Written by Jessica Hathaway
August 1, 2014
Past is prime
By Jessica Hathaway
We are traveling back to the future with wooden and sailing boats and quantifying your rights as fishermen in this issue. Oftentimes, we plan a book (that's what we call each copy of the magazine) around a theme, and occasionally a theme reveals itself well into the process. While the topics covered in these pages may seem disjointed, they are held together by a thread that winds its way through this issue: the inclination to reach into the past for some modern-day inspiration.
As Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley's story on the Sal-C begins (page 26), her owner just wanted a classic wooden boat to go fishing every week out of Santa Barbara, Calif. But after a couple of years of loading the octogenarian boat's deck with crab pots and rockfish gear and conducting one major overhaul, Paul Teall opted to keep her afloat with 12,000 pounds of cement and wire and 35,000 staples.
Some fishermen are opting to stay afloat in this time of ever-rising fuel prices by rigging their boats with sails. Associate Editor Melissa Wood tells the story (starting on page 20) of a few West Coast fishermen who are using sails and other fuel-saving innovations to cut operating costs without requiring more hands on deck to manage the classic (and in some cases ultramodern) technology.
In Around the Yards, Larry Chowning, our Chesapeake Bay field editor, writes about the oyster boat Mobjack. The classic deadrise spent many years tied to a lawsuit and a piling at Smith's Marine Railway in Dare, Va., until oysterman Richard Green came to her rescue. Green, who hails from a long line of Chesapeake boatbuilders, is restoring the 72-foot wooden boat to work his leased oyster grounds in Virginia. Read the full story on page 36.
Freelance writer Nick Rahaim explores the origin of seamen's rights in his piece on deckhand contracts and legal authority. We may think of fishing contracts as a modern-day device that protects owners and crew members in our sue-happy culture, but as Rahaim describes, the legal history of mariners' rights dates back to the 12th century and the Rolls of Oléron, which our Supreme Court adopted in 1823. So if you think there's little precedent for your rights as a contract worker, you've got nearly 10 centuries of seawork to back you up. That said, the rules are still a bit tricky. Rahaim breaks it all down for you starting on page 22.
Teall's boat is still a wooden boat. The fishermen using sails to steam to and from the grounds are still modern fishing boats. The Mobjack will once again be an oyster boat, though she will slip back into the stream of an overhauled fishery. Crew members' rights are guided by modern laws and interpretation but seated in centuries of practice and precedence. What's inspiring is seeing that the old ways are still alive and well, even if they're being tweaked for today's fishing industry.
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