Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First Hauls, Alternative Energy and O Rings

The first half day back to hauling was pretty encouraging. Not the weather, but the lobsters. It was foggy and dismal as had been the case for many weeks. I baited up the afternoon before, realizing that I can bag bait even if it's blowing 25, but there are only so many calm hours to be rowing and hauling traps.

My first half day's worth of gear was pretty close around the island. I started behind the breakwater, worked around Wheaton Island, into Old Cove and Back Cove. I poked around in the fog, staying very close to shore, enjoying the boat, freshly painted trap flipper and solar charged winch- all the things that are now in muscle memory, but which were either totally unfamiliar, or which did not exist a year ago.

It was a knuckle cleaning, tendon wrenching, obsenity and despair filled few weeks at first last year as I discovered the set-in-stone limitations as well as painfully acquired some boat handling and trap pulling skills. I tell myself the same thing now when I'm doing something clumsily, which never seems to happen when nobody's watching: I am primarily an entertainer. Flailing around, messy moorings, bonking into my skiff, goofy almost balancing acts. Those are all part of the show. I got to skip all of that for the first day back. Besides, it was too foggy for anybody to see the stage.

Yesterday felt like vaulting from April, over May and June into July. I was hot and a little stifly as I started at West Point after a refreshing 42 minute paddle. I hauled a full day's worth of gear working back around the islets and ledges. I also feel as though I vaulted over the first few months of last year. I immediately took up where I'd left off in September. The setup worked. I seemed to remember how to work as well. I hauled 75 pots and scooted back in with my new motor. With the motor, I feel as though I'm sitting on the ledge of a convertible and should be waving as I putt along at a stately pace. It is regal, or at least like the second runner up at the sardine festival parade.

The motor, battery and I are still getting to know one another. Being that the winch is essential while the motor is a regal luxury, I can't run the battery flat with the motor early in the day. I don't have a battery gauge any more because the battery case marketed by the same company as the motor has corroded into nothingness in less than a year. As a result, I am starting out being very judicious with the motor, limiting its running time to official monarchical and regal occasions, or when I'm tired and there's a ways between strings of traps.

What the whole solar experience reminds me is how potent petroleum is as an energy form. I'm capturing photons a few at a time and a few hours at a time while oil is millenia of stored sunlight metabolized by plants, little algae in the ocean that died and piled up on the seabed in very large numbers.

The alternative energy experience has also helped highlight electrical and mechanical challenges in the saltwater environment. Every single time I've been out setting traps or testing the engine or whatever else, I come to an inevitable point where an electrical connection fails. Not just any electrical connection. Clayton helped me see to it that most of the gear is wired to open boat saltwater tolerance. There's this one particular connection that forever vexes me. The positive battery post on the "waterproof" trolling motor "power center," or plastic box that keeps the battery dry. I have sweet talked, dirty talked, taken apart, cranked back together every nut, bolt and ring terminal in this part of my photon supply chain EVERY SINGLE TIME I've come in.

As I was getting ready to haul my second trap yesterday- after the 42 minute warm up row- I hit the switch and listened to the gentle lap of wavelets instead of the hearty hum of my winch. The connection went again first thing, way out from the harbor. This stupid little thing was going to end my first real workday before it began. I decided to hardwire everything straight to the battery and use the box cover as a hood. The whole works was way more frisky with a solid connection. zzziinngggg!

That battery post was my o-ring, that little part that can disable an entire system. Since I don't want to spend any money on a new saltwater box until I'm actually making some money, I'll rig the box and bypass the external terminals altogether. I will zip about, waving as the Peapod Crown or Clown Prince of The Isle.

Sea you there.

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