There comes a time when you just have to walk away. I had spent the late summer and early fall fishing crab out of Carmanville back in 1990.
The skipper had sold the old 52-footer the year before and the 65-footer he was having built got caught up in some legal wrangling at the shipyard. He never did get her. So he bought a used 55-foot dragger out of Bartlett’s Harbour.
We spent a week or so hauling all the dragging gear off her and got her ready for the codtraps out at Belle Isle. The codtrap fishery was on its last legs and what we would have previously gotten in one trap in one haul was the total for 10 days out of four traps.
We threw it all ashore and headed up off Black Tickle with the gillnets. Our luck was no better. It was, for the groundfish industry, pretty well over.
So we headed back home and for the third time that summer changed gear. Loaded with crab pots, we headed for the crab grounds off the Funks.
We spent about five weeks fishing out of Carmanville and when the season ended we prepared to head home. Our intention was to put the gillnets back on and head up off Labrador for turbot.
The skipper had a moose licence, so he had his wife meet him in Carmanville. I was given the task, along with the rest of the crew, of taking the boat back home. It was my first run as skipper and my first run down through Hamilton Sound.
We arrived back home and while the owner/skipper was away, we readied the boat for the turbot fishery. The day before we were due to sail, a Saturday, a good friend of two of us in the crew was to be buried in Goose Cove.
He, along with everyone else on the plane, was killed when their plane crashed in Greenland on the way home from shrimp fishing in Davis Strait.
My buddy and I went to the funeral. Later that evening I heard (there weren’t any cellphones then) that the skipper was upset about something. It turned out that his father thought some things needed to be done with the codtraps — which, by the way, never went in the water again — and that we should have been around.
Undoubtedly, the skipper was under some pressure financially since selling the old boat, the tangles of getting a replacement and with the fishery in generally bad shape. I had a few of my own.
My then girlfriend was seven months’ pregnant with our oldest son, and frankly, I hadn’t even made enough money to qualify for EI. It was a rough year all ’round, much of it not really anyone’s fault.
I talked to the skipper over the phone that evening and things got a little heated. I decided that I was leaving the boat and I knew if I left, my buddy would leave with me. So I headed to the boat, took my gear off and took his as well.
We ended up at the skipper’s house for a couple of hours after, but then parted ways, us with no boat to sail on and he with a boat minus two crew.
The skipper and I are still good friends. I did the eulogy at his father’s funeral some years later. I end up aboard his boat every time I see her tied on in St. Anthony. He still tells the same stories and I still laugh at them.
He supported me in each election I ran in and I still consider the five years I fished with him some of the best days of my life. But sometimes you just need to walk away.
It was a principled parting of the ways, a story too long to get into any deeper, but suffice to say there was nothing opportunistic about it. No other boat was waiting, and no crew was waiting to join.
Paul Lane — now there is an opportunist. He is hoping to save his behind in the next general election, hoping to head off Randy Simms or Siobhan Coady for the Liberal nod in Mount Pearl South.
Good luck, Paul. Instead of losing the election, you will lose the nomination.
Trevor Taylor is a former cabinet minister under
the Danny Williams administration. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.