CHAPTER FIVE

I’ll tell you true, one of the funniest things I’ll ever hope to witness was the sight of Barrington Reds bowled over in his catboat.

All you could see were the bottom of his pants. The sail was flapping and the boom was banging and his itty bitty docksiders were pawing at the air. The rest of him had been swallowed whole.

“Help?”

At this point, I threw back my head and howled. I figured he must have been trying to adjust something when the boom kicked him backwards and lodged him between the centerboard and the seat. He was wedged in there like a crummy ole piece of bone.

My first thought was to bring the Rita Anne alongside and see if I couldn’t wiggle him sideways and out.

Then I saw Mud Walters chugging up river and I suddenly had a much better idea.

You see, Mud was driving his barge.

And on his barge was a crane.

You know, it’s the kinda thing you use to lift heavy loads like boat cargo and fishing equipment…

And people.

“Hey, Mud!”

“Hey, Slim!”

“Gorgeous day, huh?”

“Can’t beat it!”

To avoid straining my throat, I waited a few minutes ‘til Mud came within speaking distance. He was in his usual get-up—frayed pants, work shirt, head as bald as a cue ball.

“You out for stripers?”

“You know it.”

“Be lucky to find them.”

“I got ways.”

There was a yelp over my left shoulder.

“Something up?” asked Mud, throwing the barge’s engine into neutral.

I leaned my elbow on the gunnel and spat. “Well, I tell ya, Mud. I’ve got a pre-dic-a-ment on my hands.” I jerked my thumb at the Prissy.

Mud stood up straight and followed the direction of my finger. Then a big, broad smile began to ooze towards his ears. “So I see.”

“Yeah.”

“Tricky business.”

“Yeah.”

By this time, Barrington Reds had given up waving his feet and was banging huffy rhythms on the side of the seat.

“What’s that, Slim? I couldn’t hear ya!” shouted Mud.

“I said, ‘Yeah’!” I shouted back.

“Oh, right!”

The drumming stopped.

“I s’pose we could try motor oil,” Mud suggested.

“Motor oil might work.”

“Or ketchup.”

“Ketchup could be good.”

“Or slurry.”

The inside of the Prissy had gotten very quiet.

“Those all sound great, Mud. But I was thinking more along the lines of a fishing expedition.”

Mud slapped his thigh with his palm.

“Now, why didn’t I think of that?” He patted his crane. “Honeybaby will be pleased to help.”

Honeybaby is the name of Mud’s barge. Every vessel on the Fisher is either a girl or a bird. Da says it’s bad luck to name a boat after a man. Granddad says it’s easier to deal with women who don’t talk back.

Which doesn’t make much sense, because Granddad loved the socks off Grandma. And Da says Grandma talked a lot.

“But I’ll need your strong knots, Slim. You think you can jerry-rig me a harness?”

“I think I can do that.”

“Good, then why don’t you head over and climb on board?” He jerked his thumb towards Barrington Reds. “Take your time—wouldn’t want you to scratch the paintwork.”

Mud was right. I didn’t want to risk scraping one flake off the Prissy. So I took fifteen minutes to cobble together a lifejacket bumper. Then I took another fifteen to fit it tight to the Rita Anne’s side. By the time I boarded the catboat, it was getting on half an hour.

The first thing I did was lash the Prissy’s boom into place. I didn’t want it clocking me on the skull.

The second thing I did was wave to let Mud know I was aboard. He was busy bringing Honeybaby into position over the port side.

The third thing I did was check on Barrington Reds. He was just where I expected him to be. Only I don’t think I expected him to be purple.

“You, you, you!!” he spluttered.

“Now hang in there,” I told him. “We’ll get you out of this in a split second.”

I picked up a spare coil from the deck and tied a bowline in one end. Then I took this loop and draped it over the hairy ankles of Barrington Reds. Then I pulled.

“Owww!”

“Ooops, sorry. But we need it nice and snug to get you out.”

Honeybaby was in the perfect place. Clear of the Prissy’s mast and right over the deck.

“Lower away, Mud!”

A massive metal hook swung down from the sky. When it reached the right position, five inches above the docksiders, I raised my hand. The cranking noise stopped.

“Look, the more you squirm, the harder you make my job.”

But it seemed Barrington Reds was past caring about my feelings. He bucked like a mule as I secured him to the hook.

“Haul away, Mud!”

Mud hauled.

Up Barrington Reds went—up, up into the beautiful June morning. First the feet, and then the pants, and then the purple face. I stood for a second admiring the sight. He was quite a catch. Better than a swordfish any day.

“LET ME DOWN!”

“Okay!” shouted Mud.

There was a crank of the Honeybaby, a whirr of the chain, and…

KERSPLASH!

Barrington Reds plunged headfirst into the river.

“Whooops!” said Mud, reversing the sequence.

“nnnmmmmbbboooot!”

(I think that Barrington Reds was yelling “on my boat” but it was hard to tell with all of the seawater streaming out of his nose.)

It was at this point that I decided to leave the rest of the rescue up to Mud. As my Da always says, it’s best not to linger with a hornet who’s angry or a man who’s been shamed. I figured once Barrington Reds was dumped on deck, he could untie his own darn knots.

I leapt onto the Rita Anne, fired up her engine, and freed her from the Prissy. After I’d gone a safe enough distance, I paused to take one last look at the scene. For a minute, I couldn’t figure out why Barrington Reds was still suspended from Honeybaby.

Then I realized…

Mud was simply waiting ‘til the pants were dry.

 

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Fisher Jim: Chapter Five
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