Unlike the oysters growing in beds on the bottom of the Sound, Bren's are cultivated in cages which he tends to on a daily basis. These are rectangular, wire mesh contraptions resembling a large lobster pot at first glance. Closer inspection however, reveals there are shelves, or trays inside, supporting the oysters.
Oyster seedlings are grouped in a grow out bag, then placed inside the cage, and lowered into the water. As the oysters grow, they are switched to larger 'bags' with wider mesh to maximize waterflow, yet still restrict predators. It is not an exact science, so an ongoing degree of experimentation is always taking place. Some years, the oysters thrive inside the larger mesh, while in others, a smaller size is needed to thwart preying starfish. Through careful monitoring, the entire balancing act from seedling to harvest takes about three years.
Peter, Helen and myself were also seeking an equilibrium. We were trying to learn as much as possible, without interfering with the work at hand. Some moments were more successful than others!
As Bren began to raise the cage, we gathered around him for a better view. The boat immediately listed hard to starboard before we quickly moved away, providing some ballast. When you're on board with a small, independent, Thimble Islands oysterman, a balancing act can mean many different things.
Soundbounder: Stony Creek 6am part 1
Soundbounder: Just Your Local Oysterman part 2
Soundbounder: Starfish...And Other Threats part 4