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deeps, and then taken to Cley and Blakeney harbour, where they are deposited in troughs to fatten and grow. From thence they are supplied to the fishermen on the coast. The lines being baited and coiled, so as to be paid out freely, are conveyed to the boats, and then you may notice a curious custom. They, and also the nets, are put in at the right-hand side of the boat, then the nets are also cast from the right-hand side of the boat, or as nearly so as practicable. A doggrel form of prayer is also said by the fishermen before the latter are cast. This faint echo of Galilee has become a superstitious observance, kept as much by the graceless blackguard as the honest man who may see a meaning in it.
The Cromer and Sherringham crab-boats are of a class which is unlike any other boat on the British coast. They are, for all the world, like the half of a walnut shell in shape. Stem and stern are pointed alike, and the shell form is further contributed to by the absence of rowlocks, instead of which are holes pierced in the top straikes. The oars are thrust through these, and when not in use the holes are stopped by corks. The oars are weighted with lead on the looms, in order to give greater leverage power. To launch a boat, an oar is passed through two opposite rowlock holes, and two men half lift half drag it down
to the water. The average length of the boat over all is about fifteen feet. They mount a large lug sail, which has to be dipped every tack, but with which they can sail very close to the wind, and at a spanking pace. A friend of mine in one of these little boats, rigged cutter fashion, has sailed around England. For sea work I cannot imagine any boat better fitted for the purpose of sailing and rowing, and also standing rough weather.
In my dream I
I went to bed betimes (people go to bed early in Cromer), and, as I suppose my head was full of the subject, I must needs dream about it. foregathered with an ancient fisherman, who gave me the most copious and marvellous information upon marine matters, of which I took full notes, congratulating myself upon meeting with him. At last, however, he told me that the average length of a Cromer crab-boat was forty-three feet. This was too much, and by way of proving him wrong I used myself in default of a sixfoot measure, and, turning myself over as a draper does his yard, and with the utmost gravity, measured a boat near us as two lengths and two-thirds of a length
(equal to sixteen feet), and triumphed.
Which way, skipper ?"
To return to our codlings. said one of the men to me. "To the southward,"
answered I, at a guess, seeing several boats making off
in that direction. "No, no, sir, that won't do," he replied. We pulled a mile and a half straight out to the eastward, and dropped the anchor, with the buoy rope and the end of the line attached, in seven fathoms of water, and then began the tedious work of paying out the line.
"There's a foul," I cried, seeing that a snooding was entangled round the line. "Yes, sir; but we dare not pull it in again, or it would raise the whole of the line that is already out, and foul the other snoodings." We paid half the line out, and then, making a turn, laid the rest in the opposite direction. The buoy and anchor were then let go. The other line was laid in a similar manner, and then we rowed about for an hour,
to give the fish time to bite.
was hauling in her line.
awhile, and watched the
Another boat not far off
We kept her
glittering fish being swung
out of the water in rapid succession.
"Do you never get in a mess with other fellow's lines?" I asked,
"Oh yes; one boat often lays her lines over others, and then there's a lot of trouble before they can be got free."
While tossing aimlessly about, the two men began to relate for my edification unpleasant anecdotes of seasickness, and at length I asked,
"When are we going to take up the lines?" “Just now, sir; we'll pull that way."
and the anchor hauled in, First came a small codling,
The buoy was shipped and then began the fun. then a dab, then another codling, then nothing for several fathoms, save "five-fingers" and starfish, the latter looking most excruciatingly uncomfortable with the hooks in their stomachs and their thirteen fingers curled up around them; then a ling, and then a succession of fine codlings. If they were slightly hooked, or were very large, the " pick" or gaff was used. They were shaken off the hook very unceremoniously, and the line was carefully coiled round as it was hauled in. Soon the bottom of the boat was covered with fish of all sizes. Sometimes a heavy strain on the line would tell of a big fish, and the excitement increased as fathom after fathom was hauled in, and two or three intermediate codlings were scarcely heeded until the big one was gaffed. It took a long time before both lines were on board and it was "up and away," and by that time I was rather tired of it. It was not such good fun as hand-line fishing. There was too much of the wholesale and mechanical about it. Of course, it is more business than sport.
Our take was about ten score of all sizes, and this is about an average one. If such a take could only be
had in the summer, the men would clear a pot of money by it, but just at this season the market is glutted, and the profits less.
In fine weather, this does not seem such a bad way of getting a living; but the rough has to be taken with the smooth, and very rough and hard it is at times.
Well, you are safe back," quoth my friend, as I jumped ashore.
Yes, and hungry enough to eat you up." So, having first bought a 9 lb. codling for a shilling, we made our way up the "gangway" to our lodgings.
I have had variable sport with hand-lines at Cromer. I recollect one occasion, when I spent part of a summer holiday there, going out with two friends to fish with hand-lines for anything that might turn up. Sport was rather slack, so we turned our attention to practical joking. C—, being rather afraid of seasickness, had brought a bottle of rum and milk with him. It was a most extraordinary compound to take to sea, and would, one would imagine, be sufficient to upset any stomach. Probably C—, being a lawyer, had a sterner stomach than other men. He was the most patient angler of the three, and scarcely took his eyes off the line which he held in his hand. Thus he gave an excellent opportunity to abstract the bottle from his pocket and taste the contents. T- did so,