Insert Chassis Albuquerque: Gone Fishing.

Gone Fishing.

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In a drastic change I put to sea.
Drastic, because people were looking for me, people I didn’t care to associate with. I had to take a Leave Of Absence, take some time to come my senses and come up with a plan. Rather than bore you with the details, let’s just say it really says something about a man when even a dog has no sympathy for him.
I set to work on the THOMAS ORGAN, a fishing trawler of little renown. Though I am unable to swim (I can sort of float for a few minutes), I am not apprehensive.
However, good friend Ronald Ford loans me an inflatable life jacket, a homing beacon, a waterproof torch and a small rapid-inflatable liferaft which all fit snugly into a special rucksack just for the purpose.
"Just in case," he says.
Hard to miss, the bag’s as big as me.
We are out in the middle of the ocean weeks at a time. A very tense atmosphere, trawler-work is dangerous. The crew are depraved people, with small, water-based, seafaring superstitions. The longer we are out at sea, the more pronounced this madness becomes. The crew regularly snag seagulls in their nets, pluck them bare and then barbecue the birds out on the deck, little spit-roasts of seabirds.
And in the rough weather, a fire hazard.
Porn-mags were everywhere so the men could let some steam off.
Or get depressed afterwards and drink. And talk about pussy whilst being surrounded by it – a very unhealthy, vicious cycle. Still, you can’t take a shit without seeing a pinup of snatch on the back of the toilet doors.
I discover that, apart from the First Mate and Captain, I am the only other crewman who can read. Therefore, I am trusted with the task of assigning a work rotation roster for the crew.
Other duties: Recording accurately by weight all catches, organising and allocating weekly wages and then changing both accordingly once we rendezvous with black marketeers off the coast to offload a sizeable portion of our altered catches. Evading the law, often in international waters, we’re hounded by armed navy patrol boats intent on ceasing all illegal fishing and smuggling operations. The captain, a betting-man by all accounts, seemed to suffer some mild brain injuries - very pleasant sounding, medically, but, without fail, he’d always try outrun the authorities. By that stage most of these patrol boats had opened fire in an effort to get us to cut our engines. We’d all hunker down as the ordinance whistled overhead and we’d hear the whump! as it exploded in the water alongside the bow of the trawler, rocking the boat heavily.
When the patrol boats caught up with us – and they always did – the captain would claim he didn’t realise he was being hailed.
“Radio’s broke,” he’d say.
“Are those seagulls you’re spit-roasting?” they’d ask, inspecting the boat.
“Them’s chickens,” he’d say.
“Well, you got a lot porn down here, captain, and that’s a worry. Means you got a lot of pent-up, frustrated men. You should get back on the mainland soon as possible, your men are at breaking point. Soon they’ll turn on one another and you.”
“For sure…!” the captain would say, grinning.
Still, this is a fruitful, particularly reflective period for me. I enjoy the clandestine nature of the work. It suits my nature. Until we’re stranded a few hundred kilometres off the coast one bad winter.
The swells are huge.
Coming off the crest of one massive swell, it seesaws the vessel so that it creaks and groans under its own weight and the propeller is inadvertently exposed to the air.
Clear of the friction of the water for only a few crucial moments the engine hits maximum torque and the driveshaft of the trawler snaps! in two. We almost lose a crew member as a section of driveshaft flies through two decks of the fishing trawler and pierces itself in my bunk. Luckily the force is not quite sufficient to smash entirely through the rucksack of emergency equipment Ford's given me I’m clinging to.
Most of my injuries are the result of being flung against the cabin wall when the inflatable raft activates and rapidly inflates, cracking my head open in the process. When we examine the bag later we discover a hole the size of fist punched neatly through most of it.
I quit the sea for good.