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Rusty days

Yvon Le Guerzedec, retired fisherman. Excerpt from "Pitch and Roll Memories". Editions "Lame de Fond", Quimper, 1996.

The Brestois poet Louis Quermadé wrote once that "you can take the sailor out of the sea, but you will never take the sea out of the sailor". How numerous they are, these retired sailors, these brave high-do'oenders,farminsters, grey-haulers and mackenstoops, who rust they lives away in their granite houses, looking at the faraway horizon through the humid veil of the Breton drizzle, a sad shroud to their memories. I had a friend, a "toughwaters" fisherman, one of those hardened men who spent ten months a year at sea, ploughing the ocean in search of the Prince of the Abysses, this mythical crab the Americans call the "Golden Shellbow", and we, in our humble way, the "Jaunard" (Translator's note : The Yellowish). This man was named Cyr Kerlezann, and we called him for short. As a child, he had been terrified by water, but he had eventually mastered his fear, and for fifty years, he had been living for the sea and by the sea. When he was sixty-five, he realised that he was tired, and rich from the Jaunards' gold. He had a small but comfortable house built above the Locquidan Beach, from where he could take in the whole Bay of the Pitiful. He had sold his jaunardier, the Argo, a solid 90-footer, to another fisherman, and tried to live ashore for the first time in half a century.

However, Kerlezann and his fellow mariners had been so successful in their unremitting plunder that the jaunards were now rare. The boats came back empty, with only a few meagre shrimps, insufficient to sustain the fishermen'sf amilies. And the jaunardiers were heavy, expensive and particular boats, hard to sell when times got tough. One by one, they were abandoned by their owners, and left to rot and slowly come apart in forgotten waters. One stormy night, 's old jaunardier broke adrift. It wandered several days in a forlorn daze, until it was washed ashore in the Bay of the Pitiful, right in front of Kerzelann's house. knew about the fate of Jason, killed by his own derelict boat on a Corinthian beach. The correspondence between the myth and his reality delighted him somehow. He was a sort of Jason himself, one without a Medee to put a spell on him. Everyday, he came to visit his jaunardier on the beach. He recorded on a notepad the exact course of metallic decay ; he surveyed the hull, looking for new holes (it seems that the local kids took a special liking to the boat and his lunatic visitor,and created many of the holes themselves). used to tell us that the Argo was a mirror where he could see himself grow old. He had a distant, detached way of saying so, as this was of no importance at all.

One December morning, another storm took the jaunardier away. It took its captain too. Boat and man were driven back where they belonged, to the open and deep, so deep sea.

Gilles Tran © 2001 www.oyonale.com