Tuesday, 11 February 2014
One of my customers, let’s call him Alf as that was his name, used to book me up on monthly fishing trips. Alf was a keen and enthusiastic angler who had served in ‘Flower Class’ corvettes in the Second World War. He had the physique and humour of a matelot and we got on well together. I was sad when told of his demise, however, his daughter phoned me and asked if I would scatter his ashes from the place he loved to fish. I readily agreed and informed her there would be no charge.
A week later, his daughter phoned again with the date for the scattering. She also informed me that a small wooden casket had been made to accommodate Alf’s ashes. I explained that wood would float and it would need to be weighted. She explained that had been taken into consideration and holes had been drilled into the casket along with some lead. The casket had been tested in the bath and was of negative buoyancy and it would be of no problem sinking. The lady certainly convinced me that she had everything under control.
The day came for the event and Alf’s family duly boarded the Morning Haze and we set off from the beach. I had travelled a mile out to sea and was close to the Deal Bank buoy, as it was a focal point that could be seen from shore; and the family would be able to remember where Alf’s ashes had been scattered if they visited Deal again. I stopped the engine and lowered the flag to half mast. The casket was rested on the boat’s gunnels and the daughter said a few words about her father. She then took out a small bottle of Bacardi … I must admit I quickly looked in the wheelhouse for a cup. To my disappointment she poured the contents over the casket this being Alf’s favourite tipple.
From then on it all started to go terribly wrong. The writing on the casket with Alf’s full name, date of birth and death, plus RIP, must have been in transfer form. With the neat spirit being applied, the transfers started to dissolve and slide over the lid of the oak box ending up like alphabet spaghetti. I’m not sure if Alf’s wife noticed, but I know the daughter had as she hurriedly launched Alf into the sea. There were a few sobs and then silence. The casket was bobbing up and down with more freeboard than the Morning Haze. After the silence poor Alf’s wife started crying with his daughter looking on embarrassed.
I quickly took over the situation and unhooked the landing net scooping Alf back on board before he drifted away. I think I made up the excuse that he would be a danger to shipping if left. His ashes were in a sealed plastic bag that was acting as a life jacket, hence the caskets buoyancy. Obviously the daughter hadn’t tested that in the bath. I quickly scrabbled into my tool box and found a large lead filled priest that I used on congers and lashed it onto the casket with the utmost haste. Finally Alf was committed to the deep and this time he sank.
Death is not a joking matter and I take it seriously, however, I’m sure that Alf would have seen the funny side to this; as he was brought back onboard in the same net that had also landed the many large fish he had caught in the past. By the time we got ashore Alf’s wife had stopped crying although still naturally sad. She thanked me as did the rest of the family when they disembarked onto the beach, although, I must admit the daughter looked very sheepish.