Tri-County Vanguard editor Tina Comeau reflects on the personal side of the lobster fishery.
PINKNEY'S POINT, YARMOUTH COUNTY, NS – Usually there’s a convoy of vehicles all heading in the same direction. It makes me grin every year – rush-hour traffic at 5 a.m. in Melbourne, Yarmouth County, heading to the wharf in Pinkney’s Point.
But last year as I pulled out of our driveway it was just them and me – them being my husband Greg and my son Jacob.
I watched their taillights ahead of me – driving to the wharf and driving away from me.
When I asked Jacob the night before if he wanted to drive to the wharf with me or his dad I could tell by his expression and response that it was a question I shouldn’t have asked.
I drove him to hockey games when he was younger. Gave him rides to school. Picked him up from friends’ houses. You don’t drive with your mom to the wharf on dumping day.
At least not anymore.
Two seasons ago it was just after five in the morning when he asked me the question, “Are you ready?” Standing in the kitchen, he was signalling it was time to drive to the wharf.
I was reluctant. Nervous. Emotional.
Was I ready? Good question.
I wasn’t as nervous watching him sail off last year. Maybe it’s because he fishes with his father and I know his dad wouldn’t put him in harm’s way. Maybe it’s because he fished all of the previous year and came home safe every trip. And yet I’m not sure how many fishermen had their moms yelling at them on the wharf on dumping day morning, “Make sure you wear your life jacket!”
Who I am kidding? Of course I’m nervous. I was nervous when it was just my husband on the boat with other crewmembers that I wasn’t even related to.
For those of us left on shore, we are all nervous.
The lump in our throats may subside in a week. Or if not, maybe by May 31 – the last day of the season.
This year my younger son Justin will also be heading out on the water on dumping day. In our household the only ones who won’t be going lobster fishing are me, my two cats and our rabbit.
There’s that lump again.
Gulp. Gulp. Gulp.
Those of us who watch the boats leave countless wharfs on dumping day morning before the sun rises have the luxury of running back to our cars and driving somewhere that we’ll be warm afterwards. Between snow on the ground and bitter temperatures, which isn’t unusual on dumping day mornings, I’m not sure how these fishermen do what they do over the winter months.
The weather is cold. It is often windy. It may snow. Rain. In other words, a miserable day 'at the office.'
There are days when you get a break and the weather isn’t so bad.
But then there’s the next day.
And the next day.
And the next day.
During the first couple of weeks of the fishing season I’ll see very little of the fishermen in my family. When they’re not on the water they’ll be in bed for those few precious hours of sleep. When I’m asleep they’ll be leaving the house.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
At the wharf in Pinkney’s Point on dumping day mornings there are always other women and children watching the boats sail off to the fishing grounds. It is their husbands, their sons, their fathers, their cousins, their brothers, their uncles, their boyfriends sailing off. In these small communities fishing really is a family way of life.
“Be safe,” one woman shouted out as each boat sailed past last year.
“Have fun!” she told each one.
I liked that she said that. Fishing is hard, tiring work, so you would hope that, at the very least, it’s enjoyable too.
By the time I was ready to leave the wharf and head home on the last dumping day morning my feet were cold and even though I was wearing gloves my hands were numb.
After watching my husband’s boat Jacob’s Journey, and the majority of the fleet sail off, it was time to leave. To head to somewhere warm. To go through all of the photos I had taken. I started to walk away. My work here was done.
Except that it wasn’t.
Another fisherman in a boat still at the wharf poked his head through the window of the wheelhouse as I walked past.
“You’ve been filming these for a long time,” he said to me about dumping day, as my camera hung around my neck where a scarf would have been the more prudent choice.
“Yes I have,” I said, adding, “I hope you have a very safe day today.”
He smiled, said thanks and then pulled away from the wharf.
I stood in my spot and waved goodbye.
And then I waved to the next boat that left.
And the one after that.
On each boat the fishermen waved back.
Slowly I walked back to my car. To my left I could see the lights of the fishing fleet dotting the horizon like a twinkling city on the water. To my right the last boat was leaving the harbour.
I waved once more, even though those on that boat couldn’t see me. For those of us on land, it’s important for us to know that they know we care about them. That we want them to be safe.
On the drive home I thought about all of the fishermen and about my family on the water. Day one of the season. Only 184 more days to go.
Was I ready?
Maybe this year.
Or the next one.
READ MORE OF OUR 2018 LOBSTER OUTLOOK STORIES: