Death on the Razer’s Edge
“Deckhand Wanted” Razer wrote on the flyer, “fisherman needs deckhand to hire”. Lots of queries came from afar, Razer found one in the local bar. “Red” as he was known must not be misjudged by his youthful appearance, which belies the raw toughness of the young man. The craggy, weathered fisherman of so many years alongside a red haired, scrawny, extra youthful, freckled fellow make a handsome picture. Two generations on the cusp of passing the torch.
Dawn breaks gray at low tide, Razer ambles down the dock where the Razer’s Edge waits in her stall. This old boat has been fishing these waters since long before Razer was born and likely will be fishing long after he’s gone. She’s a salty, meticulously maintained thirty-two-footer. Built of local wood, she has a long, colorful history just like the old timer at her helm.
Razer guides his boat out the harbor mouth, turning south toward the fishing grounds forty miles distant. The Razer’s Edge is not alone, there is a small fleet running together at a leisurely pace, this is the mid-season doldrums, and it shows. Early in the season there is black smoke pouring from the stacks of an extremely competitive commercial salmon fishery.
Grey seas are building at the ocean entrance, the Razer’s Edge works against a flood tide into an unwelcome, choppy sea, a clear sign the day is deteriorating. “Ah, this dirty weather’ll bring the fish up” Razer muses aloud. “There’s a payday in the offing boy!”
A large wave rolls under the Razer’s Edge, she dives deep into the trough. Razer gives the throttle a shove as the bow lifts, powering to the crest of the oncoming behemoth. “Whoa, hang on!” Razer yells, as he has done so many times before. His boat teeters at the wavetop, he pulls back on the throttle as it begins the dive into the trough.
Red is thrown out of the bunk as the boat slews around, hard to port, waking him mid-air from an alcohol induced nightmare where he dreamt he had died, only to find, he’s been shanghaied! A groggy mind fills in the blanks, “Oh ya, when the bar closed that old fellow offered me a bunk on his boat for the night. Hell of a way to get hired, wonder what happens when ya get fired!”
The old man’s stare chills him to the bone as he sits on the floor, feeling very alone. Couldn’t recall much of what happened, but his spirit isn’t dampened. “I don’t wanna piss off this old goat, he’ll just throw me off the boat!”
Tossed and abused for several hours by an angry sea, spurred on by thirty knots of southeast wind, it is time at last to set the fishing gear out. Heavy raingear is donned, the two fishermen venture out on deck, cut loose the net rolling all hundred fifty fathoms off the reel.
Once the net is out and fishing, the two stand in the stern, watching intently. Razer eyes the young fellow with a bit of suspicion, then throws caution to the wind. “Well, he ain’t pukin’ an’ he got with the program on deck. He don’t seem like he’s gonna be a whiner, mebbe I got a keeper.” “I heard good things at the bar about this old guy, but he’s a rude bugger; tricky too, how he got me out here”. Red reasons further “this may work into a decent fishing job.”
“Howza ‘bout makin’ us a couple sandwiches kid? I’ll watch the gear.” “You bet! I need some food in my belly, or I’m gonna’ be dry heavin’ before ya know it.” Red got to work on a couple oversize, salami and cheese sandwiches. A simple task is made tough by the violent tossing of the boat. He can feel the swell has gotten bigger since the net was set, the wind and chop are hitting harder as well.
Red is just slapping the sandwiches together when the door flies open. Razer roars “let’s get these fish aboard!” Red runs to Razer, hands him a sandwich and the two hustle to their stations on deck, stuffing as much food in their mouths, as fast as possible without choking.
Deckhand jumps to the rollers and hits the trigger, Razer yells “these swells’re gettin’ bigger!” Together they clear fish from the net, and in that moment, their bond is set. Two fishermen working into the night, heavy seas rolling, land out of sight. They haul fish as the weather eroded, they haul fish until they are deck loaded.
Now, fully loaded in a dangerous gale, the Razer’s Edge must carry her crew to safety. No mistakes. There is no margin for error. Any wave, given the opportunity, may bring disaster on
boat and crew. Protected waters lie twenty miles distant. Razer backs the throttle down, he is no hurry, he trusts his boat after being with her for nearly forty years. “She’s got me home in worse conditions Red, much worse. Go ahead an’ get some sleep, I got this.”
Back in town, they offload their catch, hold now empty, deckhand slams the hatch, happy now to be the new hire, on the Razer’s Edge with this old shanghaier! His young heart swells “round the world there’ll be much delight, when folks honor the salmon that gave their lives this night.” DMc