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Monday, January 16, 2006

Owning the Night


Fishermen wake up early. Most of my friends who lobster get up at about 0230. Some nights, that's about the time I go to bed. I hear my neighbor slam the door to his truck, hear him pull out the driveway. I hear his sternman arrive, a younger man with a slightly tricked-out ride. Headers, lift, big tires. I hear both trucks leave, then I shut off the computer, go to bed and sleep until 0700.

In years past, on the return leg of a pilot run, I'd pass the herring boats on their way out. They fish through the night. Herring is the night fish.

Pilot boat work knows no schedule. It's 24/7. Worst runs were the ones for which you had to wake up at 0100. On those runs you had to decide whether to just stay up and wait or go to sleep for a couple of hours. On Monday night, with a football game on, the decision was easy.

Nine times out of ten, it was better to get some sleep. You always regretted staying up the minute you slipped the dock lines and got underway. It hit you then, the fatigue.

This morning the dog woke me at 0430. At first I thought the raccoons were back at the bird feeders. I heard thumping sounds. Turns out it was just the cold snapping a few sheet rock screws, or the house shifting on its foundation. That, and the dog really had to take a dump.

Sweat pants, shirt, sweat shirt, wool vest, parka, ski cap, hood, two pairs of socks, boots, gloves.

Winter's a bitch. Especially if you don't appreciate the subtle beauty, the quiet, the distant light of the stars and planets, the moon poking through the clouds, snow and ice crackling under your feet. Your breath freezing and choking you.

If there was one thing that made those off hour pilot runs bearable it was the solitude and the shear beauty of the morning. Being the only ones up, it's like you're the owners of the morning, the sole proprietors. Makes you feel rich.

Too bad it's so damn cold.

-seabgb

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