“It’s always good fishing for money. Be careful though, you can sometimes get more than you bargained for!”
Fishing for Lobster
Captain Lyle Jacobite slowed his 32-foot North Shore lobster boat the Proud Pincer. He was enjoying the paradisiac calm seas and the unseasonably warm sunshine this spring day. Beyond the bow, he eyed the buoys marking his lobster pots. It was time to make some money.
“Fifty-yards away, captain!” yelled fisherman Jim on the gently rocking deck. He had his hook and line at the ready. Jim and Eric, on the other side, would have seconds to snag the ropes holding the lobster pots as the vessel passed by.
“Roger that, Jim. Pray for full pots. Here we go!” Lyle returned the salute to Eric then focused on the point of the prow. With expert touches of the wheel, he kept the vessel dead centre between the buoys. Despite the slow speed they seemed to come up fast.
This was the exhilarating part as everything happened fast. From the pilothouse, it looks like a rhythmic race. Both Jim and Eric lunged at the port and starboard gunwales. Their hooks splashing into the water as they began pumping their arms on the ropes. With great synchronicity they both raised thumbs. Two successful hooks. From then on, they reeled in the thick ropes, hauling the lobster pots towards the deck.
“Jim, you seem to be struggling. Is everything alright?” Lyle called having noticed the fishermen had slowed despite flexing and pulling with every fibre of his muscles.
“I think I got a sperm whale stuck in this thing, Captain!” he replied.
Across the deck, Eric swore. “Yeah, me too! This thing weighs a bloody ton!”
“Okay, boys. I’m going to weigh anchor so we can sort this out,” Lyle furrowed his brow as he drew the throttle back and cut the engine. His mind whirred with the possibilities. Had the pots become hooked together? Maybe they were caught on junk or rocks on the seafloor. Perhaps they were jammed full of lobsters and crabs — that was the best of the possibilities. A push of a button released the electrically controlled anchor. A splash to starboard told him it had deployed properly.
“You getting anywhere, Jim?” called Eric.
“Yup, this big beluga’s coming up slowly,” he replied through a mask of sweat as he continued to heave on his rope.
Lyle stepped from the pilothouse with his smoking pipe between his yellowed teeth. “You’re doing well, lads. Keep —” the pipe fell from his mouth and bounced on the deck as his eyes grew wide. “Shit! Jim, stop pulling!” the pipe fell
“What! Why?” he replied.
“That’s not a whale or a full pot of lobsters. You caught a bloody World War II proximity mine!” Lyle watched the spherical metallic object bobbing between the gentle waves. It reminded him of the giant, rusty spiked mace. In this case, each of the spikes was a deadly proximity sensor.
Jim took one look at the mine and swore. “Tell me that things inert!”
“It’s been corroding in the saltwater for over eighty-years so there’s a good chance it is. On the other hand, if those spikes touch the hull the Proud Pincer could still be blown to splinters.” Lyle bent to retrieve his pipe.
“Right, what we do?”
“Cut your line. We’ll rev —”
“Oh, bugger! Er — Captain, I’ve got one as well,” Eric cut in as white as a sheet.
“We must have dropped the traps right in the middle of an underwater minefield. Both of you cut the lines, now!” Lyle ran back to the pilothouse and restarted the vessel. Hitting the button for the anchor, he heard the motor churring as the anchor was reeled in. With it came a plop and a splash.
“Holy hell! Another one just appeared! We got three of the bloody things around us now!” Jim yelled visibly shaking as he hacked through his lobster line.
“I see them, boys. Stay calm!” Lyle replied feeling as calm as a T-bone steak in shark-infested waters himself. He took up the radio. “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is The Lyle Jacobite of the lobster boat Proud Pincer. We’re surrounded by World War II mines and require urgent assistance.” Lyle repeated the message and gave coordinates.
“For the love of tuna, Captain. I hope these things won’t go boom!” Eric said his voice quavering.
“Me too, mate.” Before Lyle, the anchor motor gauge turned green. “Okay, anchors up. Keep watch on those mines and let’s get out of here!”
“Roger that, Captain!” chorused the fishermen keeping their eyes locked on the floating bombs.
Lyle reversed the throttle as slowly as he could.
The Proud Pincer edged backwards. Something ground against the hull.
“Stop! Stop!” Eric demanded his voice almost a scream as he waved his hands.
