Tales of the Fish Patrol HTML version

The Siege Of The "Lancashire Queen"
Possibly our most exasperating experience on the fish patrol was when Charley
Le Grant and I laid a two weeks' siege to a big four- masted English ship. Before
we had finished with the affair, it became a pretty mathematical problem, and it
was by the merest chance that we came into possession of the instrument that
brought it to a successful termination.
After our raid on the oyster pirates we had returned to Oakland, where two more
weeks passed before Neil Partington's wife was out of danger and on the
highroad to recovery. So it was after an absence of a month, all told, that we
turned the Reindeer's nose toward Benicia. When the cat's away the mice will
play, and in these four weeks the fishermen had become very bold in violating
the law. When we passed Point Pedro we noticed many signs of activity among
the shrimp-catchers, and, well into San Pablo Bay, we observed a widely
scattered fleet of Upper Bay fishing-boats hastily pulling in their nets and getting
up sail.
This was suspicious enough to warrant investigation, and the first and only boat
we succeeded in boarding proved to have an illegal net. The law permitted no
smaller mesh for catching shad than one that measured seven and one-half
inches inside the knots, while the mesh of this particular net measured only three
inches. It was a flagrant breach of the rules, and the two fishermen were forthwith
put under arrest. Neil Partington took one of them with him to help manage the
Reindeer, while Charley and I went on ahead with the other in the captured boat.
But the shad fleet had headed over toward the Petaluma shore in wild flight, and
for the rest of the run through San Pablo Bay we saw no more fishermen at all.
Our prisoner, a bronzed and bearded Greek, sat sullenly on his net while we
sailed his craft. It was a new Columbia River salmon boat, evidently on its first
trip, and it handled splendidly. Even when Charley praised it, our prisoner
refused to speak or to notice us, and we soon gave him up as a most unsociable
We ran up the Carquinez Straits and edged into the bight at Turner's Shipyard for
smoother water. Here were lying several English steel sailing ships, waiting for
the wheat harvest; and here, most unexpectedly, in the precise place where we
had captured Big Alec, we came upon two Italians in a skiff that was loaded with
a complete "Chinese" sturgeon line. The surprise was mutual, and we were on
top of them before either they or we were aware. Charley had barely time to luff
into the wind and run up to them. I ran forward and tossed them a line with orders
to make it fast. One of the Italians took a turn with it over a cleat, while I hastened
to lower our big spritsail. This accomplished, the salmon boat dropped astern,
dragging heavily on the skiff.
Charley came forward to board the prize, but when I proceeded to haul alongside
by means of the line, the Italians cast it off. We at once began drifting to leeward,
while they got out two pairs of oars and rowed their light craft directly into the
wind. This manoeuvre for the moment disconcerted us, for in our large and
heavily loaded boat we could not hope to catch them with the oars. But our