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water lochs, and was as skilful in the management of an open boat with a lug-sail as any man on the coast, but had the reputation of being very daring; and here was the evil. He relied too much upon his skill and his previously frequent hairbreadth escapes, and fastened the sheet; the consequence of which was, that, on a heavy squall arriving, the boat was capsized in an instant, and went down, — which would not have been the case had the sheet been in hand, as it ought to have been, with such a boat, under such circumstances. Two men were drowned, the other two picked up by a boat which was at hand and came immediately to their aid.
On several occasions this year, when out with a small boat with a lug-sail, mackerel fishing, I should have been capsized by squalls, had I not had the sheet in hand, and been able at the moment to have eased the sail. If you are any distance from the high land, you can always perceive the squalls arriving on the surface of the water from a considerable distance, and can therefore be prepared, if you exercise proper vigilance, partially to counteract their effect, by easing the sail at the same time that you turn your helm or luff slightly to the wind.
Two other accidents happened from the same cause as before mentioned; one about six weeks since, and the other two years ago. The latter occurred to three fishermen, not far from the shore, and in the sight of several persons,—the three men being old experienced hands. The boat was similar in make, size, and construction to an ordinary fishing boat,—open, and with a lug-sail. They were sailing fast before the wind, with a strong breeze, when they encountered a sudden squall from the opposite direction, which of course jibbed the boat; and, as the sheet was fastened, the boat, not receiving sufficient relief from the helm, went over immediately, and the three men were drowned. In this case, if the sheet had been in hand, the boat would not have been capsized.
The reason for this extreme precaution of having the sheet always in hand, is, I think, evident, from the fact that, in these sea-water lochs, squalls frequently come on in an instant, either at right angles to, or immediately opposite the direction of the wind filling your sail and which is impelling you. The immediate and inevitable consequence of this counter action is the jibbing of the boat, and its capsize,—if the sail be fast, and the boat be going before the wind.
The nature of the surrounding hills and mountains easily explains these back and countercurrents of wind, as well as their concentrated violence.
The other accident, to which I have alluded, remains unexplained, as the four persons who were in the boat were all drowned. This boat was an open one, as large as a good sized fishingboat, from 22 to 25 feet keel, with a mainsail, jib, and foresail. The party consisted of two gentlemen and two sailors. The former had been on an excursion of pleasure, and were returning at night across a wide sea-water loch. The weather was rather squally, but not too much so for a boat of the above size: her being capsized is therefore attributed to mismanagement; and this opinion was strongly supported by the fact, that, on recovering the boat, every halliard, sheet, and tack, was found tight and fast .
A boat recently strongly recommended to me for the purposes of all sorts of loch fishing, is one of 15 or 16 feet keel, 6 feet beam, sharp at the bow or forepart, round stemmed, and flat in the middle. A boat of this construction could not easily be upset, and would be very convenient for long-line, hand-line, mackerel, and salmon and salmon-trout fishing. There is, I believe, only one sort of boat more safe, and that is a coble; and this is made purposely for salmon and salmon-trout fishing. This boat carries a lug-sail, and, from her peculiar construction, will stand a heavy sea. She is very broad and flat at bottom, and therefore equally safe and convenient for taking in nets or long lines, and maintains her equilibrium with one or two persons moving about in her; and this solidity is quite requisite, as, in taking up the large long line, two persons must be at the same side of the boat at the same time, both rather leaning over,—one drawing in the line, the other gaffing the fish; and as there is sometimes a little excitement at these moments, as well as considerable movement, a narrowbuilt, light boat would not only be unsuitable, but dangerous- In hauling in nets it is equally essential that the boat used for the purpose be very stable and solid, — in fact, for all sorts of fishing.
During the summer months on a cloudy day, or early in the morning or towards the evening on any fine day, very good sport is to be had with the handline; and two or three persons may partake of the same amusement at the same time, out of the same boat, each with his own hand-line. The most favourable moment is when the tide is rising, especially if it be towards sunset, or immediately after sunrise.
The hand-line is on a reel, made of any common wood, about 8 inches square, so that you may let it out or wind it up at pleasure. The length will depend upon the depth of those parts of the loch in which you are in the habit of fishing; about 60 feet will generally suffice. The best places for this sport are not in deep water, but upon sand-banks, which are to be found in all lochs; these being the spots to which almost all sorts of fish generally resort, especially such as you wish to take with the hand-line. The end of the line is fastened to the centre of a strong piece of whalebone, about 18 inches in length, the thickness of your little finger, at each extremity of which you must have a strong piece gut, from a foot to 18 inches in length, with a moderate sized hook at the end. A piece of lead must be attached exactly to the centre of the whalebone, about 3 inches under the fastening, so that when you let your line down the whalebone may descend horizontally: the lead will inform you when your hooks have reached the bottom, and will also acquaint you with the nature of the bottom on which you are fishing. You must raise your hooks gradually and frequently from the bottom to a short distance, allowing them as gradually to descend, holding the line steady, so that you may be aware the moment a fish commences to bite; the time to