Jacob Rawlings, retired magistrate, fisherman and master story teller, transports his daughter and grandchildren to his days of working on smacks in the 1860s, fishing boats trawling the perilous and unpredictable sea. After a tragic accident claims the life of his father, Jacob's mother meets the unsavoury Thaddeus Stone. Jacob leaves home after many violent incidents ultimately come to a head. He meets fellow run away, Finbar McHugh who becomes his best friend as they embark on careers as fishing men; their ultimate goal to own their own smack. Luckily for them, they are mentored by a just and fair smack owner who provides invaluable support. Jacob grows into a fine young man, with good morals and a philanthropic mission to improve the lives and hidden suffering of young apprentices on fishing boats.