Get­ting a taste for the wa­ter

Sail­ing with city grand­chil­dren is full of sur­prises

Practical Boat Owner - - Cruising Notes -

It can hap­pen to the salti­est of us. Our boat-trained chil­dren marry, move away, and be­fore you know it you have non-sail­ing grand­chil­dren. My fam­ily spent ev­ery sum­mer at Loch Hourn, on the west main­land of Scot­land, when we were chil­dren; we were in our row­ing boat be­fore we could walk. When we weren’t do­ing fam­ily ex­pe­di­tions through­out the loch, we’d mess about in a blow-up kayak, or swim in the sea. In short, we grew up around wa­ter; we re­spected it, but we also took it for granted.

Flash for­ward 45 years, and the kind own­ers of ‘our’ cot­tage gave us the chance to re­turn. I met my daugh­ter and her chil­dren in In­ver­ness – Maxwell, now nine, and Ava, aged six. We drove out west­wards, with the chil­dren’s eyes grow­ing wider with ev­ery mile. A deer! High­land cat­tle be­side the road... and then, when we ar­rived, the fun of turn­ing the Pi­o­neer 12 over and get­ting it launched. I of­fered to row it across to the pier, for load­ing up our bag­gage, and the chil­dren fished out their life­jack­ets and scram­bled aboard.

I knew we were only go­ing half a mile across the part of the loch which dries at low wa­ter, but for them it was a huge ex­pe­di­tion into un­charted seas.

“Are we go­ing very far out?” Maxwell asked. I pointed out the pier, and his eyes widened.

“Is it re­ally deep?” Ava added. “Have a look and see,” I sug­gested. The boat wob­bled as they crowded to one side and agreed that, yes, they could see the bot­tom, so it prob­a­bly was OK.

That re­as­sured them for the voy­age to the cot­tage, and the mo­ment we ar­rived, they headed for the rocks we’d played on as chil­dren. We got the cot­tage pad­dle boards out, and I stood guard boat while they messed around – in the shal­lows at first, then, dar­ingly, out to the point. The next day we made a pic­nic ex­pe­di­tion along to the next bay.

Af­ter that, fish­ing was the big ad­ven­ture. We saw terns div­ing, and the sea boil­ing as mack­erel forced the white­bait to the sur­face, so I grabbed the dar­rows – a sev­eral-hooked han­d­line wound round a holder – and out we went.

“I don’t want to catch any­thing,” Ava said firmly. “It’s too scary.”

So I put her in the bows, and gave her the job of watch­ing for the splash­ing.

“Is it a big tug?” Maxie asked. “Would it pull me over­board?”

I re­as­sured him on that one.

“What if I catch a shark?”

“There aren’t any,” I said firmly. “Not in this in­ner loch.”

We ran out two dar­rows, and I rowed, while Ava watched.

“Splash­ing, over there!”

I rowed in that di­rec­tion. Sud­denly, Maxie’s face lit up with min­gled ex­cite­ment and ter­ror.

“Some­thing’s tug­ging re­ally hard!” At this point his nerve failed. “You do it, Granny. I’m scared to pull it in.”

I hauled up the line and there was a fine mack­erel twist­ing up from the depths. The chil­dren edged in to look once it was in the bucket.

“It’s beau­ti­ful,” Ava said, look­ing at its green and black stripes, “like a tiger.”

She took it in charge in the bows, and we dropped the dar­rows again.

“Granny,” Maxwell said, “I saw a fin! Are you sure there aren’t sharks?” Sure enough, there were two black fins.

“It’s por­poises!” I said. “Dol­phins!” They knew about dol­phins, and the brows cleared. The fins came closer, and we saw the tor­pedo shape gleam­ing pale in the wa­ter as one flashed by us.

“That means there are more fish about,” I said, and sure enough there were; Maxie caught two at once, which was all we needed. We ate them, with roast po­ta­toes, for sup­per.

With pa­tience, I’ll make sea-chil­dren of them yet.

‘I knew we were only go­ing half a mile across the loch, but for them it was a huge ex­pe­di­tion’

Maxwell and Ava’s first catch of mack­erel

Maxwell and Ava have fun in the pad­dle­boats

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