My boat is moored in harbour more nights than she goes to work

My family all depend on me but the thing that really hurts

Is that father’s shrunk back in his shell so now the boat is mine,

Though I know she slowly rots away below the waterline.

My father still thinks he’s a prosperous man, and he’s back in ‘fifty two

When five good men and the Captain made up a ship-shape crew

There were no quotas imposed on us, the brand new boat was sound

And the shoals of cod were mighty and were always easy found.

 

It’s true we had five men aboard before the EEC

The quota cuts us down to where we’re now no more than three

These waters need to turn, with white caps far as you can go

For now we work with lobster pots, me and my cousin Joe

And never did we imagine that we’d work with rod and line

Sometimes we’ll take a shark if we’re within our given time

Our mackerel lines are always out, sometimes we’ll take a score

Though we’re not allowed to sell them on the harbour any more.

Boxed and frozen on the dock and bound for London Town

Sold at market, then the same truck brings them all back down.

 

 And somewhere over a Brussels desk

 It gets decided what is best

 How much haddock

 How much whiting

  While on the dock grown men are fighting

Over an eight hour shift and who’s to take it

And if the quota is nonsense, will they break it.

 

Fish that are under a certain size have got to be thrown back

Even though they’re dead by then, now where’s the sense in that

With the grace of God we’ll go out today on the turning tide

Me and my cousin Joe will pray that we’ll come back alive.

Nowadays more often, we go much further out

I think back to the days of drift nets and hear my father’s shout

“Shipping forecast’s not too good, in an hour we’ll turn about”

But we’d haul those nets in first and find them filled with silver fish

With a well filled hold and a setting sun, what more could you wish.

In those early days, gung ho, we’d catch the morning tide

A twelve hour shift, I’ll tell you now, that was no easy ride

On good days we’d even gut and fillet the catch up on the deck

We were young and twelve hours on your feet had no effect.

 

One day before too long they’ll write and say my hull is holed

If I’m out already on the waves then I won’t need to be told.

Joe and I wear our life jackets now, almost all the time

Without, we wouldn’t stand a chance down in that freezing brine

And I feel it won’t be long now before my boat goes down

I’ve seen the way the Harbour Master looks at me and frowns

I hope for the sake of cousin Joe we’re not too far from shore

And I can pay the insurance bill for just a few months more.

 

So when it finally happens, and I go overboard

I’m going to loosen off the knot in my life preserver cord

If I’m still alive when I hit the water, I’ll swim the other way

My affairs are all in order, there’s no bills left to pay

And I’d rather have a seaman’s death than live like my old dad

An hour after breakfast he can’t remember what he had

But I really do believe he gets more care than I could give

I’m taking a lungful of water now, this is long as I want to live…

 (c)October 2011 Jeffrey James Culling

 

 

 

 

 

 

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