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Ahead of Irene, bayman puts in double-time

Bob DeFeo, 52, of Oyster Bay, works to

Bob DeFeo, 52, of Oyster Bay, works to pull in his rake, which he hopes is filled with clams. DeFeo is overhauling his work load this week to get ahead of an expected shortfall after Hurricane Irene passes this weekend. (Aug. 25, 2011)

BLOG POST: Ahead of Irene, bayman puts in double-time.

Photo Credit: T.C. McCarthy

Through periods of rain and strong winds, Bobby DeFeo is out on the water hoping to rake in enough clams to make up for a shortfall he’s expecting after Hurricane Irene hits in the coming days.

The 52-year-old veteran clammer worked late into the night Wednesday and will be doing the same tonight. That’s because his 25 years of experience have taught him how to handle a big storm: Stock up and then get your boat out of the water.

“I’m trying to get in all the work I can before it comes,” he said. “We could all be out of work for a week. You never know, if we get 12 inches of rain we could be closed for three weeks.”

In 1985, DeFeo was out clamming when Hurricane Gloria, a Category 1 storm, came ashore. It disrupted his business for nearly two weeks.

He has lost more than one boat by passing storms. And last September he outran a water spout  that ripped across the bay in his single-engine open skiff. Now DeFeo pulls his boat out of the water every day and suggests others get their boats out of the water before Irene.

Irene, now a Category 3 storm, is expected to hit Long Island Sunday afternoon or evening as a weak Category 2, bringing winds of about 100 mph.

For baymen, Irene’s effects will last long after she passes.

State regulations require shellfish beds to be shutdown for seven days after 3 inches of rain falls inside a 24-hour period. The law is meant to prevent roadway runoff pollutants from making their way into local shellfish.

For DeFeo, that means even if the hurricane misses, otherwise heavy rain and wind could put him out of work for a week.

Whatever DeFeo catches now is already becoming harder to sell.

Local restaurants aren’t buying as much of his catch because they’re expecting fewer customers during and immediately following the storm, he said. Current and tide disruptions from rain and wind also play a role as they can make it much easier or significantly harder for DeFeo to trap large quantities in his rake.

“I don’t overly worry about anything, I just take it as it comes,” he said, firing up his motor in the pouring rain as thunder rumbled out over the bay this afternoon. “You don’t know what it’s going to do until you go to work . . . and out here we don’t have sick days, we don’t have holidays. If you don’t go to work, you don’t get paid.”

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