Here’s What It Takes to Become A New Bedford Scalloper
When it comes to fishing the seas of the SouthCoast, it's not exactly for the faint of heart.
Thirty-year-old New Bedford native Ryan Tavares has been scalloping the SouthCoast seas for 10 years, and knows what it takes to work on a boat.
I've always been curious to see if I could last a week or two, but after speaking with Tavares, I might be having second thoughts.
Once again, it's no walk in the park.
Despite the rough seas and tight quarters, Tavares sheds light on the one positive aspect of scalloping.
"I'm providing for my family," he said.
Unfortunately, though, it's not just about the money, it's about the sacrifices that are made on the ship.
"No breaks, constantly working. Nothing is very heavy, but it's very monotonous: 12 hours on, four hours off, and in the span of those four hours, you have to eat, sleep and do whatever you have to do to recharge," he said. "Average of 10 days, but anywhere from 6-16 days per trip. In the summer, I try to shower every other day for quick five minutes, most importantly to avoid infection. I bring baby wipes out, like a Portuguese shower, to just wash off bacteria and germs."
"Mentally, when you're out there...the deal with fishing is, we get paid by what we produce. Mentally we try to do our best, but you can only go as fast as your body goes," Tavares said. "It's really competitive out there, trying to 'out-scallop' each other. You're with the same guys. There's no off days. You work while your sick, broken ribs, flu, sick, it doesn't matter. You don't get to see your family, no WiFi, no (cell) service."
Tavares offered five tips for those thinking about scalloping:
1. "Scalloping is a roller coaster, you're going to have your good watches and your bad watches. You can't let your bad watches dictate your good watches. It's very mental. Despite the work, you'll love being there, so don't get discouraged right away."
2. "Always work like the captain is watching. Everything you're doing is being projected up top through the wheel house. Never stop working."
3. "Always try to better yourself. It is a craft that you'll eventually acquire. It's a technique that needs to be worked on. Every trip could be your last trip. You're self-employed, you want to have a good reputation so keep that in the back of your head at all times."
4. "Safety is the most important. You really need to be paying attention. It doesn't take much to hurt yourself, because anything at any moment could happen. Never get too comfortable."
5. "Lastly, out there, everyone thinks it's just picking and cutting, (but) you also have to be a "good person" on the boat. Change the toilet paper, organize the cabin, do your dishes. The better an all-around person you are around the boat, the higher your job security. Don't forget about the small things. Help the smaller person out. Being a part of the family is huge. Despite the competition, be a team player, (and) the better it is for everybody."
Tavares says it definitely takes the right kind of person to be a scalloper.
"It's definitely not for everybody, you're either going to love it or hate it. It's not just about physical toughness, you have to put your heart and soul into it," he said.