’Tis the season to go ‘in boat’

Brian Jones
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The first time our dory leaked, I panicked.

The boat was a goner, I figured, and would never float again.

We weren’t even on the water. The dory was sitting on our lawn, propped up on pieces of lumber.

We had followed a friend’s instructions, and run the hose into it.

Its bottom rained like a bad day in May, and a narrow stream ran across the grass and down the hill.

I had horrific visions of us being in the middle of the cove, with water rushing in rather than out.

Not to worry, we were told. That is supposed to happen. (The water rushing out, not in.)

Getting ready

After being in “dry dock” in the yard all winter, it is apparently common practice to put water in a dory to prepare it for the water.

As the boards soak up water and become saturated, they expand, closing tighter upon each other and once again making the boat watertight and ready for service upon the cove and bay.

It evolves from an 18-foot wooden sieve into a sleek, functional, cod-killing machine. Not to mention it’s more seaworthy than some of the province’s ferries.

There’s something fascinating about a dory.

People have stopped in front of our house to take pictures. Hopefully, it wasn’t leaking.

Someone told me that people’s interest is understandable, because seeing a dory these days is like seeing a Model T Ford.

Down at the wharf, it is common for men of middling age to comment that they rowed dories when they were young.

Occasionally, someone will ask to go out.

The answer, of course, is always yes.

A couple of summers ago, we arrived back at the wharf and were busily securing oars and tying ropes, while an older fellow watched with interest.

After a while, he leaned over the edge of the wharf and said, matter-of-factly but with nostalgia in his voice, “I used to go to the ice at the seal hunt in one of those.”

Expert instruction

When you’re learning about putting to sea, it is helpful to have friends who are, or were, professional fishermen.

We’ve been schooled in the basics such as casting, catching, gutting and filleting, as well as finer details such as how to row around a line to release a snagged hook, and how to gently loft a plastic pail off the wharf so it lands on the surface upside down, allowing it to fill with water and be hauled up.

Our friend has a Zodiac.

It’s an impressive craft. You could use it to harass Paul Watson’s ship.

Classic choice

Even so, I prefer ours. I like to ask him, “Want to come fishing in the dory, or are you going out in your  dinghy?”

Rising and falling on low swells on a fine day — that’s only when we go out — with the cod rods doing their work, my main fear is pulling up a wolf fish. Another friend did once.

He tells the story in dramatic fashion, especially when describing the teeth.

I’d rather not.

It’s a relief when we see a swirling white belly coming up from the depths, and we know it’s a cod.

For sheer disgust, it’s hard to equal digging out a hook from deep down the throat of a huge sculpin.

When you hold a two-foot sculpin by the gills, your fingers slip into the inside of its head and the entire revolting creature wraps around your hand and forearm like a big warty piece of gasping mud.

But the cod.

Oh, the cod.

They are worth it.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: The Telegram

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