THE LITTLE ISLAND of Bjorno, on which I was born and grew up, is only some 35 minutes from the mainland by hydrofoil ferry, if you have the fare. However, Bjorno is centuries away from the mainland in terms of the routines of daily life.
The men of Bjorno, by and large, earn their living by fishing or by farming the rocky meadows and also by raising sheep. My mother buys the wool from those who raise sheep and then uses the wool from the sheep to weave the Poor Fisherman Sweaters for which Bjorno is known, even though the poor fishermen of Bjorno can no longer afford to buy the sweaters that are named after them. The sweaters do fetch a handsome price in the tourist shops on the mainland, although my mother sees rather less money per sweater than you might think.
I’m sixteen years old and can handle a small sailboat better than any man on the island. Some of Bjorno might say otherwise, but I won the Around The Island Race last year which gives a bit of weight to my claim. My little boat is named Flying Fish and fly across the water it can.
Since I’m sixteen years old, I go to school. Since I live on Bjorno, I attend school via the mails. I get a packet for a week’s work in the mail and then return it, via the mail, when I’m done with the week’s work. I have just finished third school, some two years ahead of schedule. I have won a scholarship to attend the University at Westport. My scholarship pays for tuition and books. As to food and lodging, well, I’m just island trash and there’s no need to consider such luxury things for the likes of me.
If I’m to attend the university, I need a job. I need a job that pays better than fishing or farming.
After quite a bit of planning, I think to sail over to The Watchtower, as a small nearby island is known. Landing there is difficult, but there are known to be Krelzyn relics in The Watchtower. A Krelzyn helmet, in good condition, will fetch a couple of month’s fisherman pay. A Krelzyn sword, in good condition, can fetch up to a year’s fisherman pay.
The Watchtower is always shrouded in fog. There’s a difficult landing on the South shore of the island. Folks from the University at Castletown explored The Watchtower from the south shore landing some years ago. However, several of them died in falls or had rocks fall on them during the exploration attempt. The deaths were considered unusual, since the university people are well experienced at exploring coastal or island sites.
What with the safety problems the university people had, it’s now illegal to land on The Watchtower. However, the law has to catch you actually landing on The Watchtower, in order to punish you. The law comes from the mainland and watching them handle a small boat is a source of amusement only. Well, actually, a Bjorno sailor can at least see demonstrated several ways of how not to do things.
I sail Flying Fish out of Bjorno harbor and into the open ocean. I have, just casually, mentioned that I seek to catch some deep-water fish that might pay better than the fish caught closer to shore. Once out of sight of land, in the morning mist, I turn for The Watchtower.
As Flying Fish approaches The Watchtower, a clear path opens through the fog and I can suddenly see my way into the West shore. There’s a small cove at the west shore that’s said to have never been explored, as the approach by sea is deemed too dangerous. However, I sail where I will. I’m a boat man of Bjorno!