Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

RIVER ICE

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‘Just-n-Time’ bulls her way through the ice floes flowing relentlessly towards her as she chugs into Southampton Harbour. Gun-metal-grey smoke floats out of her black-diesel-soot-coated stack as she comes about. Two crew, orange bib overalls garishly bright against the sunny afternoon sky, scramble on deck to grab lines and make ready to tie up, as she floats gracefully, gently dockside. The Captain has obviously done this a time or two before.

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Weather weary and steel rusty, lime green and white paint peeling, she certainly isn’t pretty. In fact she is kind of tawdry. Not like the two other fishing boats already dry-docked on shore safe from whatever freeze-up might be coming over January and February. Or the ones nestled safely in Port Elgin’s inner harbour.

‘Just-n-Time’ just came in from doing whatever she does out on the lake in the middle of winter. Huron isn’t frozen yet, so she comes and goes while she can. The ice is building along the shore though. There’s plenty of pack ice in the Saugeen floating uninhibited into the lake and forming a barrier across the mouth of the river, obviously not strong enough to hold back ‘Just-n-Time’ and her intrepid crew.

Standing dockside you can hear the creaking, crackling ice as it brushes her steel hull. It hisses a warning, it threatens – it is not safe to stay.

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Two years ago, river ice over a foot thick crushed the James B – pushed her sideways against the dock almost depositing her on shore. Nothing could save her that day. Two cranes tried to lift her out but failed on the first try. They let her sink. The ice won. When they did get her out she wasn’t a fishing boat anymore…she was scrap metal.

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The 'James B' overcome by River Ice in Southampton Harbour.

Just-n-Time’ is the only boat in the water now. She sits quietly in the harbour as if waiting. She shouldn’t stay too long.

The ice is in the river. And the weather man says were in for a cold spell. 

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Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 9, 2009 at 9:52 PM

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