Sucking Snails

By Michael Roberts aka. Salty Dog

With another slow day at the office I thought I would take the opportunity to tease some of the hopeful career divers. Mind you when this story took place I was single and had very few debts to pay! Not to insinuate that women are expensive, just that the simple life is simple!

It was the summer of 1991 and it was the first time I didn't have a summer job lined up to hold me over to the next sea-urchin/scallop season that started in the fall. Now I had met a few people who said that they had been able to make a couple of bucks harvesting periwinkles (sea snails) but not that much. So I found someone who was buying them for .40/lb., didn't seem like much but I figured the shell weight probably added up quick. Plus I had a secret weapon! I knew how to build an underwater vacuum! So I borrowed an old cellar pump from a friend and cut up an old hot water heater and built myself this vacuum. I have always tried to keep a mental log underwater so I knew where to look for winkles. I loaded my contraption onto the boat got my dive gear together and headed across the bay to Islesboro. It didn't take me long to find the perfect spot. Winkles do real well on shale ledges in 5 to 20 ft of water where algae tends to grow fast. With the fresh water run off in and around Dark Harbor the fishing/harvesting was great! I could winch the tank over the side, suit up, and then fire up the pump and jump in. The pump would run about 30 min. and I could suck up about 50 lbs., get back in the boat, refuel, jump back in and finish the tank and get another 50 lb. As the summer really started to kick in this became the best way to spend the day. Start when you wanted, do 2 - 3 tanks get a good days work in, stay cool during the heat of the day and get a little tan to boot! Get in a good boat ride and be the envy of all the summer tourists who just couldn't resist asking what you were doing. A word of caution!!, winkles can climb about! Don't leave them in an open container in your car or your garage!!! It is like an Easter Hunt!!! BEWARE THE RICH FOLK!! Kate Alley of CHEERS fame owns a place on Islesboro and one day she was taking her own boat to the mainland. Well I made the mistake of passing her with my beat up old dive boat and taking the prime spot on the public dock to unload my winkles. Well she didn't have anything nice to say about my boat, me, or fishing folk and wanted me to move my boat to the end of the dock so that it wasn't near hers!! Well needless to say I told her that if she didn't have anything nice to say then she shouldn't say anything at all, and I was not about to move my boat til I was done! Anyway I won't forget the sweet times diving and hanging out on my boat with no cares. Yes I always used Al 80's O.C. and dove alone. No I never took any illegal lobsters Meg and never had trouble getting into the boat. Oh Yeah, DON'T COOK WINKLES IN THE MICROWAVE!!! pop poP pOP POP!!!

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