The wind battered against me and the worn waterproof overalls I had on, bright yellow, as was traditional, as I made my way down the winding steep path down the cliff face to the local docks. It wasn’t the safest of tracks and many a signpost warded tourists away from taking this route down to the beach, though we were lucky if we even got one backpacker this far out from any large towns or cities. But I was well adjusted to this treacherous route, having taken this way down to the little beach since the tender age of 12.
It was a small coastal village I lived in, the docks weren’t so much those that you see in regular seaside towns, with wooden galleys and rows upon rows of private Yachts or speed boats. No, this was on a much much smaller scale.
As I looked up to glance at the small cove we had to hold the boats, of which I could see only three small fishing boats close to the shore, floating on the incoming tide. A fourth lay closer to the shore, nearly half submerged by the gentle waves lapping further and further up as the minutes pass and the tide came closer in.
I hopped down the last few steps onto the small beach that divided the cliff side and the Sea, with a loud crunch of pebbles beneath my boots, and slung the small crab pots I was holding down to the ground to give my arms a short break before having to lug them onto the boat.
I squinted out over the sea, into the direction of the sunrise, that was reflecting beautifully off the waves, but making it nigh impossible to see in the direction of the boat I was looking for.
As my bleary eyes adjusted I started to make out Winston, my boss, waving his arms at me impatiently from his little row boat. With a dramatic sigh, I gathered back together the crab pots and began dragging them over to the small boat Winston and I were to use to board his pride and joy, Lady Isobel, who bobbed along on the waves about 20 metres behind him.
It was dramatic name for such a small ship, but she’d served him well, 50 years now nearly, and she was still made pretty much out of the same stuff she was built with. Winston describes it as her ‘Magic charm’ but I think he's just been increadibly lucky with her.
She was still looking a little rough around the edges, her old blue paint along the body had mostly peeled off and it was only the cursive “Lady Isobel” along the white rim that Winston ever really maintained. She was just big enough for two people, one to drive and one to pull up the pots from the side. Winston was adamant that the traditional methods of his family trade were the best ones, minus adding a motor to his boat of course.
As I approached Winston on the very loud pebbly beach, my feet crunching with every step, and the now dragging crap pots behind me were making too much noise for this early in the morning. But I was grumpy, I hadn’t slept well in this ridiculous summer heat that the UK is drastically unequipped for, and now I’m here at the ass crack of dawn, setting down traps for cuisine that I'm honestly not all that fond of anyways.
I could tell Winston was as equally unimpressed the closer I got, he looked down at me through his comically circular glasses, with his classic flat cap over his shoulder length white hair, and matching bushy beard. The perfect picture of a classic country man.
His arms were crossed in-front of him, as if I couldn’t tell from his glare enough that he was angry with me. He was wearing the same uniform as I was; traditional yellow waterproof dungarees, wellies and gloves. But where I was being weather conscious and had opted for a pale blue T-shirt and shorts to go underneath my overalls, lest I melt in this heat. He was in the same itchy-as-hell looking jumper I’ve seen him in my whole life, and, knowing him, he probably had his full length work-worthy jeans on underneath. God knows how he wasn’t a ball of sweat already.
“Theo….” He grumbled out.
He held a strong welsh accent and had one of those booming voices that could be heard down the street even if he was attempting to whisper.
I sheepishly looked down at my feet rubbing my gloved hand over my shaved head, aware that my behaviour was immature for that of a 22 year old.
“I’m here on time aren’t I?” I mumble, knowing that despite having a set meeting time of 6 AM Wilson’s internal clock seemed to run about 30 minutes earlier than that of the real time.
“Back in my day” He huffed, “Lads like you were begging to be out on the sea, doing their duties, feeding their families, kids these days just don’t seem to care about their own livelihoods”
He sighed and looked off into the distance, obviously stressed about his seemingly dying local trade, in more ways than one.
Many people had abandoned the country life and the small profits it produced for a better paying job in the cities, leaving fewer and fewer of us locals every year. But there was also the matter of the crabs themselves, becoming more and more scarce, and making our profits smaller and smaller.
