Thursday, 22 July 2010

Prawns and samphire

Kevin Doherty brought his fishing boat alongside the jetty this morning and handed me a bag of fresh prawns. Apparently the fishing is quite good at the moment. He had gone out early and had got on well but was heading in sooner than intended because one of his creels had caught on the seabed in 33 meters of water, and he had broken the steel arm of the hauler trying to free it.
'Does that mean a diver?'
'Yes - I could do it myself but my son dives now and there are one or two others I can ask.'
He said that at 33 metres (around 110ft) it would be best to ask one of the more experienced divers. Then he told me a couple of hair-raising stories about his own diving exploits, which confirmed me in my already pretty steady conviction that I was more comfortable above, than below the water.
He once ran out of air at just over 30 meters, from which depth it takes about a minute and a half to get to the surface, if you want to live to tell the tale (you can make a run for it, but whatever air there is in your lungs will expand as the pressure drops, causing the bends); so, he did what they tell you in diving school - he whistled a cheerful tune as he made his way to the surface - deliberately, slowly expelling his last gulp of oxygen as he did so.
I asked if he wasn't, well.. terrified out of his mind?
'No,' he said, 'I knew I'd get there one way or the other.'
Rather him than me. The other incident happened in Ardglass harbour. Following the harbour floor, he was making his way back to the boat and decided to take a shortcut beneath, rather than around it. What he hadn't realised was that although the clearance looked fine, the tide was ebbing; and as he passed under the boat's keel, she settled on top of him, pinning him between his air bottle and the seabed. He could only wait until, by virture of the lift provided by whatever wave there was at the surface, she rose enough to release him - at which point he scrambled forward, as he puts it, 'sharpish'.
Anyway, we cooked the prawns there and then, and Lynn took Eddie round the back of the island and came back with a handful of samphire, which will be the accompaniment for tonight's starter. Now that's island life.

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