Magazine article The Spectator

Tide and Tested

Magazine article The Spectator

Tide and Tested

Article excerpt

In recent years my son and I have spent many a Sunday afternoon sadly wandering up and down some floating pontoon or other looking at the boats. Mark Anthony is ten, and lives with his mum, but comes to me at weekends. We were usually sad because Sunday afternoon is when he and I have to part for another week, and we were also sad because more than anything else we would have liked to own a boat, but couldn't possibly afford one. To a casual observer on a winter Sunday afternoon with the light failing and the tide going out, the man and the small boy on the floating pontoon must have presented a very melancholy spectacle indeed.

Last week, however, I saw a small fishing boat advertised in the local paper, rang up, went to see it, and bought it. It wiped me out financially, but what's money when you love your boy and you can feel your own death coming on already. The boat has a `forward cuddy' (a sort of open wheelhouse) and a five-horse-power inboard engine. It's called Wally Two.

My first problem was finding somewhere to put Wally. I wouldn't get a place for it on a floating pontoon for love nor money said the lady in the harbour office. All she could offer me, she said, was a `drying-out' mooring in the middle of the river. I'd better have one of those then, I said. If you are on a drying-out mooring it doesn't mean you have to abstain from alcohol while aboard your boat, I'm happy to say. A drying-out mooring means that your boats rests on the mud at low tide and then floats off again as the tide comes in.

The downside of this, of course, was that I had to go out to buy another boat to enable me to get out to Wally Two when the tide was in. From the same advertising section of the paper I bought a 7ft dinghy with oars and rowlocks. This second boat, said the lady at the harbour office, would have to be called Tender to Wally Two rather than Wally One and would also incur harbour duties. Then came the big day when Mark Anthony and I took delivery of Wally, our first-ever boat. Mark, wearing his brand-new L70 lifejacket, was solemn with excitement. I had my arm in a sling from writing so many cheques. The vendor, Bob, kindly put the boat in the water for us. …

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