The weather this past week took a radical turn for the worse that kept boats tied at the docks for way too long. We had two days of unrelenting northwest winds accompanied by much cooler than normal temperatures, and rain dropped the water temperature from 68 to 62 degrees. It was more of a winter weather pattern than a summer one.
But things haven’t been all bad. The bluefish have arrived early, and they are much bigger than the typical early season bluefish we catch around here. The striped bass fishing continues to improve, too. We’ve had acres of both actively feeding on the surface right inside the harbor, which hasn’t occurred in many years. There is also an abundance of squid in the harbor now, though the mackerel have done a disappearing act on us for the time being.
Alex Brown, who is an accomplished aquaculturist and grows oysters and quahogs on the West End flats, stopped by my boat on his way in from his clam grant to show me a clam he is growing. It’s called a butter clam. It looks like a baby sea clam. These clams are popular in the Pacific Northwest but not yet in this part of the country.
Alex dropped off a few dozen for me to try and asked for my opinion on them. In a word, these clams are fantastic. They taste very much like a soft-shell steamer clam. I think they would be well received here, and I hope Alex can grow enough to sell to market and supply restaurants and fish markets with a different and very tasty product.
I always tell people that I’ve spent decades working and living on the waterfront and have experienced just about everything that can go wrong offshore — everything except a fire. I can no longer say that. I had a fire on my live-aboard boat last week.
A freak accident started it — something that will probably not happen again in a thousand years. I was installing a new battery and tightening the cables to the battery posts when the wrench slipped out of my hand. It fell and landed directly on the battery’s positive and negative posts at the same time. Under no circumstances do you want the positive and negative posts connecting that way, because what results is arcing. In an instant, sparks went flying as if I’d just lit a Fourth of July sparkler.
It so happened that I had just changed the fuel filters that day, so there was a little gas in the bilge water. The shooting sparks ignited my bilge water, instantly surrounding me in flames. I moved away from that fire faster than I have moved in probably 20 years. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and was able to put the fire out just in time, as it was about to get irreversibly out of control.
The lesson here is this. Always have fire extinguishers on board and easily accessible. The Coast Guard recommends two for a boat my size. I have four. I used two to put that fire out.
The urge to panic in that situation was very strong. When confronting a fire on a boat, there comes a time when you have to make a fight or flight decision. I was very close to giving up and abandoning the boat, but I gave it a few more minutes and finally gained control.
I spent the rest of the day waiting for the adrenalin to leave my body and for my heart rate to come down to a normal level. Ah, the joys of boating.