The Old Man and The Sea

Barbara
Barbara Dean-Simmons
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At 90, Charles Brinston hints he might soon give up lobster fishing - but don't hold your breath

He vows this is his last year lobster fishing. But 90-year-old Charles Brinston has said that before, according to his son Hedley.

And this year, like every other year since he was old enough to go aboard a boat, the North Harbour fisherman has baited pots and set them in the depths of Placentia Bay.

Charles Brinston has walked these wharf planks many times in the nine decades hes lived by the sea in North Harbour, Placentia Bay. Photo by Barbara Dean-Simmons/The Packet

He vows this is his last year lobster fishing. But 90-year-old Charles Brinston has said that before, according to his son Hedley.

And this year, like every other year since he was old enough to go aboard a boat, the North Harbour fisherman has baited pots and set them in the depths of Placentia Bay.

That makes this his 80th season fishing, perhaps - he's not sure exactly how old he was when he first rowed out to the lobster grounds with his father.

"I was hardly big enough to row," he said.

One thing's for certain - Brinston knows his wharf and stage like the back of his hand.

The splitting table inside the little red shed at the head of the wharf is worn; notched and grooved from thousands of passes of splitting knives.

The flakes that once lined the landwash next to the stage are gone now, with just a few weather-beaten ribs of wood leaning together like old soldiers.

Brinston remembers when the flakes were filled with cod, 60-70 quintals (about 7,000 pounds) of fish, salted and drying in the sun.

The land he lives on has been in his family for generations. Brinston was born and raised on the grass-covered rocky outcrop that juts into the ocean.

His family earned their living from the sea and the land.

Although it's hard to imagine anything growing well here, Brinston said they raised root crops in this soil.

From the sea to the woods

The year he turned 17, after the fishing season was over and the last of the salt fish sold, Brinston headed to Goobies to catch the train to the lumber woods of central Newfoundland.

"You had to do that to make a living," he explains.

He worked the bucksaws, cutting down trees to feed the paper mills.

It was hard work, but no harder than fishing.

Muscle power

And the daily bucksawing ensured the muscles in his forearms were in fine shape once it came time for the fishery.

They didn't have motor boats in those days.

"We had to row all the way to Come By Chance where we set our pots, and then all the way back again," he recalls of the days spent fishing with his father.

"We'd leave here at five o'clock in the morning and get back home around dark."

He got his first motor in the 1970s.

"But, sure, I could row just as fast," he quips with a smile, recalling the three horsepower engine that he said was sometimes more trouble than it was worth.

These days, a more powerful outboard motor sits on the back of his boat, and the lobster grounds are just a 15 or 20-minute steam from his wharf.

After his father finished fishing, Brinston continued on alone.

Slowed down a bit at 65

Once he turned 65, though, he slacked back a bit. Now he fishes just a couple of dozen pots, and his son Hedley goes with him.

He says he'll probably give it up altogether after this year.

Yet, there's something in his voice that suggests he probably won't.

Hedley chuckles at his father's musings.

"I've given (fishing) up seven years ago," he said, "and he's still at it."

Geographic location: North Harbour, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland Chance

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