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10/27/23 - overwintering time once again!

oyster farm
View of the farm at sunset as I completed the second day of farm sinkinging. The gear remaining in this picture is either empty and waiting to hitch a ride back to the yard or full of oysters that will go to market over the next couple months.

It's that bittersweet, transitional time of year here on Casco Bay. Winter is in the air, the water temperature is dropping steadily, and I am working hard to get the farm ready for the snow and ice and winter storms that will inevitably find us at some point.

After I finish all the culling and consolidating of fall discussed in last month's log, all the many bags of oysters that are full of seed or still too small to go to market can be sunk to the bottom of the bay for safe keeping for the winter. This a relatively simple task if the wind and tides and weather align for me... much harder if not! But I lucked out this year and was able to

It takes about three completely full-to-the-rails boat loads to get all the floatation and extra gear ashore after sinking days!

accomplish all the sinking in two mild, low tide afternoons. It has been a little unseasonably warm lately, and some oyster farmers would probably tell you it was too early to be thinking about sinking, but I have found that with my site being as shallow as it is and having areas of bottom that are nice and firm (which prevents the bags from getting buried in silt), that I can get away with it so long as I don't stock the bags too full of overwintering oysters. This means they can continue to feed comfortably on the bottom until they fully go dormant, and won't compete for food or smother each other. The shallow nature of my site also means that I'm not shocking them to any great degree with a big change in water temperature or food availability, as you would have when overwintering in deeper water. Plus, in typical Maine fashion, next week's weather has snow and freezing nights in the forecast so we'll be on that winter train soon enough! Additionally, during the planning process of picking times for sinking, while studying the tide charts I realized that it was either this tide window

extra gear stacked in the yard waiting for it's day with the pressure washer

at the end of October, or I'd be waiting all the way into December which means a lot less daylight, more time for gear to get overgrown with fouling again, and a increased potential for storms to do damage, on top of the possibility that the weather will just not be workable when that later tide window rolls around. It can be really hard to make these timing decisions with so many factors and possibilities swirling around, but at this point I've done this particular project enough times, had successes and failures and been able to figure out the whys of both, that I feel good and don't worry (too much!) about how things will fare through the next cold months.

And now I'm on to clean up! Big summer buoys will get swapped out with smaller winter ones, extra gear and floats will get pressure washed and stacked on their rack in the yard for safe keeping. Hundreds of feet of long lines will get washed and coiled and hung until the spring when it will all make it's way back out again.

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