I didn't have the heart to tell him I was to be one of those deserters, that I had no intention of staying in this town after graduating, bringing the small fishing population down even further.
“Well,” He Slapped his thighs and stood to look out at the horizon,
“You’re here now Lad, lets go catch some crustaceans shall we?” He glanced back giving me a grateful look and held out his hand for the crab pots at my feet.
I returned his smile, grateful for him dropping the subject, passing up the pots and making my way to the front of the boat ready to give the push out onto the waves.
Once everything was settled on the boat, Wilson looked back and gave me a quick nod, meaning he was good for me to go.
The first push away from the beach was always the hardest, and I had to give the boat a good hard shove with my shoulder, feet slipping on the pebbles. Which occasionally made me slip onto my face if the boat wasn’t as stuck as usual, causing me to start the day wet. Though I was boound to get wet at some point anyways, what with working on the sea, it didnt make it any less unpleasant.
Luckily, today wasn’t one of those days and I managed to push us off to about thigh height when Winston extended his hand to help me up onto the row boat.
It was now a matter of rowing our way out to Lady Isobel and hoping for an easy transition over from one boat to the next. This was a well practiced manoeuvre and on a clear, still day as today there was little chance of things going wrong.
As we clambered over Lady Isobel’s sides and attached the row boat to the buoy for when we return, we were almost ready to take off for the morning.
I went around the boat checking her over to make sure everything was in order for the day whilst Wilson made himself at home in the “Captains Cabin” as he calls it but it's really just a small square glass cubical with a white roof, where the controls are held.
He starts up the engine and I give him a little salute to say all’s good outside, and we were off.
Everyone in town has their own specific spots laid out to put down their pots, marked out by buoys of varying colours. It was a short journey around the coast to collect them all and set the new ones up, an hour or so in good weather. This was really an ideal job for me as I was studying throughout the week for my degree, and I shouldn't really complain, I'm just really not a morning person, and the fish market waits for no man.
We approached our first marker after a few minutes and I got ready to lean out of the boat and grab the buoy that was attached to the pot at the end and pull it up. We weren’t far from the coast and there wasn’t much of a steep decline under the water so the pots didn’t go that far down, and I could reel it in pretty quickly, grab the contents, check it over for any damages, replace the bait and throw it back in all in a matter of a minute.
When done, I give the thumbs up to Winston and we head off to the next.
Lady Isobel didn’t go very fast, she was by no means a ‘speed boat’. But her little motor could certainly chug along at quite a pace. Enough so that I could really just close my eyes and feel the sea wind brushing across my face as we travelled between our buoys.
It was a nice kind of repetitive work, really allowed you to zone out of real life for an hour or so, and just focus on the job at hand, and, on a day like today, really appreciate the natural beauty of the surrounding coastline.
We’d been out on the water for about half an hour before I saw the large shadow over the water, rolling in from the horizon.
Dread lurched in my stomach as I realised that this was a consequence of all the nice weather we’d been getting, a freak thunder storm.
I didn’t watch the news in the morning, frankly I don’t know anyone who does, especially not before going to work, more relying on my phone for updates on what the weather forecast is and what the days headlines are. But nothing I’d seen this morning had pointed towards a storm, and a quick glance back to Winston proves he also hadn’t heard nor suspected one with what the weather was like only a few minutes ago.
I let out a grunt as a battering of wind came across the sea, jolting Lady Isobel to the side.
I looked again to Winston who was debating the same as I was, whether we should turn back and half of the crab pots should be left or whether we’ll be able to make it before the storm peaks.
“If we speed up I think we’ll make it!” I shouted over.
In return he seemed to debate it for a few seconds before nodding and cranking the motor up a notch to reach our next stop quicker.
It wasn’t the rain or thunder we were scared of on this little boat, heck we were on a boat, getting wet very much in the job description. It was the wind and waves that came with her we feared.
