Isle Of Second Chances – Episode 19

“Forty years or so ago there were lots of illicit whisky stills scattered across the island. If any official-looking stranger landed, these were quickly covered in heather and bracken in order to make it almost impossible to see them unless you stood on one.”

Nicola smiled at the story of the lawless past, but her brain was counting.

“That makes this boat over forty years old!” she said apprehensively.

“Nearer sixty,” he replied. “She’s been out in all kinds of weather, but we’ll stay in the shelter of the island, just round the point. That’s a good place for mackerel usually.”

He swung the tiller and the boat began to move parallel to the shore which now, to Nicola’s eye, seemed to be very, very far away.

She struggled not to show how far out of her comfort zone Donnie’s invitation to come fishing had taken her.

The old motorboat rose and fell easily to the waves and a slight spatter of spray came over the gunwale.

She shifted more into the centre of the thwart.

“Do you often go out fishing?” she asked.

“About a couple of times a week,” he said. “The fish in the sea are free and they help to keep down our feeding costs at the centre.

“Plus mackerel are omega-three rich and make an excellent addition to the diet, even if the islanders only use them for baiting their lobster pots. Unless fish is white-fleshed no-one will eat it up here.”

“Mackerel?” she asked. “I’ve never tasted it.”

“It’s a fish which has to be eaten as fresh from the sea as possible, when its flesh is good and firm.”

His eyes searched the shore for his landmark.

“About here will do,” he judged.

When he switched off the engine, the world around them seemed suddenly quiet, and with its forward momentum lost, the old motorboat rose and fell more markedly to the sea.

“What now?” Nicola asked, clinging tightly to her gunwale.

Donald was searching around in an under-seat locker. He came out with a couple of handlines.

“No rods?” she asked, surprised.

“No need for them. Handlines and feathered hooks will do.” He busied himself unwinding the line and its small lead weight to take the lures down into the depths.

“Watch your fingers,” he warned. “These hooks are kept razor sharp.”

Dropping the weight overboard, he paid out the line and the lures sank into the dark water.

“Right. Take over now.”

“What do I do?” she asked, reluctantly accepting the handline. Its wooden frame felt sticky and horrid to the touch.

“Hold the line across your finger like this.” He leaned forward to set the line for her and she smelled the cologne on his skin. “Now, jig it slowly up and down. You’ll feel the sharp tug if a fish strikes.”


Donald looked at her quizzically, and reiterated his previous instruction.

“Oh, I see. But they’re only feathers!”

“Moving in the water, they could be anything. Mackerel are voracious predators. They swim in shoals. When a shoal passes under our boat, they’ll fight each other to grab anything that looks like food.”

He let down the second handline and then they sat companionably, the lines out on opposite sides of the boat. Nicola gradually became more relaxed about the boat’s motion.

“What next?” she asked.


Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!