I’m Not Going To Lie –
I Thought Windmills Were a Joke.
A Huge Step Backwards.
To think we could get enough energy out of a windmill was laughable I thought.
Bird Blenders I called them and even bought the domain birdblenders.com thinking one day it might become useful.
I hated the idea of windmills and willingly listened to and drank the Kool-Aid. I supported of all of the negative news, comments and blogs with the FIVE most common being they:
- Change Migratory Patterns of Fish
- Permanently Close Areas to Fishing
- Hurt Marine Mammals Ears
- Are Harmful to Navigation
- No American Jobs
I thought windmills were a joke and they would really hurt (if not wipe out) the fishing business and my family has been in the fishing business since 1936.
I mean who in their right mind would want something like that in the ocean right?
The fishing industry is under enough stress with regulations and the last thing it needed was a bunch of things on the water that would screw it up even worse.
I Drank the Kool-Aid Right Along With Everyone Else.
Then, about 5 years ago I got a call in the middle of the night from one of my sons.
He is in the family fishing business (4th generation) and he asked if I could run the Block Island Ferry for the month of August. One of the captains just up and quit, the season was in full swing and they needed help ASAP.
Of course I said yes, packed my bags and headed north the very next morning.
I have a lot of freedom and my son and his wife had recently added a baby boy to their family and this would give me an opportunity get to know my new grandson so I gladly accepted.
So here I am, running the ferry back and forth from Montauk to Block Island and I can’t help but notice the construction of 5 Offshore Windmills just south of Block Island. They are in my line of sight every morning.
They went up incredibly fast, and they were the HOT TOPIC of conversation on the boat both to and from the island. It seemed like everyone who went to Block Island visited South East Light so they could get a closer look.
Southeast Light on Block Island is a historic landmark and tourist attraction. It always has a few visitors – but now with the Windmills within easy viewing distance, the added attraction attracts more visitors.
Even though I was still a Windmill Hater, my curiosity got the better of me so I took my wife to the Island for lunch one day and rode bikes to South East Light.
Get this …. The place was a mob scene – cars parked on both sides of the road, mopeds and bicycles tossed up in the bushes and people were all over the place! It was a mad-house and I figured there must be some sort of special event happening but I was mistaken. Most of the people were there to look over the water at the windmills!
As we navigated our way through the crowd, my entrepreneur juices began to flow and I began to visualize a boat taking people out for a closer look. Too late – we went down to the Harbor and there was a boat loading people. Note To Self: Windmills attract tourists which in turn generates income for local businesses and working people. (More jobs).
When we visited the Lighthouse, I saw boats fishing the windmill platforms and learned later that they began holding fish almost immediately and boats were fishing them daily. Note To Self: Windmills DO NOT have restricted areas and boats can fish them. (More fishing spots).
Labor Day comes, the season draws to a close and I go back to Florida to go on about my business.
November rolls around and I get a few Facebook pictures from a scuba diving buddy who caught Blackfish, Bluefish, Codfish and a few Sea-bass while spearfishing around the windmills. Note To Self: Windmills are diving attractions too and hold various species of fish.
So now I’m a bit curious because a few of my blind beliefs have been proven wrong. I grab my laptop and plug into Google Alerts for weekly updates to satisfy my curiosity when it arises.
Long story short, within a few months I went from an uninformed hater to mildly curious with an open mind.
- I’ve witnessed with my own eyes how they attract people and add revenue to the local community.
- I have digital proof on Facebook proving they are accessible to fishermen and divers.
- They hold fish so there is no such thing as scaring the fish away from electrical current.
I arrive to the sobering realization that the Anti-Windmill-Kool-Aid I’ve been drinking has begun turning a little bitter because three of the five claims are nothing more than false myths. (How do you move a mountain? One shovel of dirt at a time – How do you change a blind belief? By exposing the truth one piece at a time.)
