Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rocky Bottom


Rocky Bottom

Today is the first day of getting through all the traps in the water, except, of course, for the very last one which got stuck on rocky bottom behind Ten Pound Island. The wind is blowing hard and I am getting pushed toward the rocks, so I abandon that pot for a nicer day. The boat is very difficult to control as I try to round the corner in a cross wind. Aggravating, physically brutal and scary all at once. It won’t go where I point it. I am exhausted and a long way from the harbor.

Then the sail goes up and everything changes. It’s quiet. The boat wants to go smoothly to the harbor. I stick an oar over the side to steer and slide home with no effort at all. By the time I reach Old Cove and start taking the sail down, I have about 45 minutes’ sailing experience. 15 yesterday, 10 this morning and a 20 minute scoot across to the harbor. Every minute of that is pure magic. I’ve never even been on a sailboat, and now I have a working commercial vessel under sail.

That’s about as good as it got. Things went down hill steeply after that. I ended up being two hours and change late getting in. The afternoon turned to evening and the personal and financial realities started hitting head-on.

I fell asleep on the couch and woke to a muscle spasm in the back of my leg that felt as though it would tear all the meat right off the bone. That wrenching pretty well matched the anguish inside.

I can’t. I can’t do it physically. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The gripping on rope and pulling up a metal box from the sea floor. Every foot of rope requires every bit of strength. By the time I’m rowing into the harbor, my forearm bones feel sprung apart. Roofing, sheetrocking, farming, woodcutting, and being a sternman were all easy by comparison. And I’m a 47 year old guy waking up with a charley horse fit to tear my leg apart.

With all that effort, I’m not making money. Mortgage and power bill are due. I have a barrel of bait rotting on the float because the quantity I have to buy is more than I can use on my schedule. Money gone into the stink of rotten herring. Oh yes, and the boat is not paid for.

I can’t do it physically, financially or emotionally. Now I’m awake in the wee hours wondering how to get the boat shop to take Sweet Pea back. My question to myself is: Is it dumber to give up and bail out or dumber to keep trying?

I hope this is rock bottom.


The next day, Wes and I are sitting in the kitchen. It’s foggy and drizzly on the other side of the slider. I tell my woe and he tells me- again- that, yep, it won’t work. You’ve got to get rid of that boat. “I’ve got thirty years into this. I’ve seen the boats change, the gear change and the business side change. You can’t do it the way you’re trying to do it.”

Then I tell him how great it was to sail on the northerly breeze in the morning and the southwesterly in the afternoon. Then he grins and laughs. “You know, it’s really pretty cool what you’re doing. Let’s go set the rest of your traps right now.” And we do.

Bagging bait, loading 40 on the stern of Shameless, steaming out to Two Bush Island, slogging through rain which turns to downpour when we get in the harbor, getting the outboard stuck on a derelict buoy in the harbor. All of these things he put up with to help me.

That’s today’s lesson. Thanks to the Max, Peter, Frank and all the other predecessors who left tools and boat stuff in the barn. Thanks to whoever left the sail that fits Sweet Pea perfectly and makes me so happy every time I put it up. Thanks to the fishermen watching out for me. Thanks to Lisa tolerating yet another “adventure.” Thanks to Clayton for getting me into the water. Thanks for all the advice, even when it’s directly contradictory:

“You’ve got to get wooden traps. They fish great”
“Wooden traps don’t fish for shit.”
“I loved wooden traps. I bought 300 of them and lost every last one in a storm.”

I’m thankful and relieved to have 100 pots out now. I can visit more of them with a lot less traversing.

I’ve hit walls and taken them for granted, especially where I don’t know what I’m doing, there aren’t suppliers for key things I need and I get advice like “you’ve got to get rid of that boat.” It takes a good night’s rest to realize that I just need to look at the wall and figure out how to get over, under, around or through. The next big wall is getting those heavy wire traps up to the boat. I spent days getting the flipper functional to make boarding the traps easier. I know I can’t hand haul them without some help from Archimedes. Or a good 12 volt winch.