A quick stop at the bottom of the boat launch allows the skiff to slide smoothly off the trailer into the water. Taking advantage of momentum, I encourage her with a smooth tug and walked her like a large, slow dog to the end cleats. A woman and her friendly dog watch with interest. Nestled amidst the 200 empty slips are three boats whose owners are also willing to risk spring’s wrath. This particular day includes whitecap waves inside the protected marina and 35 mile per hour wind gusts. Inadequately tucked into a faded red baseball cap, hair whips against my unprotected face. This necessary yet unpleasant task is tucked between rain storms but determination carries us forward.
Loaded down with plastic-covered wire lobster pots, our 18 foot skiff is less graceful than usual. With no nearby boats to hit, the short trip to our assigned slip is uneventful. Lines and cover secured, we walk quickly to the warm van. With both air and water temperatures at only 42 degrees, it is a blessing to complete work quickly without also being drenched. Ten degrees warmer on a calmer day, we bait and set ten lobster pots off Stonington. It is thrilling to slip past Stonington harbor’s commercial fishing fleet, alone and resolute, a stark contrast to the frenetic pace of summer.
As the first pots break the water’s surface, a seven inch lobster tumbles around inside. Gently removing him from netting, there’s no obvious injury but he is listless and not at all interesting in fighting me. I hold onto him for a couple minutes before gently setting him back into the water. I hope he finds a good hiding hole while recuperating from the crazy carnival ride he didn’t seem to enjoy.
25 mile an hour winds kick up 4-5 foot waves as we continue to the second, deeper location. Conditions are too dangerous to take photos. Of the five pots, two are seriously stuck in the mud. A single pot contains two Jonah crabs buddies and another has a legal-sized adult lobster. The fifth buoy is missing. Yes, our first string of the season had its share of bounty and disaster. Calmer seas will be necessary to recover the two stuck pots, each of which is more valuable to me than ten lobsters.
With both rubber-gloved hands firmly on the rope which is running down the davit arm and through the pulley, I leaned back with all my body weight and pull. It took several tries at full strength before the ocean floor releases my property. The bottom of the wire cage is filled with seaweed, engulfed in mud and packed with empty shells. Since this is the easiest of the three stuck pots, I’ll need to secure some volunteer muscle to rescue the other two. License numbers on the pots and yellow/orange buoys clearly identify them as mine. If no boat drags them or propeller cuts them, they should still be there when I return.
So, despite terrible weather conditions and a fearful respect for the ocean’s fury, we return with dinner in hand. As usual, the first lobster of the season is delicious and the sweet crab meat is delectable dipped lightly into a sauce of mayonnaise, lemon juice and ketchup. Sure, I could buy lobster and crab from a store but where’s the fun in that?