Salty and Superstitious
Life as a Shrimper……
So what does it take to be a shrimp boat captain or a striker? Billy says, “You have to be a lover of the sea, with salt in your veins.” He’ll tell you it takes a tolerance of weather, high seas and windy days. “Most shrimpers have some fear of the worst conditions, but more so a respect for mother nature.”
Billy will tell you shrimping is not an 8-5 job. You don’t measure your pay by the hour. He remembers fondly, “Some days you think wow, I’ve hit the jackpot. Other days you think are you kidding me? I’m making less than a dollar an hour.” But Billy says, “The ones with the love of it take the good with the bad and, believe it or not, there are more good days.”
To hear Billy talk of shrimping, you almost forget how exhausting the work can be. “Most shrimpers”, Billy says, “feel blessed to see the morning sun appearing on the horizon. They love the wind gently blowing on a cool morning and the sun warming the breeze with every waking moment.” He describes the perfect day on a shrimp boat, rolling gently as swells roll by, and the smell of money from fresh caught shrimp being washed in salt water, ready to go in the hole on ice or in the freezer.
Billy will also tell you shrimpers have no shortage of superstitions, either. He remembers being told to never say alligator or gator on a boat, and to never whistle. Billy recalls, “There was a guy who named his boat the Whistling Alligator just to prove them wrong.”
Another superstition was that it was bad luck to have women on a boat. But Billy will tell you that is not true. According to Billy, “Marilyn Solorzano is one of the best shrimp boat captains ever. She takes after her daddy, Lynwood Anderson, one of the best captains ever.”
Marilyn still shrimps the waters around Mayport, Florida, carrying on her daddy’s legacy. As for salt in their veins, one can’t help but feel as you hear the stories of generations of shrimpers, that salt life is just as much about the genuine salt of the earth people who carry on this tradition as it is about the environment they call home.
Just really real, really good people.
What’s In a Name?
According to Billy, everybody in the shrimping business has a nickname.
Some of the more memorable ones he knew included Captain Zook, a captain who it was said had a “bazooka” nose; Captain Nozzle, who had a big nose; Nitwitch, whose friends jokingly said he was a cheapskate, and Uncle Koo Koo. Not to be outdone by Captain Crab, Booger Man, Poppa Doo, High Pockets, Cookie and Captain Bunny, to name a few.
No matter what their names, Billy will tell you shrimp fishermen have a language all their own. Much of which is not for the faint of heart.
So what does a net maker whose name is known nearly worldwide cherish the most looking back on his life?
The Burbank family’s net making venture has lasted for over 103 years, with the 4th generation William Hunter Burbank, IV, now handling production for Burbank Sport Nets, the offshoot of the original Burbank Trawl Company.