I learned a new word recently: “thalassophile” – a lover of the sea; someone who is powerfully drawn to & by the ocean. And it named something deep in us. You see, we are coastal people at heart. I grew up gazing out over Belfast Loch, even on to Scotland on a rare, clear day. My husband was further from the sea but spent just as many hours on the water, racing dinghies and yachts whenever he could. And until our move eighteen months ago we had only ever known each other, lived together, by the water’s edge.
So the move inland was a wrench on our maritime souls. We spent the next eighteen months talking, dreaming and searching for the right vessel to get us out on the river. We didn’t want to spend a lot (nor did we have a lot to spend), or have the space to store something big. We just wanted to potter, to mess about on the water. You know how it is.
And we’ve done it. At last. So here they are: my seven steps to getting out on the water.
- Pine for the water. With every sunny summer day or golden autumn evening that passes, pine a little harder.
- Look on Freecycle for two kayaks. Fail. Because there’s some great stuff on Freecycle, but no one’s giving away free kayaks (paddles included). Gardening magazines, spare fabric, the occasional chair. Not kayaks.
- Figure out what you actually need. Which, it turned out, was not two kayaks. So the Freecycle fail was a blessing in disguise. Because we did not have the room to store them or the roof rack to carry them (we could’ve searched on Freecycle. Maybe not…). We wanted something we could paddle. And ideally sail as well. And that packed down really small. Too much to ask? No, it turned out, as we realised when my husband remembered the Tinker – an inflatable boat that you could row, sail, power with a small engine, and deflate to fold down small at the end of the adventure. It was perfect. But they don’t make them anymore.
- Buy one second-hand on eBay while sat in a country pub car park. Because you’re trying to play the eBay game, but you don’t really know how it works. So you’re trying to put your bid on last minute but there’s no signal as you drive through the Kent countryside. Except in a conveniently located country pub car park. So it was a successful strategy, but perhaps not an advisable one.
- Collect your boat. And realise it’s bigger than you expected. But it does fit in the car. Which is still one up on the kayak.
- Stay safe. And legal. Buoyancy aid or lifejacket for safety. Check the permit situation. Stick close to the shore for the first time while you see how river-worthy your eBay win really is.
- Set off. Up river. Down river. To the pub. The water is your oyster. The limits are few and the dreams are many. This is what you hoped for. Thalassophile, you are on the water. You’re free.
Today’s soundtrack: George Ezra // Wanted on Voyage