It’s Tough out there on the Briney

This is a part of the history, of a boy called Mike

It is the fourth of these storys and any of you who may have read the others
may remember, seventeen yr old Mike in 1950, while walking along the wharf at Port Chalmers, got chatting to the captain of a big deep sea trawler ‘ The Taiora,’ & was offered a job on her.

Mike couldn’t believe his luck, & with just enough time to wisk home to get some gear, it was off to sea we go.

The hard old Scottish seadog of a Captian, Jock Black , salted of the coast of Aberdeen in the North Sea,took a shine to young Mike, as he was a good worker & keen to learn, even beyond the scope of the job. A deckhand was just a labourer really, but Mike was a bit more ambitious than that.
In no time Jock had taught him to mend nets, splice hemp & wire ropes, & even a bit of navigation, and eventually offered him the mates job. Mike declined this as he didn’t want to get stuck in this one job

The navigation stood him in good stead as, four yrs later,when he & The Captain had come ashore, and were both living in Dunedin, Mike used to go to Jack’s house at nights to learn navigation.
You might wonder why, having left the sea, but salt was still in young Mike’s veins and having saved up 2000 pounds, he had decided to have his own fishing boat.

Boats were very expensive built in NZ, approx 12000 pounds for a 50 footer, but in Britain he could buy a beamy sixty footer for 3000 pounds.

So the idea was, to buy one there, & sail her back here.

Hence his many nights with his navigation books, globe of the world, & Jock’s sexton, with his head down studying..
There weren’t the polytech courses those days.

After a while Mike started to think about this.
A years fishing & income,would be lost in the time it would take him to get the boat home & fishing, and it was all about these newfound cray fishing beds on the West Coast..
Why, the crays were so thick then, ‘The Taiora’ ,really there as mother ship, one day for a lark , dropped the trawl in Jackson’s Bay for half an hour and filled 24 large coal sacks of them.
That was just crays crawling across the sand from one reef to another.
Oh for fish stocks like that today.

Mike needed to get going sooner
So haste was important.

He knew he could get a boat built in Tasmania for a lot less than in NZ. A bit rougher, not the finish, but every bit as good.
Bit like Australians, he thought!.
Millar & Tunnage built beautifully finished boats in Port Chalmers, but Mike could not afford this.

So, working again with The Captain, they had a boat designed.
She was a 52 footer, triple skin, counter stern, with a 7 ton freezer. It was the freezer space that was important, esp, as he would be steaming all the way between Jackson’s Bay & Pt Chalmers
So, the boat builders in Hobart were waiting for the OK to start, & then————–!
“ Of all the plans of Mice & Men that often come to nought“

Mike met the lady who was to become his wife.

Now Fleur was an excellent swimmer, & Mike, not good at all!
She used to tease him saying “a fisherman who can’t swim! “ ( turns out most couldn’t )
Well, with her discouragement, & Mike starting to think, being married to a beautiful young lady, with him away at sea most of the time, didn’t seem such a good idea.

That then was the end of Mike’s sea saga, & he bought a little farm on the slopes of Mt Cargill, got married, & lived happily ever after.————– & still is!!

His great old ( well he was only 57 ) friend The Captain, died in his sleep in a Balclutha, Hotel, having, the day before, supervised floating one of the company’s fishing boats off the rocks at Kaka Point.

Mike lost a friend he had envisaged having for life.

He still looks back on that time in his life with affection.