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29 October 2014

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Voices: This Norfolk Life

Cod fish
Competing for the prize winning fish.

This Norfolk Life: The Price of Fish

by Ivan Cullum
"I had very little experience in writing until I went to adult education classes," said Ivan Cullum. "Thanks to my teacher, Zoe John, who has helped me overcome dyslexia and has given me confidence to have a go."

Pateen danced on her moorings in the brisk cold wind as we loaded to go fishing.  Jimmy was Captain, Eddy was first mate, and myself, well, I was the cabin boy. 

The forecast was good; sw force 4 to 5 varying. We had the bait and good fishing looked promising.

We headed out through the pier heads at Lowestoft and they soon fell into the distance as the 60hp diesel pushed the Pateen on towards the fishing grounds.

On arrival we dropped anchor, baited up and we were all soon catching large cod. There was a lot of troublesome weed coming up the lines and falling into the boat but this we ignored. The flood tide turned and Pateen swung around on her anchor. 

The fish continued to bite and all being busy we didn't notice the water in the boat or the change in the wind. Suddenly the boat was rising and falling at an alarming rate in the increased swell.

Jim shouted against the wind, "I don't like the look of this. Start the engine Ivan. Eddy, haul in the anchor."

In the engine room I had a problem. The water and thick weed was over my boots and up to the flywheel. I hit the starter button. Sparks and smoke flew from the control panel and the lights went out.

"Jim!" I shouted, "The pump is blocked with weed and the engineer won't start!"

Jim shouted, "I'll sort the pump, you get the engine going with the cranking handle."

"OK," I replied.

I put my arm in the oily cold water trying to keep my footing and grope for the handle as the boat pitched and rolled. At last I found the handle and proceeded to crank. It took a lot of muscle to turn the engine over.

I flicked the decompressor and cranked for all I was worth.  Suddenly it burst into life and water shot over me as the flywheel spun into action. It was a very welcome sound. Jim fixed the pump and the water slowly dropped. We were homeward bound.

It took two hours to punch our way back to Lowestoft. The harbour entrance was boiling with waves bouncing viciously off the sea wall; it looked extremely dangerous.

Jim called the harbour control on VHF who advised to stand off until the tide turned. I could see people gathered on the pier watching our plight as the rough sea pounded. We were not going to make it.

One hour passed then a voice came over the radio in broken English,

"You may enter the harbour with us on our starboard side."

"OK," Jim replied.  We could see a huge cargo ship making for the harbour stacked high with timber. We edged along the lee side of her and, shielded from the elements, we were escorted to safety.

Later and much relieved we had a drink of vodka with the Momanske skipper where we heard more tales of the sea.

Story laureate Sue Welfare writes: This is lovely stuff. It’s informed, exciting and it gives a good account of an incident. There is a nice use of language throughout.

last updated: 12/10/05
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Barrie Stephenson
A lovely story - I felt the swell of the sea and tasted the danger you experienced on that stormy day.
Thu Jan 26 15:29:02 2006

I really enjoyed reading this exciting story with the smell and taste of the sea.
Mon Jun 6 23:37:08 2005

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