“Father, let me take the Sea Hawke. I can bring home more fish.”
“Son, its one thing to go out past the bay on your own, but you need to learn how to handle the smaller boat by yourself first.”
The older man lifted his hand, palm outward and said no more. He stepped out of the deep sea fishing boat which had been in his family for generations. He glanced at his fifteen year old son, Simon. He was tall for his age and sturdily built like his older brother but had a defiant nature that sometimes got him into trouble. He watched his son for a moment before heading home.
Simon threw a pebble into the waters of their little cove and stormed over to The Mermaid. He turned his head to see his father step out of view.
“It’s not fair,” he spat into the cooling breeze with annoyance.
Simon returned to the Sea Hawke and jumped over the side. He knew what he was doing. He’d been out in the Sea Hawke since he was seven. His brother Thomas, who was only three years older, had taken him out to sea many times.
The engine struggled to start. He stood at the helm and clenched his teeth. “Come on.” He tried again and the motor roared to life.
He let the engine idle while he pulled up anchor and methodically coiled the chain onto the deck. With care, he reversed the boat away from the wharf. He smiled to himself as he steered the boat toward the opening of the cove, negotiated the sand bar, and headed out to sea.
It was almost an hour of gentle rising and falling over deep-sea waters before he slowed the boat to a stop.
“This looks perfect,” he spoke into the salty wind. He watched sea birds fly in circles just above the surface of lightly foaming waves.
“OK, now the nets.” He struggled and perspiration trickled down his face. Finally the net went over and disappeared almost instantly.
He returned to the helm and allowed the boat to move forward. The thick ropes that held the nets to the deck now trailed behind the boat and began to sag under the weight of his catch.
“I knew I could do it,” he congratulated himself.
The boat jolted and twisted. “Huh! What the...”
Simon struggled to steer the Sea Hawke. It began to tip to the starboard side. The wind had also unmistakably risen and Simon began to panic. He cut of the engine and ran to the stern.
“Oh, no! Father will be angry.”
The Sea Hawke heaved and Simon grabbed at the ropes for balance. He stared into the clouded eyes of dead young whale which had snagged in the net. Its weight was pulling the boat over. When the boat steadied and rested almost completely on its side, he gingerly reached for a fishing knife hanging from a hook on the stern.
“I... can’t... reach...” He stretched as far as he could but the rise and fall wrenched it out of reach. He struggled to breathe, coughing violently as the fall of the waves threatened to choke him. The salt stung his eyes and blurred his vision. He vomited onto the deck. Dizziness engulfed him.
Simon shook his head to clear it. He was hearing things.
“SIMON... ARE... YOU... OK?”
Simon looked up and around until his eyes fell on his fathers’ face. He was a little way off the bow in The Mermaid. Through the sea spray he saw Thomas lob a rope over the top of the bow but the dizziness returned and he grabbed the net as the boat rose and fell heavily.
Suddenly, Thomas had a strong arm around him and with his free hand he hacked away at the ropes of the net with his knife. It seemed like an eternity to Simon, but finally the net gave way under the weight and fell into the churning waves. The boat rebounded, almost throwing them overboard together. But Thomas held tight.
Simon sat on the deck of The Mermaid, wrapped in an old blanket. He shivered and coughed. The tow ropes slackened and tightened, as the boats pushed through the heavy swell.
“Are you okay, my son?”
Simon nodded. “Yes, Father.” He looked out over the stern and watched Thomas expertly work at the helm of his fathers’ crippled Sea Hawke.
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