Icelandic Moonshine Takes the Edge off January

It was their first time installing anchors in the US, they were on an unfamiliar 70 ft. dragger, temperatures were below freezing, and it was getting dark.

Ingvar and Hilmar had been preparing for this day nonstop since they arrived about a week ago. 16 screw anchors needed to be welded together, the drill parts needed to be assembled, everything had to make its way down to Pt Judith, and the wind had to stop blowing.

virginia marise

The idea behind screw anchors is to get a sturdy foundation for an aquafarm. In the past we used 4,000lbs blocks of concrete to keep our longlines anchored, but with all the force of the water they inevitably moved. The screw anchor is 4m(12ft) long, and uses 40cm(2ft) disks that bury themselves in the sediment with the help of a triangular drilling device so when they are set, they are stationary. We are converting all of our farms to this type of anchor because they fully utilize all of our lease area by precisely aligning longlines, and there is virtually no environmental footprint because 95%of the anchor is buried in the bottom of the ocean.

Before coming to America Ingvar and Hilmar had been designing and testing this drill for 5 years in Iceland. The two brothers had worked through the dark arctic winters in their father’s machine shop to create this marine screw anchor drilling device. They are talented engineers, airplane pilots, politicians, entrepreneurs, Olympic athletes, and whatever else they need to be on this small North-Atlantic island nation.

On the home front, Bill and Adam had also been putting in mega-days to prepare for the drilling day that would be the christening of our first mussel farm lease site. Everybody was excited as they loaded the FV Virginia Marise on that cold January night: Ingvar and Hilmar because they knew they were going to make national news when they got back to Iceland, Adam because he could finally work his lease after a three year application process, and Bill because he loves mussels.

The next day started early, and everyone was in high spirits. Adam and I rode over in the skiff to help the seafaring vessel Virginia Marise as she tried to position herself in the perfect location to set the anchors. This proved the most difficult task throughout the day due to the strong tidal current and close proximity to land, but as it was getting dark it became downright frustrating. It is important to align the anchors properly because the long line stretches in between them, they cannot be moved once they are sunk into the sediment, and you will lose valuable growing space if the longlines are out of place. When the boat is positioned correctly the actual drilling is fairly easy, and requires only a handful of joysticks to complete it. The majority of the anchors were put in that Friday, and the next day was a breeze to get the rest of them situated.

Habfor drill swinging

Now the site was ready to work, and there was no hesitation by captain Call and myself. We had prepared 600 ft. longlines in the preceding weeks, so we watched the weather, and went about installing them whenever we had a chance. This is one of the more dangerous parts of longline aquaculture because it requires you to yank on the line with a block and tackle in the pot hauler… meaning it gets  extremely tight, and if something breaks make sure you are out of the way.

We finally got everything installed sometime in March then the work really began…. Again…

Mason Silkes

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