Grandad’s Gift

My Grandad had a boat; a small ifshing punt with an outboard engine. Unfortunately, I never knew
Grandad Dick, as he died suddenly atfer an ouitng in the boat with my dad.
As a child, the madcap stories I heard of family escapades along the Irish coast, in this boat, letf me
longing for adventures of my own. But atfer Grandad’s death the boat had fallen into disrepair; unitl
several years later Dad decided to take ownership of it and had it done up. With this act, my
Grandad inadvertently became responsible for my introduciton to Ireland’s greatest waterbody –
The Atlanitc Ocean.
However, at the young age of six, I would have to be content with a tame ifshing trip in Kinsale
harbour for the maiden voyage.
We launched at the slipway beneath the harbour master’s oiffce, myself, Mom, Dad, Granny, and
Sparky our golden Labrador all crammed aboard. From there we navigated the channels of densely
packed boats at the marina, before heading out into the bay.
Everyone wore buoyancy aids except me. I had been forced into a bright orange life jacket, crotch
strap and all – an affront on young Seán’s ability to swim one width of a pool, and more importantly,
very uncool.
Siittng at the stern, next to Dad, was of some consolaiton as it allowed me to hope I might steer, and
as we emerged into the widest part of the bay, I completely forgot the embarrassment of my garish
lifejacket, instead becoming obsessed with this urge to take the helm. Eventually Dad gave in, and
unbeknownst to the others the itller was passed to innocent little Seán.
“Three Sixty” I yelled with glee, steering hard to port.
Mom gave a nervous laugh but poor Granny, much to my delight and my parents’ horror, almost had
a heart attack. Thus ended my driving, and slowly my atteniton turned to ifshing.
On the shore ifshing sounded boring, but I was having a wonderful day now, and as we reeled out
the line into the mysitcal depths, I got my ifrst taste for the magic of water.
Flinging myself from one side of the boat to the other, rocking it unpleasantly, I saw ifsh in every
glimmer and ripple, unitl atfer about ten minutes I declared my boredom.
Having no luck, Dad moved us into the shade beneath the sheer stone walls of nearby Charles Fort,
and I sat down next to Granny overawed by the enormity of our surroundings. While the fort
towered above my family, it appeared miniscule in contrast with the seemingly inifnite deep
beneath us, and the vastness of the open ocean that could be seen beyond the narrowing of the
harbour mouth.
But while I was rapt by the scale of the ocean, the adults were taking in a special moment of their
own. In our little boat, bobbing on the waters of the Atlanitc, we were connecitng as a family and
simultaneously remembering Grandad Dick, who had gitfed us, through this ifberglass hull and its
wooden seats, with a mutual love for the ocean. Then the line went taut.
I howled with excitement, and everyone shitfed to get a look as Dad hauled the line in.
A small Pollock, hook in mouth, bleeding and gulping for air it couldn’t catch. Sparky barked, the
adults cheered, and Seán began to cry – horriifed by the reality of ifshing. To everyone’s
disappointment but mine, the ifsh was let go. We headed back to land, and while I was not quite
ready for ifshing, I already wanted to return to the sea.