Because we sail so close to the rocky outcrops around the coast, a large wave crashing us into said rocky outcrops was incredibly likely. The storm was still rolling in though and Wilson and I both knew that as long as we put our foot down and got our heads in the game we’d be able to make it back before the waves really picked up. Besides, we couldn’t really afford to miss 50% of todays earnings.
Though, with how fast this storm approached, there was no real telling how quickly thing would pick up pace.
I kept glancing up to the sky as we continued collecting todays catches, less work was done inspecting the pots and it was more of a grab and go situation as I saw the sky above getting darker and darker. The wind was picking up too, much faster than I'd every seen a storm roll in. It was making the waves more brutal, but Lady Isobel was holding her own against them well.
The rain was most annoying though, it came down heavy and hard, restricting your vision as it splashes off the sea and blurs the shapes of the rocks we have to be careful to avoid.
Wilson knows this coastline like the back of his hand, he could navigate it with his eyes closed I’d go as far to say. But with the waves battering us in this many directions, I’d say navigation was soon going to be impossible even for him.
As I reached over board to grab the next pot I was convinced I saw a glint of something in the water. I braced myself as I thought maybe it had been the reflection of a lightning flash far in the distance.
But no thunder ever rumbled as I finished fishing out the pot and emptying it.
I frowned to myself. Convinced I’d seen a flash, but I shook my head to regain focus.
I looked back to Wilson
“I think we should head back!” I yelled, as loud as my lungs would allow, trying to beat the thundering rain and blistering wind.
Wilson didn’t hear me but it was clear that he knew I was trying to communicate with him, and I could see him shaking his head in an ‘I don’t understand' manner.
I held my arms above my head in a large X shape, attempting to communicate that we should stop now, there were only 3 or 4 pots left, we could sacrifice those losses, especially if it looked like we’d be sacrificing ourselves to go and get them.
I once again saw Wilson shake his head. Not in misunderstanding this time, but in disagreement.
He held up his hand with one finger up. He really thought we could get at least one more? I sighed and looked up into the rain, debating whether I really wanted to risk my life for one more crab basket.
But, at the end of the day he was in charge of moving this ship, if he wanted to continue on this mission, who was I to stop him, this debate was just taking away precious seconds we were battling out against the storm.
I looked back down and made rough eye contact with Wilson, as I would barely see his eyes through the rain, and nodded my head in acceptance. Praying that this wont cost us dearly.
We began making our way over to the final pot.
The wind had me crouching next to the edge of the ship, for a little protection away from the sea spray being blown up violently.
This time I definitely saw lightning.
A giant crack came directly over our heads, not a second later came the deafening boom from the thunder.
I again attempted to look over at Wilson, attempting to beg with my eyes to turn back now and make it back to the sheltered cove where we keep the boats.
But he was keeping his eyes ahead, guiding us to the next marker. He was a stubborn man, there was no stopping him when he'd made his mind up to complete a task. So I gripped the side tighter and began praying to any god that would listen to help me survive this.
I felt the boat begin to slow, and stood abruptly, ready to get this one over and done with as quickly as possible.
I leant over the side of the boat. The waves made it hard to get the boat close to the buoy, so I had to reach out further than usual to grab it. I was on one leg, one hand gripping the edge of the boat the other half of me essentially stretching out ove the sea to reach the marker.
My fingers brushed against it and I put my head down to stretch myself out just that bit further.
I opened my eyes in that moment, when I had my head down facing the waves.
And there, just beneath the surface of the water, I saw a pair of glowing Golden eyes staring directly at me.
We made eye contact and for a moment I could’ve sworn they seemed as startled as I was, widening so I could see the entire iris looking back as me.
I opened my mouth to gasp, or scream or anything in suprise. But before I had a chance, Lady Isobel lurched from a sudden just of wind.
I lost my grip.
I’m pretty sure I was sent flying a few metres, but then I heard the definite plunge into the water, felt myself get soaked through.
I lost myself in the waves, I didn’t know up from down, I couldn’t see any light.
A flash of lightning lit the sky above.
For a split second, I made out the shape of a body.
When the flash was gone, where the body was, lay that same pair of glowing golden eyes.
Still staring directly at me.