This was a reminder of one of those good but tough to truly explain life lessons that my son and I have talked about: finding your passion, and deciding what to do with it.
For me, it came when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. My friend's father bought a new boat to go lobstering. A semi-retired businessman, lobstering was something he loved to do, but he had his businesses to run (gas stations, an auto body shop and he sold tow trucks, too). I knew the moment I first saw the boat that I wanted to work on the water. In the 33 years that have followed, I've been a commercial fisherman, a marine scientist, and a merchant mariner, but catching lobster was the best job I ever had. It just didn't pay well, and having come of age after my dad (another life-long professional mariner) was already disabled, I have a deep fear of having to struggle financially, so I try not to.
My son is very creative; I am not. He can draw, paint, cook, and is raring to try sculpting. He also enjoys puzzles, and, at age 13, is already part way through high school math. He and I have been talking a lot about figuring out what he wants in life, and balancing desires and practicality (and when not to!). He's got a good headpiece. While he enjoys outdoor sports like shooting and fishing, he's not passionate about it like I was- and that's very good, in my opinion- he's his own man already in that regard. I'm very proud of him. I hope he'll pursue a career to capitalize on his ability with math and logic puzzles, but I hope more that he'll have a good balanced life and be happy.
So, what brings on this sort of deep thinking at 7am on a Thursday? A no-longer-young man who I once worked with put up some pictures of his boat on Facebook.
I remember Mike's very first day on the lobsterboat. He was 13, I believe (EDIT: he was 17, and too many years have passed- I should have remembered that he went full time just a year or so later after graduation), and he loved it, and was already a good junior sternman (the crewman on a lobsterboat) by the end of his first day. I think that was 16-18 years ago.
Let me backtrack. When I was 16, I had already been working on the ALGIN II, my neighbor's boat, for 8 years, I believe. The old timer had his youngest son, who I was friends with, late in life- he was in his late 50's I believe. At any rate, he was in his 70's when he finally gave up fishing. The last few years, we just went out twice a week for a few hours. He was well-to-do. Without much time or money from not fishing too often, I ended up also working for one of the teachers at my high school, who had a smaller boat, but worked more intensely, and after school and on Saturdays, we fished. I never could love his boat, though. Small and narrow beamed, I was intensely seasick when a wind got up, like it does 5 days a week in the fall in Boston, and the captain enjoyed explaining in great details to his classes, which contained some of my friends from school, just how I barfed over the side all day, and half the time the wind eddied and blew it back all over me.
I hated that fucking boat, truth be told.
At any rate, the old timer sold his boat to my teacher, who I called Mr. D, or just D. He modernized the boat, changed the rigging around a bit, and added GPS and a color sounder, which was new to me at the time. And, being an English teacher, he renamed the boat ISHMAEL.
I fished with D through high school and most of college. Mike joined us at that time. He fished alone with D when I was traveling or working elsewhere. I cried like a bitch on my last day fishing, the day before I left for grad school. Embarrassed myself at the time, but now, no. I truly loved that boat, enjoyed most every minute with the people I worked with, and the job I was doing, for that matter, and I was leaving it behind, I thought, forever.
I made it about 3 weeks before I was fishing again, 2 boats down on the MARTHA E for Chuck Z, another townie. Just one day a week, but I was driving 2 hours each way to go. Couldn't give it up. Eventually, I realized that being a scientist or lobbyist just didn't tickle my pickle, and I went mostly full time back to fishing, staying with Chuck for a year, giving it up to design and build a tilapia farm for a few months, and ending up on the RITA C and with the Notorious B.O.B, for 6 more years, fishing April-Jan, and sailing on a tanker in the winter.
The other day, Mike, who is in his 30's and is captain of his own boat, (being a small world, his boat was built by the Notorious B.O.B.'s older brother), plus still working with D, who is still the captain of the ISHMAEL, and now the same age as the old timer was when he swallowed the anchor and gave up fishing. But D's still going. Man's a machine- missing organs, had more bypasses than Tom Brady has Super Bowl rings, and he's still getting up and out at a job that is the most physically demanding form of labor I've ever experienced.
The ISHMAEL is now 33 years old, and looks better than ever. She's small, with a hard chine (makes for a bumpier but more stable ride), and a very deep keel for her length, and built heavy. She could be good for another 33 years. How the hell did I get this old so fast?
|Springtime- setting the first 60 pots for the new season.|
|They'll repeat this 12 or 13 more times before a full load of gear is in the water. Up to 800 pots and 15-20 miles of rope.|
|Like a Timex.|