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.