Sharing a rat’s nest – part 1*
The early morning sun was already hot. At a quarter to seven on a Saturday David was impressed with the length of the queue to the ticket counter at the marina. “Ah yes,” he thought, “it’s January, which means school holidays are still on.” It explained the crowd wanting to get on to the boat. Waiting people chattered excited about their journey.
With the ticket in his pocket David pushed his bicycle down the pontoon. Another queue had already gathered to get onto the boat. David used the time to check that the long metal rod was securely taped to the bike’s frame and made sure the plastic bucket was still tightly attached to his penny-rack. When the ship’s crew was lifting his bike to the front of the boat, where all of the passengers’ gear like rowing boats and strollers were stored for the journey, David waited to board until he could see his old, rusty bicycle was placed safely with the others.
Now that the boat was almost ready to leave the chatter and giggles rose louder. A group of young girls were sitting a few rows in front of David. He had closed his eyes, his hands were placed in his lap and he listened to the girl’s conversation. With his thumb and middle finger he inspected his palm and followed the wrinkles and folds.
The girls must have been German; he didn’t understand a word they were saying. No doubt the island was a popular tourist destination. David doubted the group would visit the island to find out about the internment camp were German and Austrian suspected enemy aliens were held during World War I. On the other hand the girls could be staying overnight at one of the hostels that once served as prisons for Aboriginal people; perhaps this way they’d learn a little bit about the island’s sad history.
David’s musings were interrupted by the roaring of the ship’s engine. Once it had started the laughter and talk was drowned out by the sound and David felt how the ship picked up speed that pushed him back into the seat. He liked this part of the journey when people finally accepted that it was too noisy to hold a conversation and kept quiet instead.
45 minutes went by quickly. David’s bicycle had already been brought down from the ship’s bow when he had disembarked. He could just swing himself onto his saddle and start the second leg of his journey. With a rhythmic returning squeak of his bike he rode past the cafe, through the settlement, down the street, left at the aerodrome, crossing the train tracks and further down towards the coastline.
He was following this path for a little while. It meandered along the coast up and down the hills and he could see the skyline of the city twinkling across the sea. The water’s turquoise was inviting, but David knew that this wasn’t a good spot. His first stop would be at a little beach he’d reach in another few more minutes.
Other travellers who had just rented their bicycles from the shop were rushing past him yelling excitedly at the sight of the green-blue sea. By the time David got to the place he had wanted to stop people were already splish-splashing around, trying on their snorkelling gear and getting the hang of floating in the water. While he looked down to decide whether this was a worthwhile stop a bus pulled up behind him. More people were spilling out and made their way across the hot sand. David had forgotten the bus that was circling the island dropping off and picking up those travellers that couldn’t ride. These two means of travelling – either bus or bicycle – were the only way of getting around here.
With a sigh of frustration David pushed himself off and squeaked further along the coastal way. At least this hadn’t been his favourite spot he thought while paddling. The other bay he liked and where he was usually successful was on the north-eastern side of the island. He used to be able to get there quickly, but now it’ll take him a little while longer. He was hoping by the time he’d reach the bay the wind had already turned in his favour too.
David was lucky. When he got off his bike and locked it the Fremantle Doctor, the wind coming from the south-west, was already blowing. The bay was now nicely protected with calm and quiet water. This is how he liked it. He took the long rod and bucket off his bike and climbed down the sandy hot path to the beach.
Carefully he placed the items of his backpack in front of him. He wanted to make sure he didn’t forget anything. There was nothing worse to be out there and having to come back for something he’d left at shore – it’s happened a few times already and it had displeased him immensely. A pair of gloves, a weight belt, a mash bag with fitting plastic lid into which David had cut two cross slots, a rope with a weight and a flag attached at either side of it, goggles, fins, snorkel and a knife.
The thick diving top he pulled over his head had a little hood attached. The extra layer of clothing was making David feel even hotter, but he took his time to prepare. For now, he tucked the gloves under the diving belt he had tied around his waist. The thick material of the gloves would only hinder him right now. The knife was attached to a lanyard which he tied around his left arm while wading into the crisp water. He pulled on his fins and put his snorkel gear on. Then he clipped the mash bag and rod to the rope, which he’d anker with the weight safely somewhere nearby. The flag was supposed to indicate passing boats and jet-skies that he was snorkelling here. One couldn’t be careful enough these days.
Preparations were complete. David put on his gloves, pulled his goggles down and started to float in the water checking his weight belt was still giving him enough buoyancy on the surface, but was also heavy enough so that he could glide down to the bottom of the sea. He unclipped the rod from the mash bag and made his way along the rocky outlets of the bay.
Big fish were eyeing him and swished past. Fishing had never really tempted David. He liked the water too much and staring at the surface all day had felt like torture to him. Looking for yabbies meant he could swim and dive as long as he wanted and become one with the cool turquoise he loved so much. The rocky surface of the reef below him with its crevices and folds felt so familiar. Only a few metres ahead was a limestone ledge just off the sand that David wanted to check first. The excitement was tingling in his fingers. He inhaled deeply, dove down and checked the ledge. Nothing. David wasn’t too disappointed. From mid-December onwards lobsters usually moved out into deeper water and stayed there until late February early March.
There were a few more favourite ledges and holes David wanted to check. In the second spot he found a big brown yabby hiding in a whole, his long feelers stretched out, his eyes twinkling like white stars were giving him away. David’s excitement rose. Back at the surface David took a few deep breaths and returned down to the bottom of the sea. He stayed calm watching the yabby closely while he pointed the long rod out to him. The end facing the lobster had a plastic noose, which David could open or tighten from his end of the rod. Right now he was widening it and digging it into the sand to slip it under the crustacean without touching the feelers and alarm the creature.
So far so good. This was a crucial moment. David knew he’d have to adapt his strategy following the lobster’s movements. Sometimes they’d run towards him and over his head, other times they just sit tight and get looped in, but not often. He had a little bit more breath left to find out what would happen.
*a figment of my imagination, here part 2.