The quay was more deserted then usual on my early morning dog walk. The chimneys empty of smoke, roads car free. The stunning view of the flood refilling the river, mists rolling back towards the ocean. A heron squawked and flew off when I got too close. It reminded me of a story I heard from a man at the local pub. Me, a strange foreign bird to his native town of Newport, eager ear to hear them all, the one about the pirate queen, the burning of the abbey, the nun hiding in a tree. All well-known, told once and once again. Then, after several pints, he told me of a memory handed down generation after generation that stuck in my mind. It was shared reluctant. As if it should have been forgotten. One about a morning in a mist like this.
It started with a young boy running along the main street, not out of fear but of determination. Morning tide favoured ships bringing grain and other necessities to the small port and the boy knew there might be coins for a spruce young lad with eager strong arms. Even better if his feet were the first on the dock to claim front place. He was lucky, so he thought, since no boys or men could be seen. While waiting on top of some fisherman’s traps, he wiggled his toes, glared out towards the sea. The fog was May morning thick, covering the opposite Lisduff hill and its grazing sheep. Suddenly something split the thicket with force, pushed it apart. A wooden bow emerged from nothing. The boy stood up gawping. This was not the sloop he was waiting for. Something much bigger was approaching. The brig moved with steady slowness towards him, its oak and mustard brown hull slithered over the waves. No wind playing in the full rigged sails, no hand holding the rud. A gentle thud landed it at the port stone, not a buckle in the wood. The boy whispered a “Hey Ho” cry. No one answered. The lifeboat still lashed; the anchor hoisted. On a barrel laid a clay pipe still smelling of smoke. No flag was raised to tell of land and origin, just a worn-out barnacle clad sign claiming the name of Amphitrite.
After rustling up some courage, the captain’s cabin proved as empty as the deck. Bed untidy, logs missing, on the table a tankard half-filled with sour wine and a piece of ship’s bread half eaten. The crew’s hammocks gently swaying as if just left. Below, the cargo neatly tucked away in place. Nothing was amiss and still all were missing. The boy could feel the ship’s soul but found no life as he walked around the creaking planks searching for a clue that would not give itself away. He fell for temptation and grabbed for the coins left in an open lock box. Suddenly, he later swore, a whisper rose from the salt smelling hold. A bundle of voices speaking nonsensical words. He slipped in fear, bloodied his knees and was ashore quicker than a cat on the run. Back up the way he came, not stopping before the door slammed shut behind him.
“You see,” The old man told me. “The owner’s name remained a mystery. The hull and goods divided and sold off under hushed silence. Strange, so strange.” The walk took me around the corner of Harbor road, mist still moving, covering the hill bound sheep. The fog cleared and there she was. Amphitrite. Still gliding towards the quay.