By Sheila Dassatt

        By the time that you read this, we will have already had our Christmas season.  It was started before Thanksgiving this year in hopes that it would cheer people up.  I can honestly say that Thanksgiving was very nice, even though there was a lot of distancing going on.  I guess that this was a necessary thing to do, considering the circumstances of the folks that are at risk with their health issues.  I certainly miss the gatherings that have been a tradition each year, it just doesn’t seem like the fellowship that we all need to keep our spirits up.  I admit, there is a lot of fun involved with good food, music and the laughter of family and friends getting together to share the festivity of the season. 

        Getting back to reflections of the year, 2020, we were fortunate to be able to get the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in before the Covid virus hit heavily.  I’d have to say that the Forum was our “last hurrah!” It was good to be able to see our friends, relatives and many exhibitors that we only see once a year.  I am on the Forum Board, and I can honestly say that we all work very hard to make it happen each year and Chilloa, Mike and Loallee Young are a pleasure to work with.  It was a tough decision to continue on with the Forum in March, but we started out with distancing.  At that point, the Covid virus had not taken full hold of spreading.  I didn’t realize that it would be the only big event of the year that we would all be together at.  Thank goodness for our decision!  Unfortunately, the Forum Board did get together on a teleconference and decided not to have the Forum in March of 2021.  It was a hard decision, but we weren’t sure how to keep the distancing at a safe space, assuming that the Covid would still be “in the wind” at that time.  We are planning to stay in touch with the Industry, though.  Please stay tuned, we’re working on it.

        It was right after that that all of the toilet paper disappeared!  That wasn’t good, I wasn’t prepared for that……it’s a time when sharing came in handy.  I can’t believe that so many people would hoard such a thing.  But they did.  I couldn’t find things like butter and food in general.  The prices of the meat sky rocketed too, if you could find any to buy.  This was just the beginning of the 2020 season.  I’m sure that we all have memories of the hysteria that went on.  This was before there were very many masks available for people to wear, so the supermarkets had special hours for senior citizens to shop in order to keep a distance from the general public.  It worked well at the time.  A lot of folks went shopping at 6:00 in the morning and got what they needed without too much fear.

        The churches were suspended, the schools were closed and all of a sudden, parents that worked were supposed to home school at the same time.  This was all a great challenge for all involved.  People were delivering lunches to the school children and their families.  I’m not telling you anything that you already don’t know, but I am going over the year, as it was such a drastic change to our existence.  Most of the lobster boat races were cancelled too.  This should all be documented so years down the road, there is an account of how things were in the year 2020. 

        2020 was an election year, which has turned out to be just as bizarre as the rest of the year.  Now we are faced with what is called Fake Media, which means that no one knows what to believe any more. Have we let our country and constitution down with not being able to trust our voting system?  These other countries are watching us.  I have always felt that it is best to tell the truth, it is the right thing to do.  “It’s best to tell the truth, because if you lie, you have to have a good memory.”  This was a quote that I heard Indian Larry telling school children when they went to see his motorcycle show.  It is so important to teach these values to our next generation regardless of what is going on around us.  Quite often, we have to stand alone in our convictions and not follow the crowd.  This is true with the fishing industry as well.  It is not easy to “agree to disagree” when it comes to regulations and doing what is right to be able to continue our traditions and fishing grounds.

        This year hasn’t changed much yet, but I can honestly tell you that the work has continued on with our fishing industry.  Through all of this Covid threat, we were able to continue to fish, we were not closed down for any reason with concerns from the entire industry.  We were able to participate with meetings through Zoom and teleconference. The Industry worked with the Governor, the DMR and industry leaders to ensure that we would all survive to the best of our ability.  We have had support from USDA Relief Funds and also the CARES Act, which has been a big help for the Marine Industry.

        A lot of folks took to the water during this pandemic.  I can call it The Year of the Kayak!  I have never seen so many vehicles with multi-colored kayaks on the roof. Some of them even used them!  The only thing about that is I wish they had some sort of radar blip on them so we could see them in the fog.  It was very dangerous that way, with safety in mind. 

        At least on the water and in the fishing community, we were able to live somewhat “normal” until we came in to shore.  It was like a breath of fresh air to get out there and have the freedom of the open sea.  This is what we are trying to maintain for all of us to be able to continue with the New Year upon us.  I am hoping that we can return to some normalcy this year.  We can get ready for the next fishing season coming up and perhaps enjoy some winter rest and relaxation until that time comes around.  If nothing else, this whole year has been one big learning curve in one way or another.  I know I have grown a little older, a little wiser from all of the happenings of the year 2020.  Happy New Year, stay happy and healthy and hope for the best.  We’re all in this together.