In the May gloaming, Ms Mer motored across the inlet after picking up her nets. Later she returned in her rattly old Cruiser to get some more gear out of her boat and I met her on the shore.
‘Heard you had some visitors the other day,’ she said.
The fisheries officers left my veranda, after I joked that I could have them charged with sexual assault (‘you have all the equipment and could start at any time’) and paid a visit to Ms Mer in the village. Not that it is a village, just a row of weatherboard fishing shanties but Mum calls it that and I’m warming to it. It turns out that the first officer I saw was with the marine safety mob, not fisheries. They blocked Ms Mer’s car in with theirs, no doubt to prevent the septuagenarian legend trying to bolt for it.
The marine safety officer went through her boat. ‘Flares?’ ‘Yep’, ‘life jackets?’ ‘yep’, ‘fog horn?’ ‘well we needed that this morning’.
She looked at the two men in uniform. ‘Yeah mate,’ she pointed a finger at her head. ‘It’s in here.’
‘You have to have a chart of the waters you’re fishing,’ the marine safety officer said.
Ms Mer laughed and the fisheries guy stared out to the inlet, knowing what was to come.
‘I’ve been working this inlet every season since 1971,’ she said. ‘I know every rock off by heart. What would I need a chart for? Where would I even put it? Plus, if we fell overboard, we could just about walk home, it’s that shallow.’
He didn’t have an answer to this incontestable logic and so she turned her attention to the fisheries officer. ‘Now. What can I do for you, Matty?’
The new marine safety officer hadn’t met Ms Mer before. Ms Mer and myself were also the only fisherfolk at the inlet at the time. I’d love to have been a fly in the car as those two drove out of the place, marking Broke Inlet as the natural habitat of difficult, persnickety fisherwitches.