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  • Oh God thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.
    Breton Fisherman's Prayer

    At the head of the wharf the Harbormaster’s shack looks out on a small garden set around a flagpole. Most days, by afternoon, the flag is stretched and snapping. A few defiant marigolds bloom there every year. Some years someone tries something more exotic but that close to the sea only truly hardy survive.

    Fisherman match the rhythm of their day to the tide's rise and fall, hauling traps up or down depending on the season, loading bait. Seafood wholesalers wait for boats. Boatyards and sports launch their boats down the long concrete ramp. Islanders tie up for quick trips ashore.

    They all pass the little garden set round the flagpole and the stone. Some stop and read the plaque and the list of names.

    I knew some of them.

    Buddy and them when the Risky Business, loaded up to the rails, dragging for scallops in the night along the cable zone took on water in the steep chop and went down. They must have been watching the radar because no one was near enough to make a difference.

    Rooster when his boat caught fire and he made the call to swim ashore. It couldn’t have been more than 50 yards off.

    Handsome Austin, out hauling traps for a midnight supper, caught rope in his wheel out between the islands and leaned out to free it. The lady with him made it to shore but Austin never did.

    The others are names and stories before my time.

    The plaque says to add a stone to remember them by.

    I always wondered why stones.
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