Saturday, August 1, 2015

Getting Home From (And To) Work

Loading groceries in the Hannaford parking lot, it was 5 or 10 degrees below sweltering and in all other ways a beautiful late July day. Wrapping up office business late Thursday morning, I was, without much conscious thought, looking forward to getting spots with Megan on the afternoon mail flight back to Matinicus.  It did not occur to me that the warm humid air of summer was turning into chilly opaque paste as it moved across cold ocean water, making the climate very different a few miles off shore such that no planes were going anywhere near the island.  These small drops of water run the show in summer as much as wind and tide do year round.

So it was that I was caught off guard when Sally told me it probably wasn't going to happen.

Megan and I have learned that uncertain travel prospects are best met by going to the departure point and being ready to jump instead of hanging back. Even with this force of optimism, we arrived at the Penobscot Island Air den of office cabins and got the same answer about flying conditions.

Curiously, loitering at the air service produced not the slightest improvement in the weather. I called Fiona, who told me it was bright and clear at home in the middle of the island. She biked to the airstrip and reported that it was clear right to the shore but not beyond.

After some stewing and a low-grade tantrum about missing a hauling day with lobsters on the verge of hitting and a big block of next week lost to a trial, we called Marty the lobster dealer, who put us in touch with Jeb on the Bajupa (named for Barbara, June and Pat), the lobster smack. Jeb was just coming into Rockland and thought he'd be heading back out in a couple of hours, but also might be helping work on another boat.

After thinking through how to get from Owls Head to the fish pier, what to do with cars, and how much of an obstacle was presented by the Lobster Festival being in full swing, we decided again to try and get to the departure point and be ready.

Traffic was pretty manageable and we picked our way around trucks, a forklift and stenchy puddles of fish goo to where Jeb was finishing loading bait into Bajupa's hold. He thought he'd be heading out around 4:00, giving us time to deal with the car and cool it with a beer.

Having a pretty sure ride lined up was a huge relief. It would mean a late arrival, to be followed by pumping oil into a 50 gallon barrel at the wharf, lugging it to the side of my barn and pumping it into the tank so there would be hot water in the house.

I also had to assemble the new hand cranked pump that represented energy independence to me. [Moving oil is a hassle here. One needs a pump, a truck and an oil supply- sometimes from a fuel boat that shows up every 6 weeks or so, sometimes off a truck from the ferry, sometimes from the wharf. It's always a messy pain in the ass. Having my own pump was one big step in smoothing that process]

It was probably more like 5:00 by the time we left along with a collection of other fishermen and a Dachshund named Isla who spent the voyage in the bunk, snugged against her sleeping fisherman. They both looked pretty comfortable.

We got to Harbor Point on Matinicus at dusk and had our groceries and supplies winched up onto the wharf. Our truck, however was at the airport. Jeb loaned us his truck, an early 80's Silverado with an approximately one by two foot opening in the driver's side floor where my left foot would normally rest. By the time the trucks had been swapped around and returned, the oil pumped onto my pickup, the pump assembled and put to use, the burner bled and hot water reestablished, it was close to 10:00.

The mail flight would have been on island at 1:15 PM.

That was our commute. Big thanks to Marty and Jeb. Because of them, we were able to haul the next day. Fair to middlin' catch but a catch nonetheless.

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