It all started when I received a new job that took me to Tokyo. In 1979, I was selected to be the new Fisheries Attaché at the American Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.
I had been working as a fisheries officer for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Honolulu for about 25 years and not getting very far. For a fisheries type it was the dream job of a lifetime, a chance to learn more about Japanese culture, practice my Japanese language skills (which were not very good), and to learn the ins and outs of international diplomacy.
The United States of America has fishery relations with dozens of foreign nations, but its fisheries relations with Japan are paramount and its only Fisheries Attaché was in Tokyo.
For example, when I arrived in Tokyo, Japan was harvesting more than 5,000 tons of fish each year from the US Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska (the 200-mile fishery zone). A bill titled the “American Fisheries Protection Act” had been introduced in the U.S Congress that would cut off these Japanese harvests (which it later did).
This US unilateral action caused grave resentments in Japan and US-Japan fisheries trade relations suffered, which had a bearing on Alaska’s sales in Japan. This was the atmosphere when I got my new job in Tokyo.
To prepare me for the fishery problems lurking in Japan, I was instructed to visit Alaska to consult with state fishery leaders and visit various centers of fishery harvests, such as Kodiak Island. Kodiak has always been one of the US top fishing ports and is located close to the grounds for pollock, king crab, shrimp and other species.
“As the tide falls, the ship comes to rest on this table and repairs below the water line can easily be made”
Kodiak, a town of about 10,000, is on the northeastern edge of Kodiak Island, which is about 25 miles south of the Aleutian Peninsula in the upper part of the Gulf of Alaska and about 200 miles from mainland Alaska.
In Alaska, I met with such leaders as Clem Tillion of Halibut Cove and brothers Al and Oral Burch of Kodiak. The two brothers owned the high seas shrimp trawlers Dawn and Dusk. Kodiak is not a very big town, so you can drive around it in 10 or 15 minutes.
In Kodiak, I was shepherded by Hank Pennington, who ran the Sea Grant Program in Kodiak for the University of Alaska. Hank was a tall guy, maybe six-foot three and rather laid back, as we will see.
One day my list of appointments arranged by Hank had been completed by about 2:00pm. Hank had then planned for me to visit one of Kodiak’s “out of the water” ship repair facilities that line the harbor front. These repair facilities depend on the rising and falling of the tide to operate.
For example, a medium sized trawler will be tied up alongside a dock and three or four feet below the vessel is a large table like platform that sticks out from the side of the dock. As the tide falls, the ship comes to rest on this table and repairs below the water line can easily be made. Then when the tide rises the ship floats free, and so on during a series of tidal changes.
“Women in Kodiak are very independent and like to do their own thing, whether it is as a crew member or captain of a deep-sea fishing trawler”
After visiting one of these out of the water repair facilities, Hank suggested we go to Tony’s Bar for a beer. Not a bad idea. He cautioned that Tony’s has a somewhat “Dodge City West” reputation with a lot of rowdy behavior in the evening by drinking fishermen, and their ladies. So, we went and got a couple of beers.
The bar was empty and, so we could sit anywhere we liked. We chose a table in an empty dance floor and were enjoying our beer when two very plump Kodiak ladies about 20 to 25 years old each opened the side door and entered the dance floor.
When I say plump, I mean they each weighed about 140 to 150 pounds (about 11 to 12 stone). But they carried their weight well and each of them had what would appear to be a five-star bosom. They were really built. And they were warmly dressed for the Kodiak climate with several layers of clothing. Taking no notice of Hank and me, they put their handbags on a nearby table and went over to the electronic control mechanism that produced music for dancing. And turned it on.
They then formed a line of two across the dance floor next to us and started wiggling to the music. After a minute or two, in a simultaneous move, each removed her sweater (jumper). Underneath were their blouses and bras. Now more dance movements to the music and after a few more minutes of this the two ladies simultaneously took off their blouses.
“Kodiak women like to do things on a large scale”
Now Hank and I could see they really did have five-star bosoms and our eyes were getting wider and wider. Now their bra-constrained bosoms slowly moved to the music. And finally, as we hoped might happen, they removed their bras and their five-star breasts started keeping time to the music. Their breasts were large, pink and in very robust condition swinging back and forth in time to the music. All very, very attractive.
This bosom dancing went on for about five minutes as Hank and I took in the review and drank our beer. They continued to pay absolutely no attention to us. I was astonished, but Hank was less so, given the reputation of Tony’s Bar. Eventually they stopped, put on their clothes, turned off the music and left the dance floor.
The question of course is why were they bosom dancing at 2:30 pm on an empty bar’s dance floor? Hank and I decided the most logical reason was that they were practicing for some entertainment that night, or maybe just for the hell of it or probably both. I have been told that women in Kodiak are very independent and like to do their own thing, whether it is as a crew member or captain of a deep-sea fishing trawler, or perhaps even with some some bosom dancing on an empty dance floor in Tony’s Bar.
After completing this story, I looked up Tony’s Bar on its website. A short description said that Tony’s Bar is noted for two things. One is having the longest bar in Alaska, and the second is featuring strippers. It looks like Tony’s has got it right by featuring plump ladies as evening strippers. After all, Kodiak women like to do things on a large scale.
This is an excerpt from Bob Iversen’s new book Swimming with Fishes, reviewed here.
Submissions wanted! Do you have an exciting, amusing or downright dangerous anecdote from your time in the maritime world? Each week, we will feature new personal experiences from across the globe. Submissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Iversen is a retired Hawaii fishery biologist who spent 40 years studying tuna and other fish in the tropical Pacific Ocean. He is a former officer in the US Navy, and initiated the “mental health of seafarers” movement that has now taken off worldwide.