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  • It had been blowing out of the northeast for several days. The seas had built up and the forecast was for the low-pressure system to roll back in from the east instead of pulling off into Maritime Canada.

    That fall the lobsters were thick in the rocks along the shores in shoal water. I had my gear strung out in 3-5 fathoms of water around the islands. At high tide it was easy to swing in grab the buoy, haul the trap and run on to the next in the string. At low tide the buoy could be right in the kelp and rocks. In a 16 foot open skiff, I could slip in where the big boats didn’t care to go. I was nailing them.

    The year before, Hurricane Frederick and blown through and taken most of my gear along with it. By the time I had thought to shift traps it was already too late and the huge rollers ahead of the system had swept away all the gear on the exposed southern and eastern sides of the islands. The only consolation was that most everybody lost gear then.

    Mickey and I had watched the few cautious, older fishermen, shift boatload after boatload of gear and dumped it in the deep holes on the protected sides of the islands.

    They’re missing out on the best fishing, said Mick. It’ll blow by, no problem.

    After Freddy blew by our gear was just plain gone. The few with the foresight to shift gear found their traps all completely balled up into gigantic rope and trap snarls. 20-30 buoys clustered together and miles of rope wound around and snugged tight.

    At least we ain’t got to fuck with that mess, said Mick.

    It had taken me all winter to rebuild and all that summer season to claw back out of debt again. I was going to shift my gear this time.

    I swung in close, snagged the buoys and hauled the traps all the while keeping the engine in gear, putting away from the shore. It was choppy on top of the swells rolling in and I had to time each approach and keep an eye on things.

    Bouy, rope, rocks, wave.

    The last trap in the string around Little Gotts Head bobbed in the long brown kelp blades. There was enough water though, and the waves were breaking further in. It was fine. As I swung in and reached out to gaff the buoy I thought about where I’d shift the next string.

    The engine stopped suddenly. I looked behind and saw the trialing section of floating rope. The rest of it was wound around the prop.

    By time I thought about reaching for a knife, tipping the outboard, cutting the rope free, by the time those three thoughts had slipped through my mind, the next wave had picked us up and just like that boat, engine and me were on the rocks and the next wave and the next and the next slamming against the hull and filling the boat.

    Young Georgie Dow was hauling a ways off. He came in as close as he dared and sat on the stern.

    There was no way to get a line out to him. I waved to Georgie and headed off through the woods to get a rowing boat to bridge the gap.

    Two hours later I rowed up between the islands. Georgie was still there.

    Well Benjy, he said. In a bit of a pickle aren’t you.

    I ‘magin, I said.

    He hauled out a coil of rope and I took one end and rowed in towards the rocks and the breakers.

    I was rowing a 16 foot, double-ended boat. Seaworthy and stable. I got in close and a wave picked me up, tumbled me and flipped the boat.

    Hipboots are not easy swimming gear.

    A while back, Old Rut slipped and fell off the bow of his boat when he went to put the mooring chain over the chock. His boots, full of air, floated him wrong way round. Boots up. Carl saw the pair of black boots dancing in the air and dove in and got him.

    Mine filled with water and down I went. I kicked and they fell off and I popped up.

    I swam and scrambled through the surf to shore.

    Righted the rowboat.

    Recovered the oars.

    Tied the rope onto the bow of my skiff.

    Gave Young Georgie a thumbs up.

    He gunned his big diesel and just like that the skiff was back where she belonged.

    I waited for a space between breakers, kicked off from the rocks and rowed out to meet him.

    Jeezus, Benjoy. he said. Warn’t that a sight. Right ass over teakettle. Never seen anything like it boy. Good thing she didn’t hit you on the head when she went over, huh?

    I was bent over clearing the rope from the prop so all he got was a grunt for an answer.

    By that time I was done for the day. I put the skiff on the mooring and walked up the hill.

    What happened to your boots, my brother asked?
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