By Sheila Dassatt

        Getting ready for fall is a good thought for this article in the fishing world.  Fall is a beautiful time of the year, but it also has its challenges if you are a fisherman.  When the boats go into the water in the spring, they are gone over, spiffed up and the maintenance is done and ready.  By about this time of the year, they start getting a little tired and worn, as well as the crew.

        We have had one hurricane warning this fall and a bad wind storm last weekend. With the hurricane warning, the storm arrived, a majority of the boats were hauled up at “the yard” and it did pass through.  One side of me said that everyone’s prayers had us covered and it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be.  On the other hand, most were saying they had “seen better nor’easters!”  Not that we wanted a bad scene, but I guess we should stop getting “hyped up” over the Weather Channel.  I swear, we never used to get all shook up over a storm, especially a snowstorm, until the Weather Channel came into being.  Don’t take me wrong, it is good to be able to keep track of the weather such as this provides, but they do put a lot of drama into it.

        This past weekend, we had quite a wind storm, and boats did need to be checked to be sure that the moorings were secure.  We know one fellow fisherman who’s boat broke loose during the storm and luckily with the help of a good fishing community, he was alerted and the boat was hauled up before much damage was done.  Everyone was at the yard to check out the damage and offer a hundred different ways to fix it.  Everyone means well in a situation like this.

        Other than wind storms, the boats are basically “tired” after a long and hard season of hauling.  We know another fellow fisherman that lost an engine about a week ago, which is always a costly repair or replacement.  I was just called to the dock this morning with a part to help get Saving Grace started. We got that situation solved and now he’s coming in due to a broken davit pole.  Once again, these rocked down traps due to this sinking rope is the culprit.  When we have to rig our ropes to appease the whale rules it makes it costly and unsafe for the fishermen and their boats.  I have heard more than once that the plastic breakaways and the knots are very dangerous if they get snagged when setting off a trawl with a full gang of traps on it.  I truly hope that we can come to some sort of compromise about rigging the gear for safety for the fishermen.  We are working on this, as I stated in my DELA report which is on the other page from this article.

        I’m not saying anything that you don’t already know, but we truly recommend what we call a pre-trip in the commercial trucking world.  That is when you start from one end and go to the other and check to make sure that everything is in place and also running right.  This goes the same for a fishing vessel.  Especially this time of the year, a pre-trip is very valuable before you even leave the dock. 

        Spare parts is another factor.  We try to carry an extra part for anything on the boat that could break and need to be replaced.  Things like an extra starter switch, fan belts, even jugs of water and a spare piece of hose and clamps.  Even keeping a jar of extra fastenings such as little nuts and bolts, screws and sealant.  It sounds trivial, but it can make a big difference if you’re out there broken down,  It could save a trip back to shore and a run to the parts store. 

        This is also a time that we see a lot of boats grounded out to check the bottom and also clean the bottom.  Let’s see if we can keep them clean to get them to the end of the season before hauling them out.  Usually, the zincs need to be replaced on the rudder and the shaft due to so much electrolysis in the water from so much happening in the harbor.

        What else needs to be attended to in the fall?  Well, we should have these all of the time, but the survival suits can make a big difference due to the water cooling down in the fall.  If you should end up overboard, the survival suit will keep you from hypothermia. I can vouch for that because I had one on in February for John McMillan’s Survival class and it was actually fairly warm inside that suit.  Just make sure that the suit is inspected for leaks, for that can make a big difference. 

                Once again, I understand that I’m probably not saying anything that you don’t already know, but safety is a big priority, especially if you aren’t prepared with a plan.  I really feel sorry for the folks that had the mast break on the schooner off Rockland.  This was definitely a freak accident, but it left one person deceased and more injured.  You just never know what is in store.  Like I wrote my last article about….things can happen “in the blink of an eye.”  Please be prepared for the fall and cold weather coming.  It can save your life.  Take care