Against The Tide

Against the Tide: The Fate of the New England Fisherman

Houghton Mifflin, 1999


An excerpt: “Quickly down to zero”


But a straight shot was hard to run, as was a crisp turn around a buoy. In the wind and surf, and in a running tide that required the sluggish Honi-Do to crab-walk across its current, Carl found it difficult to keep a bearing. After the third flag he fought with the wheel as the depth sounder began its giddy slide from fourteen fathoms down to four, and then quickly down to zero, while the boat  got pushed to the western edge of the channel. Either the Honi-Do was then able to plow back into deep water or else the bar just fell away, since three and then six fathoms of water filled in under the boat. But just as quickly the sounder was falling again: five fathoms, three, one, zero. “What’s that?” Dave said as a shiver ran through the boat, something like a tuning fork’s sympathetic vibration. The second grounding was more defined, lifting us to the balls of our feet. The swooning moan of thwarted steel rose to our ears.

Finally, with one more shuddering sigh, the Honi-Do seemed to hit, skid, float briefly again, and fall for a third and final time into the zero-fathom breast of the bar. The wheel spun uselessly in Carl’s hands. He killed the engine and turned toward Dave with a hard-edged smile, saying maybe we’d better get an anchor down; probably dropping the port door would be the best thing.

Bill Amaru’s voice crackled on the VHF: “Carl, how are you doing?”

Carl picked up the mike. “I got a funny feeling I just lost my rudder.” He clicked the mike off, speaking mostly to himself: “We wouldn’t have this problem if Carnes had just been willing to take the shrimp tomorrow.” Then he flicked the radio to channel sixteen, which the Coast Guard monitors. “Chatham Station, this is the Honi-Do. Chatham Station, this is the Honi-Do.”. . .

© Copyright Richard Adams Carey