Constant Waterman 

From the Journals of Constant Waterman


For a modest fee, one can join in a charter boat party and spend the day fishing for cod off southern New England.

We left home about daybreak and drove an hour and a half until we fetched up at Point Judith in Narragansett. Harbor of Refuge they call it and for good reason. Two arms of breakwater nearly meet in a loving embrace of the harbor. Within lies sanctuary from rips and wind.

We found our boat, an eighty foot steel vessel, and strode aboard. The weather promised no worse than usual, the fish awaited us anxiously; we were healthy and hungry and wanted a second breakfast. By eight o’clock, the diesels commenced to churn and, ten minutes later, we backed away from the pier.

A pot of coffee simmered in the deckhouse and twenty people, mostly men, crowded about and fumbled with the sugar. Once outside the breakwater, we felt the effect of contrary tides and a stiff breeze. The seas ran only four or five feet but the chop would rattle your dentures.

Every vessel handles the sea in its own particular way. Our vessel responded in a delightful screwing motion that reminded me of trying to land a sizable eel using very light tackle. The stern lifted ever so gently then pirouetted - and I found I had poured my coffee inside my shirt. Perhaps these doughnuts would be easier to manage. And they were. At least until my stomach began to lurch. I’ve been aboard numerous small boats; been to the Caribbean twice on large ships, crossed the Atlantic through fifteen-foot seas on a steamer, and never felt more than a passing queasiness.

This topped them all. Just for garnish, the diesel fumes followed me everywhere and gagged me. I asked around but no one had any Dramamine. Ten miles off shore, our little ship auditioned for an Archimedes screw – and got the part. I’d never known that a boat could pitch and roll and yaw and shudder simultaneously.

The doughnuts grew disgruntled. They told me the lodgings were less than suitable and gave me notice they were moving out - immediately. I made it to the lee rail and granted their request. My companion shook his head.

“It’s no use chumming for cod,” he said. “They never come to the surface.”  Continued