Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wooly Mammoth Hair

I got up dutifully at 5 ish AM and looked out to see leaves moving. That early, I don't want to see any leaves fluttering, especially a whole tree's worth. I went anyway and rowed several miles around to the west side of the island to start my day of hauling traps. In Burgess Cove and in front of Little Island, it was pretty tranquil, because the woods and shore were nearby and the wind had no fetch to create large waves.

So the first 15 pots were more or less normal working conditions. Then I ventured around West Point and started my pep talks. "It doesn't matter if it's slow, don't compare what's happening today with how it's supposed to go. Just do the job." That works for about a half an hour of clawing forward through a 15 knot headwind and a few knots of adverse current. As soon as I stop rowing, the boat makes an instant wake back from when I came, sluicing the wrong direction.

After the pep talk wears off, there is lots of demotivational cursing. Then I decide to switch to the motor that I've been stubbornly avoiding using, wanting that boost to be available later in the day. So be it. After a couple of pots, the water is shimmering with stiff wind from the north northeast. The chop appears to double by the minute. The boat starts to swivel any way but into the wind. The wrestling match turns into a rodeo event where staying on is the objective.

I decide to quit. Without the motor, I would've needed to beach, or get towed in, or spent half a day rowing in 4 inch increments back to the harbor at the expense of tendons and nerve function.

Once around Northeast Point, the head-on turns to side-to, and the waves get large and steep. Sweet Pea loves the rollercoaster, and I love her for being so happy even in very rough water. I also love my electric motor for getting me back to harbor.

I'm coming in with tail tucked, surfing into the harbor, feeling my day is over at 10:30 in the morning. I'm also realizing how little I know about compass bearings and geography, because it is instantly evident that a couple of coves are perfectly sheltered and cozy from the NNE wind. Sliding through the harbor and out the Gut, I'm in a sunny and tranquil world that doesn't appear to be even in the same area code as the shimmering, sloshing, wind blasted place I just came in from.

I almost make a day of it after all. In the afternoon, the wind flunks out completely and so I stuff a few more bait bags and head out.

After a great round 2 start, I meet a challenge worse than all the wind, rain, pain, inexperience and all other obstacles to date. Let's call it "Wooly Mammoth Hair"- a whole stampede's worth. This long, fine, stringy, brownish purply plant wraps around my ropes by the bushel. It all piles up on the trap end of the rope and weighs enough that those mammoths wouldn't have been able to move if they got wet. It also severely destabilizes the boat. I have to wrench the trap part way up with one hand and try to tear the hair off with the other and not fall overboard or capsize. It is the end of my day. Those traps are now inaccessible without hydraulic assistance and a multi-ton hull.

After all the ups and downs, I end up with a solid day's pay after all.

I wake in the night with a lump in my throat that soon comes loose in the flood. This life is really hard on the family. And my body. I'm searching for straight jobs in a tough economy while running down the mountain ahead of the financial avalanche and willing myself not to stumble.

Oz and Never Neverland are dazzling places to visit.

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