Joeleen Lambert Skinner, F/V Pioneer

Fisherman, “Deck Boss”, Rancher

Fisherman and rancher Joleen Lambert Skinner talks about the balance she finds working the land and the water.

When F/V Pioneer docked in Moss Landing, Joeleen Lambert Skinner could be seen tapping rapidly on her flip phone, making sure the catch from that day would be offloaded to buyers. Joeleen is deck boss on the F/V Pioneer, a light-touch trawler owned and operated by Monterey-bred fisherman Giuseppe “Joe” Pennisi.

 Pioneer Seafoods also sells fish direct-off-the boat at Pier 47 in San Francisco.

 It’s in her blood, as she comes from a lineage of fishermen and women that dates back to whalers in the 1600’s in Martha’s Vineyard. They chased whales west, trading along the way. Once they arrived in Monterey, they sold their boat and opened a lumber yard. Her mother's side goes back for generations in the Monterey region. As Joeleen put it, "the Lamberts are notorious for their independence. The Tomasini's, my mother's side, for their compassion and wholesomeness of values."  

 On top of her work on the water, Joleen also runs an 8.5-acre ranch in Carmel Valley with her husband Thomas Skinner. The two raised three children, Lacey, Wes and Reilly who are now adults, on the northern edge of the Ventana Wilderness where they tended to horses, dogs and  at times cattle while protecting them from coyotes and mountain lions.

 “It gives me balance,” she says about ranching and fishing, living off both the land and sea.

 Joeleen is hearing impaired, but is an expert lip reader which enables her to communicate with others on the boat. She’s a combination of kind and approachable as well as tough and competent – ideal on a ship.  

 She started working for Joe Pennisi nine years ago. She first wired and painted the engine room. These can be loud, disturbing places, but the noise didn’t bother her and she could stay focused. Then she helped with offloading, and brought the crew donuts.

 The transition to deckhand was a natural one. She says that she loves being at sea because of “the hard work, the awareness it requires.” Her favorite Monterey Bay fish to have for dinner are shortspine thornyheads and sand dabs.