It’s 1984 I believe, the years sometimes blur together even if events don’t.
I well remember the scallop trip I first discovered the wisdom of having laundry tags in the clothes one brings to sea.
Part one of the trip
A brand new Scallop Boat had come to New Bedford named the Christine & Sandra.
She was a 98 foot Western rigged (wheelhouse forward) stern trawler painted a deep, dark blue with a white wheelhouse, mast, booms, rigging and
She was wide hulled forward with a deep angle sloping quickly in to the bow stem and a huge wave break on her foredeck.
The Christine & Sandra was given to an interesting guy who was born and raised on Nantucket named Ronald McDonald. (yes, you read that right).
Ronny was a good Skipper with a mild manner and easy laugh. His brother Bobby though.....phew.
I signed on as winchman on the deck where 8 of the crew would work day and night for the next ten days in a 4 man rotation of watches each being 6
hours on and 6 hours off. Truthfully it really worked out to be more like 7-8 hours on and 4-5 hours off twice a day when all was said and done. If we
actually slept for 3 hours twice a day we thought we had life easy.
I had one major dislike on all these new steel beasts that were flooding the docks forcing out the old wooden Eastern Rigs or as they were also known,
Beam Trawlers (wheelhouse aft). Damn, I miss those old boats!
One of the things I hated was the winches. On the old Beam Trawlers the winches sat just before the wheelhouse looking forward. These were made by the
Hathaway Machinery Co. in Fairhaven Ma. on Hathaway Pier.
They were big powerful winches that could haul two 5 ton steal scallop drags up from 50 fathom, (300 feet) in a mere 5 minutes.
Know that you put out tow wire lengths of 3-4 times the depth of the water depending on the bottom, (sand or rock) and how fast you tow the scallop
The cargo winches who’s hooks were slipped into what is called the bull ring on the drags were an off take of a trucks rear end and mechanical brake
When you pulled an air lever the cargo hauled the drag up and with the right roll of the boat the drag would swing inboard over the rail and when you
let the air off the scallop drag would free fall to the deck. There was a long brake handle that you pulled back on to slow and stop the drag from
crashing on deck. This system gave us amazing control over the drag when the boat was rolling rail to rail in heavy weather.
Making pinpoint landings was a thing of great skill!
Try to picture two wishbone shaped monstrosities with nets made of iron rings beneath them hanging 30 feet bottom to top and weighing upwards of 5
tons each when stuffed to the diamonds with rocks swinging wildly about when we were in a big storm with monster seas. The boat felt as though she was
being shaken apart, BOOM, BANG....
In mild weather it could be a pain in the ass to get the drags aboard if the boat had a list to one side and there was no swell to get the boat
rocking in a rail to rail motion.
The Christine & Sandra did not have free fall cargo winches but instead had hydraulic pull-masters that were over head of you and screamed as they
powered the scallop drags up and down. These cargo’s gave us little control. When we needed the drag on deck NOW here it would come on it’s slow
and lazy way down to the deck.
A lot of stuff gets broken and smashed because of this lousy system. OK, rant over......laundry tags.......
We threw the lines and sailed on a bright but humid June morning and after a short 13 hour steam we set the drags out over Asia Rip off the Sou’east
corner of Nantucket Island just inside the shipping channel. Beware the steamers! They’ll run your azz under in a fog or at night if you don’t!
We fell into the routine of drag in, drag out, haul, dump, set out, pick the piles, shovel the junk over and cut out (shuck) the scallops, bag them up
and then bury the entire watches catch down in the hold under ice.
After a meal and maybe, just maybe a shower we’d hit the rack for a couple/few hours sleep, get up, eat, do it all again. We’d become robots after
5 or 6 days.
It was hot and not a breath of wind but June is fog month on the banks so we saw nothing but our little world, the deck. One of my favorite things I
used to love to do this time of year was climb the mast during off watch to sit on the crosstrees and gaze out over the water. When the air is still
the fogs of June which form because the water is colder than the air just hang suspended over the water like a blanket to a height of maybe 50 or 60
feet so if we are working amongst other boats, which is dangerous in pea-soup fog, all you see is the tips of the masts of other boats moving back and
forth across the top of the fog. It really was something magical to behold!
We’d been out maybe 5 or 6 days and were doing well. I had almost full bag of lobster tails and claws in the freezer.
All boat crews follow an unwritten rule where if a guy on deck see’s a lobster or anything just laying in the pile and calls out my lobster etc.
before anyone else did it was was his.
The reason this rule was followed was because the winch man could not leave his station until the drags were back on the bottom and the boat was once
again towing. It was not fair for the two hookup men who handled the drags to be able to get all the good stuff out of the piles that lay against
This one morning shortly after mid watch mug-up where were we had taken maybe 5 minutes to wolf down some food and coffee the drags came to the
gallows. As I hauled the drag up and over the rail I noticed something orange in the bag end closest to me.
As the bag got turned over and the contents spilled out I realized I was looking at oilers, the gear we wore to stay dry and warm on deck in wet or
cold windy weather.
I immediately yelled “my oils” and the boys paid them no mind. Once the winch brake was set I grabbed a basket and walked over to the pile then
bent over and grabbed what was a pretty thread bare sleeve of the jacket.
Out of the other sleeve a bone slid out and it had some tissue one one end and OMG, the smell! We had a body.
It was a body with no head, no legs and only the upper bone of the right arm that had slid out. The torso was still inside the badly worn bibbed
overalls and jacket that made up this set of oil-gear. All four of us were kind of freaking out and Ron yells down, “what the hell is going
When he came out of the wheelhouse and looked down, all four of us just stood there looking up at him pointing to the oil-gear and he said, “ is
that what I think it is?”. Thinking back it probably was a weird thing to watch because all the four us would do was wag our heads in unison either
yes or no whenever Ron asked a question.
Using shovels we got it out of the pile where we were able to tell just what was what. Again, the smell, OMG!!!
Fishing boats get pretty ripe after a week or so at sea and the gurry traps in the fish hold was always the worst of all smells so for this new smell
to be so bad that it had us all gagging was a way over the top of baddest of smells!
Again using shovels we got it in a big black 55 gallon plastic bag and that bag in another bag and that bag in a third bag. I wanted to use the whole
box of bags myself....
We winched the body down into the hold where we buried it on a deep bed of ice.
edit on 08-19-2021 by PiratesCut because: stuff