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Provincetown :: Wednesday, October 1st 2014

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A Day in the Life of a Fishing Boat

Notes from Land's End: Oct. 25


October 25th, 2011

With its deep natural harbor and access to Cape Cod Bay, fishing boats have always been a part of Provincetown’s culture. “There was a time,” says artist Madelyn Carney, while sweeping her arm over the harbor, “when forty to fifty boats were tied up on MacMillan Pier.” Regulations against international factory boats on American shores (The Magnuson-Stevens Act) spurred the beginning of legislative measures that now govern how, where and when people can fish commercially, creating a huge challenge for the viability of today’s fishermen.

“There was a time,” says artist Madelyn Carney, while sweeping her arm over the harbor, “when forty to fifty boats were tied up on MacMillan Pier.”

This curious blogger decided to go on the F/V Black Bear, owned by Tim Hughes of Wellfeet, and operated by Captain Jacques “Jack” Macara, a third generation fisherman (and her partner), to chronicle a day in the life of a fishing boat:

4:50a.m. – The alarm rings. I jump into my clothes and grab a backpack filled with supplies.

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5:10a.m. – Captain Jack throws off the lines of the Black Bear. As we head out past Long Point in darkness, the stars are still bright in the sky with a crescent moon illuminating the water.

6:10a.m. – Traveling at 7.0 knots, we’ll make it to the scallop beds in one more hour. At the wheel, Jack checks his Loran plotter, listens to the weather and plans the day. In the foc’s’le, I make instant (?) coffee, dreaming about a real cup of “Sweet Puppy Love.”

7:03a.m. – Sunrise!

The 42-foot Black Bear drops its eight-foot scallop dredge, “the rake”, into 13 fathom of water with a 360 view of both the Sagamore Bridge and the Provincetown Monument. We tow for about 45 minutes. Rising out of the ocean through a winch and pulley system, deckhand Bruce Heron pulls the steel-ringed bag onboard. Catch is shaken out as we push the rake back into the sea for another tow. Live scallops mix with sponges, starfish, skates, crabs and lobsters.

It’s time to pick the pile, throwing back the still living by-catch, and sort scallops by size. Small ones go back overboard. I use a measuring tool (the opening in the handle of a fish-tote) until I can “just tell.”

The work is hard and the seas are rolling.

8:03a.m. - Company. There’s a small boat on its way to catch tuna. A whale watch boat makes its way to Stellwagen Bank. Another scalloper starts to follow us around. Captain Jack loses him in his next tow. It’s a cat and mouse game that will get played all day.

11:03a.m. – I clean the windows, staying away from taut steel cables. As romantic as the ocean is surrounding us, a fishing boat is a workplace. Safety is always the top priority for people aboard.

5:03p.m. – It’s time to head home after ten hours of tows. There are bushels of scallops, kept alive in floating tanks of seawater. Captain Jack takes his time getting home. With fuel at over $4.00 a gallon, this saves money.

6:50p.m. – It’s dark as the Black Bear steams past the breakwater to meet our truck. The day’s catch is taken out of the water, lifted up in fish totes and sent on its way to a buyer.

7:15p.m. We tie up and head over to George’s for a pizza and a drink, back on land!

A quote from NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

“The U.S. sea scallop fishery is extremely important to our economy and is the largest wild scallop fishery in the world. In 2009, U.S. fishermen harvested 58 million pounds of sea scallop meats worth over $382 million. Massachusetts and New Jersey are responsible for the majority of the U.S. harvest.

In 1998, NOAA Fisheries Service and the New England Fishery Management Council determined that sea scallops were overfished and implemented a rebuilding plan with measures to reduce fishing effort. As a result of the effort, reductions, gear restrictions, and closed areas established to reduce fishing mortality, the Atlantic sea scallop population has been rebuilt to sustainable levels since 2001.”

“Notes from Land's End”, by artistic bon vivant Laura Shabott, is a weekly account of the people, places and events that make our town so special.

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