Gone fishing?

Sam Llewellyn sets off on a fishing trip but his attention is diverted

Sam Llewellyn sets off on a fishing trip but his attention is diverted.

The normal procedure for a spot of fishing, as all the world knows, is to fire up the engine, place yourself on the edge of the tide, and let nature take its course. But this July day was high and blue, too fine to pollute with the reek and sputter of the outboard. We would certainly go fishing, but without the engine.

Lucille is twenty-one feet of yawl-rigged open boat, currently sitting neatly on a mooring in the little harbour at New Grimsby on Tresco, Isles of Scilly. Up with the mainsail. Unroll the jib and the mizzen. Drop the mooring pennant, back the jib so the bow pays off. Then sheet in hard. The deck tilts, and away we go, up the channel between Tresco and Bryher, the granite tower of Cromwell's Castle sliding by.

Boiling Kettle

At the northern end of the channel the great grey ram of Shipman's Head crunches into the swells. To starboard, the Kettle is a white boil in the long slope of a wave. We head on north into the moving hills of the sea, long smooth slopes of water that have rolled all the way from America. A sunfish the size of a dustbin lid flaps idly in the clear green. Beyond the tan leech of the mainsail, sugar-white gannets with custard-yellow heads hammer down on a shoal.

Here is the edge of the tide. We drop the mainsail and jog along the windrow of scum and bubbles under jib and mizzen. The lines should be out now, but somehow we do not get round to them, because we are discussing the driftings of sunfish, apparently the heaviest bony fish in the world, which can weigh a ton and which seem to enjoy sunbathing.

Tide turning

The sun beats down. Tea is drunk. The talk drifts. Soon the tide will be turning. Forward to the main halyard and haul. The tan sail climbs into the sky, rumples and fills. Helm down and away we go, back into the channel, the breeze strengthening as it funnels, scooting us between the anchored yachts and Hangman's Island. The people in the yachts' cockpits wave in a sentimental fashion, perhaps wishing that they too were small and agile, with a centreboard for beach landings with shrimping nets.

The quay is down there, long and grey, a ferryboat leaving the steps. This is the moment when sensible people lower the outboard and pull the start cord. But the breeze is right, and the only sound is the rustle of the boat through the water. It seems a pity to spoil silence of this high quality. 

Under the ferry's nose

So we harden up, and pass under the ferry's nose as it backs away from the steps, and the visitors on the quay stand like shags on a rock, shuffling towards the pub and the gardens and the other land-based holiday amenities. While we shoot across the little horseshoe bay, tack and come back at the quay. Here is the wind shadow behind the hill, exactly where it should be. The sails go limp. The boat carries its way to the steps. At the final moment we put up the helm. The steps slide alongside. A bow line and a stern line; we will not be here long. The passengers climb the steps, out of the peace of the breeze, into a world of people and chatter and engine noise.

Here in the quiet world under the sails, we drift back to the mooring. It is only as we are picking up the buoy that we notice that no sea creatures were harmed in the making of this fishing trip.

Sam Llewellyn, editor The Marine Quarterly