Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Today was a long, soggy grind that was mercifully cut short by the most extreme squall I've been out in since being on my own in a boat. The wind went from clammy and mildly annoying to ferocious within about 15 seconds around 10 minutes to 1:00 in the afternoon. It looked as though the first 3 inches or so of the ocean were all being peeled off and hurled northwestward. I was glad to be snugged up to the shore in the lee of the island. It's definitely extreme when there is a 2 foot chop a couple of dozen yards off the shore. I took my time getting back around to the harbor and had a bouncy time getting to the lobster car and then onto the mooring.

Here's my first video journal- the Island Update. Lobsters, waxwings and a peculiar event between an earthworm and centipede.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

If You Weren't Crazy Already

It's no wonder that fishermen are unhinged. Between never ending regulatory hurdles and relentless pressure to consolidate, drive out the small boats and harbors, commoditize and otherwise crush the life out of the profession, there are things like weather and breakdowns. Lament! oh fisherman and even more, the long suffering family and partners.

I got up on Saturday already dreading going out for a stingy early season haul on a rough day. I looked at the 5:00 am buoy report giving out 21 gusting to 22 knots- no go territory. I looked out the door a little later, and what I was seeing didn't match the data. I packed up for  the day, thinking I'd go to the harbor, get a look and then come home and do other things.

I got down there, and Charlie was  getting ready to go. Ellen was heading out. I suppose I ought to try.

I dragged myself across the harbor, got my oil gear on, checked the dipstick with the unease that comes from not quite wanting to see that yes, the oil keeps getting a little lower each day, beyond what it should be. More on that sinking feeling later when the weather actually does get nasty.

I proceeded around the island to the wild north shore- an area that looks like it could be the Alaska coast, with all the bleak rocks, spruce forest and driftwood pick up sticks the size of tree trunks.

I get to the west side and, of course, it's a flat calm and dazzling morning. Blue silver water stretching away to the Mussel Ridge Islands, Owls Head, Spruce Head and the rest of the world's most gorgeous coastline.

To further confound, but in a good way, the catch is qualitatively and quantitatively much better for no reason I can discern.

Then there's Monday. I motored back Sunday night, leaving family on North Haven to get a proper start on Monday. Monday is supposed to be a super Nat-friendly 5-10 knots from the northeast.

I get a few strings hauled and the gray-green gloom sets in with occasional traction waves-my name for the the little ripples that mean big gut clenching pain in the ass fishing conditions. Things are manageable but unpleasant.

I steam across to the Mackerel Ledge where a squall and dense fog show up at the same time. OK, I'm a mighty sailin' man, I can handle it.

Then, coinciding perfectly with the deteriorating weather, the bottom falls out of my intestines and soul. That little oil leak must not be so little. There's a rainbow around me, and not the equal rights or clearing after the storm kind, but the motor falling out of the boat and bankruptcy looking kind. My eyes pounce on the oil pressure gauge. It's normal at idle, but clearly not happy when I tach up a few hundred rpms. I'm sure this means a tow into town, several hundred dollars to get hauled out and several thousand to pull the motor, or whatever seized up dead weight of cast iron is left when I get into  the harbor.

I limp in, begging the almighty to release me from my self-imposed lunacy of trying to be a commercial fisherman. I then beg Weston to help me look things over. He alerts me to the fact my hauling davit is down and imminently going to take out his wheelhouse if I don't get control of my vessel.

While I'm waiting, I very, very reluctantly look at the dipstick. The oil level that was normal a few hours ago is catastrophically low now. I want to shave my head and join a cult until the next comet goes by. Or work at Home Depot. Anything but this belligerent mechanical bull-ride of stress, unpaid bills and boat ignorance.

A few minutes of skilled inspection identifies an oil pressure sensor line as the source of all the oil spewing out of the engine. A mere 6 inch piece of tubing that rusted through. An easy fix. If I could get my hands on it. Which I can't  because the engine box is bolted, glued and caulked into place. No matter. It's gotta go.

A day later, the part has been ordered by Art Stanley, the Yoda Wan Kenobi of all things marine and diesel, dropped off on a boat he just finished fixing up that was heading out to Matinicus, and successfully installed in about five minutes.

In the meantime, I caught up on all kinds of law nerd business, laundry and yard care.

What was I was so stressed about? Quite a bit, actually. I'm a sensitive type. I'm only a very small animal. Not one of the fiercer ones, you know.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fork in the Road

Outpost Matinicus has become too much of a confessional on the failings of the Zero Carbon Lobster Project and all of its personal and family impacts. I spend way too much time sharing the stress of my life adventure and not enough on the adventure, the vision and the many successes.

