"Would you like to go deep sea fishing?" Grandpa asked Colin, his grandson. As the young boy enjoyed a family barbecue in the backyard, the sky was the color of robin-egg blue. And seagulls made "ERK-ERK" sounds during their search for snacks.
His parents answered "Yes!" before he did. Their son was distracted watching four Chick-a-Dees, his favorite birds scoot back and forth with seed from their new feeder.
"Imagine being in a fishing boat, miles out in the ocean," Grandpa continued. "I could help you catch the biggest fish of your life."
"That sounds like fun," Colin's mom piped up. Nodding his head, dad showed off a mouthful of teeth. Their visit to Nova Scotia was coming to an end. And it would be nice if Colin had a special event to remember.
"No," Colin finally answered. "I'm the one to catch the most awesome fish in the whole world." He knew Grandpa really wanted him to go. The boy's home in London, Ontario was far away, and they wouldn't be seeing each other for a while. So he said, "Yessss."
When Saturday morning arrived Colin was waiting in the front seat. He had already brought both lunches and drinking water. Mom and dad waved goodbye. Then Grandpa and grandson drove out of Truro. A busy highway of cars and trucks joined them. Colin tried counting the broken lines in the middle of the asphalt road. Then he tried counting diesel trucks. But it was hard to concentrate. Images of a huge fish jumped around in the boy's head.
Noticing trails of mist left from airplanes leaving the airport, grandpa said, 'We're almost in Halifax." As they crossed the MacDonald Bridge, the boy's eyes feasted on sleek ships from the Royal Canadian Navy at the docks below. "Is that the size of boat we're going on?" Colin asked.
"You'll see soon," Grandpa answered.
Down the road ramp they sped. Water Street ended at a parking lot beside the waterfront, where people milled about. Some had large backpacks, and lunch boxes. Everyone was chattering at once. It was obvious they were all going on the same boat. Grandpa and Colin paid for their tickets then joined the lineup. "I'm going to catch a monster fish," Colin bragged to everyone.
"Look Colin," Grandpa said. "There's the Theresa II for sailing tours. And the John S. Brown sailing ship."
"Is that a Sampan, Grandpa?" Colin asked.
"You're right." The boat with a square sail and pointy ends soon came briskly alongside the dock. Grandpa and grandson headed down the walkway to their own boat. "It's a Cape Islander built in the village of Chelsea," Grandpa said.
Colin read, "THE PUFFIN" in large letters on the side. Grandpa helped Colin climb aboard the forty-foot boat. They sat together under the extended cabin roof.
"It's built like this, in case of rain," Grandpa explained. Ten more people came aboard. Chugging loudly, the Puffin headed towards the Atlantic Ocean. They slowly moved past the berthed Penney Ugland ship. Colin liked that ship's bright orange sides and green top. He waved to people watching from the shore. "I'm going deep sea fishing!" he yelled.
From here, the CIBC and MTT buildings looked like mountains. And the MacDonald Bridge was more like a rainbow of steel behind them. Huge cranes looked like vultures, curved over train boxcars parked on the docks. Mansion-houses and skyscrapers perched like seagulls on Halifax hills.
"Look Colin!" Grandpa shouted. "George's Island."
Colin stared at the rocky shoreline. He noticed an old fort and two small buildings. "When are we going to start fishing, Grandpa?" the boy asked.
"Very soon," Grandpa answered. "Try to remember these new sights are part of our fishing adventure."
The boy felt grown up to be on this trip, traveling with men, women and teenagers dressed in sandals and shorts. Some had backpacks and sunglasses. No one had any fishing gear, since it was to be supplied. Grandpa looked cool wearing his peaked Captain's hat.
The boy listened to everyone's conversation. Unmindful, the Puffin's 195 HP motor continued to 'CHUGG' along, creating its own path through the ocean.
People chatted about friends and families from all over Nova Scotia. Stories were about Yarmouth, Amherst, New Glasgow, Sydney and Truro crossed back and forth across the boat deck.
"Hey, that's where I'm from," Colin said out loud, hearing "Truro" mentioned. Listening to their loud talk and laughter was fun. Colin felt the wind across his face, and hugged Grandpa tighter for warmth.
