Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

Fishing for Compliments—or a Living

INSECURE WRITERS’ MONTHLY SHARING CORNER or
EMPATHIZING with the UNSUNG aka Fishermen

Crescent City, CA marina April 2016 without boats, photo courtesy Tom Lesher F/V Jumping Jack

Crescent City, CA marina April 2016 without boats, photo courtesy Tom Lesher F/V Jumping Jack


Crab Fisherman’s Lament 1991-1992 & 2015-2016
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the hall
all the fishermen sat at the Conference Call.
Their boats, they were nestled all snug in the Bay,
in hopes that tomorrow would be opening day.
Bud with his checkbook and Vince with his pen
were just sitting down—they had done it again.
They had to come up with some new kind of story
“Well you know guys we’ve got way too much inventory.
“The most we could possibly pay you’s a buck.
“If you want more than that, well, you’re just out of luck.”

In all of the ports there arose such a clatter
people jumped out of bed to see what was the matter.
“All right guys, calm down now, you’ve vented your spleen.
Perhaps we could gove you a dollar fifteen.”
“Enough of this bullshit—we’ve had it to here—
“We’re not goin’ fishing, we’re not setting the gear.”

Crab cemetery—dying to get in

Crab cemetery—dying to get in

So we tied up the boats, put away all the bait,
and we all settled down for a long season’s wait.
In Fort Bragg and Eureka, ‘Come hell or bad weather’
Crescent City and Brookings ‘We’re stickin’ together’
And even in Trinidad, Port Orford, too.
But we just didn’t count on that bad Newport crew—
“We’re not sittin’ around, nah, we’re setting the gear,
“The rest of you go stick a squid in your ear.”
Well, the wind it was calm, and the ocean was placid,
But then came those fatal words: domoic acid.
For some weird sort of chemical found in the guts,
They’re closing the season. Those guys must be nuts.”

We ranted and raved, but ’twas to no avail
‘cos the Feds and the bureaucrats always prevail.
After twenty-some odd days, we finally did go.
And over both shoulders some crabs we did throw.
But there weren’t too many—at a pretty poor price.
For a lot of us Holidays weren’t all that nice.

Well you knew things got screwed up. Now you know the reason.
So ‘tight lines’ to all—and maybe next season.
Tim Harkins F/V Maria Concetta, Trinidad, CA

Empty Marinas, Oceangoing on Hold

Rancho Chualar cropcircle December 30th, 2013, highlights the 1. 9. 2. and π 3.14159265359 ad infinitum

Rancho Chualar cropcircle December 30th, 2013, highlights the 1. 9. 2. and π 3.14159265359 ad infinitum

Pacific coastal fishing has been on hold since December last year. Ports in California and Oregon—Pacific Northwest—are hurting. Empty marinas everywhere—as in Crescent City photo, top. Bureacratic delay in decisions has affected a little-known segment of the food-provider chain—fishing boat captains and their crew—with their wives, families, dependents.

Government procrastination is only one aspect. Final pay-out—if any—of compensation to the fishing fleet is mostly eaten up in overwintering expenses, without income. Crew members are not covered by Fish & Game authority or Federal handouts. Generosity to deck hands depends solely on captains who have themselves reached near-crisis point.

In an election year, farmers with drought problems—e.g. Salinas CA last year—Chualar Crop Circle at left—and misfortunes of our Pacific hands-on fishing fleet in small coastal ports—may seem like small potatoes. Not high priority television news.

Business, Balance Sheets and the Biosphere
Tonight, however, and for two more evenings in the run-up to Earth Day and Earth WeekApril 20— Humboldt State university-influenced Arcata Playhouse will feature a presentation and film screening by EPIC of TREE-SIT: THE ART OF RESISTANCE followed by discussion with HSU environmentalists who may have found a way forward amid conflict with business, balance sheets and the Biosphere.

Survival of the human race may not be on our minds as writers who document or fantasize our way on to people’s reading list. But previous reminders by our ocean, our farming hinterland, our rising temperatures—80ºF today in NoCal—have been persistent—witness 2015 as hottest year on record.

And there’s more to come. I’m sure even our fearless leader, Alex, and his sci-fi acolytes would find a way to squeeze our plight into readable form, so we can pull out the stops together—even while we struggle with April A-to-Z challenge, we writers might make a difference.

It’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Getting through this together.
©2016 Marian Youngblood

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April 6, 2016 Posted by | culture, environment, ocean, seasonal, traditions, weather, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Space Weather 30-year Storm: Earth fights back

Frozen in mid surge

I need hardly remind residents of Scotland that we have only just weathered the thirty-year storm. Most households living through four solid weeks of sub-zero temperatures in an Atlantic weather zone (even with the miracle of central heating) will remember this winter (and last month especially) for many years to come.

