"Would you like to go deep sea fishing?" I asked, passing Matt a hamburger. The noon sky was the color of robin-egg blue. And seagull "ERK-ERK" sounds were loud in their searching for snacks.
"Say that again?" my grandson asked.
"Imagine being in a fishing boat, miles out on the ocean," I repeated. "Maybe I could help you catch the biggest fish of your life."
"That might be fun," Matt finally admitted. "On one condition," I remember him saying. "We have to stay until I catch the biggest fish, without any help." With summer holidays coming to an end, it would be a neat tale to bring back home to friends in Edmonton, Alberta. "Okay, let's do it!" Matt shouted. Then plans were made.
On Saturday we drove out of Truro with images of huge codfish jumping around in our heads. It was also the first time Matt got to see Halifax, since his holiday itinerary had already taken us to Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. As we crossed the MacDonald Bridge I saw his eyes feast on sleek ships below. "They're from the Royal Canadian Navy," I pointed out.
Down the highway ramp we sped, towards Water Street ending at a parking lot beside the waterfront. People milled about, some with large backpacks. We purchased tickets then joined the lineup. "I'm going to catch the big one," Matt told everyone.
Yes, he was in bragging mode now. "We're going on a Cape Islander built in the village of Chelsea. Not far from here," I added.
Matt read, "THE PUFFIN" in large letters on the side. After climbing aboard the forty-foot boat along with ten other passengers, the Puffin chugged forward into the Atlantic Ocean. "I'm going deep sea fishing!" Matt yelled, his excitement building.
The ocean stretched in the distance, and the wind whistled loudly in our ears. Suddenly, as if awakening from a dream, there was temporary silence. The motor's 'chug-chugging' abruptly stopped, and waves splashed against the hull.
The Captain's "Time to fish!" caused everyone to scramble for the best fishing spot on deck. "We're now seven miles out from shore," he said. "And right here is about 25 feet deep." He explained how to use rods and reels for 'jigging.'
"Drop the sinker to the bottom," he said. "Bring your line up about two feet. Then swing your rod up quickly and down slowly. If you feel anything, jerk on the line."
"Then reel in," I added. There was a heavy sinker on the end of each line. And three hooks were tied about eight inches apart, with an orange feather. I was first to swing my line over the side, with a loud 'KERPLUNK!' Moments later I heard a holler from Matt.
"You caught something!" Three mackerel fish soon flipped back and forth over the watery surface as I gave my grandson a triumphant smile. Then I swung them into the boat.
"ATTABOY GRANDPA!" Matt chortled, "Now, my turn."
Others were also lucky, as their prizes swished across the deck. Mackerel, Blue fish, Pollock and a few Cod were quickly filleted by the Captain then placed in a large tub, and quickly covered with crushed ice. By now Matt was having his share of success, except it was annoying to see he was being too fussy. "Can't keep this one," he kept saying. "Not that one either."
The Captain tried to help him get a larger fish by moving the boat to different locations and depths. Now we were in sixty feet of water and nine miles from land. I thought for sure this was the right spot for a first time deep-sea fisherman from Edmonton.
"Matt," I said. We're running out of time. "You should keep at least one fish."
"Nope," he stubbornly boy answered. "If it isn't the largest one caught today, then..." and he let his words linger. He carefully compared the size of his catch to the others. "Not these either," he muttered over and over. And once again threw his fish back. Of course, the fish didn't mind.
By this time I was getting exasperated. "Now look at that Codfish. Surely it must be the one you're planning to keep," I said patiently.
Matt carefully studied his newly hooked fish. It looked kind of neat with huge lips and wide fins jutting upwards from a brownish body.
"Hurry up and make a decision," I said through tight lips. "Your hook didn't damage the fish, but he can't stay out of the water too long." Everyone stared as the boy checked out the stack of filleted fish in the ice chest. Matt shook his head and glanced around the blue painted deck.
It's amazing what goes through someone's mind when an important decision is about to be made. I could almost read his mind as he looked around. If only he hadn't bragged about hooking the largest fish today. He must have figured it was too late now for him to back down. Then he slowly walked to the edge of the boat, closed his eyes and gently released his fair-sized Codfish.
I came and stood beside him. Just then, the boat captain announced loudly, "Pull your lines in! It's time to head back to Halifax harbour!" Matt and I watched as sail boats plowed through the whitecaps. Poor kid, he didn't have one teensy fish for his mom and dad waiting back in Truro.
"They'll understand Matt," I said quietly. Clouds were puffy-white in the sky. And the sun was doing a slow burn on Matt's face, as he turned to me, his Grandpa.
"Okay if I try again next year?" he asked.
* * *
2011 Richard & Esther Provencher
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: email@example.com re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.