Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to the Stern, Part II and Sweet Pea Goes Solar!

Tuesday, August 24.

I am the Black Lab just enjoying the ride in the pickup truck. The breeze is whipping. The Miss Madelyn is fast. The waves are bright hills of water here west of Matinicus. The wind tears the tops off the great heaving breakers that rear up over the ledge every couple of minutes.

Today is the second day aboard Miss Madelyn, another of the big-boy boats. Fast, roomy and catching many, many lobsters. Yesterday, day 1 on Miss Madelyn, was gray and wet and very rough. We worked the whole day behind “The Ball,” the Wooden Ball Island.

I’ve never seen so many lobsters in my life as I have in the last 4 days of Man Fishing on Cynthia Lynn and Miss Madelyn.

Being a sternman once again is fun. It is frenetic, and not so much like a hockey game as maybe basketball. I never played, but I imagine that when the team is flowing together- anticipating the others’ moves, keeping the ball moving, going where the ball is going to be- that it is like this. I never played sports, but the close, fast moves, independent and intertwined must be similar to this. Except they play for an hour or something and we start at 5:00a.m. and go til afternoon. And our court tilts a lot. And is splashy. Cold splashes down your neck.

What I forgot was: I really like this kind of work. The ocean. The action. The teamwork. The way the pace and the tilting blur together and I find a speed and grace and reflexes (relatively speaking) that no other experience brings out. The Wild.

At a different moment I realize that I’m looking at a fall ocean. Waves, wind and color are of fall even though it’s still August. I start feeling the need to finish up my project for the season. With this sea, sky and wind change and the financial and personal stresses that accompany the project, it feels like time to pull them up.

The feeling passes. At the end of the week, I’m back aboard my beloved Sweet Pea, catching a tiny amount of lobsters slowly, and paying tiny overhead.

Sweet Pea is now solar. The panel says it’s charging my winch battery. I obsess about my wiring and the solar setup as a whole, because I cannot really tell if the battery is getting charged. My amateurish marine wiring is very wet and covered in all manner of marine plant life by mid morning. The winch keeps on turning for the rest of the day, making my job exponentially easier.

The sunlight goes in the photovoltaic window, turns into electrons that run down the wires, through the charge controller and onto the battery terminals, then out into electro magnetic motor of the the winch that turns and pulls up the rope. The sun pulls my traps up for me now. How sweet is that?! Free photons for me and Sweet Pea.

Now for an electric motor...


  1. Nat- just ran across your blog from the NPR article. Good for you with the rowing and the hauling- I've tried it on a much smaller scale with a 10-pot rec license down off Cape Ann in MA.

    A few items I learned that worked out well:
    1. I thermoformed some 1/4" polyethylene sheet into a U with a blowtorch to cover the gunwales where I haul- rope slides much easier, and less abuse on the gunwales when I set the traps on top. Actually, having a few thwarts over top of the gunwales also gives me a nice, higher up work platform to bait/measure and makes sliding traps on/off easier.

    2. Last year I used a 17' canoe with a sliding seat rowing rig, this year it's an early 60's fiberglass 16' Adirondack Guideboat with another Piantedosi sliding seat rig. I've wanted to give a pod a try (looking for a 19' appledore for when the kids are older)- is yours the traditional 13-14 footer?

    I can see how standing up is a good row and easy to transition to hauling (I turn around to haul over the bow), but you may want to check out a sliding seat setup for variety or at least abusing different muscles. The sliding seat really makes the row out go a bit faster, as does the longer waterline.

    It sounds like you're having fun, as I do especially when my stern-kid is aboard. Each trap we haul is like a surprise present- sometimes a ray, sometimes a golf ball or beer can, many times empty but for baby lumpfish and crabs.

    Good luck hauling after Earl stirs things up a bit! Stay safe.

  2. Very cool innovations! I wish more people tried these kinds of fishing and relating to the environment. I'm in a 15' peapod, cedar over oak. I rigged a spatula like device with a roller to accommodate the rope and lever the traps aboard. I think the sliding seat thing is brilliant. I read Roz Savage's book about rowing solo across the Atlantic and I think she had a sliding seat. Thanks for commenting!