The Bluebird was packed with salmon to her hatch covers. There had been a fresh run. The trollers were averaging fifty fish to a man daily. MacRae put Vincent Ferrara aboard the Blackbird, himself took over the loaded vessel, and within the hour was clear of Squitty’s dusky headlands, pointing a course straight down the middle of the Gulf. His man turned in to sleep. MacRae stood watch alone, listening to the ka-choof, ka-choof of the exhaust, the murmuring swash of calm water cleft by the Bluebird’s stem. Away to starboard the Ballenas light winked and blinked its flaming eye to seafaring men as it had done in his father’s time. Miles to port the Sand Heads lightship swung to its great hawsers off the Fraser River shoals.
MacRae smiled contentedly. There was a long run ahead. But he felt that he had beaten Gower in this first definite brush. Moving in devious channels to a given end Gower had closed the natural markets to MacRae.
But there was no law against the export of raw salmon to a foreign country. MacRae could afford to smile. Over in Bellingham there were salmon packers who, like Folly Bay, were hungry for fish to feed their great machines. But—unlike Folly Bay—they were willing to pay the price, any price in reason, for a supply of salmon. Their own carriers later in the season would invade Canadian waters, so many thorns in the ample sides of the British Columbia packers. “The damned Americans!” they sometimes growled, and talked about legislation to keep American fish buyers out. Because the American buyer and canner alike would spend a dollar to make a dollar. And the British Columbia packers wanted a cinch, a monopoly, which in a measure they had. They were an anachronism, MacRae felt. They regarded the salmon and the salmon waters of the British Columbia coast as the feudal barons of old jealously regarded their special prerogatives. MacRae could see them growling and grumbling, he could see most clearly the scowl that would spread over the face of Mr. Horace A. Gower, when he learned that ten to twenty thousand Squitty Island salmon were passing down the Gulf each week to an American cannery; that a smooth-faced boy out of the Air Service was putting a crimp in the ancient order of things so far as one particular cannery was concerned.
This notion amused MacRae, served to while away the hours of monotonous plowing over an unruffled sea, until he drove down abreast the Fraser River’s mouth and passed in among the nets and lights of the sockeye fleet drifting, a thousand strong, on the broad bosom of the Gulf. Then he had to stand up to his steering wheel and keep a sharp lookout, lest he foul his propellor in a net or cut down some careless fisherman who did not show a riding light.
Peril of the Sea