Tangled Up and Blue

I am not much of a fisherman.  I tend to screw things up on fishing duty more so than contribute to the pursuit. Why I continue to be invited to participate is beyond me. My latest disaster entails  a momentary lapse of concentration, taking photos of a beautiful place called Point of Hope (ironically) while leaving Jacqueline at the helm. Water depth was to be maintained at a steady 90 feet to keep a high-tech engineered fish catching contraption off the bottom. As I left the helm in the capable hands of a six year old with years of navigational experience, I had a brief sojourn on the stern of the Mollie-O, to take a photo of Kary with a picturesque lighthouse off his starboard shoulder. It was a darling moment.

Suddenly, all you-know-what broke loose. Then something else broke loose that ought not.  It seems as though our skipper (under my un-watchful eye) had veered off to a more shallow course and we were dragging our tackle through gunk and rocks. Worse, we suddenly became snagged on the port side and the downrigger went crazy, taking the full brunt of the force. It gets better. The boat was now drifting towards the steep rocky cliff just 30 feet away. Toward the picturesque lighthouse.

Mayhem ensued. Kary grabbed a knife, started yelling for a hard turn to starboard and then went around cutting things that are supposed to come back with you to the marina.  Things lightened up quickly and literally once he had junked the fishing equipment in lieu of an on-the-rocks scene requiring Coast Guard assistance.

After the code red phase was over and all tackle was essentially lost-at-sea, Kary quietly went to the cooler, took out a cold item in a can and went up to the bow to sulk. For a couple of hours. Later that evening while we quietly prepared dinner for the kids, he looked at me with a small grimace, then a tiny smile, and said ‘Okay, I forgive you.’

Our second fishing trip of the summer began with my demotion from first mate to ordinary seaman.  Rachel gladly accepted my position from the captain.  I raise this so as to point out that what came to pass was under her firstly-mate leadership, not mine this time.  A 300- foot length of polypropylene line had been prepared to be fed over the stern along with two tandem prawn traps. Those of you who subject yourself to frequent crab or prawn fishing will be familiar with a moment called “NOW” which requires approximately 2 hours and 115 depth sonde readings to establish, while driving in circles and going blind staring at a Garmin.  We were hovering over the “NOW” spot where all of the prawns were scheduled to commune at that very moment, and overboard the trap went, with gobs of blue line following fast.

My father always taught me to be careful with the coiling and releasing of lines, usually anchor lines and bow lines.  The main point was to get the line free and clear before feeding it out. Also to be sure not to look at the Garmin for at least 3 minutes prior to allow circulation to return to the eyeballs.

This time, I think that step might have been cut a teensy bit short. But being in the ordinary seaman role on the org chart I didn’t want to point that out. I just focused on the water depth.

The miraculous thing about the massive glob of blue tangled line that went overboard is that it managed to save our trap.

It’s a bit complicated to explain but the quick story is that the line went wonky and wild as it rapidly tried to keep up with itself and the submerging trap. On its way down, it tangled badly, leaving a ‘hanging loop’ on the edge of a big blue mess.

Then, to add insult to injury, our prop unknowingly went through it (notice the use of passive voice), cutting the line.

We didn’t know this at first. We figured it out when we saw shreds of blue stuff tangled around the prop. That’s another type of marine emergency with which we are quite familiar. With ease Kary saved the day on that one. He is an experienced El Captain and knows what to do with blue stuff wrapped around your prop.

Next, we nervously returned to look at the float, to see if it was pulling a Wilson or if it was holding fast.  Seeing that it was doing its bobbing and floating job in good cadence, we decided to leave the scene. I’m not sure how that sounds to you but sometimes this happens in fishing. You just leave and hope for the best.

Two hours later, we returned for the second and most important moment in fishing also called “NOW” and held our breath as we pulled the float into the boat and began to recover the line. Would our trap be gone? The bounty escaped? One hundred prawns doing a happy dance in a new house?

Miraculously, all was safely secured, by virtue of one big … blue … polypropylene … mess.

The line was cut. But the tangle held.

How often in life we struggle through something that feels like one big blue tangled mess. I sometimes find myself focusing on the mess at hand, the tangle, the disaster. The would’ve could’ve should’ve done. The demotion. The lack of concentration. The loss of material items. The embarrassing mistake. What strikes me as ironic about this little fishing story is that in the end,  the big ugly tangle not only held the pieces in place, it actually saved the bounty. That’s something to chew on.

The 26 prawns we consumed that night tasted sweeter than ever.