I’m writing this at 4 AM before we get started. I have to confess that sometimes, when it’s dark and cold inside and outside and I can hear the wind blow, it can be difficult to face whatever wet, cold challenge is coming.
6:45 AM. Back in from the set and the first run though. Not many fish. We were there in time for Roger to clean the battery terminals before the boat started rocking vigorously. To do that, he had to detach the powerpack for the roller because the battery is pinned under it and some of the bolts holding the powerpack in place are inconveniently located to say the least. But the Ambi’s outboard started all morning without any difficult, the New Boat ran well, and the Bathtub seems to be well in service.
There was a moment after Roger fixed the New Boat and had the audacity to think that everything might be running well as the Bathtub was ferrying him back to the Ambi… and the Bathtub's outboard died! It was only a disconnected fuel line. However, that led to Roger to hypothesize a law of nature that goes: at all times something of ours must be broken. He deduced, then, that the trick is to make sure that that thing is not crucial to our operation, which led to the idea of a sacrificial piece of equipment – like a powerpack in the Grayling. Desperate times and desperate measures…
We tried a new approach to the running set: attaching the net’s anchor line to the stern of the boat and stretching the boat toward the inside buoy, then stretching the boat’s anchor line farther toward the inside buoy. The idea is that the crew will stand in the bow, reeling in the anchor line as the net comes out the stern. The advantage of that approach is that it gets the prop out of the way of the anchor lines, which have a tendency to catch the prop and then it’s a regular mess. It semi worked for us, but we didn’t control the exit of the net carefully enough so as Roger was trying to get the anchor up, the stern of the boat was swinging around, pulling more net out of the boat. I didn’t think about all that net swirling temptingly around the prop so I was surprised when I put the outboard into gear and wrapped it up with the net. Argh. We all had to jump out – the water was only up to our waists, which made this tide a good one for an experiment. Roger was holding the bow while Patrick and I spent a minute or two trying to untangle the net from the prop. Aware of the quickly rising tide, I decided to use the knife that is stored on the handle of the powerpack to hack away at the mesh to free the prop. Groan. A significant future mending project. But we freed it and push set the rest of the way without enough time to experiment further.
I think that approach could work, I just need to control the speed of the exit of the net from the boat to give the bow crew time to pick up the anchor. Now that David has perfected it, he declares, "I'll never do another push set."
We’ll go back out at 8:20 AM to pick through before the tide turns.
We decided that the Ambi crew would devote itself to mending the gigantic hole created by hacking at the web that was caught in the prop. The actual mending task, though somewhat tedious, is nevertheless soothing and rewarding when the hole disappears. And when a fish gets caught in the mend? It feels like success! I’m not so sure how rewarding it is for the crew whose job it is to hold the net (normally people use net racks for the purpose) or fill the net needle. So when the tide was almost out and we had four more fish in the boat, even though I would have loved to have kept Roger’s and Patrick’s company, it seemed wrong, so they walked in to deliver the fish and I continued to mend. It took a total of 8 hours of mending. It was a big big hole. This is what the mending twine looks like. Someone rolls it onto the spool and then it's a process of finding the right place to start and tying knots.
While we were out there, mending, David went into town to pick up Sarah. I was so glad to have her here. She came up when she and David had just started dating and it was here that I decided that she fit right in. She was a little afraid of the skiffs, but she didn't let that stop her. At the end of the season, we were taking the skiffs in to be pulled up, winterized, and stored till next season. It was very very windy. She was walking out through the water toward the skiff and took a big wave, right in the face. Her eyes blazed a little, she shook the water out of her face, and kept coming. I knew that she has what it takes. In addition to herself, she brought us some vegetables! Here is the dinner Maeve made us on the night of Sarah's arrival.
We had another moment of Internet access today, but it looks like the transformer that powers the whole device might be dead. It smells bad, and that’s coming from a fisherman.
Just before bed, the new strategy for a running set is to string lightweight line between the buoys. It will serve three purposes: 1) keep the buoy in place; 2) give us a line to follow, away from the anchor line; and 3) give us something to tie the net to temporarily if the current takes the net and we can’t reach the buoy. We’ll try it out in the morning. 6:30 AM opener. Up at 5. Good night.