Herring Time

When the herring roe fishery happens each spring on the BC Coast, the seine boats and herring skiffs congregate close to shore because that is where the herring can be intercepted as they rush the beach to spawn. At night when the boats have their anchor lights on, it looks like a floating city just offshore.

Sea lions and seagulls and eagles patrol the area in hope of some tasty bites.

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Photo courtesy of P. Knettig

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It’s a bluebird day. Hard to believe it was rough and windy just a couple of days ago. Still it was fishable and the herring filled the seine nets. Then disaster struck as an extra heavy net caused a boat to list  and not recover. The fishing community lost a fellow fisherman. His brother is quoted on CTV News:

“They had a really big set. The boat was listing and Mel went down into the engine room to turn the pumps on, and while he was down there the boat rolled over.”

It brings home to all of us once again, how dangerous fishing is. While the fleet mourns the loss of one of their own, the fishery goes on, as it must. The pretty night lights, and the bluebird daytime sky and sea belie the sombre mood and the heavy hearts of the fishing fleet.

Starting Off with a Bang

It’s the first night of the new year and the old couple has been in bed since well before midnight. The TV shows bringing in the new year were duller than dull. 2017 would arrive whether anyone waited up for it or not.

In the wee hours of the morning a loud crash wakes up the old blister. She taps the Captain on the arm to wake him.

“Did you hear that?” she whispers.

“What?”

“That crash! … Obviously not,” she mumbles. “Just stay awake and listen for a minute.”

“The dogs would have barked.” He rolls over to go back to sleep.

“Maybe Ruby’s too scared with the wind.” She’s probably lying on her doggie bed, eyes bulging out of her catatonic body.

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In the morning, the Captain calls out, “I know what made the crash. Look on the woodshed roof.”
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No, that’s not a man in the middle of the woodshed. It’s a float, a fishnet, and a bunch of firewood. But the long branch on the left side is what came down from the skies last night to wish us a happy new year.

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You might say we started the new year off with a bang. A word of advice: if you go walking on a windy day, maybe stay away from tall trees, or wear a hard hat.

Something Fishy

 

In coastal towns of Mexico, generally, the tourists swim and the locals fish.IMGP0029a

They make sure their nets are mended before they go out.

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Sometimes the catch is good, sometimes it’s meagre. Notice the white apron to keep the water, slime, and blood off the fisherman’s clothes? The second fellow gets by with a makeshift apron. Nothing wrong with a big garbage bag to use as an apron.

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In the early morning the fish is already for sale at the beach,

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and later at the fish market in town.

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The tourists can buy fish to take to their bungalows to cook, or they can go out to a beachside restaurant and order the catch of the day.

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It’s not terribly fancy, but it’s very tasty, especially when eaten beside the sea from whence it came.

 

Ocean Treasures

My 99 cent e-book special is still on until Monday, April 1. Please find it on the previous post. Be sure to look there for the coupon code. You need it to get the discount.

And now, for Ocean Treasures:

For the men and women who go commercial fishing and endure the harshest of weather and sea conditions, there have to be reasons besides earning a living that make the lifestyle worthwhile. On the plus side, life on the sea has many beautiful moments. Having pigeon guillemots land on your boat to entertain you is one such moment. One of many others is the discovery of little treasures that float by on the tide.

For many years, the Japanese fishing fleet attached glass balls to their nets to keep them from sinking to the bottom. Often the nets were connected into huge combinations of netting that sometimes broke away and drifted unattended, harming many birds, fish, and sea mammals. But this aspect is another issue for another day. Once a net is lost, or broken up it can drift for a long time until the glass balls come loose and float away without the net. The floats drift for thousands of miles across the Pacific, and often for many years, before coming close to shore. Sometimes that shore is not the country of origin. Fishermen of the north coast of British Columbia have found all sizes, shapes, and colours of  glass floats that originated in Asia.

One of the most beautiful glass floats my husband has found was floating by his troller on the west coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands. It was partly covered with gooseneck barnacles that would have looked very decorative if left on the net webbing that encased the float, but once out of the water, they would have died and become quite hummy. What to do? Make lunch, of course. While they were still fresh, he steamed them up and had a good feed of gooseneck barnacles, a delicacy.

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Over the years we have found many interesting “treasures” on the beach or floating past the boat. A huge piece of bamboo floated ashore one day – a 12-foot-long pole about five inches in diameter. It has been sitting in our yard for 30 years still waiting to be used in an original way. Coconuts have washed up on the beaches of the Queen Charlotte Islands, hoping in vain to find warmer sprouting weather.

One day we walked along the beach and found a heavy rubber glove sticking out of the sand as if to suggest that the rest of the man were buried there. A short distance away, lay his white plastic helmet. We wondered what might have happened to the fisherman. About twenty feet farther along, we found the answer – an empty bottle of Japanese Suntory whiskey.

Once when I was deckhanding, the skipper (my husband) spotted four sticks floating vertically in the water up ahead of the boat. He told me to get ready with the gaff and reach out to hook whatever it was and bring it aboard. He angled the boat so the “thing” would be close to the side of the boat as we passed and I reached out as far as I dared to snag it. Neither of us had any idea what it was until we got quite close to it. I managed to get the gaff into it but when I tried to bring it aboard, there was no way I could begin to lift it. The skipper took the boat out of gear and hustled out onto the deck to help with the lifting. It took both of us to haul that floating treasure out of the water. When we turned it right-side-up on the deck it was much more recognizable. The four sticks that floated vertically were the legs of a cruise ship deck chair with European style numerals on the underside. I say European style because the 9 was made like a g. The chair was so heavy because it was waterlogged. It dripped like a rainshower as it sat on deck.

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There’s only one thing that bothers me about this chair. Since it seems to have fallen off a cruise ship and was floating upside down, I can only assume the direction its occupant must have gone. 😉  What do you think? And by the way, tell us, have you found any treasures on the beach?