Tired of your land job? Try life on the open seas

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Very often we hear office workers - those who work on dry land or most anyone who works for the public - talk about the unbearable frustrations that go with their day’s work.

This frustration can be justified more often than not. Having spent the last half of my working life in an office job and the first half doing other work, including lobster fishing for several years in the 1960s, I feel somewhat qualified to compare daily chores at each end of the work scale.

Office work can be very trying at times and can drive you “up the wall” to use the old cliché. I know this from experience. On the other hand, life on the open seas is an entirely different world altogether.

Growing up in a coastal village in Yarmouth County and not being interested in the sea and fishing would be somewhat like growing up in Canning in the Annapolis Valley and not being interested in farming, apples and apple trees.

I grew up surrounded by wharves, boats, fish plants and people talking everyday about fishing and of life on the rolling seas. The following story is about a fishing crew that shook hands with Davey Jones and almost ended up in his locker.

Heading for adventure

The year was 1965 and the scallop dragger M.V. Continental with Lorenzo d’Entremont, a distant cousin, as captain was heading for adventure.

My neighbour and good friend Donald Doucette was first mate and they were experiencing one of their first trips of the winter months on Georges Banks. The weather is seldom good on Georges during the windy winter months and the Continental was about to be put to the survival test.

On Feb. 23 of that year a huge wall of white water, today called a rogue wave, hit the scallop dragger squarely on the broadside and very soon the fishing boat was laying on its side, almost to the point of rolling over. Would the heavy vessel resettle on its keel or keep on going? This was the vital question.

Some members of the crew were thrown from their bunks, landing in a few inches of water, before the Continental righted itself on her heavy keel. What saved their lives was the fact the ice in the fish hold was frozen so solid that it did not shift, therefore no shifting of ballast. The other thing that saved them was that this rogue wave was not followed by another rogue wave.

The captain, who was sleeping in his bunk, was very colourful with his words when he later described the incident: “Lord lifting jeezuss, I woke up flying,” he was reported as saying.

Riggings were covered with thick ice

Another incident in more recent times took place aboard the Lady Yvette II with captain Leonard d’Entremont while coming from Brown Banks during the winter months. Lucky for them they did not encounter any rogue waves. My friend and relative Raymond d’Entremont was one of the crew members (he was also aboard the Continental) and he remembers the ice build-up they had to deal with on their way home.

The riggings were covered with thick ice on the 125-feet long steel hulled scallop dragger and ice was also building up on the hull, making the vessel in danger of capsizing.

Every half-hour or so the fishing crew had to take heavy wooden “hammers” and pound the ice off the riggings and hull. It was very dangerous work; one misstep and they would have been history!

Trials and tribulations

At this point of my story I should have two equally good examples of the trials and tribulations that “shore workers” go through in their life’s work. Unfortunately, I don’t have any that I’m allowed to write about. However we can be sure that doctors, lawyers, school teachers, editors, race car drivers, boat-builders, tradesmen, machinists, postal workers, accountants, loan officers, civil servants, politicians, hairdressers, dressmakers, engineers, short order cooks, actors, bus drivers, shopkeepers, salesmen, car dealers, taxi drivers, police officers, bankers, the clergy, professional entertainers plus hundreds of other occupations, including candlestick makers, all have their stories concerning the downside of their occupation.

Working for the public can make you lose your appetite and keep you awake at night, and there are days when we feel unappreciated and wish we were aboard a scallop dragger on Georges Banks.

These things can really put you to the torture test, but at least we never have to pound the ice off the office walls and very few of us “wake up flying” with our office jobs.


Organizations: Georges Banks

Geographic location: Yarmouth County, Canning, Annapolis Valley

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