Monday, June 13, 2011

Up and Running, "Shopping"

The upstairs of the barn got warm as uspstairses of barns do. Especially with 50 or so people sitting close together on a Saturday night in June. This is a special barn. It has bamboo flooring, wall hangings, a full kitchen downstairs and some very tasty homemade pizza set out. Andy and Jeff Chipman are with me, playing our original songs to maybe the best listening crowd we've had. As the nearly drowned fisherman in The Secret of Roan Inish said on waking in a warm barn with several women looking down at him said: "So this is heaven, then?" It certainly was.

After the intermission, I gave the first public presentation on the zero carbon lobster project. I had a powerpoint slide show and thankfully paid little attention to it except for the pictures. I can't tolerate presenters who read their powerpoints, though I've done it more than a few times. The content is meant to be digressed from, embellished and so forth. I hope to give many more talks on the project. I'm pretty confident about what I'm doing, which for anyone who knows me, is an extremely rare circumstance.

I'm coming off the first week and a half of hauling gear. The experience is thoroughly different from last year. The pain, money, stress and blunderment are all way more tolerable this year.

I've been around to the west side, out to the islets, around Whale's Back Ledge. The catch is pretty skimpy, but the price is up, so a day's work is bringing a day's pay.

Last June, I'd been hauling for a few weeks, pulling wire traps up from the sea floor by hand. Realization was stark. I could not possibly haul enough that way to make any kind of financial contribution to my family. My wrists, back, neck elbows, shoulders felt like glass ready to splinter. The despair and panic lead me to wish I could give the boat back to the builder and do something else; what I did not know.

Then came the winch/battery/solar panel idea. It took a number of weeks to pull together. I set up the battery panel on a styrofoam veggie shipping tray from Lisa's store, put the battery under the seat and the winch on top of the seat. I took a couple of nylon cinch straps from a life vest that washed ashore and secured the winch so it wouldn't winch itself down overboard, but would instead winch the traps up and aboard.

After the bugs were worked out, that arrangement changed everything. The solar panel always kept the battery at 75% or better. My body was saved. My spirit was saved. I started making money.

This year, I've added a motor which changes the show as thoroughly as did the winch. I had no idea how to operate a motor boat. Especially where, instead of oars in the middle of the boat pulling it forward, the motor is mounted on the back, so it's a bit like pushing a pencil where you want it to go and only touching the tip to do it.

Holy wow, though, does it make life easier. I can zip between clusters of gear and then switch to rowing from trap to trap. I can get out to the start and back from the finish. I can multitask while cruising 'cause my hands are free. It does not care about wind and chop.

I feel almost (but not) guilty about how much easier it is to work with my solar team. I still know I've done a day's work, but I'm not feeling shattered when I come in.

The motor draws on the battery pretty hard, and I've had to charge up on household current a few times if I wanted to go hauling on consecutive days. Even at our very high electric rate, it's less than a buck to charge the battery from flat dead. So far on one charge, I've gotten a day's hauling and cruising plus a ride for our wonderful school teacher and his wife the next day. Not bad that I can fill my fuel tank for less than a buck and get more than a day's work out of it.

The bottom line is that I now have a fully functional solar/human/wind powered fishing operation that is beginning to make money. This is not a solar setup for charging a laptop or making coffee, but heavy duty physical work in a tough environment. My bones and tendons can tell how much hard labor is done for me courtesy of the sun.

I won't send kids to college or pay for braces with this setup, but I have a model and an understanding of the interplay between solar charging, weight and work effort. Now, as with every fisherman since probably forever, I say: just need a bigger boat.


I spent almost nothing to get ready this year. I bought some stainless steel and ferrous hog rings, a quart of paint and a few bundles of oak runners. Not $200 I don't think.

Bait bags, buoys, trap vents, bungee cords, cleats all litter the shore and are free for the scavenging. I climb along the rocks and walk the cobbly beaches and come back with armloads of trash that then gets installed on my traps and returned to production. Plastic trash converted to money I don't have to spend, and money I will make with my gear. Ah Hah!

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