“Fishing Boats on Bay of Fundy,” William Bradford, 1860, WikiArt.

Tides pulling us seaward, boat rocking,
Everything difficult, wet-heavy, fishing
Long-lines tangled at my feet, Papa hard-
Steering our sailing boat. “We are too far
From shore,” he shouted into hard gusts.
Too late, baited lines began to feed, home
Headlands haze-lost. “Tie it off, Willow.”
Brain, fingers useless, two-loop bowline,
Long tail, stopper knot, strong currents
Yanked wet line from cold hands.

Sunlit billowing clouds, into cresting seas
Hooked lines streamed, fifty-fathom deep,
Bitter end sailboat mast-tied, Papa went to
Bare poles. “What Now?” I asked, untried
Sea naiveté. Landward we steered, misty
Uist Isles off starboard bow. Lines taught
Pulling, entangled, cut free? Papa and I
Pulled, fish flip-flopping at our feet, until
Boat took hard seaward turn, free-board
Breached by cresting waves.

Boat windward heaved, Papa mainsail raised,
Rudder pulled, hard tacking towards home
Shores. “We’ll see who wins, fish or sea gales
Building off the stern.” Stout wool line, hook
Holding, we felt tug lessen. “Pull, Willow,
Pull! Then we’ll push for shore.” Together,
Papa and I pulled, sea-struggle ‘tween fish
And us. Places switched, Papa with gloved
Hands, awaiting glimpse of wave-breaking
Fish, hard shake, free hook, snap worn line.

Families shore watching, father, daughter
Pitted against huge fish, boats launched on
Our behalf, surface flashed broad white.
“Halibut!” father shouted. Two-hundred
Pound or more, tired by sailing winds, boats
Alongside us, men pulling, gaffs at ready.
“We’ve got him.” Thrashing fish, lifted by
Three strong-backed men, walloped head,
Such sea-strength stilled, dinner made for
Every islander, man, woman, and child.

Thanks for reading.  

 

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