Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stupid, stupid, stupid

We lost a crab trap today.  Actually its not really lost.  We’ve got the GPS location marked as a waypoint so we could get back to within 50 feet of where its lying but its gone nevertheless.  It could have been a LOT worse.

Back up a day.  Yesterday we pulled my prawn trap off Separation Point.  There’s several floats about 200 yards off the point marking where others are trying to capture the elusive Spot Prawns.  There were no prawns in our trap but there were 5 Dungeness crabs.  Two of them were likely big enough to keep but we only kept the biggest one and sent the other four back to grow some more.  Then we headed back toward the dock in anticipation of boiling our catch for supper.  Along the way Marilyn decided she wanted to drop “her” trap.  She has been using the trap that came with our spare anchor rode but she only has 75 feet of line on it so we had to drop it in much shallower water.  HAD 75 feet of line.

Last night we had a wonderful feed of fresh crab.  It wasn’t enough for a meal but it was a good appy.  Crab and lobster is really just an excuse to eat garlic butter anyway so we had extra butter and enjoyed our one lonesome crab. 

Tonight we have a yacht club AGM at the clubhouse in Sidney.  So we left the dock at Cow Bay after lunch and headed up toward Sidney, stopping along the way to pull Marilyn’s crab trap.  The wind was blowing pretty strong out of the west and we still don’t have a good system worked out for retrieving the line.  Gray Hawk has a lot of freeboard which is great when you’re slamming into the seas on a day when you really should have stayed at the dock.  But its not so great when you are trying to snag a little piece of 1/4” line dangling below a crab float. 

Retrieving the float from the bow has the advantage of putting the risky parts of the boat (props and rudders) a long way away from the crab line.  On the other hand the bow is about 7 feet above the water so its pretty tricky to snag that little line from way up there.  Yesterday we managed to hook the line from the aft deck once and once from the bow.  Doing it from the bow however required SWMBO to lie prone on the foredeck and reach with one hand holding the boathook.  That wasn’t an ideal solution so today I came up with the incredibly stupid idea that I could put our swim grid up close to the float.  In theory that meant that Marilyn would be virtually at water level where she could casually snare the float and pull it aboard.  In practice it meant that the float disappeared under the swim grid whence it managed to get itself wrapped around something important.  I had the engines shut off in a forlorn attempt to keep from wrapping a line on a shaft but by the time I got to the swim grid we were clearly entangled in a big mess.

I was able to pull on the line and for a while it seemed like the trap might come all the way up.  I could pull line through and I could release the line and have it drop away but I couldn’t get the line to drift free of whatever it had managed to wrap itself around.  Could have been the rudder, could have been the prop or it could have been any of the various support struts that brace the shafts.  Whatever it was eventually the line jammed up hard and I could neither pull it nor let it run out.  Very bad.

We didn’t have any options left so we cut the line.  The line is weighted so we knew that if it came free it would fall to the bottom.  Crab traps are required to have an emergency escape hatch held closed by special cotton string that will rot so we knew that it wouldn’t go on catching crabs.  What we didn’t know was whether or not the line would fall free of whatever it was caught on.  I knew it was jammed and I was reasonably sure it was caught on something on the starboard (right hand) side.  So after cutting the line I started the port engine and put it in gear (cautiously).  Nothing bad happened so I ran it up a bit thinking that dragging the trap might cause the line to come free.  Eventually I got that engine up to maximum RPM and still nothing bad had happened.  Then I stopped and ran it in reverse, again thinking that might dislodge the trap that I assumed was still caught up on the starboard running gear. 

Finally with lots of water around us, out in the middle of the bay, I started and engaged the starboard engine.  For a wonder nothing bad happened.  No big noises, no sudden stop of the engine, no vibration.  So we dodged a major bullet. 

After our hearts came back to a normal rhythm we headed across to Separation Point and pulled my prawn trap.  This time we approached it upwind and Marilyn lay on the foredeck again.  The difference from yesterday was that I ran out at the last minute and took the boathook from her after she had snagged the line.  That actually worked pretty well and by approaching into the wind and letting most of our way die off before we got up to the float we drifted away from the line after we picked it up.  So that’s how we will be doing it from now on, with one modification.

SWMBO has come up with an innovation that we haven’t seen on anybody’s floats yet.  We’re going to make a loop out of coat hanger wire and fix it to the top of our floats so that she can snag that instead of trying to reach under the float to snare the line.  Then in order to ensure that the float stands straight up – which they are incredibly reluctant to do – we are going to put a light (maybe 2 pound) weight on the line about a foot below the float.  Once all that’s in place we should be able to pull traps on the fly – just like loading bales with a New Holland bale wagon.  Well – maybe not quite that fast but a hell of a lot better than what we have been doing up to this point.

Stay tuned – the excitement continues.


Oh, and today when we pulled my trap we had 4 crabs but only kept two of them.  We didn’t have any rubber bands to tie their little pinchers shut with so we used black tape to keep them from fighting in the pot.  As soon as we tied up their hands they got all mellow and laid on top of each other like two queers on a honeymoon.

No comments: