In a hangar the size of a small apartment, Josh Burdett has a net stretched across the center of the space.
The former fisherman has the door open hoping for a breeze, but sweat is still pooling on his forehead as he works on a hot August afternoon.
Burdett began learning to mend nets from his father as soon as he was able to hold a needle. Now he shares his knowledge with anyone who walks through the door. The elder holds workshops through NunatuKavut at the annual gathering in Cartwright on the south coast of Labrador, with more planned for this fall.
“It’s using your fingers, using your hands and you start working on it and you forget about everything else, all the worries and misfortunes go away and you just focus on the knots that are in front of you,” Burdett said. .
It’s also convenient for economic reasons, he said, because a new net can cost $150, but the cost of repairing it is only the cost of the twine.
Hungry seals, sneaky salmon, icebergs: why the nets are tearing
There are a variety of reasons nets can tear, but Burdett said one of the most memorable for him was seals.
“Seals love salmon. If someone gets caught, a seal will come and a big seal will chew the twine and take the salmon and all the twine away,” Burdett said. “You end up with a big hole.
“There have been other instances where a guy was at one end of his net and the salmon was stuck on the other end, and before he pulled the net to retrieve the salmon, the seal was there and had took the salmon.”
Trout nets can also rip if a large salmon comes in and rips. Nets can rip on the ocean floor, and nets can rip if pulled across the boat carelessly, he said.
Someone who gets as good at netting repair as Burdett can fix a five-foot hole in just about two and a half hours.
Beginners need practice: Burdett
For anyone who wants to learn, Burdett’s advice is simple: practice.
“It takes some getting used to holding the string and holding the needle and understanding, but it’s a good hobby,” Burdett said. “Good fun.”
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