What’s that smell?

I’m beginning to think the mark of authenticity is the mess. When I get a lobster in a restaurant, somebody else caught it, a different somebody cooked it, and the only mess I can make involves my shirtfront. (Okay, and my companions, and my hair, but that’s only because I’m a particularly exuberant lobster eater.)

The mark of authenticity is the mess

When I go get my own lobster, though, the mess is epic. We went out yesterday, in a two-foot chop, to pull our pots. The ropes are covered with sea crud, which has to be removed to get a hold on the rope, and most of it lands on the deck. The pots themselves are also grimy and weedy, and when you brace them against your body to hold them steady on the gunwale in a heaving sea, the grime and weeds get all over you. (You’re wearing coveralls, if you’ve thought to bring them.)

Then you have to rebait the bags. First, you dump the bones of the old bait overboard, but a few inevitably find their way onboard. Then you fill the bags with the frozen pieces of bluefish rack from the smelly cooler full of bait. The bait leaves blood and guts on anything it touches, which always includes your gloves and sometimes, your deck and your clothes.

By the time you’ve checked all ten pots, the boat’s a disaster. The deck is cruddy and slippery, your gloves and clothes are stained and wet.

That’s what Kevin and I looked like yesterday when we brought our boat in on the Blish Point ramp, where four tourists from Cincinnati were wandering around the parking lot.

They were clearly lost, and we asked them if we could help them find something. This led to a whole discussion of what to do on Cape Cod and, for what may have been the first time since we moved here two years ago, I felt like a local.

It wasn’t because I knew where to go to eat, or which activities were not to be missed. It was because I was standing on the ramp, next to my grimy working boat with five lobsters in the hold, wearing my stained coveralls.

But I also had authenticity momentum. We’d gone out fishing the day before, to Horseshoe Shoal, in Nantucket Sound. At first, it was a slow day (we even considered renewing our membership in the Sea-Level Club, but it was a little chilly). Then, round about mid-day, we found the fish – the old-fashioned way, without our GPS/fish-finder, which we’d forgotten. A little local knowledge, a little luck, and we brought home fifty pounds of bluefish.

Bluefish mess is a little different from lobster mess. There’s less seaweedy crud, but blood and guts, as well as the bluefish’s last meal, get all over everything.

The mess, though, neither starts nor ends on the boat. Before, there’s the mess of bait – bluefish racks and scraps for lobster, and squid, shiners, or eels for fish. The single most disgusting thing we’ve had to deal with here was the freezer that stopped freezing when it was full of bait. The flies were fighting each other just to get close.

After, there’s the mess of garbage. Yesterday we smoked our bluefish and boiled our lobster. Although most of the shells and scraps end up in the compost or the shell pile, enough end up in the garbage that you’ve got about a twelve-hour window to get to the dump.

Everything we do makes a mess. Besides the bloody boat and the cruddy clothes, there’s chicken poop on the walkway, washing machine parts all over the garage, dirt under our fingernails. So we hose down the boat, do the laundry, sweep the walkway. The garbage and spare parts go to the dump, and we get in the shower. And then we start all over again.

So, if you’re ever at my house, and you wonder, as you approach the front door, what that smell is, I can tell you right now. That’s the smell of authenticity.

I was high hook, with five fish, but my biggest was only 8 pounds

4 people are having a conversation about “What’s that smell?

  1. What do you do with 50 pounds (20kg) of fish?
    Do you get sick of eating it? … OMG not Lobster *again* ??!

    Your post makes me feel a bit better about the disorder around here. Spring is already sprung, and I’ve got half dug garden beds, half planted seeds, chooks (chickens) eating my seedlings (grr!). So thanks for that. Now I’ll go sweep the porch.

  2. Would you consider forming a support group for authentic women? Until I read your post I just thought I was messy, disorganised and unhygienic. I like your take on it much better.

  3. Wow what beautiful fish! i remember that scaling the bluefish was a messy job too – right? Also your haircut is perfect. Love it, hope you keep it that way.

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