“Plowing cresting waves on Gulf of Maine…”

Home buoys receding on horizon, falling
Off radar, plowing cresting waves on
Gulf of Maine, stern trawler, making for
Fishing grounds, taking cod before stocks
Collapse, trawl doors cutting icy waves,
Net deployed, frozen chaffing gear, only
Life I knew, beyond rocky coasts of home.

Hot coffee, cigarettes, diesel, trawl net
Slowly fills with cod, bitter cold makes
Rusted deck plate feel harder as freezing
Seawater washes boots to scuppers flowing,
Fowl weather gear separates us from fist-
Hard spray, temperatures falling, pushing
North in building seas.

Day shapes flying, fishing lights green over
White, we turn into wind and cresting six-
Foot chop, winds increasing, fishing in
Advancing gale, headway slow, trawl net
Heavy, waves hammering, sun descends in
Snow-streaked clouds, halogens overhead
Turned icy nights into perpetual day.

Wind whistling in rigging, winches hard-
Turning, steel cables straining, another
Productive set, deep-water trawl, dragging
Depths for fish, net slowly pulled up, cod
Pouring out, flip-flopping on the deck, we
Shoved them in waiting hold, fish frozen,
Sold to wholesalers by the ton.

Fishing trawlers at night, lights burning, docked during ocean storm.
Fishing trawlers at night, lights burning, docked during ocean storm.

Days I remembered, before fishery collapse,
Cod and way of life put to death on unfor-
Giving Gulf of Maine, out of work and money,
Beer and cigarettes, fishing is all I’ve ever
Known, working on rust-streaked trawlers,
Hard labours day and night, before knife-
Gutting what we loved.

For varying views on causes for collapse of Maine
cod fishery, see this link. Explanations range from
climate change warming Gulf of Maine to over-
fishing, and need for better stock assessments.

Written whilst listening to “Whiter Shade of Pale,”
Procol Harem, May, 1967. “There is no [clear] reason,
and the truth is plain to see…” It seemed to fit the mood.

Social profiles