In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

caught in the net

Skipper set out the gillnet in the cove on Victoria Day. I was supposed to meet him at his place that morning so I could learn how to set the net and take it up again. Since whoever is monitoring it needs to take it up every so often and lay it out on the shore to dry. I missed my lesson, though, and he fired me right then and there. Luckily for me, I am the only worker actually available on the island, so he had to rehire me immediately, and at twice my original pay.

Yesterday morning the net held five fish of some variety we couldn't identify. We had two for supper last night. They were bony but delicious. But maybe that was beginner's luck, because when I went back out in the afternoon there were none.

Today was a quite different story. The remains of several fish lay caught in the net. The seal had had his breakfast. He is a sloppy eater, biting off whatever is nearest him and leaving the rest. I worked my way down the net, releasing half-eaten leftovers. One little fish was quite alive and slipped away happily. As I went along I cleaned out rockweed and kelp that had drifted into the net.

I came upon three small lobsters. The first two were small enough that they were easy to hold in one hand while with the other I slowly disentangled the net from their claws and carapace, admiring them the whole time, and also staying clear of their furiously waving pincers. I told them not to swim into the net again, and slipped them back into the water.

The third lobster was a bit larger. It was easy enough to ease the net around and off his legs and tail and body. But his pincer claw grasped several strands of net like there was no tomorrow. I explained to him that I couldn't release him until he had let go of the net. But he was not listening. Maybe he was too anxious. Maybe holding onto the net was giving him some sense of security. And here I was, someone he didn't even know all that well, trying to convince him to let go. It seemed obvious to me that he was creating his own problem here. But then I suspect I do the same thing myself once in a while.

Finally I remembered that if you tapped his upper claw a bit he would open the pincers. And that's what he did. At which point he briefly experienced the amazement of flight before returning rather abruptly to his safe haven beneath the water. All in all, it was a memorable day for three little lobsters.

After that, fishless, I rowed all the way to the Horseshoe and back, on smooth water sometimes crosshatched and stippled, sometimes swelling softly beneath the boat. The island's stillness was broken only by the songs of white throated sparrows in the forest and terns fluttering over the water. In the distance I could hear the muffled, hollow metallic sounds of work being done on the shipyard in Shelburne. Occasionally a lobster boat steamed homeward. Fog hugged both the northern and southern ends of the island. The cove waters were pearl and silver, beneath a drifting sky of changeable grey and a hint of sunlight.


Karen said...

I was adrift on the water, right there with you. Beautiful writing...
And never knew that about lobsters! Hopefully I won't need to know. I can't even stand to throw them in a boiling pot!

Piecefulafternoon said...

Oh what a lovely day - just gliding on the bay would be my dream

Terry J. Deveau said...

On the matter of throwing lobsters into a boiling pot, I learned something last weekend from several folks who have been doing it continuously for over 40 years: just put a couple of inches of water in the pot and put the lobsters in once it is boiling. Cook them with the steam for about 20 minutes (not more). This preserves the flavour. Boiling the lobster submerged in water ruins the taste.