Off the coast of Western Australia, our Maniki crew reluctantly save Rednose from rocks and sharks


Part 3

He said he was going to dive, and try to cut the rope! Cut the rope? I was all for dragging Dutchie in with the chair-knot, and his deckie, and letting the bloody boat smash up on the reef. They might have lost some body parts to an opportunist Noah – but we’d salvage most of ‘em.

But fishermen are an odd bunch. And Culver – once he made a decision – wouldn’t go back from it. Never had yet, anyway.

So, he stripped bollock-naked, as they say in polite circles. Then he pulled out the wicked looking knife that was always in a brass sheath that was riveted onto the base of our mast, in case it was needed to chastise a suddenly recalcitrant decked shark.

And, with this semi-sword between his teeth, he jumped into the turbulent and very cold water. I could hardly believe my eyes! For bloody Rednose! Christ! Snookie and I stared into the water, completely thrown by this turn of events! But we knew Jim was a top diver, having dove for abalones for a living up around Carpentaria, for a while.

We expected him to be down for at least a minute, sawing at the rope. But within ten seconds he had shot out of the water – and landed back in our boat – without hardly touching the rails!

And was he ever pale! “Bloody hell! Sharks – Whites! Dozens of ‘em! I landed in amongst the mongrels! They’re jawin’ the crays Dutchy dumped! Jesus H. Christ!” {Well, far worse language than that, actually…}

So now, I thought, Ted’d have to drag the Dutchie and his deckie over. But Dutchy wouldn’t budge; he wouldn’t leave his ship! Yep – his bloody matchstick ship! And – he roared – “he cudtent svim”. With a rope-chair round him – he wouldn’t need to. Couldn’t do, as a matter of fact. The three of us would have had him over in ten seconds – sharks permitting. And another ten for the deckie. But no: he had to be a hero.

And Ted Riggs wouldn’t abandon him! I’d have bet any money Rednose would’ve changed his mind, fast, if we’d cast off the holding line we’d attached to keep his “ship” away from the rocks, and started to steam off into the eternal distance.

“Bowline, Gary” shouted Riggsy, and the die was cast. As was the bowline, which Dutchie snagged to an anchor shackle up at the bow. Snookie secured his end to a hooked bollard that Riggsy had fitted aft, for just such an emergency. The slender stabilising line was cut, and the Maniki took up the strain.

We now had fun, trying to turn for home. To those who have never had to turn a top-heavy boat through 60 degrees in high seas – well – lucky old you. And dragging a “trailer” – nearly suicidal.

Riggsy waited out many big rollers, holding the revs steady, then shouted that he felt a “few low ones” were coming. That’s what he thought, anyway – so he gave the Cat the gun. He had the Maniki broadside for only two minutes, and was almost round when a minor “kingy” hit us. The boat staggered and groaned when the great watery slammer hit – smacking heart-stoppingly into the exposed port side.

Over almost onto it’s starboard side goes our boat, and we sliding and hanging on for our existence. I was tangled up in the lower rail, and thought we were goners. Life snuffed out: for a bloody loser, a tosser. “Cursa God on all shite fishermen” I roared, as I looked straight down into Davy Jones’ locker, and imagined many grateful sharks.

We had a few dozen pots on deck coming in for repair, with all their floats and ropes. They went past me, into the briny – helped by Snooky’s slashing knife. So did most of our record catch. All spilled over the rail – all gone.

But that tipped the balance – in all respects. The gallant Maniki slowly came back – and Riggsy’s optimistic forecast of a “few small ones” came good. Very late – but very welcome! Another big one following on after that first hit, and we were done. And lucky old Dutchy’s “ship” had drifted up amidships of us, and been nicely protected! The bloody jinx. {You guessed I didn’t like him? Right, first time: I knew him.}XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Now we started the final session of fun and games.

That mighty and celebrated afternoon gale, christened “The Fremantle Doctor” by heat-stricken Perth people, had now arrived, on schedule, big time. This pushed the rollers a few feet higher, into the sharp end of the danger zone.

We should, of course, have been long in dock away from it. Now I thought the {normally welcome} Doctor could well be a Pathologist – or even turn into a Mortician.

The good news now was that it wasn’t too many miles back to Jurien. The bad news was that we would have to get in through the South Passage.

It would have been suicidal to try and turn two boats into the North Passage, as it would have practically meant a U-turn in very dodgy conditions. We would have had to go well up, and then turn back about one hundred and thirty degrees, across the weather. Again. Pulling a boat. Out of the question.

So, the South Passage it was. And all that Indian Ocean-full of heavy water compressing and piling and swelling into it. We’d be like small corks in a very large funnel – with billions of tons of angry briny forcing us on, and in.

I was a bit worried – and made no bones about it. I belted on an old life jacket. So did the lads. Dutchy, of course, didn’t have such obvious tackle. We had a spare one, and Snooky threw it to him. Did he give it to the deckie? I never asked the boys that question.

All the time we were pulling that effin’ jumped-up canoe, the seas were rising higher. The skipper had fair old revs on the big Marine Cat. Lucky she was below deck, and the hatches hammered well down. Her air intake pipe was ten feet higher than the wheelhouse roof. Even on a ninety degree lean, she’d keep the power coming through to the prop.

That was the only worry we had not.

Now we were heading into the Passage, and things began to look bad……To be Continued

Ned E


The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of The Kilkenny Observer.



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