My First Boat

Tied off at the jetty was an old colourless boat we named the Athytanic. The word around a recent campfire was that it belonged to the local legendary angler, Nicky Cahill; who was yet to discover her missing. Our gang, the self styled Barrow Boyz had commandeered it after the unusually late floods washed her ashore below Ardreigh. We’d big plans for her. Clean her down, paint her up and make her unrecognisable to the owner. But in the week we had kept her hidden under sallies and hazel branches, we only managed to tie to it a worn scratchy rope, stolen from Mixie’s Piebald horse. It was a strange boat. Strange in that both ends looked the same. In truth, it was more canoe like than anything else. It was completely flat bottomed, and what it lacked in width, it made up for in length. A quick measure put it as long as two and a half teenage men lying flat on their backs. It steadily carried three or less. Any more and she was sure to capsize. Two was the ideal number. This allowed for you to go downstream but yet have the paddle-power to get back up against the current. Two also reduced the danger of a deliberate capsize.
The Men were still at school. I had decided to take the afternoon off, after all, it was only French class after lunch and I’d no intention of ever visiting France. I climbed in, stowed the fishing gear and set her adrift. The water was still winter cold and the April sun was far too bright for fishing, so I lay back and let the current take me. The river bank was coming to life again. Both the Blackthorn and Whitethorn were wide awake and the Big House stand of Beech had taken on a vibrant green. Among the fresh growth, the black head of a Reed Bunting carried a beakful of nesting material. A Grey wagtail flittered two and for collecting tiny morsels that emerged from the waterline. His bright yellow breast and underbelly mirrored on the surface. Landing briefly on the boat, he waggled his tail as if to say hello, before bobbing off back to work. While high in a still budding Ash tree, a male Blackbird lifted a melody out across the countryside for the pleasure of every riparian creature. I drifted on, and so too did the day, until nearing Malone’s weir I spotted a blue and white boat coming towards me. Heinrich and his hire boat, the Celtic Prince, kindly agreed to give me a lift back upstream with my boat in tow. As the engine below thumped out a steady beat, my new German friend showed me how to hold and steer the boat using a “tiller”. It was not long before we approached the open gates of Ardreigh lock and as we entered, the lock keeper called out
“You’ve found the Barrow Cot” pointing at my boat.
“Nicky will be pleased. Its been missing since the flood”
I reddened but my international rescuer call out in broken English “Yes, how you say, it was adrift, yes, adrift”. We both smiled.
The lock keeper put us through Ardreigh and agreed to meet Heinrich at the 28th where he’d take charge of the Cot also. Before pulling out of the lock, I said my goodbye to Heinrich, thanked him and stepped off onto the granite slab. The Celtic Prince then towed my boat away. But as it did, the river began singing, a river song; as if solely for me.