shares model fits her nutrition philosophy well. “I want to know where my food is coming from,” she says. That’s easy enough on the boat when you pull dinner from the ocean with your own hands. Thais says she eats well on the F/V Audacious, and that she and Drew trade off cooking duties. “Drew is a good cook and we like to compete,” she says. Her favorite dishes this year were curries and king salmon pad thai.
You can eat like the crew of the Audacious with this Thai Green Curry recipe from Culinary Director Grace Parisi.
Thais found work on a vessel fishing for sea cucumbers late in 2021, but she looks forward to her winters back home in the islands even if her family and friends want a share of her home pack of Alaska seafood. “Everybody and their mother wants fish,” she says. Her comfort food at home is simple: “I'm gonna have rice and beans, and fried green plantains and snapper—It's my favorite meal.”
Drew also thinks about how meals connect members to all the work he does on the F/V Audacious. Drew is always learning and honing his craft to deliver the highest quality fish possible. “It's really important to start bleeding the fish right away and get them cleaned quickly,” Drew says, “because if you have them sitting there on deck for too long it starts going into rigor mortis.”
Drew is now a long ways away from the struggling geology graduate, but his training and experience drive him to solve problems. “You gotta be everything to run a fishing boat: an electrician and a mechanic and a plumber because you always have stuff breaking,” he says.
Coho, he says, presents unique problems. In late June and early July, Drew says, “they are eating nonstop and you'll slice them open and they'll have three herring that are like eight inches long jammed into their belly.” He says that their digestive system is so active that speed matters. “They get what's called ‘belly burn’ because their stomach acid will start eating through and burn the meat if you don't dress them right away.”
Keep an eye out for salmon from the F/V Audacious. Behind every portion of fish in your box is a story similar to that of Drew and Thais, who care as much as you do that we deliver the freshest catch possible. “I think there's a global understanding of consumers who want to know where their food is coming from,” Thais says. “That is something that I appreciate because I also value how good healthy, fresh food can be.”
Right now, Thais and Drew are resting up before the summer rush. Drew soaks up sun in California and Thais is taking a yoga class with our Fleet Manager, Lauren Mitchell, and Communications Manager, Emma Bruhl. Thais is also looking ahead to where her path leads. “I've gotten the bug,” she says. “It definitely crosses my mind regularly if I want to get my own boat.” Although she wants more experience before commanding her own vessel, Thais is happy to have found a second home in Alaska and the possibilities it offers.