It is 4:30 in the morning in McCallum. If there was a white-sided dolphin in the harbour it wouldn’t be difficult to spot, even in this darkness, because the sea is smooth as glass. But there aren’t any critters for me to see at this early hour. Even the birds aren’t around – no herring gulls mooching a meal, fox sparrows singing a sweet song, or arctic terns travelling through town.
Despite a slight breeze from the southeast, there’s no sign of rough water travelling in through the passage. I understand that on the open ocean, there might be a ‘short chop lop’, but that is much better than what we’ve seen recently, which is, ‘too much sea by the shore’.
Temperature is hovering around 5 degrees. The sky is clear except for a misty cloud that hangs high above the Peak, and lazily drifts down towards Bonne Bay Head. Even in the shadows I can clearly see the big white rock scar, left by the mudslide, which happened on the Head in the summer of 2009.
There are already several houses alive with light. Aquaculture employees are in their kitchens filling what once were salt beef buckets, with bologna sandwiches, canned wieners, and refreshments, in preparation for a long day. Several of these underpaid employees have probably already talked on the phone, sharing a thought or two about the day and the weather that awaits them.
A dim bulb burns within one of the stages, where four men have already been at work for fifteen minutes, lifting freshly filled fuel containers, and frozen bait boxes, onto boats. The first crew out of the harbour is a dynamic brother and sister duo. Their father and mother used to fish with them too but, times change when your health and your loved ones leave you. Another family of fishermen are picking up a landlubber, but there’s a brief delay in liftoff when the hangashore knocks his scram bucket into the sea and somebody has to save it – someone calls this troublesome employee “a human killick,” and sounds of laughter quickly travel across the quiet harbour.
A team of two brothers are the next to go west before there is a steady flow to the north, and east – husband and wife combinations, a father, son and daughter team, a feller from Corner Brook, a man pondering retirement who still pulls pots by hand, maybe a guy from Gander, and an elderly gentleman giving it everything he’s got... If it’s not a school day, there might even be a child tagging along, and during really busy periods, adult kids from the city have been known to come home to help out.
Everyone is dressed more for the hard day of heated work, than they are the chilly ride to and from. Most of the boats are open, fibreglass crafts, except for the occasional longliner, one flat that two couples occasionally take for a recreational cruise to the cabin, and the sailboat that’s arrived from Burgeo with the hope of scuba diving for sunken schooners. Plus there is a beautiful little blue and grey fishing boat with its cute, cozy captain’s cabin, ready to slide off the slip now that spring repairs are completed, and fresh paint applied.
It’s all so wonderful to witness – baymen and women getting on with their day in one of the world’s most beautiful environments. It’s McCallum, at 4:30 in the morning.