Sea fishing: Shaken, stirred but still in awe at season’s end

Stewart Calligan with one of the cod caught on the last sea fishing trip of the season.
Stewart Calligan with one of the cod caught on the last sea fishing trip of the season.
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“I must go down to the sea again,” a haunting line from poet John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever’ drew me to the last boat fishing trip of 2016 as the long spell of strong easterly winds stirred the North Sea like a cauldron.

Fortunately, my hearty crew managed one last trip when the sea demons had a day off. With the conditions in our favour, I was joined by Rob and Roy for a sailing trip around the chalk headland of Flamborough Head and having launched, we chose to set the anchor down not far from Filey, about one mile out to sea.

The first catch of the day were some accommodating mackerel but when we managed to descend through the mackerel layer and settle our squid and some tempting red rubber worms on the bottom, our luck really was in and we all caught cod. Our biggest speciman was around the 5lb mark and it put up a fight that was worthy of a fish in prime condition. Apart from a dozen mackerel, all of our catches were returned to their watery home beneath the surface.

Though we had seized a gap in the ride of unforgiving winds, the weather on there was very much a mixture - shaken, stirred, needles of the wet stuff with occasional rays from the fire up above to warm us up. It was such a crazy experience with the wind devils driving the sea birds twice as fast like screeching banshees echoing off the cliffs. Amid it all the boat was blown in circles under a sky which was bright one minute and then turned to grey the next.

After a lively sail back to the haven of the south shore, the snug calm of the boat yard was a welcome change. Swapping a few yarns with the boat yard gang over a warm drink, we recharged our batteries, gave the boat a good hosing with fresh water, cleaned the decks and windows, swilled out the engine and sprayed off the trailer.

My number one son happens to have a tow bar on his Jeep so I cashed in a few favours and he towed the boat and trailer to his house near Beverley to spend the winter.

‘Winterising’ a boat with an outboard engine is not a big job. Push some anti-freeze through the water cooling system, let the fuel run down in the carburettors and main tank, and go wild with the spray grease. All the electrical connections and visible moving parts, especially the Morse controls between the wheel and the outboard, were duly sprayed.

We checked the boat cabin for any items that could go mouldy or smelly over winter and I removed my waders, yachting jackets, bait boxes and hand towels.

A check was made of all the bilge areas. No water had found its way into the forward cabin bilge or under the wheel house floor. A little water and oil was found in the aft deck bilge and with me crouched up like a bilge rat I sponged it out bit by bit.

Batteries were removed to be stored in a warm outhouse. As the boat is stood outside the wiper blades are removed to prevent damage from snow and ice, and we sanded off a couple of teak rails, oiled the wood, and we are finally ready for the new year.

It won’t be long before the words of Masefield ring in my ears yet again:

“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

“And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

“And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

“And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

“And a rod in hand with a trusty bend to propel the bait asunder,

“To wait and wait for the fish to take to the musical clap of thunder.”

The last two lines courtesy of an impertinent me, hopefully as homage to the Poet Laureate of 37 years.