The Sir William Alexander, a Canadian Coast Guard boat passed them. Its red and white colors stretched proudly. Colin stood up and saluted the Canadian flag, pretending he was the Captain of the Puffin. But, the real Captain was standing before his steering wheel in the cabin. And he was smiling. Far as the boy could see, the Atlantic Ocean stretched in the distance. The wind was loud in his ears.
Suddenly, there was silence. The motor's 'chug-chugging' was replaced by ocean waves splashing against the hull. When the Captain called "Time to fish!" everyone scrambled for a good spot. "We're now seven miles out from shore," he added, making sure everyone had the proper equipment. And that included Colin. The Captain explained how to use the rods and reels for 'jigging' mackerel.
"First, drop the line and sinker to the bottom," he said. "This spot is about 25 feet deep. Bring your line up about two feet. Then swing your rod up quickly and let it down slowly. If you feel anything, then jerk on the line."
"And reel in quickly," Grandpa said.
Colin squinted as he felt the sharp hooks. Three hooks were tied about eight inches apart, each with a red and orange feather. There was also a heavy sinker on the end of each line.
"Now watch this," Grandpa said, swinging his line over the side. It splashed into the water with a loud 'KERPLUNK!' Moments later his excited movements meant success and brought a holler from Colin. "Hey, you caught something!" Three mackerel fish flipped back and forth over the watery surface. Grandpa gave his grandson a huge smile. Then he swung his prizes onto the boat's deck.
"ATTABOY GRANDPA!" Colin shouted. Now it's my turn."
The air was soon filled with yelling from other lucky fishermen. As Mackerel lines were dropped on the deck the captain quickly removed their hooks. Smaller sized fish were returned to the ocean. Then sinkers and feathery hooks were quickly flung back for more fish. The Captain quickly filleted mackerel, Blue fish, Pollock and several Cod. Then placed them in a large tub covered with crushed ice.
By now Colin was having his share of success. Except he was too 'fussy.' "Not this one," he kept saying. "No, not that one either." He didn't want to keep any fish for himself unless it was the largest one caught today.
To help Colin out the Captain moved the boat to several new locations. Each time Colin hoped his monster fish would be waiting. By now they were in sixty feet of water and nine miles from land. Surely Colin thought, this was the right spot for a boy visiting from Ontario.
Grandpa was very pleased with his grandson. The 40-foot, twelve-ton boat was like a cork on the ocean. It swayed with each rolling wave. Not once did Colin have an upset stomach. "You must have natural sea legs," Grandpa said. He gently squeezed the boy's shoulder. "But, you shouldn't be so fussy, Colin. You should bring home at least one fish."
"Nope," answered the stubborn boy. "Only the largest one caught today will satisfy me." And he kept careful checks on the size of each fish catch. Once again he threw a fish back. Of course, the fish didn't mind.
"That nice sized Codfish must be the one you're planning to keep," Grandpa said patiently, as Colin pulled another one in. The boy studied his newly hooked fish, with huge lips and wide fins sticking out from each side of a brownish body. "Hurry up and decide," Grandpa said. "Your hook didn't damage the fish. But he can't stay out of the water too long."
Everyone was staring at the boy, both hands holding his prize. He looked at the fish and compared it to the stack of filleted fish in the ice chest. Then glanced at the blue painted deck with two red fire extinguishers hanging from the corners. Several blue and white tea towels whipped about on a short clothesline.
Colin remembered telling everyone he wouldn't come home until he caught the largest fish. Now he wished he hadn't said that. The boy slowly walked to the edge of the boat. Then closed his eyes and gently released the Codfish into the ocean.
"Not big enough," he whispered. Grandpa came and stood beside him. Colin knew he'd understand.
Just then, the boat captain announced loudly, "Pull your lines in! Time to head back to Halifax harbor!" Colin's eyes misted as he watched sail boats plow through the whitecaps. He didn't have one teensy fish for his parents. And what about grandma?
Clouds were puffy-white in the sky. And the sun was warm on Colin's face as he slowly turned to his Grandpa. "Okay if I try again next year?" he asked.
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher 2006
Richard enjoys writing and has many poetry e-books listed on he and his wife's Author Page: www.amazon.com/Esther-and-Richard-Provencher/e/B00O8K9UKE. PTL.
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