White pots, blue pots, green pots, yellow pots—all bob like little bald heads in the water waiting to ensnare our props. Some waterways are so populated it looks like a city of little pot people. They zigzag merrily across narrow channels and passages begging to be taken home with us. But we don’t dare do that or the fisherman who dropped them off to “play” will have us arrested for stealing his children. (Don’t tell him about the fellow at our marina who has more than once sailed into his slip dangling a trap and enjoyed lobster for supper.)
The worse kind are the stealth pots, no-see-ums that lurk just under the surface and wait to jump up in front of us causing us to quickly divert course. Pulled by current these bad boys ride threateningly towards us, disappear mysteriously under our hulls, only to pop up behind us-- as if to thumb their noses. Little pot heads cleverly disguised with seaweed hair peek out at us from wave crests and play catch with our propellers. It’s expensive to be towed into port and haul the boat just to undo a nasty tangle; and a real nuisance to don snorkel gear and dive under the boat to cut loose a trap before moving on. And isn’t it embarrassing to have reset your course to avoid an oncoming pot only to watch it flutter away?
Perhaps someone should develop a pot control pill? Now pots are a vital source of income for fishermen, so I do not mean to undermine their need to share our waterways. My beef is that too often they are a hazard. It is treacherous to maneuver through a skinny channel in fog or navigate a high traffic passage peppered with pots we can barely see. Why can’t more thought be put into pot placement and visibility? Perhaps they could be dropped in straight, predictable lines, or situated in less traveled paths. I find the few pots I see marked with flags easiest to avoid. We can spot them from a distance, even on radar, and have enough time to comfortably change course without risking a jibe or collision with another boat. How about requiring that all pots wear flags?
But if we did this, I wonder if we wouldn’t all miss the challenge of pot dodging, a skill we boaters pride ourselves on. “D’ you see that pot bow on?” “Wow, we just missed that one!” Just like counting license plates on highways, making a game of pot spotting can be a welcome diversion on those dull-trip days when the seas are silky smooth. But it’s not those times that pots are a problem. Sigh.