- Change Migratory Patterns of Fish – WRONG
- Permanently Close Areas to Fishing – WRONG
- Emit Electrical Current and Scare Fish Away – WRONG
Imagine how I felt when I came to the cold hard realization that the Kool-Aid I was drinking wasn’t true.
Fast Forward 2 years, I’m going about my business and from time to time, read anti-windmill posts on Social Media. I know for a fact that three of the allegations were false and every time I read a false post the bitter taste would return.
If you knew me better, you would know I am repulsed by hypocrites and despise liars (yes I hate all politicians) so from time to time, I begin questioning the anti-windmill posters for confirmation and proof to their claims – not bullshit allegations. Interestingly enough, all I get in return was more talking points, opinions and semi-sarcastic remarks which I found amusing. NO PROOF.
I also couldn’t help but notice that 90% of the comments came from only a few people. And they were boat owners who want the ocean all to themselves.
The more questions I ask, (I already knew the answers), the more frustrated they get with me and before you know it, they are calling me names with 4 letter word attached. I guess I poked the hornet’s nest a little harder than I thought.
Growing up in the fishing business gives a person thick skin so I shrugged off the insults and went on about my business but would come back from time to time and “poke the nest.” Not too much though because while my family is in the fishing business and I didn’t directly have a dog in the fight.
Fast forward to 2019 I’m in a conversation with a former employer in the Gulf of Mexico oil business and he tells me they have a boat in the Northeast performing survey work for Offshore Windmills! (small world isn’t it?)
As we’re talking, he tells me they could really use a captain up there with local knowledge. He made me an attractive offer and I figured what better way to learn about Offshore Wind than from the inside, so I accepted and jumped on a plan to Providence, RI.
Picture this …. I get off the plane and an Uber driver was waiting for me. He whisks me off to New Bedford and within 15 minutes of arriving to the boat, we’re heading offshore to perform survey work.
Talk about stepping it it ….
For those of you readers who don’t know, New Bedford is “Ground Zero” for the Offshore Wind Farms in the Northeastern part of the U.S. and I’m suddenly smack dab in the middle of it!
This is where it gets interesting …..
No one knows I’m on the boat except my wife and she has strict orders to keep it quiet. I treat this project as a clandestine operation and am on a mission to get as much information possible. I want to know the truth for two reasons:
ONE: If they are half a bad as I had heard, I would be in a position to compile a huge dossier of inside information and blow the lid off. (remember – my family is in the fishing business so I really do have a concern)
TWO: If my suspicions prove to be true, these things might be a Savior to Struggling Communities suffering from regulations and cutbacks, they might have a chance of a rebound and begin to thrive again.
So here I am … captain of a survey vessel.
- Running Survey Patterns
- Talking to the surveyors
- Reading reports
- Overseeing communications and procedures
- Talking with and watching the Protected Species Observers (you wouldn’t believe the marine mammal safety regulations we need to adhere to).
- Spending time in the survey shack talking about the equipment and comparing it to the equipment my dad had on his boat when I was a kid and the stuff I had when I was commercial fishing.
The survey crew quickly grew to love me because I showed interest in what they were doing and could speak their language. The more I watch, ask, listen and learn, the more they tell me and the more intrigued I become and I begin forming a different opinion.
NOTE: The claim that the noise emitted from the survey boats hurts marine mammals ears is hogwash. My family had more powerful equipment on our boats 50 years ago and 99% commercial fish boats today have more powerful equipment. The claim that Offshore Wind hurts marine mammals ears is Hogwash ….
Now I’ve come to the conclusion that 4 out of the 5 Offshore Wind Myths are false because the idea of them being hazardous to navigation is just a bunch of bologna.
- They Change the Migratory Patterns of Fish – FALSE
- Permanently Close Areas to Fishing – FALSE
- Hurt Marine Mammals Ears – HOGWASH
- Harmful to Navigation – BOLOGNA
Fast Forward 4 months I’m on the boat and happen to tell my dad what I’m up to. To my surprise, he is intrigued and wants to know more and what is normally a short call turned onto a 2 hour conversation.
