Wednesday, July 1st, 2009
Sailin’ in a tick dungeon o’fog…cut it with a knife you could…Just now the Barque Picton Castle is off Brazil Rocks near the southern tip of Nova Scotia steering to pass just north of Georges Banks. Back in the day of fishing schooners and fog much of the navigation was enriched guess work. That so many vessels went up on the rocks in the fog is no surprise, that so many made it safely back to port might be more of one. Of course it isn’t always foggy hereabouts but isn’t all that scarce either. I remember sailing back to Gloucester from Newfoundland by way of Lunenburg in the 1894 Essex built grand banker schooner Ernestina ex Effie M. Morrissey. Some old fishermen in Brigus, NL had showed us how to jig for cod and set us up with some jigs. Jigs are simply chunks of lead shaped kind of like fish with some big hooks sticking out. Any corner store used to carry them and twenty years ago every corner store in small Newfoundland waterfront towns certainly did. You scrape the lead jig with the blade of your knife to make the jigs shiny and you drop your jig to the bottom, raise it up just a bit then snap it up quickly with your arm again and again and this snags the fish which may be attracted to the shine of the jig and swirl around it trying to figure out how to eat it. In Lunenburg some other old fishermen told us that we might get some fat cod if we went close into Brazil Rocks near Cape Sable, launched a dory and got closer still and jigged for a spell. This we did and sure enough we got enough cod for a nice feed for the crew of that big black schooner. This must have been in 1987. We put our cod jigs away after that satisfied in the knowledge that once again a few cod were slapping over the decks of that famous old high-liner fishing schooner. Made a good supper too what with fired onions and potatoes and smoked salt fat back rendered down into scrunchings all cooked on the big black cast iron Shipmate stove down in the focsle. Didn’t pack any away in salt though, those times are past, just enough for one meal, besides we had no salt. The fish feed followed by black coffee and blueberry pie.
Now here we are off Brazil Rocks in another old fishing vessel, this time big, square-rigged and built of riveted steel, bound once again in the fog for Gloucester. We have a new gang aboard fitting in just fine, “learning the ropes” a couple getting past a brush with mal-de-mer, learning to steer their ship, keeping a good look-out, already handy at the braces. Soon we round the corner here and sail across the Gulf of Maine. Yes, we have fog, but we also have a fair wind from the east which is not so common so we figure we are pretty fortunate right about now and everything is altogether pretty good. Happy Canada Day.