Weather and other considerations

27 Feb

I’m still sidelined due to my cataract surgery. I did capture the deck layout on paper yesterday to send to my marine architect at his request as it’s necessary for compiling information required by Coast Guard certification.

When I sit in my room, surrounded by water views and bad weather, with a long day of inactivity to look forward to, a state I’ve rarely experienced in life, it’s only natural that the thoughts drift to other days of inclement weather.

It was February, 1975, and I was fishing off shore on a 38′ long-liner, with Capt. Stu Phelps at the helm. It was a good site. The money was great, the boat was well designed and fairly new. It’s high bow was flared perfectly for heavy seas, and even though we were well off-shore, I wasn’t the least concerned. The only thing that dampened my spirits was the undeniable fact that I didn’t get along with the Captain. As a matter of fact, Although he was a good seaman, I didn’t like him. It was just bad chemistry. We didn’t like each other. He was too good a captain for me to leave, and I was too good a mate for him to fire.

On the day I’m thinking about, we had hauled five tubs of gear, 500 hooks to a tub, and had lost quite a few fish to “fleas,” small shrimp-like creatures, more like maggots, that would eat through a dead fish in hours. When you got the fish on deck it was just a squirming bag of garbage. We had a good catch anyway, but we would have had a great catch, which didn’t do anything to enhance our relationship.

The weather started to turn, and I made my way to the cabin top to secure the various boat-hooks and other gear from rolling over the handrails into the sea. Captain Phelps told me to leave them be. He’s the captain, so I did as I was told. Then it started to snow, and sleet, and the wind picked up, and it was clear that it was going to get shitty.

“Go tie that gear.” Yeah. great. now the boat was slippery, my fingers were cold and I couldn’t tie the gear without taking off my gloves. What would have been a routine operation, became a dangerous, unnecessary one. I was risking my life. The footing was bad, and the boat was icing up. I wanted to throw the gear overboard, but I didn’t. When I was finished, I was pissed off. What I had done was dangerous. It wasn’t normal dangerous, it was stupid dangerous, and with the visibility and the weather, if I had slipped, and slipping was all I was doing, I would have been lost. No way in hell would I have been found. It’s amazing how difficult it is to find a man in the water, even on a good day.

I thought about what had happened all the way back in. When we got the fish unloaded and the boat tied to the wharf, I looked Captain Phelps in the eye. “Find yourself another mate. We weren’t made for each other.”

Captain Phelps was a smart man, and terse, but not without humor. His reply, a line from some damned musical, made me smile in spite of the situation. “didn’t we almost make it, this time.”



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