Some days it’s hard not to succumb to the feeling that the world is a very dark place. And in Maine in the winter, that is enforced by a meager 9 hours of daylight — just enough time to get to work and back.
Add to that the impending doom along New England waterfronts as we desperately search for a way out of a groundfish catastrophe that could mark the end of hundreds of years of fishing history in many small ports on our coast. And the recent disappearance of the scalloper Foxy Lady II, whose gear and rescue pod washed ashore several days after her scheduled arrival home.
Yet I try, every year at this time, to start looking back at the things that make me grateful for what I have and how I can improve my life and the lives of those around me in the coming year. (Props to my folks for my virtues, few as they may seem at times!)
For one, I am humbled to be in the position of improving awareness of fishing safety. I don’t dedicate my life to it like Jennifer Lincoln (NIOSH Alaska), Jerry Dzugan (AMSEA) or Rodney Avila (New Bedford-Mass.-based safety coordinator, former fisherman and NF Highliner). And I didn’t make a huge contribution to one community, like Randa Szymanski did in Haines, Alaska. But I do what little I can to put people in touch with the right people and help the industry adapt to much needed cultural changes.
Right before we headed to Seattle for the expo this year, I got a call from a guy who is selling a safety product that’s new to the U.S. commercial fishing industry.
He wanted to come to the show and get a feel for the industry’s possible interest in a product like his.
In other industries, an editor getting a call like this sends the guy packing to the advertising reps and never wants to hear from him again unless his product wins an award or has some legitimate reason for reaching the editorial section.
But the size and nature of our industry makes these kinds of calls an opportunity to make a difference. Yes, there’s a business component to it. But more than that, it was a chance to help someone roll out a new safety product.
National Fisherman has been promoting safety at sea since long before I got here. One of our traditions, the Fisherman of the Year contest, includes a survival suit contest. Though we don’t hold an official contest on the East Coast anymore, Rodney Avila and Jerry Fraser (our publisher and longtime emcee of the races) held two heats of survival suit contests at a fishing expo in New Bedford this summer.
The winner of the second heat, seen here, is Shawn Machie, skipper of the 90-foot scalloper Apollo out of New Bedford (and of the History Channel’s “Nor’Easter Men”). He slipped into his suit in just 29.3 seconds, besting first-heat winner Laurie Botelho of Fall River, who finished in 40 seconds.
Can you beat those times? How about on a rolling deck? There are no guarantees in life, and more than just a small dose of luck in every survival story. But without practice, you can almost guarantee that you won’t make it into a survival suit in a true emergency. Try one on today. Make a resolution to best Shawn’s time in 2013.