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Arcticus, crew hold the line on stormy Lake Huron

Nov 6, 2015 03:39 PM
Capt. Joe Bergan, left, shows cadet Michael Schmid how to tie a Becket bend knot to attach the gillnets for setting.

Brian Gauvin

Capt. Joe Bergan, left, shows cadet Michael Schmid how to tie a Becket bend knot to attach the gillnets for setting.

The process of deploying 8,100 feet of gillnet — nine 900-foot nets in nine separate boxes — requires all hands on deck, scientists and crew alike. The boxes are arranged beside the net reels, each with a 900-foot gillnet laid precisely so that it deploys without tangling. During deployment each section is tied to its predecessor, forming a continuous 8,100-foot net anchored to the ridge below.

The weather was supposed to improve as Arcticus made its way toward the middle of Lake Huron on a June morning. It did not. Instead, the rain increased, as did the wind.

The three scientists aboard, along with Capt. Joe Bergan and Michael Schmid, a deck cadet interning from SUNY Maritime, suited up for a rocking, chilly and wet deployment of the gillnet. Dave Paavola, the engineer/mate, was at the helm, charged with keeping Arcticus on station above the ridge during the operation. Not an easy task on this day, bow thruster or no bow thruster.

Tim Desorcie, a biological science technician, tossed the front float marker and anchor over the stern. As the line paid out, he laid the float line on a guide or spinner at the stern. Bergan paid out the net from the first box, separating the lead line from the float line, while Desorcie and fisheries research technician Tim O’Brien watched for tangles. Net from the other boxes followed.

After the better part of an hour of being tossed about, the scientists and crew watched the end of the gillnet pass over the stern. Desorcie tossed the end float marker and anchor into the water. Bergan took the helm and steered Arcticus back toward Alpena Light.

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