Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Time Travel - My Experience on East Ironbound"

There are very few times in life when you can say "this experience was nothing short of complete".  That would be like grinning at the fella that just laid down a full house.  That's life, when heading out on a hunting trip, meeting someone you've only corresponded through via email, knowing you're going to be spending a week on an island in the middle of the North Atlantic...well, let's just say the times you hold the high card are rare.  This past week was one of those rare occurrences.  When you go to "Ironbound", you're not necessarily going for a hunt but rather, a history lesson in which recess is a sink box hunt.  Truly, the information overload to a man that enjoys boats, decoys, and an old, long forgotten yet self sustaining life fulfilled by doing most everything under ones one power is heady.  Honesty, what brought me to Ironbound initially was the opportunity to hunt from a sink box - a method of hunting that's been outlawed in the US for almost 100 years.  After hunting in it for a few days vs hunting in what has become the "standard" layout boat, I'll hold my opinion - as that'd be too much like talking religion or politics.

This is where I found myself this past week - in the middle of no where, hunting, getting some history lessons, learning nautical terms, and rummaging through stuff that was made in the first part of the LAST century.

To be honest, I'm still having trouble putting it all in perspective, so I'll let my photos do more of the talking.

The first feeling one gets when motoring to Ironbound is "this place is special...it's different" and I think this photo shows that well:

Ironbound is very different.  In fact, ask anyone of the two or three permanent residents about their gardens, and you'll find out just how self sustaining this place is.  If is organic matter, it goes into the garden as fertilizer.  Here is what I call "fish house row":

In the old days, this was where the fishermen brought in their catch to be cut up.  You'll notice that they have a second floor.  While not being 100% sure this was true for every fish house, the main one's second floor was the "net room", as seen here:

The net room was just that.  A place for the fishermen to gather in the extreme winter and repair the nets used over the season.

Here's an old carving/shaving horse made in the late 1800's that Philip's brought out.  It's located upstairs in the main fish house:

Just a cool old building on the island:

Another view of Ironbound:

I believe the permanent number of folks inhabiting Ironboud at any one time is around 2 souls...at any given time that is.

The old Ironbound lighthouse, erected around the turn of the century, and the last of the lighthouses in that part of the world to go electric:

Looking down on the houses from the top of the lighthouse - very cool by the way:

The sign for the school in which the children of Ironbound where taught:

What one may not be able to appreciate until taking the ride out is the fact that you are on an island, and going to town on the spur of the moment is no easy task.  Everything done on the island during the time frame that folks lived there full time equated to utter self sufficiency.  From schools to the daily chores, it could be grown, taught, made, or mended on the island.  I have personally never witnessed anything quite like it.

Note the draw and lure of this - sharking and codding:

As well as the date of this accounts receivable:

When you're headed out on a hunt around Ironbound, the first thing you realize is just how harsh the environment is:

And that's just the beginning.  Sink boxing is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of back.  It's work and you absolutely have to be aware of your surroundings...and, that's just while dropping the boat overboard and picking it up.  Sitting eye level  with the rolling ocean, waves lapping over, and watching your only chance of survival should something happen boat off, takes nerve.  In order to help understand the hunt, I drew out a quick sketch of what I saw:

Kris laid out, waiting:

Note the hen eider above Kris in this photo, the box is flat out deadly:

I had scoter and old squaw land so close to me, they splashed me when they hit the water.

A bit closer look at the tub with Kris in it as we shove off and he prepares to hunt:

Can you imagine sitting in the tub and having one of these things poking his/her head up feet from you???

I speak from experience - unnerving.

Heading out on the last day I spotted a decoy from above that quickly became my favorite decoy Philip had.  The shape just appealed to me and it had been repainted many years ago, so the "old" was there.  I took this photo of my decoy and that decoy on the edge of the upside down tub as we motored out to hunt.

For the decoy carver, this was an enlightening experience.  The decoys in Philip's rig are tanks.  They are chunked in the boat, kicked on the floor to get the out of the way, grabbed by the gaff, have the tub dropped on their heads and everything else in between.  A bill may or may not be nailed back on and the same w/ the heads.  Alot of the body's carried hatchet marks where the old guys cut them roughly out, and the paint was whatever house/boat paint was on hand.  Having never entered a decoy contest, I'm leery to say this, but I would imagine a judge scoffing at the rig...but, we weren't concerned with human judges:

Here's one for those of you that like the "watch your horizons" when taking photos....very difficult at times.

And, just like every great hunting trip I've been on, it was surrounding by incredible food (often indigenous to the area):

Like I said, the only word that truly fits is - COMPLETE.

Hope you enjoy, Justin

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