Once again, Tri-County Vanguard editor Tina Comeau reflects on the personal side of the lobster fishery.
PINKNEY'S POINT, YARMOUTH COUNTY, N.S. – 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.
This year as I pull out of our driveway it is just them and I – them being my husband Greg and my son Jacob. I watch their taillights ahead of me, driving to the wharf and away from me.
When I asked Jacob the night before if he wanted to drive to the wharf with me or his father I could tell by his expression and response that it was a question I shouldn’t have asked. Of course he would drive with his father – he’s part of the crew.
I drove him to hockey games when he was younger. Gave him rides to school. Picked him up from friend’s houses.
Duh. You don’t drive with your mom to the wharf on dumping day.
At least not anymore.
Last year it was just after five in the morning when he asked me the question, “Are you ready?”
Standing in the kitchen, he was signaling it was time to drive to the wharf.
He was eager. I was reluctant.
A year has since passed and it is now his second year of lobster fishing. Surprisingly I wasn’t as nervous this year as 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 last 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. The lump in my throat may subside in a week. Or if not in a week, maybe by May 31 – the last day of the season.
I’m writing this column six hours after first arriving at the wharf in Pinkney’s Point shortly after 5 a.m. I still feel chilled. Between the snow that was on the ground and the cold temperature in the air, I’m not sure how these fishermen do what they do over the winter months.
The start of this season was delayed by one day due to the wind forecast for Nov. 27. "It still seems kind of windy," I say to a fisherman at the wharf dumping day morning. He tells me there will probably be swells on the water. Crap. Another question I shouldn't have asked. I feel better a couple of hours later when daylight breaks and it doesn't seem as windy as I had feared.
Although tomorrow is another day.
And then the next day.
And then the next day.
While at the wharf I take a picture of the crew of the Jacob’s Journey, our family’s boat. After the photo my husband passes me a wad of cash. I’m confused. It’s to buy a new headlight, he tells me. He was first to notice mine was burnt out.
It’s a subtle reminder of how – like so many other wives and mothers – I’ll be on my own for the next little while.
During the first couple of weeks of the fishing season I’ll see very little of them. 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.
At the wharf in Pinkney’s Point on dumping day morning, there are other women and children watching the boats sail off to the fishing grounds. For those around me 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,” shouts out one of my friends as each boat sails past.
“Have fun!” she tells each one of them. I like that she says that. Fishing is hard work, so you would hope that it’s enjoyable too.
As for me, my feet are cold and even through my gloves my hands are numb. I’m not having fun but that was never the plan. Like the others, I’m here to show support. And to work.
I’ve shouted out the life jacket reminder a few more times.
My son and husband have now sailed off.
My work here is done.
Except that it isn’t.
Another fisherman in a boat still at the wharf pokes his head through the window of the wheelhouse as I approach.
“You’ve been filming these for a long time,” he says to me about dumping day, as my camera hangs around my neck where probably a scarf would have been the more prudent choice.
“Yes I have,” I say, adding, “I hope you have a very safe day today.”
He smiles, says thanks and pulls away from the wharf.
I stand in my spot and wave goodbye.
And then I wave to the next boat that leaves.
And the one after that.
And the one after that.
On each boat the fishermen wave back.
Slowly I walk back to my car. To my left I can see the lights of the fishing fleet dotting the horizon. To my right the last boat is leaving the harbour. I wave once more, even though those on that boat can’t see me. For those of us on land, it’s important for us to know that they know that we care about them. That we want them to be safe.
On the drive home I think about Greg and Jacob. Today is the first day of the season. Only 184 more days to go.
Am I ready?
Ask me next year.