 I am, therefore, moving the confessional over to a new blog where I can document my coming to grips with my situation and my path out of it. Here is the link: http://nathusseyunstuck.blogspot.com/

Outpost Matinicus will hopefully go back to being about island life, fishing life, ideas for a healthier, more prosperous and sustainable future world, here on this little island and around the global community.

Here on Matinicus, lobsters are slow. Despite a mild winter with freakish, 80 degree days in March, things are behind now. Maybe the earth didn't get enough rest and now because of that insomnia, can't get up on time.

The lobsters are late. Only the one of the rhododendrons I tend- one out of dozens- has started to blossom. I had 1 female and 3 male Baltimore orioles here yesterday. When I looked in the bird journal, they were here earlier last spring even though last winter and spring were colder and snowier.

Because the lobsters are slow, hauling traps feels like practice. I'm getting lots of practice making the boat go where I want and running the hauler, tending traps. I am getting way too much practice measuring lobsters microscopically short of the legal size. I need to expand and intensify my vocabulary of profanity, because I don't have adequate obscene words to externalize my frustration.

We've had something like 14 out of the last 20 days be raining, foggy or something in between. Today was a welcome respite. Got some laundry on the line. Got a few more traps in the water to the northeast of the island.

Tomorrow is a haul day and I am not up for it. I'm basically working for the bait and fuel vendor. If I get a few pennies over that, I guess I'll be glad. Friends went out to haul in the rough, post-storm seas and a frisky westerly, caught 8 lobsters out of 60 traps and called it good for the day. That's what I can look forward to. Really need to find that happy place inside.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Molly Hatchet meets Ancient New Age Healing Practice

Flirtin' with Disaster is my favorite southern rock song. Except for the super tight and punchy drums, the band careens out of control through 4 minutes of guitar and vocal switchbacks on two wheels over a precipice with the radiator spouting like Old Faithful, oil burning, 2 cruisers behind, bounty hunters ahead, bad debts, good liquor, cigarette smoke and the general badass-ness of going too hard and banking on dumb luck that's bound to run out real soon.

Tapping or emotional freedom techniques are a way of settling one's mind in stressful situations like going around the switchback on two wheels with engine smoking and so on. The practice derives from traditional healing using meridians or energy channels in the body, combined with positive messages.

Today, in my life, Molly Hatchet meets the modern version of this ancient form of healing. I awaken to the none-too-welcome hiss and whiffle of wind meeting the corner of my house. The wind makes it harder and more hazardous to work on the water.

My creditors and I really need me to go out and haul lobster traps today. Like many fishermen at this time of year, I have a robust stack of overdue bills and escalating credit card balances. This causes my cortisol to go nuclear at 3 a.m. and wake me up. Then I worry and stew until I decide to get up and go do something about it. Yesterday, that worked out great because the tide was high early in the morning so I was able to get an extra load of gear set out super early and still be back in time to go to my other job, cutting dead trees and landscaping.

Early this morning, I heard the wind and its whispering song of Despair Upon You, Lobsterman. I did not bound out of bed at 5:00 am. An hour later, I checked the wind report from Matinicus Rock: Southheast at 14 knots gusting to 16. Not out of the question but uninviting. Also uninviting are the showers and 40 degree temperature. There's no meteorological index for wind, temperature and salt spray.

Yarrgggghhh.... I really need money. I'm scared of hauling alone in snotty weather. I'm scared of not hauling and how I'll feel about myself.

Hmmm. Maybe I should do some more quick reading on this Tapping thing Lisa brought to my attention. Tap meridian points, combine with a positive message, repeat. Being kind of a jerk about new things, I searched online for critiques of the practice. Nobody said it was bullshit, just some seemed to think other approaches were better. OK, now for some practical application.

Feeling a little foolish, I followed the instructions, then opened the door and walked into the cold, damp gloom of May 1, 2012. My first stroke of genius was to remember that not only could I go out and try to haul, but through the miracle of hydraulic power steering, I could turn around and come back if I didn't like it. Seems obvious enough, but with a thick, blubbery layer of self limitation in my brain and maybe yours, we can miss the obvious. The second was that, oh yeah, I have other paying work, I have a good Plan B. Third was to deal with a small problem on the boat before it got bigger in poor weather conditions, even though it meant a little back tracking first thing. Peace of mind is worth a little back tracking.

I went into the wet sloppiness and hauled contentedly despite escalating winds and seas. Back to Flirtin' with Disaster. Rolling and slatting about, hauling traps aboard, picking them and running them back off. I made almost an entire day of it before deciding I'd had enough. As I was cleaning up, the lobster dealer called me and inquired when I might be in as I was the last boat out today. Go figure.

No, I did not use biofeedback or accupressure to rationalize an unsafe workday. I was fine. It never got past the flirtation stage.

Bop, bop, bop yeah! Flirtin' With Disaster Every Day.