I used to work on an offshore clam boat out of New Bedford. I worked on a 65 foot clam dredge catching Ocean Quahogs. I loved working offshore, I loved the hard work, I loved the gamble of hitting it big on some trips verses getting skunked on others, and I feared but loved the excitement of storms. In 1999 four clam boats went down in the time span of three weeks. I was connected to the events in as much as I worked for the former owner of the ElleB at the time, and also I sat and listened on the VHF radio from less than 10 miles away as we steamed in with a heavy full hull ourselves in a gale as another of the four boats named The Cape Fear went down and its crew went into the water. Listening to the Cape Fear’s transmissions with its sitster boat the Misty Dawn as they were losing men and the boat was sinking is a moment of time I will never forget. After those three weeks I would think to myself, “This could be the last time I touch land” every time I stepped onto the boat. As much as I loved the work, the insecurity of the job quickly became too much for me and Emily. I had a Rhode Island shell fishing license at the time so I tried my hand at Quahogging in the bay for a bit, and despite some pointers from close friends that are some of the best bullrakers in Narragansett Bay I never was able to make a success of it. I ended up moving back to New Hampshire after that. I have missed working on the water ever since. Spending the week in Maine last week and watching the fishing boats come and go stirred up my desire to return to the water. I doubt I will ever be able work on the water again but I still have connections to go out for a quick fix every now and then. Monday I had a holiday so I called up Jarrod and went Quahogging in Narragansett Bay. Jarrod getting the boat ready
We left Warren at 7am and headed up to Barrington Beach it was foggy and visibility was low. Calm winds made it a nice smooth ride, but with a slow tide the calm winds were not a good thing for Bull Raking. Bull Rakers need some wind or current to help them pull there rake through the bottom.
Jarrod makes it look so easy, I tried raking for about 5 minutes before my shoulders were burning, and my arms felt spent. I lifted up the rake to find only 14 Little Necks. Jarrod would rake for about 15 minutes before he would pull the rake up. Bull raking is pretty much pure brute strength and technique, no mechanical devices are used in the actual raking, however these days pretty much everybody uses a lobster pot hauler to pull there rakes up to the surface, when I was trying to get into Quahoging this practice was not tolerated by the DEM. According to Jarrod he wasn’t catching very good today, but I’m pretty sure he was still doing better than most guys do on a good day. This one rake had over 200 Little Necks in it.
The fog burned off about 9am and the wind picked up hard out of the south, a little too hard. It was fun to listen to the other fisherman on the radio complain about the conditions, the characters of the TV show Family Guy are based on people from this area (hence the Town of Quahog) and most of the guys on the radio sounded just like Peter Griffin when they talked.
We picked up and moved south to near Bristol where the seas weren’t as rough. With the fog gone it was nice to see the views around the bay and watch the other Bull Rakers.
We only worked until noon today because I was visiting and we were going to grab lunch with Matt, but Jarrod usually works longer days and catches more than this. Jarrod raked and I picked out the rocks, crabs, undersized quahogs, and deckers. We caught about 2000 Little Necks. We brought the Quahogs to the market. The price is up a little right now because of the reduced supply coming from New Jersey due to the Storm at about 18 cents apiece.
I really enjoyed getting back out on the water today and it had been a while since I had last seen Jarrod and Matt so it was fun to hang out again. I can’t see myself ever moving back to the East Bay area of Rhode Island, but it’s a great place to visit.