Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mo Jo Risin' I Ain't

A wise woman taught me that a newspaper makes for a better start to the day. A fisherman she is, the newspaper being good for the skiff seat on soggy days.

I had an unceremonious Wednesday morning departure from North Haven around 7:40 or so. I'd dropped off a tote of survival items on the town float, taken the van back to the rental house and said goodbye to family for another trip to Matinicus.

The December 7 morning visuals were peculiarly uninviting on the Fox Islands Thoroughfare. (I'd have it be Thorofare without the "ugh" but that's my lowbrow thing). There was plenty of ugh to go around down there this morning, and the extra letters added no elegance. Soggy cardboard was donated into my skiff overnight. Every ripple, ferry ramp girder, treeline was the same shade of green gray. Probably my complexion as well, but I was spared from that as there's no flip-down or rearview mirror in my skiff or on Close Enough. Rain. December rain. Drismalness at all compass points. Newspaper is a good accessory today.

My 5th crossing started out well. I paddled down the Thoroughfare to Close Enough and loaded my survival tote bearing thick socks, laptop, sausages and other comforts. CE came right to life, anxious to run. I yanked my skiff up and into the boat, by which I mean I grabbed the bow and essentially laid down near horizontal until the contest of my weight, the skiff's weight, leverage and gravity resolved in favor of plopping the skiff onto the platform.

After cruising through the narrows and Hurricane Sound, I fortified with a cup of black tea. No hibiscus or goji berries or any other froof or flimble, just tea. From a steel thermos with no pictures on the casing. I got to the end of the Sound at Heron Neck lighthouse and decided not to use electronics to get me to Matinicus.

The vista was that of a wet gray sheet of cardboard like they use for the backers of pads of note paper. I had a vague recollection of the course I took to get to this point going the other way and added 180 degrees.

More importantly, and I kid you not, I went by feel. The twisted, rich vortex that is Matinicus gives off some kind of energy- enough to pull me and my boat back. Everything is harder, more intense. There must be some mineral deposit or confluence of ocean currents, magma, magnetic field or other force.

Here's the offer of proof: Yesterday, I was splitting spruce I'd cut on North Haven. Splitting by hand, that is. I've split a fair amount of Matinicus spruce. It is, as Captain John Griffin calls it, "chewy". That's a broad shouldered euphemism for what a scrawny guy has more profane names for, but essentially is dense, twisted, fibrous beyond belief and wicked hard to cleave with a maul.

I was frustrated Tuesday morning, having to choose between coming back to Matinicus to try and earn a few bucks, or seeing my kids' first concert on North Haven. I resolved in favor of the latter and took out my frustrations on the pile of spruce chunks. One time after the next, I handily cleaved pieces that, to my experienced eye, would've thwarted the maul on Matinicus in the first quarter inch or so. One stroke instead of 7, what's up with that? Pieces with branches sticking out. Crack! Thick trunk chunks. Whack! Maybe the wind blows harder and forces the plant to grow tougher.

Whatever the metaphysical, sprucified bullshit, this morning I was pretty sure where I was headed with only the most landubberly, muddle headed, middle aged conscious thought. 20 minutes or so past Heron Neck, I realized that what showed straight before the bow was an ever so slightly more gray wet cardboardy looking horizon than what lay to port and starboard. Aye, there's home, then.

As I dropped the skiff off in the harbor in anticipation of heading out to take up my last load of traps, the temperature felt to drop 20 degrees and the wind picked up a dozen knots. No matter. I'm getting this done today. Off I go and start coiling rope on the engine box, untying and picking traps, stacking them on the stern with firm instructions to "stay." Waves get gruffier. Green gets more dour. Traction ripples on waves get grabbier as wind agitates water. I'm alone a couple or three miles east northeast of the Zephyr Ledge marker.

Several hours of slogging culminate in 5 traps disobeying my directive. I stare. I curse people who have no fault to account for in this. I keep going. Then the last pair of traps of the season, setting in 30 fathoms, come aboard.

Since my first season, the end of lobstering always feels like the carny leaving town. Even though my rotator cuffs and trapeziuses are glad, the rest of me is sad. Even though I'm relieved, it is an end.

Jim Morrison, I am not. The end is not my friend. I'm relieved, yes. Gear is in the yard. My boat will be safe on land for the worst few months. I'll forget the smell of bait. Other priorities will move up on the stage. Connective tissue will get rest and stretching. The full moon won't keep me awake.

The future's uncertain and the end is always near. Maybe so.

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