There’s a ship in our harbour aground on the rocks, a big and very stuck ship. It was on its way from Belfast to Sweden with a load of timber. I don’t know what will happen to it, or the timber, or the waters in the harbour, but I do know that it matters to me when anything bad happens at sea, because the next part usually involves one of my men.
In the early days of living on the island there was no lifeboat, and the local seamen became auxiliary coastguards. I remember not infrequent calls, especially during the summer months when every loon with a dream of the wild ocean waves, took to the sea without a clue of tidal rips, wind direction or the rise and fall of the tides. Add to all that ‘complicata’, those dodgy times when the wind argues with the direction of the tide, creating a real stooshie, when your little craft, so safe, (you thought) begins to screw tail in the boiling soup and runs the very real risk of tipping right over if one big wave comes at you sideways on. Then there are those razor sharp rocks just below the surface. You can’t afford to marvel at the wonderful views anywhere near land, because land is not where you think it is. Land goes on into the sea and says nothing much. It just blows a few bubbles that can look dead cute if you don’t check your chart.
I’m not saying the skipper of this massive hulk didn’t check his or her charts. With a ship that big, stopping at all must be planned a mile away, and turning round quickly at the last minute when bubbles reveal their teeth is quite out of the question.
Anyway, back to what I was saying about my men. The old sea dog had to turn around quick sharp often after a tourist trip to the islands, or out to watch for whales, if a call came through on the radio. Out he would go, spotlight on the waves, if it was a darkling time of day, to search for a dingy, or worse, a person in the black soup. It is hard enough to find a huge whale in the sea, never mind a little person with only a head showing. He has towed sailing boats off beaches and rocks and stayed to reassure folk who had to wait for the lifeboat to arrive from the mainland. He has helped people be airlifted out, and seen many back into safety. Now we do have a lifeboat on the island, one with big twin engines, and our son is deputy cox and sometimes the whole cox. When a storm rises like a bully and when the wind roars and the night is black as a witch, I wonder what he might be called out to do. There have been some really tough times, but the team is tight and experienced and they know the rocks like teeth just under the surface of the sea, of old. But still, we women and our imaginations can take the facts and spin our spin and hardly sleep a wink for the pictures in our fluffy little heads.
The sea is a wild thing- unpredictable and demanding respect. Nobody can be her master and nor they ever will be.