Exploring the slightly hazardous options for desnagging poorly-marked lobster pots
So there you are, trundling along, engine humming a merry if monotonous tune, and the world suddenly goes clunk and stops. This will probably be because you have got a line round the propeller. Perhaps your lookout has not been up to snuff. There again, it may have been because it is pitch dark and blowing a gale.
Whichever the case, it is increasingly likely that it is because some jack-the-lad has decided that the path to riches is via the sale of lobsters, and has bought himself some pots on ebay. Realising at this point that unless he gets a licence he will be limited to very few pots, he feels a need for discretion. This leads him to mark his pots either with an old petrol can painted the always-fashionable black, or (a classic style statement) two two-litre milk jugs tied together. Either way, the things are invisible, and if you do not like them you can swell the numbers who are trying to get pot markers made more visible, as in www.theca.org.uk/CAlobster-pot-campaign.
Meanwhile, though, you are stuck, and faced with choices. One, highly advisable in foul weather or if your boat doesn’t have sails, is to call out the lifeboat. The other, preferred by many hardy and self-reliant souls, is to don a mask, leap over the side with a breadknife and hack the propeller free while the boat heaves up and down above you, reminding you that it is hard and weighs several tons, while you are comparatively squashy and (if you have managed to stay off the pies) weigh a good deal less than that.
But there are compensations. On a calm day in (say) the Med, watching the falling away of the hampering line into the aquamarine deeps gives an unrivalled sense of liberation, always assuming you have not drowned.
It is the drowning that puts people off. Some get round it by taking complicated PADI courses, in which they swap mouthpieces with perfect strangers far underwater, and play a form of ice hockey with a tin lid on the bottom of their local municipal baths. This qualifies you to dive anywhere in the world, and also to keep huge amounts of bulky equipment on your 27ft boat, but hey, you can always sleep on deck. Marketing folk, who never sleep, from time to time come up with devices calculated to make diving easier for the unqualified. These smart rucksacks work fine, but can set you back a small fortune.
For the bold, there is a proper PBO solution to this dilemma. The native divers of the Philippines surge out in the middle of the night in small boats carrying compressors to which are attached long plastic tubes. Strapping on fins made of plywood, these heroes grip a bamboo spear in the hand, the end of the plastic tube in the teeth, and plunge into the deeps, from which they return with many fish.
Health and safety officials contemplating accounts of this tend to faint; and indeed the mortality rate among practitioners is pretty stratospheric. There is, however, a British version, which I describe here for information only, and without recommending it, because if I did someone would sue me. It goes like this: take one child’s inflatable dinghy, as found on ebay. Into this strap a 12V battery, an aquarium pump, the airtight bottle from a large garden sprayer, and 20 yards or so of clear plastic tubing, to the end of which has been affixed a scuba regulator. Connect it all up. The battery provides power for the compressor, which shoves air into the airtight bottle, which supplies it to the regulator, which sustains the diver in his busy tasks as he tows the whole works along, he underwater in wetsuit and weight belt, the dinghy following him like a faithful hound. Total bill, about £100.
As long as he doesn’t go down more than 20 feet, his chances of survival are excellent. Furthermore, having done the stuff with the bread knife or indeed cleared a fouled anchor, he may easily go on to find a few scallops. As well as delighting gastronomes among the crew, this will go a tiny distance towards frustrating the toxic greed of the scallop dredgers, whose wicked depredations have turned large areas of seabed into a desert, and who will not rest until they have wrecked the marine environment and put themselves out of business...
Where was I? Oh yes. High tech, low tech, ecowarrior. Whichever, never forget the breadknife.
‘Many hardy souls prefer to leap over the side with a breadknife’
DIY propeller clearing is becoming increasingly popular among the self-reliant