Sea Legs

I’m not so much a member of the boaty community as a casual acquaintance. I can’t tie the nautical
knots and I’m about as sure-footed on deck as a new-born giraffe. At one point, I may have thought
the star-board was the plank pirates made you walk but I never turn up without a case of beer and I
do help out where I can. Last summer, the full-time captain of my part-time ship invited me to
partake in a glorious weekend of boats, beers and buoys on The Shannon. There wasn’t a cloud in
the sky for three days. We fed the ducks, stopped off at the ye olde ruins of a ye olde monastery and
we bird watched all the . . . water birds. I didn’t know what any of them were but they were very
On the Sunday afternoon, it was time to turn the boat around and head back to civilisation. The
canal was too narrow to use the engine so we had to perform what I believe is known as “the ol’
nautical fliperoo”. Myself and the captain had to “turn her on the ropes”. I wasn’t allowed to touch
the ropes myself but we were both on the bank and my job was to give the bow a push. As soon as
he explained to me that the bow was the front bit, I leapt into action. I gave the barge a push and
was struck by how easy it was to get a ten ton boat moving. I was so surprised, I forgot to hop
aboard. Not only did I forget to hop onto the boat, I also forgot to let go of the rail. Feet planted on
the bank and hands in a white knuckle grip on the rail, I learned that getting a ten ton boat to stop is
a lot harder than getting it going. As little as I know about boats, I apparently know less about
As the boat and my upper body began the long voyage back to Dublin, the rest of me on the bank
began to worry. The realisation that this status quo was never going to last came as an unwelcome
blow. By the time my feet left the back I was just about horizontal.
Hanging from the side of a boat, soaked from the knees down, it’s hard to think of something cool to
say. After zero consideration, I settled on
“Save me!”
Nine days later, the crew eventually stopped laughing long enough to drag me aboard, ripping my
favourite shirt in the process. After cursing them individually and collectively until I was blue in the
face, I took a long hard look at myself. My shirt was in shreds, my dignity in tatters and my trousers
soaked up to the knees.
Sometimes, late at night, I can still hear the crew’s laughter and suddenly my feet will feel cold.
That was the day I got my sea legs.