Years ago I wrote a story on A WineDark Sea called 'Can't kill him with an axe'. It was an account of the times I'd nearly killed Old Salt on his fishing boat. He'd previously had heart surgery ('they put a bit of pig in me!'), licked asbestos as a kid because he liked the tingling feeling on his tongue, had an affinity for battery acid and thought electrocution was a fine remedy for Ross River Virus.
Bill died on Monday. It's a weird feeling. When a close friend is dying, people ask if I want to visit them but I'm already there, somehow. Several hundreds of kilometres apart and I'm with them. I don't really know how to explain this. Despite this feeling, when Nga told me on Sunday that he was now on morphine, I'd said, 'Yeah, I'll ring him in the morning.' He sounded fine on Friday when he took of his oxygen mask to chat. Fine.
He was my mentor and teacher. He taught me everything about what it is to be on a boat, how to follow the channel markers home to port in the middle of the night. That was one of his first lessons as we motored home from Michaelmas Island. He taught me about family, about how fish think and how to tie knots (still terrible at that).
He seemed incombustible, unkillable. An incorrigible white man with a stout sense of right and wrong, a strong interest in his family's history of fishing the Great Southern inlets. He never gave up. So Bill, the star of Salt Story is gone. Bizarrely and so bloody banal for someone who always sailed too close to the wind, he copped covid at a funeral a few weeks ago. On Monday, we'll go to his.