Cappy and Blossom

A Maine lobster-catcher's boat, when on mooring in the hah-b'h, is a gladsome thing, with her own style and beauty. And she is a worthy craft when, ``down below,'' she bites into the swells and licks 'em, and brings her skipper and booty back safe to the mooring. Built for business, she has little truck and no esteem for the summer playthings that persist in her way and all too often foul the warps to her traps. But of late years she has become similar to the ``summer mahogany'' in one respect -- she is now getting ``hauled'' for the winter. Back along, nearly all the lobster craft stayed in the water year-round and to some extent fished all seasons. If a boat didn't go fishing, it stayed on mooring and was often checked. The engines would be started, the bilge pumped if needed. Now and then ice would skim a harbor and pull some caulking from seams, and before going to sea again a boat would need a ``chinzing.'' That's a repair job, pushing cotton between the planks. But in late years many lobstermen have been making a short season -- Cappy, my friend, doesn't fish until July, and he quits mid-October. Blossom, his boat, gets hauled ashore, and sits high and dry all winter just like a yacht.

So I'd been expecting Cappy to stop by soon, and he did. Wearing a new pair of hip rubber boots, he betrayed on sight that he was now clamming. Except when the flats are iced over, he'll do some clamming on favorable tides until time to go lobs-trin' again, with Blossom newly painted. Clams fetch a good penny, so Cappy will have pocket money while Blossom is resting. ``Clamming?'' I asked.

``Eyah. Some.''

There are esoterics to Maine coastal affairs, and a converted highlander of my precocious ignorance will never master them all, but one secret is to speak sparingly to convey much. My question, i.e., ``Clamming?'' (rendered into tidal purposes), would say, ``I take it from your boots that you've gone to digging clams, which means Blossom is up for the winter.'' Cappy confirmed my supposition.

``Coming?'' I asked.

``Not good. Don't seem to be no holes.''

Clams, in mud, squirt upwards and make little holes that betray their location. ``Must be there,'' I said.

``They're they-yer, but they ain't workin'.''

``Today's prices,'' I consoled, ``it don't take too many clams to turn a penny.''

And so on, and while I knew why Cappy had come, he delayed bringing up the subject and I permitted him to delay. He was about to ask me to help him fit plastic over Blossom so she'd be secure in the winter. Before he got around to saying so, I had tossed a hammer, saw, knife, and a few other tools into my carrying box, and as Cappy watched he realized the time had come.

``I got a piece of plarstic,'' he said, ``20 by 20.''

``And gopher wood?'' I twitted.

``Eyah.'' Cappy was fetched up so he knows about Noah.

So we went to the shore where Blossom was perched in total exposure high in her cradle, and working off ladders we made a canopy of two-by-twice and strapping. Then we fitted the plastic so it shields Blossom against the rigors of the months ahead. She's snug, but I suggest to craftsmen everywhere not to feel competent until they have fitted a 20-by-20 sheet of plastic over a cradled lobster boat during a whirligig coastal breeze that is fetching whitecaps up the river. We picked up the litter from our labor, took down the ladders, and stood a minute to eye the result. Blossom, out of water and canopied, had lost some of her charm -- she hardly seemed the same Blossom of a summer mooring. Fact is, she looked about the same as any old yacht.

Cappy said he wanted to make it right with me, and I told him I didn't have change for a dollar. We both laughed. I'll be handsomely paid next summer when Blossom is back on mooring and Cappy stops by again. `` 'Bout ha-pas-2,'' he'll say, ``I'm settin' traps.'' Going down the bay with Cappy and Blossom, just before a summer sunrise, is an emolument that doesn't accrue to everybody. Finest kind.

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