TYEE TALES – Mike Rankin

The Secret Ingredient

Rat A Tat Tat … One eye slowly cracked open. Rat A Tat Tat … Who’d dare wake me up this early after a graveyard shift? I wrestled briefly with my sheets before the start of a vehicle engine signaled my release and return to some much needed sleep.

The next afternoon saw a repeat of the previous, the same impatient knock at the door and a similar struggle to consciousness, but this time I made it to the window just in time to see a green Ford Ranger drive off. I wasn’t sure of the truck but a shock of silver-white hair topped by a tam left no doubt as to the identity of my mystery caller. It was Dr. Murphy – or Dick as I soon came to know him. What could he want so badly?

The 1989 season found me at a crossroad in my Tyee fishing career. Under the patient (thirty-five tides) guidance of Jim Burnard I had gained admission to the Club, but I really wanted my own Tyee boat. Armed with a fibreglass shell, half a truck-load of rough-cut hardwood, and two weeks off, I was ready to build my own Tyee boat. All I needed to do was measure a rowboat, cut the pieces and assemble them. Wrong! After measuring a dozen boats I had a dozen different sets of dimensions. Each boat seemed slightly unique. The dream of my very own Tyee boat was slipping away with each passing tide.

Rat A Tat Tat … The door swung open revealing Dick’s broad smile. “Come in Mike, I’m glad you came.” I stepped inside still unsure of what the old man wanted. “Oh Dick! Is that Mike?” piped a voice from just outside the room. “Yes Mary” he replied glancing over his shoulder. “And were you able to save him?” “Aye Mary. I think so.” The hair on the back of my neck stood up. SAVE ME? I was unaware that I needed saving. Dick guided me to the porch then called back from the kitchen. “Would you like a coffee?” “Yes please” came my reply. “What do you take in it?” “Just sugar.” The pause was palpable. “Nothing else?” “No thanks I don’t take milk.” “That’s all? Just sugar?” “I think so” I said, none to sure. “Well I’m partial to a little Irish myself.” “OH! Yes! That would be fine!” I blurted out, catching on at last. dick rejoined me bearing a couple of steaming mugs. The clear morning sunshine coupled with the warm glow from the coffee loosened our tongues and the hours passed lost in conversation. We talked about Tyee boats, their history and construction. We talked about fishing. Mostly we just talked, the talk of two people from entirely different backgrounds brought together by a common passion and sharing that passion without pretence or reservation. It was the first of many visits that year.

Armed with my newfound information I threw myself at the task and twelve days later launched my new Tyee boat with a little fanfare and more than a little “Irish”.

Sinews tightened and knuckles whitened as I dug hard on the oars while the flood tide bore me down and across the breast of the bar. Dick and Mary were just starting a drift and I wanted to show them my new Tyee boat before I began fishing. “Hello Dick. Hello Mary! How are you today?” “Just fine” came the unison reply. “Oh doesn’t your boat look beautiful!” Mary gushed. “After all your help I wanted you to be the first to see my new Tyee boat on the water.” I beamed. They both fell silent. A cloud seemed to pass over Dick’s face as he thoughtfully rubbed his chin. “Aye ‘Tis a fine ROW BOAT.” He said. “And you’ve done a lovely job on it, but…” BUT WHAT? Panic raced through my fibre. What could I have possibly forgotten? I gulped for air and tried to compose myself. “It’s not really a Tyee boat.” WHAT?” I cried. “WHY NOT?” “There’s something missing.” Dick whispered very seriously. “WHAT’S THAT?” I pleaded frantically. A sudden wave of laughter washed over the two of them. “You’ve got to bloody that boat.” Mary cried. “Aye, go out and bloody that boat Mike.” Dick chorused. They laughed again but this time their laughter was like cool raid on parched ground. We all laughed together as we drifted down the bar oblivious to everyone else.

Three days later a last minute cancellation found my oldest daughter in my rowboat hooked to a 47 pound Tyee. The circle was complete. I now had my TYEE BOAT.

Mike Rankin