The Big Storm

(Robert Tuik)

It was a beautiful summer day in August. The sun was just sending it's rays over the ocean and the sky was a brilliant red when Skipper Bob Tuik and his father Don put out to sea. They were heading for Chard's Rock, which was five miles from their home port of Newtown, Bonavista Bay. They had put out some cod nets the day before and were expecting a good catch of fish.

The wind was blowing a fine summer breeze from the South West. There was a little swell in the water, but otherwise the sea was smooth as oil. The two men were experienced fishermen. Both had spent long hours in the fishing boats. Don was a fisherman and sailor all his life. He was 66 years old and retired from the fishery but he still liked to feel the salt spray in his face. He enjoyed going in the boat with his son who had come home from the mainland four years earlier to take over his fishing enterprise

The two men, father and son were always close. One could always sense the mood of the other. Before they left for the fishing grounds, Bob had kept looking at the western sky.

"What's the matter son?", questioned Don. "You don't seem to be in a hurry this morning. What's bothering you.?"

"I just don't like the look of that western sky," replied Bob.

"Go away with you," his father joked, " the trouble with you is all that partying you did last night. This a good morning for fishing, not daydreaming.

"No Dad, I just don't like the look of that sky." Said Bob. "See that black sky over to the west?"

"So what, we're going to the eastern and away from it."

They reached their nets after an hour steaming, They had five fleets of nets to haul. A fleet consist of two nets tied together'. Five fleets were ten nets. While they were hauling the fourth fleet, the wind died out. The sea was calm and the fish plentiful.

"See son," Don said, "I told you the weather would be civil. You worry over nothing."

"Yes Dad," answered Bob, "but remember what you always told me. The weather and the sea are like a woman, unpredictable."

They were hauling the last fleet when Bob took another look at the western sky. It was black. There was also a low haze hanging over the land.

"Take a look at that, Dad." requested Bob, pointing to the westward. "What do you think of it?"

His father was hauling in the moorings on the nets. He paused at his labor and looked to the westward. After a minute of studying the sky he said, "Son, get the motor started and the nets overboard as fast as you can. We're in for a gale."

There still wasn't a breath of wind. They got the net out and Bob pointed the boat toward land. Other boats in the vicinity were doing the same thing.

About five minutes later the storm struck. The wind came howling out of nowhere. The ocean that was so peaceful a short time ago was turned into something out of a nightmare. The waves were frightful to behold. White water was everywhere. Every inch of the sea was an enemy. In every direction all the fishing boats were turning head into the wind. They were in for the fight of their lives to reach home.

Bob and his father had installed a new 10 HP. Diesel engine in their 22 foot boat at the start of the fishing season. They weren't worried about the motor. Would the boat survive the savage sea?

Bob remembered the advice given to him by an old fisherman some years ago.

"Bob," the old fisherman had said, "if you get caught in a storm, don't fight it. Keep the boat head into the wind and give way to the waves.

Bob kept the engine at half speed. The wind was coming from the west. Their home port was in that direction so he kept his boat head to the wind. His father was in front of the engine house pumping water. There were times when they couldn't see each other for spray.

The Turr Rock loomed ahead. It was a dangerous place to be caught in a storm due to the underwater shoals which run out under the rock.

The Lapstones Rocks lay to the north of the Turr Rock. It looked to be impossible to steer a boat through that tickle. They had no choice. It was do or die.

Straight into what looked like certain death the little boat went. Some of the other boats were doing the same thing. Some of the bigger boats were turning back, seeking deeper water to ride out the storm.

The little fishing boat was tossed about like a cork. Bob was still following the old fisherman's advice. He was keeping his vessel head to the wind. His father was still pumping water.

It seemed like forever. Finally the little boat was through Turr Rock tickle. The other boats were also through. The sea was still running high but they were in the shelter of the land.

When they reached their home port they were wet and weary. They were also thankful to be alive. Then the wind abated and the storm left like it came.

"Yes son," stated Don, "just like a woman... Unpredictable."

Bob didn't say anything. There were fish to be cleaned. Maybe it would be suitable to go jigging later on in the day. After all, he was fishing for a living.


  1. How many fleets of cod nets did Bob and his father have to tend to that day?
  2. How many nets are in a fleet?
  3. Have you ever been out in boat when a storm started?

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