Third Fishing Speech: Mike's Mistake
Presented 6-8-04 to Boaters Toastmasters Club
Now I've done two previous talks on young Mike, but for the ones who weren't here, or have forgotten, here is a prace on them.
Now these stories are true, as I know this boy. The names are changed, as fishermen are a strange lot, and like to stay anonymous.
The one about when back about 1950 he first went to sea on the big fishing boat "Taiora" out of Pt. Chalmers. He was just walking along the wharf, and the skipper asked him if he would like to come out with them for the week. He impressed "the old dog of a skipper" enough to be offered a job on board. This turned out to be the beginning of a four year career fishing.
Then the second story was about when Mike sailed on her right round the west coast to fish for crays, off Jackson's Bay, visiting most of the sounds on the way. What an adventure for a young lad.
Now this is a story about a part of Mike's fishing career that was almost the end of it, and he doesn't talk about it much.
The ship would stay out at sea for most of a week at a time.She would sail at five am on a Saturday. This week she sailed on the saturday afternoon. Now she would just be far enough out to sea at nightfall that young Mike could still see the glow of the lights of Dunedin on the clouds or in the sky.
Mike was only eighteen, and this about broke his heart, as all he could think of was all those lovely girls he was missing dancing with at the town hall dance.
You may well laugh, but I believe Mike met his fair bride at the town hall dance.
Anyway, Mike would reluctantly mooch off to his little bunk in the fossil to get a bit of sleep before the gear would be shot over the side to start trawling for the week. Plenty to take his mind off the girls, there were eleven men on the boat, of all nationalities, and there were lots of dynamics going on between them.
Now the crew had one day ashore one week, and one and a half days the next, so they made the best of it, and were mostly leggless when they came back aboard.
But for Mike, making the most of it was the opposite, keeping his shore legs to dance, often at the town hall, was his priority.
Now Mike would get back to the boat at one or two o' clock on a saturday night and as the second week they sail at five am, would get a bit of sleep.
Just imagine the crew, mostly under the weather. Mike would be tired, but ok. He loved the job, and he wanted to look after it. Most of the deckhands were pretty transient.
So in the dark the moorings would be slipped and the boat would move almost silently, apart from the low throbbing of the motors, down the channel, with all of the crew dead to the world, and just the skipper Old Jock Black up in the wheelhouse nosing her out to sea.
Out towards Taiora heads (where the Albatrosses are) and as she hit the bar there would be that characteristic rolling, which this morning woke Mike up as he knew he was scheduled to go on watch soon.
Now Jock the skipper would take her out from the bar into deep water, and then give the wheel over to one of the deckhands to sail her out about twelve miles further to where it was deep enough (about forty fathoms) to trawl, about a two hour sail.
The compass direction was always N 12° E.
So, the skipper then hived off to sleep in the cabin, just below leaving young Mike to sit on the high stool holding the very large wheel to N 12° E.
Now what will all night dancing etc., not much sleep, the sun rising out of the sea to starboard in his eyes, the ship rolling from side to side, and holding her to N 12° E, how was he to stay awake?
Mike always wondered how legal it was for unqualified deckhands to be in sole charge of a ship of that size. She was 130 feet long by the way. Quite a hunk of ship.
Every now and again he would jolt awake as he was falling off the stool. He guessed that was the idea of this damn uncomfortable seat. But well, he had done this watch before and survived!
Now, Mike thinks he's going pretty well when--------he hears a voice---it said "Snowy"
(Mike was called Snowy as there was another Mike the mate on board).
He looks down, it's Limey, the English first fireman below him standing on the stairs, pointing upwards with a sinister look on his face, and he says: "Look up there."
Mike looks up and what does he see above him? The cliffs of the coast, so close he felt he could almost touch them. (Mike really had gone to sleep!).
Imagine his fright! He swung the wheel round to port just in time, and was heading out to sea again, N 12° E. But very wide awake now!
|A near miss!
Now Limey the fireman, who obviously saved the ship from wreck, had been very gruff with Mike in the past and he felt that he didn't approve of him, but you know--not a word was ever said again, and Mike's bacon was saved. He had a soft spot for Limey after that.
Also, Mike couldn't understand how the swinging around of the ship hadn't aroused the skipper, he just could not understand that that old sea dog who had felt ships underneath him all his life would have slept through it but well, Mike had always had "a charmed life" and, for what I can see, he still does.