Friday, July 29, 2011

This Was the Day

This is the week where it all happens. Rain, wind and fog pushed the start of my season way later than I or my creditors preferred. The early season was a good ride because of the lobster price being higher. Appointments, music performances on the mainland, vehicle breakdowns and the omnipresent tug of war with wind all kept throwing off the rhythm. The catch pulled its usual July slump.

This week was different. Somewhere in all the obstacles and unpredictable interruptions, the operation got streamlined and functional. Which is hard considering I very often feel there isn't enough room for both my feet in the boat by the time all my stuff is aboard. Trap flipper, battery, motor, winch, oars, gaff, lobster crate, safety and legal stuff, cleaning tools, bailer, bucket, sail, trap repair kit, radar reflector, radio, lunch, banding tray. Any time I need to change one thing, it feels like I need to upend and rearrange everything. So when it all starts feeling smooth and functional, I am amazed.

This week was productive. Even with a few windy, wavy times and taking time out to take Dennis and his camera out to haul, I managed to haul all of my gear and catch a pretty good quantity of lobsters.

Several times, I left in the morning planning only to do a partial day and wound up staying at it 'til late. Tuesday morning was gray and windy. The water off the north end of Wheaton Island was particularly steep and choppy, but Sweet Pea was not bothered.

Yesterday, though, was It. The fourth hauling day in a row. Flat-ass calm as they call it. Dazzling blue sky. Only enough hint of a breeze to put a hypnotic grid of ripples almost floating above the water. Blessings in every direction. I had to holler out praises in order not to get either giddy or some kind of greedy gold fever from the lobsters. I had to remember to bless the lobsters and the bait for giving life for my and my family's lives.

I hauled 50 and headed in for more bait and to get the lobsters back in the water at the buying station. I couldn't believe six hours had already gone by. I rowed out to Whales Back Ledge, where my traps are most distant from shore. In the brilliance of the day and the mesmery of sliding through the space between blue and silver water and sky, with my hands stiff and sore from rowing, my back tired but as strong as it has ever been, I had the realization moment. One person in an old fashioned boat, so small and far from shore, covered in seaweed, algae, snails and modern solar gear. This was the day.

The wind came up just as I was finishing the most productive week since the project began last year. The battery had just enough life to glide me back to the harbor.

Today the wind is moving faster and I'm moving slow. I'm at home with paperwork to do and other commitments to prepare for. Yesterday is permanent.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Accidental Vacations

I kick off my boot. It goes a foot and a half further than I expect because it's heavy. It tips over and discharges a quart of black water, spruce needles and leaf mold. Being barefoot is more comfortable as I pull the slime covered spruce limbs out of the water and toss them over the row of holly bushes. I'm barefoot on the quartz outcrop. I'm soaked with mud from the waste down. It's suffocatingly hot, but nothing like what they're coping with on the mainland. It seemed like the right day to wade into the pond, cut up the tree that fell in there last winter, then haul it off. I'd stay cooler with the soaked clothes and mud pack. Still seems hot, just soaking as well. And filthy. I'm back. I have mojo that's been elsewhere among all the worries.

I'd had a perfectly delightful accidental vacation except for feeling the dangle of waiting to hear for how much and when I'd have my trusty minivan back after its unexpected sabbatical. My 30th class reunion convened on Saturday after a trip up to Hallowell to see friends. The band and I enjoyed our outdoor show on a perfect July Sunday night.

Thanks to the bum aftermarket starter, I spent several extra days in Bowdoinham hanging with sister, nephews, bro-in-lo, kids and Ma. Swimming in the very warm waters of the Cathance River, hanging out in my old kindergarten classroom, now the town library, staring across the yard at the chipmunks and birds busy with their business. It was lovely. Except I'm not working. Especially 'cause I'm not working.

I got back to the island as my neighbors were in varying states of recovery from the plane crash. I am in awe of the four aboard the plane and all those who went out to pull them from the sea, care for them and get them all medivac-ed to the mainland. You are all made of some very tough, fine material.

So it has been a very full week. Not very full of lobstering, though. The alligator wrestling match of getting a mud-embedded spruce tree out of the ornamental pond snapped me back to feeling like myself. Taking a chainsaw into a pond seemed a little crazy. I was never, ever adventurous as a young person. Really the opposite. Now, however, I need something challenging, physical and crazy to feel alive. I do not know why.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

One on One Time on the Boat

The hauling rotation this year works out such that I have a short day after two full days. These are good days to take company along. Lydia came out and did a beautiful pencil sketch of a lobster. We had lots of time to talk because there isn't much else to do on a 15 foot boat besides work and visit. Then I took Lisa all the way around to the far west side of the island. Aside from Alaska-esque wild scenery of the north shore and west side, we had lots of time to visit. Yesterday Fiona crewed for my jaunt out to the Whale's Back Ledge. She was good luck for me.

The common thread, aside from wanting my family to know what it is I do in my very unusual work environment, is that we get precious one on one time. We often seem just a wee tad fractious and overly lively when it's all five together. Five sets of priorities, directions and schedules gets overwhelming. Pair time is an important, relaxing and enriching way of staying connected.

The lobsters are napping now, getting ready for the big stampede. I'm bleached and sunbaked outside and in, feeling the wear and tear of the early season push and needing a slow-down before the really long push to the end of the season.

I've added another solar panel graciously donated by my friend John, and fitting as neat as can be right behind the other one. After the disintegration of my charge controller, I had to work for a week or so on just the battery charged at home. Getting the solar system reinstalled, I was aware from the first day how much that slow steady charge extends the work capacity of the boat. Instead of limping in after 75 traps on a dead battery, I did the whole day, zipped back in, then went out the next for my short day with Fiona, then took the family over to Wheaton Island- all without any household current.

This ain't powering a laptop or radio. This is solar power doing very heavy work.

Molting time, as discouraging as it is from the fishing perspective, is a great time to enjoy the island. I took Fiona and Ryan fishing with proper fishing pole, line and hook. I've been wanting to do this for years, and always felt too hurried and fixated on work to pull it off. We tied off to one of my buoys right at the opening of the harbor next to Wheaton Island, where we'd dropped Lisa off to do some gardening. Our line wasn't in the water for 5 seconds before there was a bite. Ryan and Fiona both landed several pollock in short order. What a thrill it is to feel that tug and see the pole bending down.

Ryan and Fiona are both chafing hard today to get right back out and fish some more. I'm dragging my heels and points north, hoping to breathe and slow down. Thank heavens for no-haul Sundays.