Thursday, May 6, 2010

Boat and Trap Launching

I can stand up with a guitar and pour out a Bob Dylan song comfortably. Or my own song, or James Taylor, Taj Mahal or something from the Great American Songbook, pop edition. I don’t think about every note. I don’t think about any note. I tip the pitcher and it pours out. That is because that 4 minutes or so of performance was assembled starting about 35 years ago. My knowledge is subconscious now.

Clayton takes me out to set my first 50 traps. I had planned on doing this all myself, and thought that taking motorized help was somehow cheating. Clayton is a good friend and doesn’t have a sternman right now, so I trade a load of his gear getting set for a load of mine. We zip off to Two Bush ledge, tie a trap to warp. Warp to buoy. A causal flip off his wrist and I give it a shove. Over it goes. One trap in the water. Why here? How will I remember? I didn’t plan on coming over here. Then it’s five in the water and another 5 behind the Beach Ledge marker. How will I remember? I didn't realize my buoys were so small and essentially invisible out here! This patch of ocean where I’ve worked hundreds of days for four years suddenly seems as foreign as parachuting into Siberia or the Amazon Basin. It’s so big. Everything is so far apart. I’ll never remember. I’ll never be able to see the buoys. I’ll never be able to set them back where they are set now. How does he know this. He seems so casual. Like I sing a song, he drops traps.

And so it goes on the back side of Wheaton Island, Old Cove and Ten Pound Island. It seems very exposed in a large, wild, open ocean. How did I think I was going to come out here in the wild in a tiny wooden boat that I don’t yet even know how to handle, dealing with finding buoys, safely hauling traps aboard, resetting them and getting home dry and intact? It’s completely ludicrous. These guys have decades of subconscious knowledge and centuries of inherited instinctual intuitive skill. Me, well, I’ve got an ok singing voice.

On the back side of Ten Pound, we drop off the last five in a rollicking westerly swell seemingly a few feet from stern, steep, jaggedy, intimidating granite formations. I don’t even want to come here in my little boat, invisible to the island, rolling around like a marble on a pickup truck bed, much less try to hoist traps in and get them out before the grouchy rock gods take a whoofle out of me.

Maybe my good friend is trying to scare the shit out of me to smarten me up. But there’s still that quiet voice saying the next great adventure of my life is underway. I’m going to Antarctica, Kazakhstan, the Congo right within a half mile of shore of the tiny island that adopted my family and I.


My boat was launched in Round Pond on Tuesday afternoon. The four individuals who built her got the first ride following the blessing by Rev. Ives. As though the water didn’t know the boat was there, it slid, surreal, the only disturbance coming from the dipping of oars. This is truly a magic design. The Boatshop crew has been nothing but enthusiastic, while also saying that it was a challenge unlike other building projects. Having two bows and no stern, planks could not be run long and then trimmed. Looking at the hull, I have absolutely no idea how our two dimensional brains can accommodate all those curves. Maybe it’s a fourth dimension thing, and that’s why the water does not even know the Sweet Pea is passing through. I take a paddle, disclaiming as I embark, that I have no idea how to row the boat. The boat seems to know and is patient with me. I’m immediately aware that this 300 pound, 15 by 4.5 foot boat moves much more easily than my 80 pound ten foot aluminum skiff. That’s the design magic that was created before humans even learned how to work with aluminum. It’s a better design. A much older design. And there we come back to one of the fundamentals of the Zero Carbon Lobster Harvesting Project. Progress really means that what’s better should be the measure of the future. Not necessarily what’s faster or bigger or louder.

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