One rainy day I was snooping around Seal Cove on Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy when I spied a window full of bright fluorescent orange objects that I had never seen before…
It was raining hard and the seas around Grand Manan Island were too rough for the boats to go out fishing. I was stumbling through the muck at low tide in Seal Cove, photographing the fishing sheds sitting way up high on stilts. The tides here top out at about 20 feet, not the highest in the Bay of Fundy, but dramatic nonetheless. I was trying to figure out what those colourful objects behind the second floor window were when a guy sticks his head out and hails me. I confess to being a tourist from away and enquire about the splashes of colour. He suggests I come up to find out for myself.
Great. Friendly natives (come to think of it, everybody I met on Grand Manan was friendly), and the guy takes me on a tour of the workshop.
Repairing nets, of course, is what fishermen do when they are not fishing. The place is an organized jumble of ropes, tools, nets (lots of nets) and buoys, those colourful objects mentioned before. Buoys are used to mark the position of fishing nets when they are deployed in the water. Each set of buoys has markings unique to their owners. Three young guys are busy tending to long lines of net. Drawing from a big pile at one end of the building, cutting bits off, then piling net at the other end of the building. I really had no idea what they were doing, and when they explained it all to me I still couldn’t figure it out. Fisherman stuff. But all was friendly chit-chat. A dog maundered around. Friends came and went as I took pictures.
Sometimes, as a tourist, I feel like a bit of a pain-in-the-ass. An outsider to be sure. Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Bad weather, malfunctioning gear and unpredictable incidents make this Canada’s deadliest profession. So it was out of naiveté and ignorance that I fancied a cruise out to catch lobster on one of the local Seal Cove boats. After taking leave of my net-mending buddies I found myself next door (freshly emboldened by my burgeoning talent for sniffing out local colour) talking to an old-timer about making lobster traps. I mentioned my notion of going out on one of the boats and he looked me in the eye and said …
“We’ll find you some work”
It’s a good thing for me that conditions were inclement that day in Seal Cove because I do believe that I would have ended up on a working fishing boat. This might have made for a great story but would most definitely not have made for very good fishing.