I went commercial crab fishing last spring and as unbelievable as that might seem in its own right, I chose to wear a suit of Klim protective outerwear for the occasion. Some might think I’m crazy for wearing such an expensive snowmobile suit on a fishing boat and God knows the crew had a great time tormenting me when I arrived on the dock – “Look at buddy coming in the good suit of clothes!” “You must have some money brother? Going to ruin that beautiful suit out here! Never get the smell of fish out of it.” “I thought you were coming to lend a hand fishing? Suppose you’re just going to lay back in your fancy suit and take pictures all day, are ya!” Thankfully their abuse was the least of my worries that morning and by the end of the trip – I ended up looking like a genius and Klim may have an opportunity to develop an entirely new marketplace for their equipment.
As a little background to this story, I recently started to spend time with an old friend who operates a commercial fishing enterprise out of the ‘Small Boat Basin’ in St. John’s harbor, Newfoundland. A ‘Townie’ fisherman is somewhat of an anomaly in Newfoundland and our Captain Wade Bolt, is indeed a rare character who exhibits the idyllic combination of humour, strength, willpower, perseverance and personality required to thrive in this environment. Some of you may have already viewed some of the ‘Wade’ videos I’ve posted to the ‘McCarthy’s Party Tours’ Facebook page and therefore enjoy some insight regarding my interest in his fishing operation and the knowledge he shares with our guests and tourists from around the world.
While I had often expressed an interest in an actual fishing trip, I really wasn’t expecting to ever “get the nod” until late on a Wednesday evening I received a call from Wade. He explained that he was short a crew member for their next voyage and a ‘Berth’ was available if I was brave enough to join him. “You’ve got to tell me now though cause we’re leaving at 4 tomorrow morning and you’ll want to be on the wharf by 3:30 at the latest.” I accepted the position immediately but as soon as I’d hung up the phone a slight panic began to rise in my stomach. This was April month after all; a time of year when Newfoundland’s weather is most unpredictable with shifting winds that can turn a gorgeous calm into a frigid front of tumultuous wind and waves. “What have I got myself into?” I wondered aloud. “How in the name of God am I going to survive this? What’s the water going to be like? What if I can’t handle the work load? Will I get seasick out there?”
Knowing full well that the Coast Guard couldn’t be relied on to rescue a man for crying, I gave myself a quick shake and decided to take stock of the situation. I’ve always got a kit of gear packed and ready for everyday adventures; including everything from long underwear, suntan lotion, gloves, wool cap, rain gear, water and snacks, a warm sweater, extra socks, sandals and a pair of shorts – (Certainly, the first time the boys in Vancouver saw my bag they laughed and asked if I was expecting snow – to which I reminded them that while I might not be expecting it I’d sure as shot be ready if it did!) My camera was already charged and my memory sticks are cleared each evening so I’m always prepared for photos. I grabbed my CO2 inflatable PFD and added it to the pile.
Next to consider was outerwear. My ‘Goating Boots’ are used frequently and I’d just purchased a new pair of ‘Bama’ inserts so I had no worries about my feet. I already had a rain suit in my kit but I was fearful it would draw the sweat right out of me and I wasn’t interested in the chill that would likely result if the weather turned on us. I went to the basement to sift through my work clothes for an alternative when I spied my Klim suit hanging in the corner with the rest of my riding gear.
Admittedly, I first hesitated at the thought, fearing the potential damage that might leave my beautiful suit in ruins; catching the material on a crab pot’s rough metal frame, squid juice and crab ‘awful’ that would be pressed into the porous material, and yes of course, the smell everyone in the camp would be forced to endure the following winter. But, as I shrugged and thought about the many rough situations I’d endured in that suit, the comfort and ease of movement it afforded, and the abuse tolled out by our back country sledding experiences – I could think of nothing I’d rather wear.
Now let me assure you there is nothing in this world as rough as crab fishing. The work is pure slavery and few men would wish such a trip on their most hated enemy. However, just like snowmobiling, it is one of the most exhilarating experiences imaginable. There is no environment in the world that is quite as refreshing. The air is rich and so perfectly clean. The salt spray leaves your skin taught and rejuvenated. There is a sense of joy and camaraderie among the crew that is without compare, and even the activity feels like something you’d only find yourself doing on a Saturday.
And just like any Saturday, time truly flies on a commercial fishing boat; most certainly due to the fact that you are in a state of perpetual motion. The pots keep coming and the crab piles about your feet continuously. The catch has to be sized, sorted and stored. Tubs have to be baited and returned to the water even as the next pot comes to the side. The Captain barks out orders and we dance about the deck in a constant state of alert to the many perils and dangers that arise throughout the day. We laugh and curse. Torment and cheer. Shout warnings and offer thanks to each other and a lord who provided us with such good fortune. A lot like sledding, actually.
By shift’s end you find yourself completely spent – dulled by the beautiful state of exhaustion that we only experience with a complete exertion of mind and body. As the boat turns to head back to shore I collapse in a pile of ropes, smiling. I have survived the day and am proud of this accomplishment and my decisions. As I look about the boat, I am reminded of how thankful I am for my Klim suit. Not just for the maneuverability, the protection and durability that got me through the last 24 hours. For while I watch the other boys struggle to shed the sopping oil skins that cling stubbornly to their sweat soaked shirts, socks and pant legs – I relax, perfectly dry, warm and comfortable in my same work clothes. Thank God for I am unable to even lift a finger. No doubt my suit will stink to high heaven this winter but what odds. Like Grandfather always said – “The only thing I smells on the wharf is money!”