Some firsts in Nova Scotia

On my last day in Nova Scotia, I had a few firsts. First, we went out on our friend’s boat, Fiddler’s Green IV, and I caught three mackerel. Or herrings. Or some sort of fish.

Fishing is a strange activity. I’m unclear on how you get good at it. As far as I can tell, you put a line in the water and wait, and eventually a fish may get hooked. So perhaps it’s something that you’re good at if you’re good at waiting. Or putting things in water.

The fish arrived on the line, first one, and then two at once. I hope that my friends don’t think I just believe they appear by magic, but that basically seems to be it – you dangle a line out on the water, and eventually something happens.


And then a frantic dog mauls the fish before you get the chance to throw them back in (are my vegetarian ideals fully compromised now?) and you have fish blood on your shoes. Well, that’s a memento they can’t take away from you.

Until you get rid of your shoes.

My second first was when I got to drive the boat. Or pilot the boat. Or steer it. Or … what is the verb to describe controlling the speed and direction of watercraft?

I take no poop on the poop deck, or some such nautical reference

Like a lot of things I’d never done before, driving a boat isn’t that difficult to do in principle, but I had no idea of the principles. You have a big compass next to the wheel, and if you look down, you can see what bearing you’re on. Mike, the boat’s proprietor (see, once you lose faith in the meaning of words, things go awry pretty damn quickly) would call out a bearing, and I’d have to turn the wheel until the compass got to that bearing, and then I’d have to hold the boat steady.

Of course, there’s a couple of things to remember. First, a boat steers like, well, a boat. It’s no good trying to make sudden swift movements, and if you try to stop steering in a direction just as you get to the bearing you want, things get … overbearing? The boat continues to turn, and then you need to turn the other way to correct back to the bearing you want. If you’re smart, you fix your eye on a point on the horizon and steer towards that, rather than constantly looking down at the compass.

Secondly, it’s good to remember that all bearings are three digits. They’re given from 0 to … er … some other number (360?) but they all get called out. If you’re on bearing 15, that’s oh-one-five. That’s because if you heard less than three digits, you’d know you hadn’t heard the complete direction from the navigator, and also stops some of the fun and games where you think you’re meant to head on 15 when you should be at 50.

There’s an autopilot as well, and GPS on the boat, but where’s the fun in that?

Actually, it’s not so much the fun, as the fact that when I’m wearing polarised sunglasses, I see nothing from any liquid crystal display. Technology beats technology every time.

We took both girls on the boat, as well as the dog and some friends. La Serpiente Aquatica Negra got to wear her very own life preserver – I think it’s the first time she had a chance to do that. We didn’t sling her in the water so I never found out how well it worked or how good she’s got at swimming. There’s time enough for other firsts later.

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