Fortunately our civilization has advanced enough so that we experienced minimum electrical ‘outages’, despite heavy snow, icicles and ice on power lines. There were, however, multiple power ‘surges’ and computers countrywide were frozen in mid surge. Mac and pc-owners and related computer businesses are still counting the cost. Curry’s have been doing a roaring trade in replacement laptops!

It seems to have hit a lot of young ones harder than they might have thought: not that closing schools and cancelling bus and train services are a hazard; more time to make snowmen, play and enjoy winter sports, you might think. Lack of reliable public transportation, however – counting on any public services, in fact – four weeks without refuse collection borders on neglect, were commuters’ and householders’ concerns. Abandonment, remoteness and surprise at being cut off suddenly are what hit the teens hardest, I think because they are unaccustomed to having their social life curtailed by ‘weather’ and few had experienced conditions such as these in their young lives.

Some of us older oldies remember the winter of 1981/2 with shivering empathy; electrical failure, power cuts, snow drifts higher than houses; evacuating and rescuing neighbours, birds frozen overnight in trees. But that was back in the Thatcherite era, before the internet, when we didn’t EXPECT everything to run on time, snow ploughs to get through, petrol in cars not to freeze.

Human culture has changed in nearly 30 years: Even in the modern backwater of Aberdeenshire, the County of no motorways, the self-styled Oil Capital of Europe.

Tea Clipper Thermopylae was built in Aberdeen by Walter Hood for the White Star Line

For those unfamiliar with our ways, this corner of Scotland – the Northeast triangle between Rivers Don and Dee and the balmy Moray Firth – has always flourished, but more than that, it looks after its own. Rather, I suppose, like Geordies idolizing their working-class heroes that went ‘down the pits’ or Scousers joking ‘don’t bomb Iraq; nuke Manchester’. Parochial in the extreme.

Unlike some other lesser-urban metropolises, however, (Dundee, Perth, Stranraer), Aberdeen has always pulled through its hardest times: Dundee used to be known (an age ago, when the world was young) for its Jute, Jam and Journalism. Now it is home to none of these; but it has Robert Scott’s ‘Discovery‘, the Tay Bridge and it’s on the way to St. Andrews, which every golfer in the world has heard of; i.e. it participates peripherally in tourism, but some of its poorer districts are in appalling shape.

Perth floods every year and millions of national money poured in to rescue low-level housing has been a nightmare. Stranraer we won’t go into. It’s no longer on the way to anywhere.

Then there’s Aberdeen.

Perched on the westernmost limb of the North Sea’s mild Gulf Stream current, its dry climate (usually, rain from the west is captured by the Grampian mountains before it reaches the plain) and its remarkable latitude (57ºN2ºW ), akin to central Alaska, give it a climatic anomaly. Its farming hinterland was rich in Neolithic times and has grown richer.

Tall Ships Race reenacts 19thC sailing contest in the Clipper tea trade


A century and a half ago the city was hub to a thriving fishing industry; its harbours built, housed and skippered trawlers, tall clipper ships, deep sea schooners and whaling vessels. Thermopylae and Elissa were built here. Names like Alexander Hall & Sons, John Lewis and Sons, the Devanha Fishing Company sprang from everyone’s lips. As a merchant marine capital it was second only to Glasgow in Scotland and Liverpool south of the border.

Aberdeen, however, was never one to have only one egg in one basket: it was also the sole exporter of granite to needy growing urban centres: London streets were indeed paved with (Aberdeen granite) gold. Craigenlow quarry at Dunecht supplied the English capital with tons of its ‘cassies’ or granite sets – hand-cut granite blocks the size of a gingerbread loaf – to meet the demands of a city experiencing growing Victorian traffic problems. If they had but known…

At the height of Georgian expansion, Aberdeen city burghers were so wealthy, their coffers overflowing from the ocean tea trade, the Baltic route, their fishing ports supplying Europe’s tables (nowadays it’s the other way around), their granite exported the world over; that they chose to beautify: and the mile-long boulevard known as Union Street was built in 1801-05. This grandiose gesture – a feat of engineering which levelled St. Catherine’s Hill and carried the extra-wide thoroughfare across arches built over the previous lower Denburn and ancient market Green – almost bankcrupted the burghers, but brought the city fame to add to its already growing fortune.

