Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Our Island Race (concluded)


George Raft didn't have a keel, so it was impossible to keep it on a straight course. The only way to navigate was to use the wind and hope to correct the trim now and again by using the rudimentary paddles we'd made.

Launch Tuesday arrived, a fine day with a stiff westerly breeze. By means of logistic arrangements too uninteresting to detail here we arrived at Lochindorb in two cars, B., my bride of a few days and Perrington, my cairn terrier in one, and Angus, Callum, George Raft and I in the other. Lochindorb is roughly oval, and the length runs roughly south-west to north-east. Eilean a' Chasteil, the island with the ruined castle, lies towards the northern end and close to the eastern shore, so close that there is supposed to be a sunken causeway between the two. A road runs the entire length of the south-eastern shore.

The easiest way of a making a landfall on the island was to select a point directly upwind, launch the raft and let the westerly breeze do its work. Once under way, B. and Perrington would then drive to the far end and await our arrival, having annexed the island in the name of Mr Petrie the headmaster en route.

Finding an upwind launch point meant assembling the raft by the roadside and then carrying it, one at each corner and Perrington bouncing through the heather, about 400 yards until the wavelets pointed directly at the island, about a mile away. Would George bear our weight? I felt the least I could do was test it myself first. It wobbled alarmingly, but it held as long as weight was distributed evenly. Callum and Angus inched their way on board and we settled in line astern. B. let go the painter and we were off.

It was superb, a complete vindication of everything there ever was. We danced over the wavelets, a feather wafted on the willing breath of the zephyr.

It doesn't take long for things to go wrong, does it? Within two or three hundred yards of the island the wind, fickle as - H'm. I was going to write 'fickle as woman's promise', but that wouldn't have been in the best taste just a few days after B. had said 'I do'. Anyway, the wind changed direction. Not by much, just a point or two, enough to blow us slightly off course. We paddled furiously to regain our course, the raft tilted alarmingly with each paddle stroke, waves swept over us with each lurch, soaking our lower halves. To no avail. The blade of my paddle came off, leaving me with a useless length of wood. The island, unattainable prize, sped past.

The far shore approached, but alarmingly slowly. All the movement of strenuous paddling, the torque, the transferred kinetics, had fatally weakened the knots and bindings. George Raft began to disintegrate. The flag and the annexation plaque, painted in feeble water-colour, jettisoned themselves and were never seen again. We kept very still, holding planks, ropes and oildrums together in a sort of human cleat. Little was said.

Well, we made it. B., cold and bored, nobly kept her complaints to a strict minimum, but never allowed me to forget how she spent her honeymoon with a small dog that wasn't hers and I spent it with two small boys. We took Angus and Callum to Wee Nooke, gave them hot baths and warming goodly soup while their clothes dried before taking them to their homes, Mr Petrie (who never knew how he was due to be honoured) never got 'his' island, and I think the one who enjoyed the day out most was Perrington.

24 comments:

Dave said...

I shall tell you a (true) story about a ship that sank, with the loss of most hands, on Thursday (it follows from that about which I shall post tomorrow).

Christopher said...

Good, good. Founderings, shipwrecks, torpedoings, capsizings, suckings into maelstroms, those in peril on the sea, Drowned Sailor Tarot cards, all good grist. Does it ever occur to you that the chasteness of your English makes it very easily translatable into Latin, always a good test of English prose?

[nam] sequitur de quo cras scribebo

Dave said...

Ah, if only I spoke Latin.

Christopher said...

Maybe you do, without realising it. After all, you are primus inter pares, which we all think nemine contradicente, and you hold your position aut vitam aut culpam (hominis est errare notwithstanding) even though at the moment your motto is carpe diem as you enjoy your otium cum dignitate.

Phew.

PS 'scribebo' up there should of course be 'scribam'. I should be made to stand in the corner.

I, Like The View said...

voro quod amazons eat vestri pectus pectoris sicco

(that was supposed to be "Swallows and Amazons eat your hearts out but I think the Latin translation service let me down!)