Two more months go by and I mention it to my son who is in the family fishing business. He doesn’t say much, he is interested, yes, but completely neutral.
Three months later … (7 in total) I’m in my hometown visiting my grandsons, so I make it a point to personally visit my brother and tell him. He Hugs Me, tells me he loves them and hopes they install 200 – 300 more!
Now I have to tell you – my brother is legendary in his fishing prowess. He can catch a fish in a mud puddle so for him to say that, I was rather shocked.
Anyway, now that I know my family supports Offshore Wind, a month later I created video titled “The Truth About Offshore Wind,” uploaded it to Youtube and posted it on Facebook.
The video had 1,400 views within 48 hours and really kicked up a storm. WOOF- talk about attacks!
It also revealed a very distinct pattern:
The people who are really against Offshore Wind are the owners of commercial fishing boats. They want the ocean to themselves and they had no problem letting me know it by screaming (Capital Letter Comments) and calling me names.
Captains and crew members on the other hand, have little or no problem with them and many sent me private messages asking how they could learn more and get involved. Apparently there are quite a few people looking for a way out of fishing and they see Offshore Wind as an opportunity to continue working on the water. Interesting huh?
Long story short, 5 years ago I was a hater who moved into the curious column.
4 years later after being immersed in it as captain of a survey vessel, I moved from curious to “these things might actually be a good thing.”
Once I removed the hate and doubt from my mind, the negative thoughts were replaced with opportunity thoughts which prompted me to write a blog post titled “Offshore Wind The New Frontier”
When it comes to commercial fishing, trip limits, closures, permit consolidation and other stuff, there isn’t much opportunity for a young guy to work his way up to boat ownership like there was when I was a kid.
In fact, Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) studies have indicated the industry is losing 2% of its workers per year.
BLS link for you to review:
NOAA studies indicate the commercial fishing business supports 1.4 million jobs – take a minute and READ the article for yourself.
NOAA link for you to review:
Using the above stats, The Commercial Fishing Industry is losing 28,000 jobs per year or about 140,000 jobs over the next 5 years.
Picture in your minds eye for a moment what the fishing business will look like in 5 years then try to look 10 years into the future. Can you see it?
Bitter Pill – Isn’t it?
As for the “For-Hire” recreational fishing businesses, (Charter and Partyboats), they are hurting bit time. Oppressive size and creel limits, closed seasons and other regulations have taken a once thriving fishing business and compressed it into a meager 4 months which is no-where near long enough to generate enough revenue to survive.
THE INDUSTRY IS COLLAPSING.
Let me quickly address: Myth #5:
No American Jobs.
True enough … There has not been many jobs to date.
Some survey boats are foreign flagged which I personally believe it is repulsive.
Other survey boats (like the one I’m on) come from the Gulf Oil field and have captains and crews from the Gulf of Mexico – I don’t agree with this either but truth be told, no boats in the Northeastern part of the U.S. exist that meet the requirements.
Office and administration jobs, take 5 minutes and visit indeed.com. When you get to the site, type in Offshore Wind Jobs. Count them for yourself. There are plenty available and a LOT more to come.
Construction jobs, they are on their way and as soon as work permits are issued, they will be there. The Unions are Salivating.
Wrapping it up … I went from an Offshore Wind Hater to Offshore Wind Supporter and I wholeheartedly believe the Offshore Wind Industry will provide a valuable resource for fishing communities that are struggling because of declining fish stocks, increasing regulation and climate change.
In fact, I believe Offshore Wind is a new frontier and I came out of semi-retirement to start a company called Offshore Wind Farm Support with the intent to create a simple non-intimidating way for fishermen to get involved in Offshore Wind so they can continue working on the water to support their families and communities.
Thanks for reading –
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