Dump­ing day through a mother’s eyes

South Shore Breaker - - Games - TINA COMEAU YAR­MOUTH VAN­GUARD

Hon­estly, how does the cat know it’s dump­ing day?

One thing about Smokey, he’s con­sis­tent. He usu­ally wakes me up ev­ery morn­ing around 5:40 a.m. But not to­day. To­day he’s me­ow­ing in my face at 4:13 a.m. It’s just as well. I had my alarm set for 4:30 a.m. to get ready to head to the wharf in Pinkney’s Point, Yar­mouth County.

The lob­ster sea­son in south­west­ern N.S. — and in our case LFA (lob­ster fish­ing area) 34 — was start­ing at 6 a.m. on Satur­day, Dec. 1. We’d all be head­ing to the wharf at 5 a.m., ex­cept for my hus­band Greg, who was gone by 4:31 a.m. I’m pretty sure he barely slept all night, whereas I got a hardy four-and-a-half hours of sleep af­ter driv­ing home the night be­fore from a high school hockey tour­na­ment in Ber­wick to be home for dump­ing day morn­ing.

Ex­cept for me, our two cats and our rab­bit, ev­ery­one in my house­hold — my hus­band and my two sons, Ja­cob and Justin — would be head­ing out to sea on dump­ing day

Still at the house (well, ex­cept for my hus­band), we’re all in var­i­ous stages of “gear­ing up” to head to the wharf. I’m putting a fully-charged bat­tery in my cam­era and mak­ing room on my mem­ory card to take lots of pho­tos. Ja­cob is pack­ing a bag of clothes (they may not be home for days).

Justin is pack­ing his stuff and mak­ing his break­fast. Burnt toast it is.

Ja­cob’s girl­friend Emmy has made the trip from her home in Wolfville to ex­pe­ri­ence dump­ing day. A Val­ley girl, this is her first time watch­ing the boats leave. I no­tice be­fore we leave the house she’s not wear­ing any socks.

“Your an­kles will be cold,” I tell her, as I try to find her a pair of socks that match.

We pile into my car and start to back out of the drive­way when I re­al­ize I for­got my phone. I open the door of the car to get out but it’s is still go­ing back­wards.

“Why are we mov­ing??!!!” I shout out.

“Be­cause you’ve got the car in re­verse,” Justin points out.

Is it just me, or does dump­ing day start way too early?

I grab my phone and get back in the car, telling Justin to se­lect a spe­cific song from my playlist for the drive to the wharf.

“You have a theme song for the drive to the wharf?” he asks.

Well, yeah, I think to my­self, shouldn’t ev­ery­body?

The song I’ve se­lected is called A Lit­tle Peace by MILCK.

The lyrics fill the car: ‘Oh-ohoh, oh-oh-oh,’ All I need is a lit­tle peace ... A lit­tle peace.”

It’s the feel­ing I’m aim­ing for to­day.

I don’t want to be ner­vous. I don’t want to be wor­ried. I don’t want to be think­ing about how dan­ger­ous and risky the first day of the sea­son is.

I’m not sure a three-minute-and-21-sec­ond song can negate all this, but I’m will­ing to try.

As we pass the ceme­tery in Pinkney’s Point I give two toots of my horn.

“That’s for Grand­pere Surette,” I tell the boys. This is the sec­ond dump­ing day without my fa­ther-in-law Henry since he died. I think about all of the decades he was on the boat.

We ar­rive at the wharf and the air feels pic­ture-per­fect calm. The sea­son that should have started Mon­day is get­ting un­der­way on Satur­day due to a week-long weather de­lay. I’m thank­ful to those who made that de­ci­sion. To­day is a good day.

The har­bour is filled with boats that are loaded with traps and gear – the lights from the boats are re­flected on the wa­ter. It’s both beau­ti­ful and scary. The scary part comes from look­ing at the boats loaded with traps and gear. I can see that Emmy is ner­vous so I speak re­as­sur­ing words to her. Ja­cob’s dad has been fish­ing for more than 30 years and they’ve never had an in­ci­dent on dump­ing day, I tell her.

Still, I’m also scan­ning their boat, won­der­ing how you can pos­si­bly fit all that gear and peo­ple too. I tell Justin once again to make sure he wears his life­jacket. He tells me this is the 135th time I’ve re­minded him.

He’s ex­ag­ger­at­ing, of course, I’ve prob­a­bly only men­tioned it 126 times.

As time passes, more and more peo­ple have ar­rived at the wharf — wives, girl­friends, sib­lings, par­ents, cousins, aunts, un­cles, sons and daugh­ters. There’s even a fam­ily dog.

We all sit­u­ate our­selves on the wharf and wave to all of the boats as they pass by while many peo­ple shout out, “Good luck! Stay safe!”

This is a scene that I know is re­peat­ing it­self at wharfs all over south­west­ern Nova Sco­tia and along the prov­ince’s south shore. With close to 1,700 boats head­ing out to sea — with crews of around three to five peo­ple on each as the sea­son starts — there’s very few peo­ple in this part of the prov­ince who don’t have a di­rect, or at least an in­di­rect, tie to this fish­ery that is so im­por­tant to the econ­omy — and not only to the econ­omy of the re­gion, but to the prov­ince as well. And the lob­ster fish­ery has helped to sus­tain our econ­omy for a long time.

Dur­ing last year’s sea­son, pre­lim­i­nary fig­ures from the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans say that 31,863 tonnes of live lob­ster were landed in LFAS 33 and 34 for a landed value of ap­prox­i­mately $502 mil­lion.

And yet some­times when some­one asks, “What does your hus­band do?” or “What does you son do?” some­times the re­sponse is, “He just fishes.”

Of course, the word ‘just’ should never be in that sen­tence. We’d never say some­one is just a farmer, or just a teacher, or just a busi­ness­man.

Fish­ing is hard work. It is noble work. It is gru­el­ing work. It is phys­i­cally de­mand­ing. Over the win­ter a day at the “of­fice” is in bit­ter cold tem­per­a­ture with windy con­di­tions. There’s no real sched­ule fish­er­men can rely on. Their lives and liveli­hoods are gov­erned by the weather through­out the six-month sea­son that will end on May 31.

Along with the emo­tional tie for many peo­ple watch­ing the boats head out to sea, there is also a feel­ing of swelling with pride.

At the Pinkney’s Point wharf, mean­while, there’s al­ways that one boat ev­ery dump­ing day that scares those of us on shore as it looks to list to its side while steam­ing out of har­bour. I can’t even watch it. I have to look away.

And then our fam­ily’s boat, Ja­cob’s Jour­ney, pulls away from the wharf. I know what thoughts are go­ing through my mind. I won­der what Emmy is think­ing of at this mo­ment too. Ja­cob is wav­ing good­bye. I see Justin in the wheel­house and yell out my life­jacket re­minder, just in case he

Tina Comeau

Deck space was in short sup­ply on dump­ing day morn­ing as ves­sels were loaded with traps and gears for the start of the sea­son. The sea­son in LFA 34 got un­der­way at 6 a.m.

Tina Comeau

Deck space was in short sup­ply on dump­ing day morn­ing as ves­sels were loaded with traps and gears for the start of the sea­son. The sea­son in LFA 34 got un­der­way at 6 a.m.

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