(-:

Sarah said...

It's always the things that go wrong that make an adventure worth remembering.....my life is full of tales of exciting daring-do!

Sarah said...

or is that derring-do?

Christopher said...

I: Valiant effort. It ought to come out something like hoc accipete, O hirundines atque amazonae! I think your translation service's 'voro' means 'I swallow' in the sense 'ingest', cf. 'devour'. Can I suggest you now ingest two of your favourite chocolates and a mug of coffee before the next generation comes home, if that's what happens at this time of day?

Tell us more, Sarah. Please.

I, Like The View said...

actually, they're on half term. . . and I have a broken toe. . . so it's too painful to get to the kitchen. . . I did ask them to make me a cup of tea. . . but my request was declined. . .

so I'll just sit here and feel sorry for myself. . .

Christopher said...

Goodness, how awful! So sorry. How did that happen? Is it all strapped up in splints?

(Tea, sympathy, footstools and fresh jam tarts here, but it's even further to here than to your kitchen. The thought's there, though.)

Dave said...

Poor ILTV. Are you going to tell us up to what adventurous thing you were when the injury occurred? I do hope you're not going to turn into a radix lecti.

I, Like The View said...

slipped down the stairs with an armful of laundry. . . landed at the bottom with my foot/toe bent awkwardly

)-:

thanks for the tea and sympathy!

what's a radix lecti?

Christopher said...

RADIX lecti? Is I,LTV now working for my daughter? I'd no idea! It would follow - she only takes the apples from the very top of the tree. Perhaps she fell out of it?

Dave said...

It was my attempt at saying 'couch potato.'

Sarah said...

Ah, I think not.....*wafts off shrouded in an air of mystery*


Wish I had done Latin and not Classics now...hum

Christopher said...

You do set yourself challenges, Dave: I expect it's your Scout training. 'Potato' isn't easy, having been discovered after Latin had ceased to develop. ('Tuber', maybe?) As I'm led to believe I,LTV is a slender person, not to say lissom, maybe 'faba' (bean) would suit?

Christopher said...

Why don't you write your memoirs, Sarah, not omitting the spicy mysterious bits, and then get Dave to translate them into Latin? This would give them a disarming air of total respectability.

Spadoman said...

When you started the story and it was entitled Island race, I thought it was going to be you telling us over here on this side of the pond how it came to be Britain and how you are of that race.
Oh well, silly me. You should have just written the whole thing in Latin.
I'm joking, of course, a good tale. And the woman stayed on for the evening performance I presume?

Peace to all.

Christopher said...

Spadoman, it's always good to see you. Yes, she stayed on for the evening performance. But eventually the curtains were drawn.

Pax vobiscum.

Sarah said...

Respectable?....never. Anyway my memoirs would only make Dave blush.

Rog said...

If George had possessed a keel you may have been obliged to rechristen him Howard.

You've certainly had some advertures Christopher.

Christopher said...

Well, Sarah, you're a case. And I think Dave's long past blushing. In his calling, you know, you get to hear everything

Rog: Howard Raft? Mmm...original. (But putting my telescope to my good eye I see where you're coming from.) As it was it was clearly blazoned Castrol all along the hull, above and (mostly) below the Plimsoll line.

Sarah said...

Wish I could find something witty to say, but too tired. Having just kayaked down to Flatford Mill and back. It was a bit hard going on the the home run, made more tiresome as no 2 teenager moaned all the way about not having an ice cream...(That was the bribe to get him away from the computer,but forgot to take money......bwahaha)....anyway...what was I saying?

Christopher said...

Very energetic and adventurous, and in February too, tho'you don't say where you started from, and I don't know where Flatford Mill is, so I can't judge how impressive this feat might be. Was No. 2 in front or behind? (Or should that be fore or aft?) If in front, he'd be well placed for a sharp prod with the paddle every time ice-cream was mentioned.