What’s a Teredo?

Andrea, in my novel The Wind Weeps, asks the skipper, “What’s a teredo?” as she is about to powerwash his boat’s hull. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a type of saltwater clam several centimers to a meter in length that looks like a worm, hence the name “shipworm.” Teredos are the bane of wooden boats because they love to bore into the wood, and if not controlled, they will eventually destroy the hull. This is one of many reasons fishermen have their boats hauled out of the water once a year to work on the hull.

The boat below hasn’t been hauled out or worked on for a long, long time. How is it still floating?

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Since this photo was taken a long time ago, my guess is that it’s not floating anymore.

In places where the modern conveniences of a shipyard are not available, fishboats were often taken out of the water by placing them, at high tide, over a grid of timbers or a cement slab on which the boat would settle when the tide went out. As soon as the tide ebbed and the hull was exposed, the fisherman worked like fury to get the work done before the tide came back in and the boat  (if it was ready to go and didn’t need another low tide to complete the work) could be floated off the grid and back into deeper water.

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The next fancier way of getting the boat out of the water was with a cradle that the boat floated into at high tide. The cradle of heavy timbers with the boat tied on so it leaned slightly to one side, was then winched out of the water along a set of railroad tracks that went from the beach into the water.

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This is the kind of set-up Andrea was working in when she helped Jim powerwash his boat. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from The Wind Weeps.

Excerpt:

I held the nozzle at the distance he had shown me and began to wash the far side of the hull. Sticky, stinky copper spray flew everywhere. As I glanced down and saw the condition of the coveralls, I realized what Monique had been talking about when she’d told me I’d have to throw away my clothes after doing this job. I concentrated on the planks and cleaned them one by one. I felt all-powerful. Barnacles, mussels, and green slime—gone with one pass of my magic wand.

A long lump was sticking out between two of the planks and I held the nozzle a little closer to get it out. Just a quick zap. Didn’t want to put a hole in the wood. The lump was a bit stubborn so I gave it another quick zap. And another, and another. At last it was starting to come off. God! It was a long one. Must be one of those teredos Jim was talking about. Well, he’d be glad I found it and got it out of there. I blasted it the whole length of the plank until a long piece of it plopped onto the ground. I laid down the wand.

“Jim! Come see this. Get a load of this teredo I found.” Since I had gloves on I didn’t mind picking it up to show him. When he came around to my side, I held it up and he looked shocked, just like I figured he would.

He turned pale and stammered. “Wh-where’d you get that?”

“Right here.” I pointed to the space between two planks.

“Jesus Christ!” he yelled. “Didn’t I tell you not to get that nozzle in there so close?”

“B-b-but I had to get it out of there.” A stab of fear went through me.

“God dammit! You are the stupidest broad I’ve ever met!”

“I don’t understand.” I could feel tears welling up. I blinked hard so they wouldn’t spill, but it was useless.

“This is the caulking between the planks. It stops the water from getting in. Oh, Jeezus!” He threw down his wrench and stomped off in the direction of the shop.

I sat down on the retaining wall and stared at my boots. No, not my boots—Jim’s. My chin quavered as I fought to hold back more tears. I clasped my hands together between my knees and wondered what to do next. Should I get out of these coveralls and go home? No. I wasn’t a quitter. I had really messed up, but I had to make it better or I’d never live it down.

*****

Don’t forget, the e-book of The Wind Weeps is on for $1.00 until May 15. Just click on the book cover image at the side of the page if you’re interested.

But on with the haulouts. It gets much better and more modern now.

At some shipyards they have Travel Lifts that can lift a boat right out of the water and drive it over to a spot on the parking lot. How cool is that!?

newcastle liftout 2015 -1

newcastle liftout 2015

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You see how the bottom of the boat isn’t sitting on the blocks of wood anymore? That tells us that the boat is ready to be put back in the water. Also, the hull has been copper painted (to deter those teredos and barnacles and seaweed from latching on), and the hull above the waterline has been spot primed, ready for painting at the wharf in the days to come. Obviously, the sun hadn’t co-operated for the painting to be completed on the top part of the boat, and the time was spent on the very necessary jobs on the lower parts.

While the boat is “parked” in the lot and is being worked on, the Travel Lift does not stay wrapped around the boat. It has other boats to lift out and put back into the water in the meantime.

Soon the fishboat is all tiddled up and ready to go fishing for the summer. The trip up the coast is absolutely beautiful. (This is also a part of The Wind Weeps.)

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Photo by Ken Johnston

Smile! I think the skipper is taking a picture of you!

Soon the lazy trip north is over and the hard work begins. You can see that he’s into fish because those seagulls only follow if there are fish guts being tossed overboard.

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And then, there’s the competition!

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Photo by Ken Johnston

13 thoughts on “What’s a Teredo?

  1. I enjoyed the excerpt from your book. Also the photos and description of the boat maintenance. I had a small taste of that when I had a tiny boat that I used for skindiving on the North Carolina coast while I was stationed there.

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  2. What a wonderfully informational post! So interesting to me. I have a lot of fishermen and sailors in my background (mainly Dutch ones).

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  3. I enjoy reading your posts, anneli! This post is so interesting; I had never heard of teredos although I did know that the hulls must be cleaned. I enjoy reading of the fishing industry and believe it or not, I actually put myself through university by working in a fish cannery!
    It wasn’t easy work and I worked loong hours during the salmon season. I saw water rats the size of cats! Still, I loved the sound of the gulls and smell of salt air, the blacky blue water off of the wharf.
    x

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  4. That is so good to hear (about you working in a cannery). Good down-to-earth work. I’m struggling to find things to write about that might please my readers, but everyone has different interests, so I try to put a bit of this and a bit of that. Of course there do tend to be a lot of fishing posts because my husband is a commercial fisherman. This is why I felt I could write The Wind Weeps (with him to be the editor to make sure I got the fishing details right). It’s a hard life but rich (for experiences, that is; not so much for the money).

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