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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Home from Work

Will Soltau is local research coordinator for our Salmon Farming Initiative

Ever since I started working at Living Oceans Society after my fishing career, I have been walking to work and home again. It's a short walk and good exercise. There isn't much vehicle traffic and I never succumb to road rage. Most days I walk along First Street enjoying a view of the ocean and the people I meet along the way. In the winter I meet the regulars, the die-hard walkers and their dogs. We usually have a short conversation in passing. In the summer I get to meet new people from all over the place who have come to enjoy a bit of what Malcolm Island has to offer. Many of them are stretching their legs having just tied up at our harbour after a few days on their boats. I get to learn about where they're from and where they are heading. I have a chance to talk about the places I have been on this coast as a fisherman and also about the work I now do at LOS. Sometimes, if the tide is out or if I'm not feeling sociable, I'll walk along the beach below the houses for a change of pace. Walking on beach gravel is a lot tougher than walking on pavement. Being able to enjoy a walk along the shore on one's way to and from work is pretty special, I suppose, but it is an everyday experience for me. Okay, this is starting to sound like an Andy Rooney piece so I'll get to the point.

The other day on my way home I could hear a boat motoring along behind me. It was late afternoon in late fall and the light was beginning to fade. The sound was no big deal and, since boats go by all the time I wasn't paying it much attention until the horn begins blasting. I turn to see that it's a local fishing boat cruising full speed outside the kelp patches just off shore. The next things I hear are children's joyful voices emerging from the house just ahead of me. A small flock of three little kids burst outside and go running down to the beach jumping, waving and shouting at the man on board; “Daddy's home! Hi Dad, hi Dad.” He is waving back to them from the wheelhouse, blowing the horn and flashing his spotlight on and off.

It dawned on me how the image of children at home meeting their parent coming through the door after a day at work has long evoked the concept of loved ones reuniting. Another teaser image that came to mind was the one of a car coming up the driveway creating the expectation of a reunion. But this vignette on the beach goes one step beyond all that. This was more than a loved one coming home from the job site at the end of the day. It was a fisherman coming home from the sea at the end of a trip.

Fishing trips usually last more than a day. They generally last for a few days - sometimes even weeks. More often than not, because of the distance to the fishing grounds, fishermen don't get to come home between trips so they can be away for months. And all trips are like gambling - not knowing what might be caught, what could break down, go wrong or right and how rough the weather will be. All of that adds up to make coming home from work that much more poignant. Fishermen have a well understood phrase to describe their throttle setting for the journey home. It is often heard over the VHF radio. Unfortunately it is not appropriate to use in a “G” rated blog like this one.

I would have missed that reunion entirely if I had driven home from work that day. Walking home that evening made me think about how lucky I am to have those unique fishing experiences as a part of my past and how special this memory will be for the young fishing family. It made me want to work that much harder ensuring those fishing memories can continue to get shared.

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