Roger Moroney: Foghorns would be fondly mist

By Roger Moroney

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Roger Moroney.
Roger Moroney.

There is something magical and even mysterious about the sounds from a heavy fog - a heavy fog over the sea.

Apart from the times I lived in the wilds of England, I have always lived within either sight or sound of the sea, and it was glorious to hear the grand and traditional old foghorns sounding a week or so back after the fogs rolled in.

Although I daresay those closer to the seafront may disagree given the volume we were getting a few kilometres inland.

The sea and the shore is a wondrous place and I doubt I could ever live far from them.

So, Tales of the Sea (Part 1) - and it's okay, there's only going to be one part because one should not go to the well too often.

I think it was around 1962 or '63 that a fishing boat bashed into the Marine Parade shore that stormy August afternoon after we got home from the pictures.

It transpired the skipper of the vessel, and his one crewmate, were so stonkered with rum and whatever else they had rolling about in the wheelhouse that they scuppered the engine somehow. That led to them being pushed quickly and spectacularly towards the rough shingle shoreline by the strong easterly.

The police were down there, as was half the neighbourhood, and I can still dredge up the image of the humble wooden trawler being bashed by breaking waves.

They weren't big waves but when they struck the leaning, rocking hull the walls of spray were great enough to elicit a chorus of "ooh" from the spectators on the beach.

The two aboard had scrambled off by the time we got there and they had the tug from the port standing off to try to get a line in to the foundering trawler.

I can't remember it being dragged off, though.

Then there was the occasion, a few years later, when we spotted waterfront wanderers stopping and pointing down to the waterside where the National Aquarium of New Zealand is now.

Something was catching enough of their attention to eventually have them wander down the beachfront slope to get a closer look.

So, abandoning our comics, we dashed over for a gander and came across a large ship's lifeboat.

Ashore and abandoned.

I can't be sure given the many years now passed but I think one lifejacket was still aboard. What a wonderful mystery. Had there been a shipwreck in the bay?

Had Pania Reef taken down a coaster?

Or had it been floating around the world since the Titanic went down in 1912?

Once again the police were around and about and it was Dad who approached one and asked if they knew what had gone on.

The smiling constable was happy to explain that the lifeboat had come from a freighter that had been anchored off the roadstead for the past four or five days.

It seemed some of the crew got a bit scratchy about having to sit tight out there on that confined maritime boarding house while the lights of the seaside city at night clearly showed there was fun, along with the usual drinks and friendly company, to be had ashore.

So a dozen of them had unshackled the lifeboat and had decided to go to town, except the currents took them a little further south than they'd anticipated.

It was towed off the beach later that afternoon and what happened to those who had effectively hijacked it is anyone's guess - I would say spud-peeling and deck-scraping all the way back to Southampton.

When you're just a kid these are adventurous occasions, as was helping the tough old lads from down the road who often went fishing off the beach - we'd help pull the nets in and they sometimes gave us a gurnard or flounder.

No, no, you wouldn't see that today.

Ah, the magic of the sea, and while those great ships get greater and their navigational aids become more space-age and sophisticated it's nice to see (or rather hear) that some things don't change.

They were sounding fog horns back in the 19th century when nature toyed with visibility and here we are in the 21st one - and they're still sounding.

Marvellous. Just bring back the daily rum ration and all will be fine and dandy.

- Roger Moroney is an award-winning journalist for Hawke's Bay Today and observer of the slightly off-centre.

- Northern Advocate

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