Memories - Gen. Jack Seely

In Forever England (1932) General Jack Seely describes the daily risks that Brook fisherman had to take in deep swells and breakers that no boat but the lifeboat could survive:

I will try to describe a fisherman of today who lives in a cottage quite close to the sea. His wife is dead, and he has one child. His mother is ailing and he is the sole means of support. Although he is fifty years of age, he still has fair curly hair, steel blue eyes and a strong frame. The material of his trade, all of which he has bought or made himself, is a fifteen foot six open boat, lobster pots and prawn pots…each day he must try to get afloat in order to make enough to give comfort to his mother and child.

Some days, but not very many, all is easy. The dawn is clear, the sea is calm. All alone in the morning twilight he puts the little wooden ladders, well-greased, down the beach towards the sea, pushes his boat down along them until she is nearly waterborne; then puts in the gear; with one hard push gets her afloat, jumps in, seizes the sculls and with a few deft strokes gets her clear of the rocks. Then he steps, first his mast, then his rudder; hoists his spritsail, and with the light morning breeze sails to his fishing ground, beyond the outlying edges, three miles out to sea. There, in seven fathoms of water, with only a slight swell to hamper him, he hauls his pots, puts the catch in the boat, rebaits the pots, having carefully seen that the weighting stones are all in place, and lowers them again.

I have tried to describe a good day, but what about a bad day? The sky is red in the east and, a more sinister thing which we all dread, there is a reflected pink glow in the west. Presently a strange thing happens – I sometimes think the most awe-inspiring of all my own adventures in peace and war. A great heave of sea comes along, lifting us high in the air, as if some giant standing on the bottom, fifty feet below, were lifting the boat with his hand…and then comes the terrifying sound just beyond us, between us and our home – the great roar of the roller breaking on the outer ledge. We look at each other and my friend says: ‘That’s a big ground-sea. We had better be getting home’.