My seed order went in, and I dated the check "Twelfthday, 1981." Seemingly Mr. Joseph Harris is short on his Epiphanies, as the check has just come home with his note on the back: "Date Guaranteed As Jan. 1." Harold, my lobsterman friend, will, on the contrary, guarantee that it was really Jan. 6, because that was the day he tried to walk out to his boat, Blossom,m and it was neither a time to sow nor a time to reap. Harold admits he lack faith. He went in and he says it was "some cool."
Friendship harbor freezes over almost every winter. Not always, and often just for a few days. This winter has been a recordsetter, as it has along the whole New England coast, and right after New Year's the harbor buttoned up and the fishing fleet was locked in. The carefree jauntiness of a good tight boat afloat is lacking utterly when the ice wraps itself about, and it is sad to look down and see the futility of the scene. A couple of hundred beautiful craft idle and quiet, the only movement the up and down of the tide as the sheet of ice rises and falls, and that imperceptible. Sometimes there will be damage to the wooden hulls, but it is not always serious. Most of the lobster boats draw water enough so the keel is below the ice. There does occur a nagging attack on the cotton or hemp calking between the plants of the hull -- when the ice is at last carried away it sometimes pulls that calking out. The leaky boat then gets "beached out" for what the lobstermen call a "chinzin'" -- to calk a whole hull is called calking, but minor repairs in certain seams and not overall is "chinsing." Nuisance.
The pound boat from the island, Sea Smoke,m is a heavy steel hull that is capable of breaking skim ice, and does. Sometimes after the pound boat has made a channel the next outgoing tide will carry the ice down the bay and the harbor is free. Occasionally the heavier boats of the Coast Guard will nose in to break up heavier ice, with the same flowage on the next tide. But his year, and in random other years, the ice forms too thick and stays, holding the harbor in a deep freeze, until the weather softens and the temperature moderates.
The Dinsmores, who live on the island, walked to the mainland one day. Saltwater ice is reacherous at first, and even when it first looks solid the old hands respect it. But the Dinsmores walked across, carrying poles, and then others ventured out. The pound keeper, also from the island, saw the Dinsmores come home, and he decided to walk to town. He did, and while he was in the store the Coast Guard came in and broke a channel. He had to walk home another way, a good many mils farther, and he wasn't too happy that day with the efficiencies of the Coast Guard.
So by Epiphany the inner waters of our bay were ice. Down past Morse's and Cranberry and Harbor Islands the waterfront activity was at a standstill, and Harold took a mind to walk out to see how Blossomm was making out. We had had some snowfall, and he carried a shovel to clear his decks and boards. He would start the engine, mostly to check things out but to give his batteries a charge as well, and if there had been any ice damage to his calking he would run the pump a minute. Regular inspection. Most Friendship lobstermen take their traps up for the winter anyway, and a visit out to the moored boat by skiff needn't be oftener than once a week. Check the mooring line, and if all is well -- come ashore.
Harold also carried an oar. This was risky, because it's smarter to have a longer pole, even a ladder. But the oar was what he had, and it's good he did. Before he gained "Blossom'sm " coaming, in he went. For sure. Right down until the oar, under his shoulders, fetched up on the ice and he clung there in great puzzlement as to what had happened, of a sudden, to his shovel. He doesn't know , but presumes it went below in the carelessness of the moment.
There was nobody about. Harold gained secure footing again on the ice, and with his mittens frozen to the oar he slipped, slithered, and slid toward Wallace's wharf. There was nobody there, either, but the baithouse door was unlocked and Harold got inside to dump out his boots and wring his socks and take count of stock. He's fine, but he recalls well that it was Jan. 6.