“If I don’t catch anything else this season, I’ll be happy. Who catches a rod while fishing?” I glance toward the voice of a grinning sportsman who is showing a fishing rod to another man. The speaker’s enthusiasm prompts me to smile while stowing my own gear. This was not typical fishing trip results; no wonder he’s happy to snag an unusual trophy. Fishing rods are valuable and this one is in great condition. Every fisherman loses hooks, line and lures that snag on rocks, shellfish, and lobster pots. It is difficult to suppress disappointment when a line comes back without a favorite lure. I’ll wager fishing lures dot all of the reefs and lost lobster pots within a mile or two of shore. Still, it is rather uncommon to lose a whole rod overboard.
Did a huge fish pull the rod out of his hands or did it fall overboard? Did he complain to a friend or keep it secret? The rod and story belong to today’s victor. Even if he wants to find the original owner, it isn’t practical to advertise the “found fishing rod.” I mean, where would you put the notices? The waters of Long Island Sound join Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York.
A favorite baseball cap flies off as Leo and I race to the assistance of distressed boaters just outside Stonington Harbor. We backtrack right away but the darned hat disappears. I feign cheerfulness while towing the small skiff back to our shared home port of Don’s Dock. Because of the rising tide, the towed boat’s windshield barely squeezes under the railroad bridge. The boaters already spent 4 hours limping back from Block Island and would have been stuck for hours if I wasted even 5 more minutes searching for the hat. Two years ago a kind man supplied this same towing service to us and we also barely squeezed under the bridge. That rescue prompted tears of gratitude and a hug from me. This boat is full of young guys so they just wave us off with a hearty “thank you.” It felt good to pay it forward but I still miss that faded red souvenir from Mystic Seaport.
From April through August, the ocean claims our lobster pots. I show up to find only 9 available and one missing. Weeks later, another one is gone and so on. Heavy waves slam buoys and pots against the breakwater but careless boaters can also drag the pots into deep water. Guessing the cause each time, the pots continue to disappear. In mid-August, a buoy rope breaks as I use the boat’s front cleat to drag a stuck pot. Scuba diver friends attempt to find the pots but conditions aren’t calm enough. Dragging a treble hook also doesn’t score any missing pots but maybe I don’t need more gear. I finish the season with only 5 of the original 10 pots.
What did I receive in return for my losses? A bit of frustration and fewer lobsters but also less work throughout the season. End of lobster season involves cleaning each pot, buoy and rope really well, repairing everything and repainting each buoy. Five is easier than ten and I
harvested enough lobster to both enjoy and share.
A favorite lightweight fishing rod slips out of wet hands as I cast. My heart sinks slowly into the water along with the cork-handled rod. I can’t grab it or the net fast enough. Casting around the boat with another rod is unsuccessful. Strong wind and tides near the Mystic River harbor entrance move it out of sight and out of reach. Maybe it will make someone else’s day better if they haul up my fishing rod. At least I’d like to think so. So what do I get in return for my loss? Payback for laughing at videos of other people’s fishing foibles. But seriously, I receive empathy and comfort from my favorite young fishing buddy. She pats my arm and explains how I should focus on our nice day on the water rather than on my loss. I take my granddaughter’s wise words to heart and am grateful for her company.
Something unusual catches my eye. A baseball cap bobs nearby and I snag it with one hand. The blue denim cap is in good condition and bears the name “Salt Ponds Coalition.” Though I appreciate the ocean’s gift and chuckle at the swap for my own missing cap, I’ll be happy to return it to the rightful owner. Sometimes these things have sentimental value.
Sandwiched between sun and waves this year I’ve lost lobster pots, a baseball cap and fishing gear. But I’ve also lost stress…lots of stress. And I’ve gained lobster, fish, precious memories, and a stray baseball cap. The ocean giveth and taketh with limitless waves and wind. I’m just an insignificant dot on the ocean absorbing saltwater therapy and enjoying her beauty. In a cycle as old as time itself, the ocean continues to surprise those who venture forth upon her. Those surprises can be mixed so I’m always grateful for a return to safe harbor. Each day on the water brings new possibilities and you never know what surprises the ocean may have in store for you. Maybe you’ll find a hat or fishing pole.