Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Florida MEN, Part III

We went down to the waterfront to see the sunrise.
Most sunrises that we see are quiet peaceful events, we don't talk much although we have been known to snore.
Being on the west side of Florida usually means great sunsets over the water but usually limits sunrises to waiting for the sun to peek over your local strip mall. (If you haven't been to Florida in the last five years or so you would be surprised to see that there is a statewide ratio of an entire stripmall for every 32 residents, so when the sun rises in Florida there is a very good chance that you will see it rise over a nearby store).

A sunrise at Cedar Key is very different.
It is an actual island, which is where the "Key" comes from (I will explain the sad story of the "Cedar" part another day). This island is far enough out that you can watch sunrises and sunsets with only a very leisurely ONE block walk between them.
We were on the East end of Dock Street to watch the sunrise and things were not quiet and peaceful. This is a fishing town.
On weekends there are charter boats heading out at 6:30 to catch grouper. This was a Wednesday so all of the clammers were going out instead. There were a few families going on some charters, but there was a continuous stream of pickup trucks with clam boats in tow backing down the two boat ramps. The old timers were wearing rubber aprons and rubber boots and the younger ones were wearing wet suits.
The clam boats are very long, low, and wide with a large outboard motor mounted through a hole that is about six feet from the bow. The bow curves sharply up and has a little steering wheel right at the point. The captain, which is usually the old timer with the rubber apron, stands up in the bow and drives, while the younger guys with the wetsuits operate the overhead winch in the back.

The sun came up at about 7:10 and the boats were all gone by 7:15, each of them heading off in different directions.
I got distracted watching a construction barge setting up shop while Beth walked away to get a coffee.
A second wave of boats started arriving in the parking lot at about 8:10. These were the man/woman couples. Husbands and wives or fathers and daughters repeated the same process although at a more casual pace with a little more complaining involved. Load the boat in the water, do a little chatting bow to bow, and then drive off in different directions. Gone by 8:25.

At 8:30 the boats from the first wave all returned loaded down with big bags of clams. They made arrangements to meet for drinks as they hauled their boats out of the water. At 8:40 they all drove away.
I assume that after a drink or two they were going to unload the bags of clams from the boats, wash them down, sort them, and prepare for tomorrow's trip. I have no idea how long that process takes, but I assume that it would take a good part of the day, factoring in the drinking and all.

Now this is civilized fishing. Lobstermen in Maine are required to check their traps every day no matter how bad the weather is, and it is bad 11 months of the year.

These guys plant the clams in their growing bags when the weather is nice. If the weather is bad they don't need to go out, the clams don't care, they are still eating and although they probably aren't that worried about their future, they aren't being eaten either. They are as happy as clams just waiting out any storm. The clammers keep themselves busy doing other clammer-type things indoors to prepare for better weather, or they drink.
When the weather is wonderful again the clammers plop their boats in the water and do the harvesting. Very civilized. LOTS of clams.

Cedar Key sunrise and barge

(Click on the picture to see more or go straight to the SLIDE SHOW)


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