A story from a Cray Boat

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A story from a Cray Boat

Post by ALANM » Fri Oct 25, 2019 9:36 pm

Not a Cray Fisher
(By Alan McCosker September 2019)
I’m not a cray fisher and never would claim, to ever, have been a seaman
far away from it, I grew up in the bush, ‘mongst the dust and the dirt near marulan
but I once thought, I’d give it a go and believe me, though I did my best
it didn't work out, I could not hold a job, on that cray boat far-off in the west

At the age of fifteen, in far-off west oz, in the seaport of old geraldton
I got a job on a cray-fishin’ boat and we sailed down to port denison
on that nightmare trip, I had hoped to find, the sea-legs that I’d never had
I hung over the stern, all the way there, the skipper just looked at me sad

After we anchored, there in the bay, we sculled the wee dory to denison
then the skipper and mate, jumped in a car and headed back home to old geraldton
they said as they left, “ we’re back at midnight, on the beach you need to be waitin’ ”
“we have to make, a bright early start, to get the craypots all set up for baitin’ ”

A bunk underneath the forward deck on the boat, it’s there I was meant to reside
but that meant scullin’ back out to the boat, darkness was comin’ with high tide
no bloody way, I heard me-self say, I’m done for today with wave ridin’
I stretched me-self out in the sand on the beach and pretty soon I was snorin’

At midnight they came, back to the beach, I was sittin’ there ready and waitin’
we started straight out for the crayfish grounds, in the dark with a stiff wind wailin’
the cray-pots were piled up high on the deck, we baited them up as we travelled
bashin’ through waves, my face turned bright green and then my poor guts unravelled

It took most of the day, to lay them all out, in a long line with floats up and bobbin’
when we finally got back and had anchored up, my legs were shaky and throbbin’
we went to the pub and the skipper arranged, to pay for me one meal a day there
all else that I needed was up to me-self, so I queried, when would I get paid here

The skipper just looked me square in the eye and said without anger or judgement
“When we start catchin’ and the catch has been sold, a wee part of that be your payment”
then the skipper and mate, jumped in a car and drove back to their beds in old geraldton
I strolled back to beach, stretched me-self on the sand and pretty soon I was snorin’

Day after day we set out in the dark, to the pot line, once there we would lift ‘em
it was my job to pick up the floats, set my knees on the gunnel and gaff ‘em
of course if I missed, we had to go ‘round, that would bring on a skipper coniption
the glass on the bridge was cracked from his head, bein’ banged there in his frustration

Once the floats were on deck, I’d pull up the slack and coil up the rope as I hauled it
once the slack rope was in, put the rope ‘round the winch and wait at the tipper to trip it
when the pot came in view, if my timin’ was right, I’d trip it and see it fly ‘round
to land on the rails where the mate skinned it out, re-baited and sent it back down

If my timin’ was out, the winch snapped the rope, we would lose the pot back to the ocean
more cracks would appear in the glass on the bridge, as the skipper gave vent his frustration
once the pot line was pulled and all been re-set, the boat would turn ‘round and head back
it was then my job, to hose down the deck, all covered with sea-weed and dead crap

As I hosed off the dead fish, dead squid and old bait, the sharks would follow along-side
some of them were more than sixty foot long and kept station both starboard and port-side
all that went over they’d greedily gulp, so I stayed right away from the gunnel
I hosed from the middle and kep’ a tight grip, on the skinnin’ rails or the winch handle

When we got back, we’d tie up at the dock and unload the catch from the live tank
then we’d motor back, to our anchorage spot and scull to the beach as the dark sank
I had bumbled along, for just on a month, when the skipper said “give me a moment”
then said he with a grimace, ”you’re no good to me, I’ve gone and got a replacement”

So that was the end of my sea-farin’ days, my cray-fishin’ exploits were over
in all of that month I’d not earned a cent, I was broke with no-where to sleep over
lucky for me my mate had found work and his boss placed him rent free in lodgin’s
he’d slip me some tucker and I slept in our van, spendin’ each day at job searchin’.

But it didn’t take long, I found a new job, now that’s a complete different story
my month on the boat had earned me no cash but I had learned to scull the wee dory
as well as that, I had got pretty fit, from haulin’ up those heavy cray pots
all I had to do, was convince my new boss, that he wasn’t takin’ a long shot.
Authors note:
I left home in March 1964 at the age of fifteen and a half and with a mate. In his old PMG van we travelled across Australia,
stopping here and there for casual work.We eventually found ourselves in Geraldton, some 260 miles north of Perth,
where we both got jobs on cray boats.This is the story of my experience as a cray fisher.

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Re: A story from a Cray Boat

Post by Shelley » Mon Oct 28, 2019 4:10 pm

Sounds like a wild ride!
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

Posts: 54
Joined: Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:57 pm
Location: Tasmania

Re: A story from a Cray Boat

Post by ALANM » Thu Oct 31, 2019 7:20 pm

G'day Shelley,
I turned sixteen while in the west and yes, for a lad, it was a bit of a wild ride but I now look back on it as my first best adventure.

Cheers Al

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