Carol and I got over to the New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival this afternoon, and we had a blast.
Carol was over at the festival yesterday and got to see the scallop shucking contest, which she said was pretty good. We made a point of seeing the fish fileting contest today. Those guys were fast — as a recreational fisherman, I take forever to filet a fish, and these guys would filet several pounds of fish in the time it would take me to finish one filet. After the contest was over you could get a little closer, and I watched the winner skin his filets. Man, he was good, taking the skin off with a few fluid, practied motions. (In case you’re wondering, all the fish was immediately chilled and donated to the hungry of the city.)
I also spent quite a bit of time talking to the fellow who made scallop drags — still hand-assembled right here in New Bedford, and each one has to be pretty much custon-made for a given ship. The fellow said that much of the work is grunt-work, bending metal rings to make the chain-link bag that holds the scallops. But, he said, since every one is a little different, it takes a good bit of brain work, too. I love to know how things get put together, so I was fascinated.
Carol and I toured a couple of the boats, but I have to admit I wasn’t all that interested. Now if we could ahve toured a boat yard, I could have stayed all day — I’m more interested in how boats go together than in sailing them. We somehow wound up on a harbor cruise instead of going to the blessing of the fleet. There was just too much going on at once.
We did manage to catch some of the great traditional music sponsored by WSMU. David Jones and Heather Wood were there singing their a capella English songs — I like their unpretentious manner, and their resonant harmonies. We caught part of the set by the New Bedford Sea Shanty choir. Singer and guitarist Gordon Bok told a series of long involved stories instead of playing his usual music, saying that stories are the way we get taught by our elders, and as an example he told the story of how he was about to go on deck of a boat in a long coat when the captain stopped him and told him a story of how another man got killed by wearing a long coat on deck, and that led to another story, and another story, all drily funny and most pretty grim, as New England stories usually are — but we never did hear the end of that first story, and I still don’t know if Gordon Bok took off that long coat before going up on deck.
As we walked home, Carol remarked on the way the festival brought together all the different kinds of people who live in New Bedford. To me, it felt like the New Bedford equivalent of the midwestern county fairs. In any case, it was a great event. If you missed the working waterfront festival this year, don’t miss it next year.