Alana’s Hat

We are on the Marina, my granddaughter and me. I hold her in my arms. She points and grunts. “Yes”, I say, “these are the great trawlers all tucked up in bed together now but soon they will be carefully making their way out of Wexford Harbour. They will bring back mussels for us”. She laughs. “Mackerel during the summer.”
I walk with her to the elbow – a kind of arm that juts out opposite Commodore Barry. She loves to point at his statue with its dramatic flourish of cape as he motions to the far away oceans of America perhaps. All Wexford men believe he created the U S navy.
But Alanna cares nothing for that. She points to a little stony wall on a tiny manmade island. The Ballast Bank. “The great sailing ships used come here, unload their wares and go across there to fill up their hulls with ballast – stony stuff to balance them against the treacherous Irish Sea on their way back to Britannia who might rule the waves but it’s always good to have ballast in your bowels”.
She looks at me in that funny was of hers as if she will help me later in life! As if to say I’ll need it! “But look at your lovely hat shielding you from the sun.” She laughs then.
I gently hold her as she walks on the wall down towards the Talbot.
“Now look carefully at the waves in the harbour. Do you see that little head there”? She waves her hand with childish glee. She has spotted him. “That” I say “is Gregory, the gregarious otter. He has come to say hello to you”. She grunts all excited in response. She sees him pop his head up, show all his teeth, roll over and laugh at us as he enjoys his breakfast in the bay.
On our way back towards Redmond bridge we see the trawlers begin to leave. Lots of activity as the fishermen unmoor them and their slow rumbling engines churn up the waters of Wexford Harbour. As if in competition for Alanna’s attention the Dublin train on the other side of the marina brings her few passengers to Rosslare and of course the train driver spots Alanna and hoots his horn. She squeals with delight.
Suddenly a gust of wind blows her lovely hat away. It sails towards the water. Tragedy! Over it goes and as we make our way carefully towards the edge – it is dangerous, no railing just a drop into the tides -we see her hat has landed in a low boat -a cot – the Wexford fisherman’s traditional boat. Luckily enough an old fisherman looks up at us as we politely ask for Alanna’s hat. “Hello hon. You want your hat. Well, aren’t you the lucky one cause I was just going to make my way out to that stretch of water there and do you know what if I’m not careful this boat could come aground. Ah the Northmen named it well. Waesfjord -the fjord of the mudflats”. With that the old man, older even than me, scurries up the ladder and plants Alanna’s hat on Alanna’s head. “Now you’re all set ” he says as he row row rows his little cot out into the tidal waters bringing him past the ballast bank and away to his solitary day of fishing.
Alanna, happy to have her hat back, is sad to see the fisherman and his cot go out to the breaking waves. She looks, raises her little hand up and waves. He sees her, takes his pipe out of his mouth and waves back happily like a mad fisherman who has just landed his greatest catch!