A fisherman’s tale
| Words 831
“How’s it going, Dave, caught anything yet?”
Dave turned around at the sound of his mate’s familiar voice.
“Hi Baz. I was wondering if you could resist coming down tonight.”
“Yeah, I just can’t keep away from those salmon. Are they biting?” he asked, setting his gear down on the flat rock overlooking the Great Southern Ocean.
“Nothing so far, mate.”
It was getting dark; the wind picking up. It would be a chilly night. Despite the cold, the lure of a good catch was too hard to resist.
“Fancy a drop?” Dave passed the flask, the smell of scotch strong on his breath.
“Nah. Thanks anyway, mate. I like to keep a clear head, gotta keep a watch out.”
Dave shrugged, taking another nip before slipping the silver flask back in his jacket pocket.
The two men stood side by side in companionable silence, the sound of the ocean a soothing background noise in the darkness.
After about an hour with no luck, Dave moved further along the rocks. Nearer to the water, he could see the phosphorescence shimmering. The waves seemed to be bigger than before. He shivered and sighed. “I’m bloody freezing.”
Taking his eye off his line whilst he searched for his whisky flask. He gasped when suddenly he was up to his knees in sea water.
“Shit! That was close.” He was no stranger to the area and knew the danger of freak waves.
Deciding he should move back to his original position further up the rocks, he reeled in his line, but as he did so a wall of water confronted him. The force of the torrent knocked him off his feet, the freezing water picked him up as if he weighed nothing, tossing him into the giant waves, over the jagged rocks and out into the black night.
“Hey Dave! You okay?” Baz’s voice called out; he’d seen the monstrous wave, but escaped a drenching. When he received no answer from his friend, he feared the worse.
“Dave!” he screamed, but the wind whipped his words from his mouth and out into the darkness.
Trembling, the man grabbed his phone and called the emergency number. That was all he could do, he was helpless. Scanning the waves, he hoped miraculously, Dave had made his way back. The night seemed to be even darker, the wind even stronger, as he stood alone, waiting for help to come.
Meanwhile, out in the freezing ocean, Dave battled to survive. Salt water stung his eyes and enormous waves crashed over him. Attempting to cry for help, the wind stole his cries and his mouth filled with water.
He turned towards the cliffs, desperate to avoid being dragged further out from the shore. Facing five metre walls of water, he tried to stay afloat, but knew he couldn’t sustain the effort for much longer.
His clothes were waterlogged, dragging him under. Unzipping the heavy jacket, his hand brushed the whiskey flask as it sank down into the depths.
Baz was his only hope. Dave prayed his friend had realised what had happened and already called the coast guard. He looked up into the blackness, hoping to see the beam of a helicopter, yet knowing death was more likely than survival.
Gravity was winning, pulling him down into the depths. Strength failing fast, he reasoned he should remove his heavy dark clothing before their weight dragged him down.
Struggling out of the sodden outer clothes, Dave saw the irony of his selection of his underwear that morning. The fluorescent orange garment may yet become a lifesaver.
Thinking of his wife and children, he railed against the unfairness of it all.
He was cold. His strength leaving him.
A noise, louder even than the roaring of the waves, penetrated his foggy brain. The rescue helicopter’s searchlight hit the water.
“Here! Here!” he screamed in frustration, but the wind whipped away his pitiful cries, defenceless against the roar of the Southern Ocean.
Pulling off the brightly coloured underwear, he lay on his back, waiting until at last he saw the aircraft coming his way again.
He waved the orange garment frantically until at last the searchlight hit his naked white body.
Eventually a rescue diver winched down to join Dave in the boiling ocean, diving under the water and securing a harness around the shivering body. Within minutes they were being hauled up into the belly of the chopper.
He lay gasping, vomiting seawater, a trembling, wet, naked man. Much like a sea creature caught on the end of a line, snatched from an ocean deprived of a certain victory.
Later Dave, wrapped in blankets, spoke to his rescuers and even managed a rueful smile.
“Thanks guys. Thank God, your fishing trip turned out better than mine!