Ex­plor­ing the slightly haz­ardous op­tions for desnag­ging poorly-marked lob­ster pots

Practical Boat Owner - - Cruising -

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

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