Lyle was sweating as he moved the throttle forward stalling the vessel. “What happened? I need information?”
Eric panicked as he pointed beyond the stern.
Lyle followed his direction and swore. The mine tally was now four. Another had surfaced next to the Proud Pincers yawl boat. A small rowing boat on a thirty-foot tow line behind the lobster boat. Lyle had always towed it on his trawls in case of emergency. “Holy mackerel! We’re hemmed in here, boys!”
“You’re the captain! Do something about it!” Jim replied.
“I’m working on. This is no time to row so stay calm,” Lyle wiped the sweat from his forehead as he looked between the mines. “Let’s try going forward.”
“Do it! But do it bloody slowly. The mine on the side is getting really close,” Eric warned.
“I see it.” Lyle increased the speed on a straightforward heading. Inching the crab boat between the mines.
“Whoa! Drop the anchor again. We’re screwed!” Jim clapped his hands to his forehead looking moribund.
“We can’t stay here. We have to try!” Eric yelled.
“We can’t, there’s another pissing mine right on the bow. We’re trapped!”
In the pilothouse, Lyle punched the anchor down button. Through the windshield he watched the fishermen turn grey as hopelessness set in. “Get in here, boys,” he instructed while gazing at the sea all around the vessel. There was no help on the horizon and time was running out.
“I hope you aren’t planning to hug us until the end arrives,” Jim said.
“Bugger that! Neither of you has showered in a week. You both stink like rotten sushi!” Lyle jested raising a few laughs.
“You aren’t too fresh yourself, Captain,” Eric retorted.
Lyle chuckled, “Well met, Jim. Look, we’re not going out as fish food. You’ve both been too good to me over the years. I promise we’ll get out of this.”
“How, we’ve got mines on all sides.” Jim flapped his arms, defeated.
“The proud pincer’s stuck but the yawl boat’s not. You remember laughing at me for always towing the little boat every time. Now, you’ll see that it was a wise thing to do. Come on, let’s win this war!” Lyle shook their hands and headed for the stern.
“Ey, Captain. We need to get the yawl away from the mine back there,” Eric noted.
“Throw a lobster hook into the yawl. See if you can hook an oar mount.” Lyle instructed.
“Roger that, Captain.” Jim did the honours, fetching and throwing a hook and line. On the second try, his hook gained purchase within the small rowing boat.
“Well done.” Lyle clapped him on the back. “Now, you angle it way from the mine while we bring it in.”
The three men took deep breaths as they flexed their muscles and began to haul in their last chance to survive the mines. Foot by foot the yawl boat drew closer.
Jim was forced to tug hard to keep the boat from grounding against the deadly rusted proximity sensors of the mine on its port side.
The moment it bobbed free of danger the fishermen hauled it close as fast as they could.
Eric climbed the rail and jumped in first. Taking an oar, he steadied the little boat and beckoned the others to follow.
“Jim, move your barnacle-encrusted arse and get in there!” Lyle urged.
A hollow thunk reverberated through the vessel.
“Oh, shit! The starboard mine’s touching the hull — move it!” Eric yelled.
Lyle shoved Jim overboard and followed as he slammed into the rowboat. “Row, Eric! That way. Row your arse off!”
“I’m going!” he replied already pumping the oars.
Lyle took the starboard oar and the two began pulling the boat through the gentle waves. Each desperate to be somewhere else.
Before them, Jim sat up with a nosebleed. “Thanks for the shove, Cap —”
A blinding flash, a ball of fire, and a thunderous bang shattered the peaceful sea. The Proud Pincer vanished in a mighty eruption of water that reached over a hundred feet into the air.
The sea boiled as a lobster boat sank beneath the waves. A short distance away the yawl boat bobbed upside down on the surface.
Eric reached around the hull and muscled it upright. Climbing inside, he was pleased to see Lyle and Jim taking turns to climb inside too. “What a bang, boys!”
“Ha-ha, that was a mighty firecracker! We’ll need a new boat, but we made it!” Lyle punched the air in delight.
“Speak for yourself!” Jim groaned his nose still bleeding.
“What’s the matter with you, old boy?” Eric remarked while rowing again.
“My bloody nose is bent!”
Lyle had seen movement on the horizon, “The lifeboat’s coming. Be grateful Jim I may have broken your face but at least you didn’t get your balls blown off!”
Have a great day!