Thursday, August 20, 2015

7 am

“Did you just get that net in?” asked Sister.
“Um …”
“Get any fish?”
Which made me just choke with laughter.

I am trying to work out how to insert capybaras into this yarn because they’ve been on my mind a bit lately but I'm not sure if I could get away with it. I don’t know if they are necessary anyway.

This morning was dark and stormy and I woke at first light to rain hammering the tin roof and remembering that I’d left a net in the inlet overnight. My sister and I had piled into the boat after dark. The dogs jumped in and we rowed about twenty metres from the shore. I stood and threw the first buoy over and then the brick to anchor it. We set the net and rowed (wobbling with excitable dogs) back to shore and walked up to the house to make some dinner. One thing led to another and the net stayed in the water.

The shore was sprayed with foam and flotsam and an onshore howler. The boat was tied to a paperbark and swamped by waves coming over the stern. I spotted the buoy. It looked pretty close. I had waders on and a gaff hook in my hand. Bugger bailing out a boat. I could walk out to that buoy. I am waterproof to my bosom in those things but then the waves started chipping at my boobs and the buoy was just out of reach. The dogs sat on the shore and watched me wade back in and bail out the boat.

They looked more interested when I got in and adjusted the oars. “You’re not coming,” I told them. I used an oar to push out the boat. Well, it sounds good doesn’t it? Push out the boat. All I did was push the boat sideways and the wind and waves did the rest. I stood up again for another crack at it and managed to get the boat just past the first submerged tree, where the oars snagged and the wind jammed us against the trunk. I climbed out of the boat, thinking I could walk it out a bit further but it’s actually quite dangerous being on the lee side of a boat in heavy winds, which is somehow where I ended up. With a tree on the other side.

I dragged branches out of my hair and walked the boat back in. That was the easy bit. There was nothing for it now but to get wet. I walked back out towards the buoy, gasping as the first wave filled my waders. I really wasn’t thinking this one out too well. I’d heard terrible stories about flooded waders but nothing terrible happened and the buoy was so close. It was right there. I reached out the gaff as the water lapped at my shoulders and snap! Got it. Wicked. Things were improving here. I tugged on the buoy and it felt snagged. A harder tug and it freed up and floated towards me … without the net attached. The dogs sat on the shore and watched me wade back in with a buoy and a busted rope.

Now I learned a few things this morning. One thing is to never tie the flappy ends of your wader braces across your chest. Standing on shore with waders filled with inlet was quite uncomfortable so I unclasped the braces. The water weighted waders sank down and the tied-off flappy ends immediately started throttling me.

Once I’d saved myself from a garrotting, I couldn’t get out of the waders. It took a while, the dogs lapping at the water spilling from green plastic. I looked out to the second buoy. Alright then. I went back in. I was doing a crabby kind of sidestroke with the net box and the gaff, when I thought that I probably should have taken my socks and jumper off. The thought that I may lose a sock annoyed me. I only have two pairs of socks.

The second buoy is a beautiful old glass buoy bound in orange rope that my dad gave to me. As I swam towards it, I let go off the net box and it blew straight into shore. It was easier to get out to the buoy after that. I snagged it with the gaff and tried to pull it towards me.

Another learned thing this morning: you can’t actually haul a net while swimming. Who woulda thunk it? It took about ten minutes of swimming as hard as I could to get the buoy to a spot where it was shallow enough for my feet to find purchase. Then I started pulling, dragging the net over the rocks until it was properly snagged. Like, really snagged. I yanked a bit harder and the glass buoy came loose and floated towards me. I flailed the gaff through the black water, trying to get the net but no joy. The capybaras dogs sat on shore and watched me wade back in with a buoy and a busted rope. Their feet weren’t even wet. I would smiled indulgently at them but I was so cold I couldn’t move my face.

That net is a ghost net. I mean it’s not now. It will be easily retrieved with a grapple iron once the wind settles. But it came into my possession as an abandoned net that I found up at the bar at Pallinup, full of rotten yellow-eyed mullet, and I'm adamant it will not end up the same again. 

All up I'd been in the water for about half an hour. It started raining. I stumped up to the house in my soaked socks and clothes to have one of the longer hot showers I've had. 


  1. The capybaras didn't quite make it. The water was almost lapping at their feet but they pulled back at the last second.

  2. I think it's a testament to your writing that you can make a story about retrieving a bloody fishing net this enthralling.

    Speaking of capybaras, I'm reminded that you used to have a—um—ocelot, too. Did he make the trip to the new place as well?

  3. Well you put a smile on my face, Mizz Sarah, and that's saying something.

  4. I know it was epic. That was my point. If it'd happened to me, that story would've been rubbish.

    An ocelot is a cat that lives in the same general neighbourhood as the capybara. Basically, I haven't heard you mention your cat since you moved, and I was wondering if he'd made the trip and how he was settling in.

  5. Being in the water, up to your tonsils, alone, trying to do something that seems quite possible, if a little tricky, makes me think of time and the indifference of the surrounding environment. You can come and you can go, so alive to where you are and what you're doing, but where you are and what you're doing do not care about you. They don't even know you're there. The dogs at least might howl when you disappear, but the rest will stand as is, unmoved.

    You got that tension to work well. Good stuff.