Laughs from the Past (4)

The Shore

House martins and swallows in erratic flight,

Gulls dive seaward from astonishing height,

Curlews nest in rough greases near by,

A pretty Chaffinch sings his song too the sky,

I love to hear waves crash onto the shore,

Retreat, regroup, advance once more,

Feel foaming surf between my toes,

halcyon days, I so adore.

“Jimmy, Jimmy, wake up Jimmy”. Jimmy was in a right mood, first day in a new job and he had been shaken awake to be told that the alarm hadn’t gone off, and he was late for work. Quickly he dressed and headed out across the shunter yard and in the back gate of the dock, so he would not have to pass the Harbour-masters office.

The job looked as if it could be a good permanent job, keeping the dock free from silt, the boat fitted with a steam-driven crane and clam bucket, was used to scoop up silt into the boats hold and deposit it out in the river.

Jumping down onto the deck, brought Laurimer out from below deck.

“Where have you been, we really need to get up steam and the big pumps working, the holds are flooded, I’ve been cranking that pump since I came on board with little success” Laurimer not one to panic was clearly anxious now.

The tide was on the turn and as the first waves broke broadside against the unstable craft it started to list alarmingly. Both men dived for the safety of the dock, Laurimer the steel ladder, Jimmy jumped for a large ring, dangling now as the deck slipped away from under him. Both now safely ashore looked back in disbelief the boat had turned turtle in the harbour.

“Thank God you were late” is all that Laurimer could think to say, “I would have been trapped below”, his face now white as a sheet.

“Maybe we should tell the Harbour-master?” Jimmy asked since he really was having difficulty understanding what had just happened.

The harbor-master on hearing their news raised his glasses and looked from the window to where he expected to see the dredger. “We should maybe go and see the divers, have them do an inspection of the boat,” he said aloud but really to himself.

The Divers were employed around the dock to patch minor repairs to harbour walls or remove flotsam and jetsam from the harbour. There was always something falling off ships that clog up sea screens. On reaching the diver’s boat the Harbour-master called down for them to come up on deck. When the diver did so the diver was informed that the old dredgers had sunk and the Harbour-master wanted the diver to bring their boat around and do a dive and try to ascertain why the dredger may have sunk.

“I can’t do that” replied the diver, “my mate is off today so there is no one to work the air pump”.

“Can’t you use these two lads to work the pump?” asked the Harbour-master.

“Have any of you lads worked with a diver before?” to which Laurimer quickly answered “Yes”.

Jimmy and Laurimer climbed on board the diver boat and sailed it around to where the dredger had sunk, now only its keel showing above water at what was by now almost full tide, they set about preparing the diver for his decent. Jimmy helped him into a suit, so old, patched, and dilapidated it would have put a patchwork quilt to shame. Then came the heavy helmet, lowered and screwed down onto the shoulder plate. Jimmy could not help but notice that although Laurimer was quick to get us the job, as a divers assistant, he was less willing to get involved in anything to do with the diver, and spent a lot of his time meticulously inspecting every inch of the air pump. Before the glass was screwed into place the diver again went through the signals on the safety line, as he ran through the signals Jimmy would nod at each instruction as if he really did understand. Now ready the diver was helped from the stool and clumped his way to the stern and descended the ladder and was soon out of sight, only a stream of bubble remained as he disappeared into the murky depth of the harbour. Jimmy paid out hose and line as Laurimer gave a slow, steady cadence on the pump. The diver had been down a long time now and Jimmy was getting a bit concerned over his safety

“We are just about out of hose and line, do you think he is OK down there?” he asked.

Laurimer having no more idea than Jimmy, asked, “Has he given you any signals on the line?”

“No” Jimmy answered

“Then he must be fine” suggested Laurimer.

Unknown to the two would be diver assistants, the Harbour-master had telephoned down to Leith asking for a salvage team to be sent up to Grangemouth to remove the dredger from the harbour. As the salvage barge arrived the skipper called over to Jimmy, still standing at the stern of the craft paying out line and hose.

“Have you lads got a diver down?” he hailed

“Yes” Jimmy answered.

“Then you better get him in, he is floating half way down the Forth”

It turned out that the diver had been caught by the turning tide and had been pulling desperately on the safety line to be hauled in, but had only been feed more line and hose. He closed the valve on his helmet, inflating his suit and floating to the surface, where he would be spotted by his team. He had floated to the surface alright but was missed by the two seamen and floated all the out the harbour on the ebbing tide. As the glass was removed, Jimmy and Laurimer’s were admonished in the most colourful of language. Excitement over it was back down to the Crown, tomorrow they would head down to the Seaman’s Union.

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