Danzig Willie's Craigievar

As early as the mid-18th century, Aberdeenshire’s famous Baltic merchants continued to bring their fortunes back home; so the county continually thrived, regardless of the ups and downs of a world economy. Robert Gordon (1688-1731), founder of the Robert Gordon Hospital, now RGU, was famous for lending money made in the Danzig trade to Aberdeen businessmen who needed large working capital at even larger rates of interest. ‘Danzig Willie’ Forbes ploughed his fortune from the Baltic trade into the building of exquisite Donside château Craigievar between 1610-1625 on the family estate of Corse, when he was already landowner of Menie estate on the Belhelvie coast north of Aberdeen. John Ramsay, an Aberdeen merchant in 1758 built his palladian mansion at Straloch. Others followed suit. The county is today littered with stately Renaissance piles and Georgian mansions more appropriate to the valley of the Loire, the home counties or the wilds of Gloucestershire.

Within this mix stir a couple of ancient universities – one founded in 1495, the other in 1593, both fostered and supported through the centuries by Aberdonian merchant success.

The world joke about the Aberdonian who watches his pennies is not entirely untrue. And the tradition goes back farther than the fifteenth century.

Aberdeen Harbour shipping with ice floes in the 1920s

Even more relevant to the characterization, perhaps, is the fact that Aberdeen Harbour (presently run by the independent entity Aberdeen Harbour Board) is in fact the oldest running business enterprise in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, having been founded by charter signed by King David I in 1136. The business head of the kingdom resides on the edge of the North Sea.

But the bell tolled. The fishing industry worldwide killed its own small fry: when container ships and tankers beheaded sailing vessels, similarly Icelandic and Norwegian refrigerated freighters signalled the death knell for trawlers and owner-operated fishing boats; and Aberdeen’s shipbuilding days were over.

In the early 1970s, Britain was experiencing the three-day-week, unemployment stats for the country were the highest then known, and even the granite industry declined. Its clients metamorphosed from those who appreciated polished stone to faceless ‘councils’ and ‘road departments’ which required the precious quartz and gneiss resource to be ground into dust-like fragments which could be mixed with tar and spread in increasing quantities on the nation’s arteries.

It looked as if Aberdeen, like every other Scots city, might founder on the rocks of history.

North Sea Oil baled Aberdeen out on the death of shipbuilding and fishing

Then, lo and behold, along came oil. Bubbling up from below the North Sea in 1971, another industry was born. And the ‘silver city with the golden sands’ was perched on the shoreline, ready to receive it.

It is said that because of its very geographic isolation the county learned to take care of itself. And its humour has a lot to do with its character.

Now that there is talk of worldwide recession and dwindling of the oil resource, the current Aberdonian humorous response is ‘oil goes out, Donald Trump comes in’. This refers to the New York entrepreneur’s £1 billion golf course resort where sand dune reinforcing work has just begun on the very landholdings of Menie once owned by Danzig Willie. Aberdeenshire is not averse to turning full circle. It has so far weathered many storms through centuries of change.

So how did we fare in this last Great Storm? How did the planet fare?

Greece had 100ºF temperatures at Christmas and Abu Dhabi and Dubai had HAIL the day before the launch of the 2,717-feet Burj Khalifa tower in the first week of January.

Scotland and Aberdeenshire in particular were at the time experiencing the grip of an Arctic winter, with traffic on all roads down to minimum and gritting and snow-ploughing said by Council spokesmen to be ‘impossible’. While they reported worries that supplies of salt from the Cheshire salt mine might be exhausted, citrus orchards throughout the state of Florida were hit by snow and frost lingered long enough to decimate their total citrus crop for 2010.

At the same time Mount Nyamulagira in a sparsely populated area of the Democratic Republic of Congo erupted, threatening an enclave of rare chimpanzees.

Eureka and Haiti had 6.5 and 7.2 Richter earthquakes respectively, while inland Northern California and Southern Oregon, usually inundated with snow, received not one drop. States of emergency were declared for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco and Siskiyou counties and as the rainstorm headed east, floods swamped the Arizona desert, threatening homes and killing migrant birds. Las Vegas, Nevada had more rain in two days than for the total year of 2009 (1.69 inches). Alligators in the Everglades froze to death.

France’s Mistral blew early this year, wreaking havoc and damage to vines and vineyards in southern départements of Lyon and Provence; the Riviera harbours of St Tropez and Marseille suffered damage to private yachts.

Since the snowmelt arrived in Scotland in mid January, it is superfluous to mention that the resulting floods have routed gutters and drains in cities and country towns and overflowed ditches in outlying country areas. Perth (again) and Inverurie, Huntly and Kintore were unable to cope with the deluge. These levels of precipitation bring Aberdeen’s rainfall statistics for the year 2009 to mid January 2010 to 101.23 inches, for a county normally experiencing 33.6 inches per annum.

The Earth doesn’t like what we’ve been doing to her in the last thirty years. She’s beginning to fight back.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | crystalline, environment, gardening, history, nature, organic husbandry, seasonal, weather, winter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments