Thursday, June 16, 2011

Not my finest hour

Midway through high school, in the awkward years, I was boatless. I hadn't really made the jump yet to working on commercial lobster boats; I had filled in here and there, and worked a few weeks on one or another, but the bulk of my experience was in an artisan-style of fishing, I guess you'd say; the old timer who taught me to fish, dig clams and catch lobster was fishing a small number of bulky, heavy antique wooden lobster pots, rigged the way lobster pots were rigged in the WWII era; modern fishing had no place where I grew up.
In the end, the boat was sitting idle more and more as the old-timer pushed 80, and my fishing time dwindled.
When I switched high schools in 10th grade, I ended up fishing after school and on weekends with one of the English teachers at my school. He had a small boat that he pushed hard in the limited free time that school left him. A few hours during the week, and a good long Saturday was all the time he had.
The boat, though small, was rigged as a modern lobsterboat is rigged; for speed. Getting the traps cleared, rebaited and back in the water was always a numbers game, but going from fishing 80 traps a day to 500 was quite an adjustment, as was the gear- lighter weight traps, and, since the old timer was relatively wealthy from his own career earlier in life, the pressure to perform was new to me. As was working in truly shit weather.
One drizzly cold November day, with a greasy but smallish swell rolling, I discovered the ugly truth that seasickness can strike anyone, when it was my turn in the barrel.
I was spectacularly ill for the few hours we were out fishing after school.
The odd thing about seasickness is that it goes fast, once you're in calm water. By the time we were at the dock, I was my usual, awkward adolescent self.
Now, having only been at this school for a few weeks, I only knew a handful of people. So when the next day rolled around, and people were asking me how I was feeling, and if I was all better, I was a tad confused. My teacher told a few people about my bout of mal de mer, and so for a school with 1,000 people, my first introduction to most of them was as the guy who did a passable impression of the barf scene in The Exorcist.
Thankfully, not too long after, my English teacher bought the boat that I grew up on, once the old timer swallowed the anchor. With the exception of when I was hung over, I didn't get sick again while lobstering in high school.

No comments: