Waking up on Saturday morning to the cold, cold rain was dismal. Even if we were on a boat.
The dry air of the heater blasted on our feet as we sat and drank our cups of tea.
One brother strummed on his newly-bought guitar trying to work out a verse of a song he was in the midst of writing. The youngest brother stood next to his father at the wheel; his father carefully maneuvering this large, vintage vessel across the eastern-most part of England.
The mother bustled around tidying the tiny kitchen, making us tea on a gas-powered stove and straightening the 1970′s curtains. I ignored my latest lactose-free diet and gratefully drank the black tea with milk, watching the swans, the reeds and the rain smattering on the deck.
Jock read the map, working out the best route, the amount of time it would take us to glide 10 miles.
I worried for the swans. They sat there in the middle of the river, not deterred in the slightest about the ginormous boat that was about to squash them to smithereens. I quickly learned they had lived on this river far longer than I. It was impossible to kill them.
By the end, I wished this wasn’t the case. Evil creatures those swans. Beautiful, but evil – snipping at Jock’s feet, rattling on our boatroom window, biting the necks of baby chick’s who dared to eat their morsels of bread.
The sky was glaring down at us, ensuring that we didn’t retreat outside the boat until we had enough practice driving four miles per hour on its river.
Sunday was another story. The sky agreed we were ready to take on narrower, curvier waters even with the distraction of the bright blue sky and hot sun.
The sky was wrong.
We weren’t ready.
Reaching the end of a narrow river, with no warning, it was time to turn around. I drove like I so eagerly wanted to. I didn’t turn quickly enough. I headed directly for the corner of the dock.
Jock grabbed the throttle and banged it in reverse. The boat revved its engine and became more powerful than it had ever let on before. Tricky, darn boat.
The boat was longer than it appeared. It hit the back hard and loud. Tricky, darn boat.
Jock’s father flew across the living room, landing on the soft cushion of middle brother’s lap. The mother kept away from any windows, piddling about until the chaos had been handled.
There was silence. Where there was a lot of shouting before we hit the dock was now replaced with silence. After approximately eight to twelve turns, the boat was aiming at the other direction. It was badly injured.
I jumped off the wheel and refrained from steering the rest of the trip. Audible gasps were let out when we safely steered away from the end of the river.
The swans still appeared to get in out way.
The next stop was a small town named Horning. A beautiful, picturesque Norfolk Broads town. We moored at the longest space we could find, out of the way of other boats, animals, corners, houses, debris, people, anything that could be damaged.
We tied the boat to a lamp post and a tree and crossed our fingers that the tree wouldn’t fall down and the lamp post wouldn’t lose its screws.
The empty, dilapidated pub opposite the boat was a sign of the bad times. Another victim of the recession from last year.
The days since that day blended together. The sun was constant, whenever the puffy, cotton-ball clouds would let it be. My forehead is burnt. The swans were pesky, but dazzling to watch dash across the river. Many pints of beer drunk, hamburgers eaten and sceneries taken in. My belly is slightly swollen.
“Ahoy, shipmates,” – the phrase uttered each morning that never ceased to cause a ripple of laughter amongst everyone. Simplistic, beautiful joke.
Unfortunately, the only sailor quip I knew was lost on the English crowd – “Have you seen the latest pirate movie?” “It’s rated arrrrrrrr.” Their movies aren’t rated R.
My favorite thing to do other than watch the animals interact, mate and fly about was observing the brothers’ relationships. Clear, strong dynamics exist between them rooted in a lifetime of growing up next to each other, placement of birth, sharing beds, dinner tables, holidays and playing football; but amazingly, there is little competition between them and a boat-load of love.
Literally for hours we sat in a pub, on the boat, taking walks and talked. I was in awe of their patience with each other, their ability to listen to what they all had to say and the lack of fighting. How could a family get along this well?
“Lots of booze,” his brother joked. And, although that is true…there is more to it than that.
If it were my family, I think we would feel a bit antsy after the first day on a boat, anxious after the second, shaking by the third and just plain fuming by the last. There is bound to be coalitions that break down, alliances that are formed and groups that complain about the next one. Finding faults with everyone else is something we have aced, gotten down to a T.
No good showers, slow speed, nothing to do but talk to the other…
A living hell on water.
I’m now starting to wonder if we’ve had it all wrong. I wonder if secluding ourselves in a place where there is no phone reception, no internet, no way of escaping could do us good.
What if we just let it all go?
What if we were the strongest connection?
My pace is slower, my body is still swaying and I can’t wait to plan my next boat-trip…or perhaps a cabin in North Carolina? What do you say Grampy?