Working as a deck hand on a boat during the early to mid seventies was rewarding in many ways. It allowed me to be around the water which was always a top priority while I was growing up. The job paid well and while we were out to sea I was unable to spend any of the money so saving was easy. Little did I know that working with scientists would provide such an assortment of humorous events for my brother Bill and I to reminisce about over the years. Many of our trips were for the purpose of doing bottom grabs which consisted of picking up, with our deck crane, what looked like a giant clam upside down, and free spooling it to the ocean floor.
Prior to releasing this (Smith-McIntyre) bottom grab, it had to be cocked with a steel bar while a second person had to put a pin in the triggering mechanism. Upon retrieving this bottom grab, the sediment would then be analyzed. This was surely hazardous duty for the people who sorted through the muck, for the smell was hard enough to take at my station twenty feet away operating the crane. Lighting on deck at nighttime was certainly adequate, but some of the scientists had some trouble putting the pin in while someone else pulled hard on the spring mechanism with the steel bar. On one of those occasions I heard some one say, “Is the pin in yet?” as he was pulling down hard on the lever, and again he said, “Is the pin in yet?” to which the reply was, “I think so.” It wasn’t…the steel bar hit the guy who was suppose to put the pin in right on the top of his head and he went down for the count. We had to immediately stop the bleeding and took him to Sandy Hook, which was not too far away. He survived his injury and the next day he was back on the boat ready to resume his duties as chief mud expert, only this time everyone had brand new bright yellow miners helmets with adjustable head lamps.
Adjusting to their new equipment was somewhat problematic. Apparently no one read the instruction manual concerning the light. The educated idiot who was suppose to put the pin in the bottom grab had his light beam shining up and to the right, but instead of adjusting the light he kept tilting his head down and to the left in a fruitless attempt to focus the light on his target area. You can’t make these stories up! We, as fisherman, are suppose to trust that the information we receive from their studies are factual, but I have seen first hand their bumbling ways and I can’t believe that most of their research isn’t as flawed as the people who obtain it. My distain for the NMFS as you can plainly see is a learned behavior.