From Boatsheds to Battlefields 16 Learning to Fish

End of 15th Entry: A cry of “Hold Water” from the Skipper broke the thread of the boy’s musings as to how Old Jack would look as the central figure in a scene entitled “Walking the Plank“.

At the order, the oarsmen leaning their bodies against the oars dropped the blades into the water and stopped the way of the boat.

“Pull her round a bit Jack! Steady! Together! Steady – give her a good stroke Koos – Come aft Younker, you’re like a bachelor at a Baptism. All in the way – Pull her up a bit Martin.”

As the Skipper issued his orders the youngster eagerly trying to grasp the meaning of the manoeuvering climbed over the thwarts back into the stern to the Skipper who was dropping a thin line overboard.

“Wondering what we’re doing Mick? Now you have seen pictures of the Sahara Desert haven’t you – rolls and rolls of sea, hereabouts anyway, is like that; and we’re just over a little oasis now. Here’s where those fish who like a quiet settled life live and I’m just trying to find out if they’re hungry – yes they are my boy!” as the line tightened a quick jerk of the line against the gunwale hooked the fish and as he hauled in, the Skipper continued.

“Want to know how we find underwater oasis? Well, the first time it is after trying to find one and if successful taking to bearing, look ashore Mick at the Round Church spire and then at that lone clump of pine trees on the hill, you see a line, well. now look at the Barker – that great mass of rock sticking out of the sea about two miles offshore – you see it’s almost in a line with Little Lion’s Head.”

“Pull her up a bit Koos and Martin” called the skipper unhooking the round dark brown fish he had hauled over the side – “Standby to anchor Jack!” then to the boy “Now see the Barker and the Little Lion’s Head are coming into a line but the trees and Church are getting out of their’s. “Hold Water Martin! Pull Koos! Steady!”

“Both are in their lines Skipper!” shouted the boy – “That’s fine” answered the other – that means if straight lines were drawn through both bearings we would be just where they cut each other. You can see that a few yards, either way, would put us off the joining point of the lines – now we will pull a little way up against the wind and current, drop anchor and the boat will drift right onto the cross bearings.”

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A few strokes in obedience to the Skipper’s orders and then came his shout “Let go Jack!” and the heavy stone which served anchor splashed over the side.

Drawing the oars across the beam of the boat until the blades touched the rowlocks the crew began to open line boxes, bait hooks and drop leaded lines overboard. Selecting a thin line the Skipper showed Mick how to bait his hooks with the pounded flesh of crawfish and giving him another short line with no lead and a rather large hook told him to cast it out. “See if you can raise a mackerel or Maascanker,” he said.

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The Hottentot fish were biting freely and with great pride, the boy hooked and hauled in three or four.

“Only small stuff biting today – What say, Jack, shall we run out to a Silverfish mark?”

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2 thoughts on “From Boatsheds to Battlefields 16 Learning to Fish

  1. I am learning a little about the folklore of fisherman around the Cape a hundred years ago …….. am looking forward to the next adventure as the story unfolds ……..

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