I pulled by hand my first two seasons as well and bought one of these--a Scotty, I believe, that fits in the rod holder base. I thought it helped quite a lot and keep it on board as a backup in case my Brutus fails.I bought a pot puller pulley that locks into my rod holder base - what a difference - that makes it easy (almost)...and they only cost about 35$.
Another tip for pulling on the cheap is to use your tender and motor. Run the line over your gunwale, hand the buoy to the guy/gal in the tender and have them pull away. Give them the signal to drop the buoy when the pot is up. I would put a few wraps of red tape about 50' up from the pot as a warning or you might need to wear a helmet. It works!
Patrick - are you leaning over the side and pulling straight up? I first used a bouy/bucket combo and that ended up being so stressful for eveyone else on the boat that I started hand pulling. I bought a pot puller pulley that locks into my rod holder base - what a difference - that makes it easy (almost)...and they only cost about 35$.
Try B&Js. They have them and are one of my favorite fishing supply places in anchorage. They have a bunch of stuff, decent prices and good knowledge. Lots of places in town sell the pulley you put into a the scotty rod holder base. I've seen them at Freddy's as well and sportsmans. I'd actually recommend getting the slider for pulling with a buoy. Its cheap and saves pulling the 600ft drop line. B&Js has the metal version which I prefer. Then you could use the pulley scotty makes for bringing the rest in.
Had a great shake down run for the boat. Did not do so well on the shrimp though. Only got about a gallon of whole shrimp. The weather, seas and scenery was absolutely incredible as usual. I think I may have a little sunburn. I will attach some pics for those who need a fix.