An excavator spent most of the day Saturday on the south block of the Skinners Pond Harbour breakwater, scooping seaweed out of the port’s entrance.
That’s after about a half dozen boats got caught up in the seaweed while returning to port on low tide Friday afternoon.
Port authority president David Aylward estimated the mass of seaweed as being almost two meters deep by six meters wide and over 20 meters in length.
The mass started forming in the entrance on Thursday. Fishermen were able to sail out through it at high tide Friday morning without issue, but it became problematic as the tide level dropped.
Port manager Randy Doyle said the seaweed grew so thick and deep that it rose several centimeters above the water line.
“We did it as quickly as we could for the safety of all the fishermen,” Doyle said of Saturday’s cleanup. Sixty-one lobster boats fish out of Skinners Pond.
Doyle, who grew up near the Skinners Pond wharf, said he has never heard of seaweed accumulating in the entrance like that before. He suspects hurricane Dorian on Sept. 7 and 8 played a role in pushing the seaweed into port.
Floyd Shea drove to the port with his tractor once he heard fishermen were getting stuck in the seaweed. Other fishing boats ferried one end of a large braided rope to stuck vessels so that Shea could pull them free.
“I’m not going anywhere,” said the captain of Burning Daylight when asked if he had time to talk. He was waiting for one end of a tow rope to be delivered to his vessel. The other end was attached to Shea’s tractor on the wharf. The rope snapped once, like a shotgun blast, before Shea was able to tow Burning Daylight free on the next hookup.
Boats waiting outside the harbour for Burning Daylight to get free subsequently sailed in around the outside edge of the mass while some throttled right through.
The captain said he was worried boats would not be able to use the port if the seaweed wasn’t removed.
Island EMS responded to the wharf after a fisherman on one of the stranded vessels experienced medical issues.
An excavator from Gaudette’s Transit Mix piled the seaweed on the south block Saturday for removal later. Doyle said the excavator will remain at the wharf for a day or so to see if seaweed continues to collect there. If it does, he said, it will be removed.
Aylward said he expects the seaweed will either be deposited further up the shore or turned over to someone who can put it to use. Some seaweed was still showing on boats’ depth sounders when they returned to port on Saturday, but fishermen were able to sail through it without issue.
Doyle said the cleanup process was started Friday morning. He said the port authority has been in contact with Small Craft Harbours and will be back in touch with them for guidance on the cleanup and for funding assistance with the work.