Boats – and lots of them – in a harbour which could be anywhere. Could be several down the east coast of England. I expect several more could be tagged for this photo prompt from KL Caley at

We’re still with Roscoe and Neville, I’m afraid. I was going to give them a rest this week, but this was just too appropriate. It’s just over 1000 words.

 two bobbing boats beside a footpath and some railings

Take to the Boats

“Oy, you! What are you doing on my boat?”

“Looking for you, possibly, if you’re the captain.” Roscoe took his head out of the doorway he was investigating, and answered the person on the bank civilly. 

How did he get away with it? 

We had come down from the hills two nights earlier, and wandered along the shore, noting the low buildings and masts ahead of us. “Reckon there’s a little harbour there, Nev,” Roscoe had said to me, sniffing the air afterwards as if he could forecast the weather.

“Going to be fine and settled for a few days too. Reckon we could save ourselves a lot of walking if we could maybe borrow a boat and sail it along the coast a way.”

“That’s a funny definition of borrow,” I replied.

“Relocate it for the owner, then. They’d probably prefer it in Cromer or Southwold, anyway.”

“It’s a long way between Cromer and Southwold.”

“Always have a Plan B,” he said.

I think he was working on plan H, now the boat-borrowing had hit a snag, namely the owner.

“And what may you be wanting with me?” He was a big chap, the captain, which we both assumed he was, given his interrupting us in a loud voice, and acting like he owned the little fishing smack we thought we could handle between us.

“I was admiring your craft here. Fishing good at present?” Roscoe always went around the houses to get to his purpose. It mostly worked.

“Maybe. What’s it to you?”

“I’m in the market for a temporary loan of a fishing boat just such as yours. Maybe go along the coast a way, seek out some good lobster, crab or maybe something more fish-like, sell the catch at Southwold, perhaps.”

The owner screwed his face up and regarded Roscoe. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled at a pipe. He stuck it between his lips and seemed to chew on it for a bit.

“Is this here temporary loan involve providing me with some deckhands and the profit from the fishing?”

“Quite possibly.” Roscoe had his confident voice on now. 

We waited. 

The captain chewed his pipe, looked at me and Roscoe, then out to sea, or up in the sky, then back to us. After a few circuits he took his pipe out of his mouth.

“Right. Cast off forr’ard.”

Roscoe jumped back onto the land, and got the huge rope off the bollard near the front of the boat. I ran forward and wound the handle to bring it on board. It was a bit stiff. 

“Cast off aft!”

I hope Roscoe managed to do that and jump aboard with his rope, because I had my hands full with this one. And I didn’t want to go anywhere without him.

Eventually the wet snake of rope slithered up onto the deck and I coiled it nicely. Then I went aft to see how Roscoe was doing. 

Apart from a very wet bottom, which suggested he hadn’t completely managed the leap from bank to deck, he was doing fine. He was even ahead of me on the stowing of ropes.

“What now?” I asked him.

“I’ll check with the captain, but I reckon you can sleep on that nice pile of sacking over there. Leave space for me to join you.”

About mid-morning we had gone far enough to be in a suitable fishing ground, so we shoved the net over the side, and continued on our way for a while until the captain heaved to, as he put it, and set the engine to haul the net in. 

The wind had gone round a bit and we were bobbing around like a cork in a bathtub (and I hate bathtubs). The sight of those glorious silvery fish all coming aboard and flipflopping all over the place filled me with excitement. Surely this was good enough to take us all the way to Southwold? That would take nearly a week off our journey!

The captain got us sorting them, and throwing them into different barrels, and picking out the ones that were too small, throwing them back, and the ones that shouldn’t be there at all, like crab and starfish that had got caught up in the rush.

“Right then,” the captain said. “We’re not going to make Southwold in time for market, but we’ll make Gorleston. How does that suit you?”

“Oh, very well, thank you,” says Roscoe. Well, it was a lot better than Cromer, I suppose, and south of the River Yare, which we knew was hard to cross.

“Well, take a break now, and be ready to moor up in about forty minutes.”

Roscoe and I settled on the sacking behind the wheelhouse out of the strong breeze. It was chilly now the sun had gone in, or maybe it was just reaction to getting all hot sorting the fish.

“What do we do when we get to Gorleston?” I asked Roscoe.

“We go south again, Nev. Always south.”

“But we don’t know the way from here.”

“I have an idea. We might be able to stowaway on a train to take us south and cut off the Kent corner. Or… we might go visiting Uncle Bob – he’s in Kent.”

This was new. I thought we were going to find Her. Although Uncle Bob might know where she was, and the best way to find her. When had Roscoe thought of this?

We arrived in Gorleston, and moored up neatly, Roscoe keeping his bottom out of the water, and me doing my bit without mishap.

The buyers swarmed around the boat before we had a chance to get off.

Roscoe waited, watching the shenanigans on the quayside. The captain concluded several deals and came back to us, grinning.

“A fine bit of work, thank you kindly. Here’s a little parting gift. Use it wisely.” He handed over a small purse. Roscoe thanked him, sincerely, but not gushing. He accepted it as our due, despite having ‘borrowed’ the boat to get our journey done.

We set off into the town.

“What now, Roscoe?”

“How about we find the train station, Nev.” He chinked the purse, and I realised—we had money to spend. We could go anywhere we wanted!

If only we knew exactly where she was.

(c) J M Pett 2022


Boats | #writephoto Flash Fiction
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