“…and there was the softest voice, so fragile that I almost missed it, as if she whispered, “I have been here before.” The sound of it was lost in the rotation of her propeller; I caught it as it fell. It brushed my senses but I couldn’t hold it. I lost it in the brilliance of the day.”
Shemaron: A Beautiful Endeavour
It had been a while since I had felt any communication with Shemaron. During the months of her enforced inactivity Chris and I had become like slaves, working long hours until our shoulders burned and our backs ached. Climbing up and down ladders while balancing equipment and tools, caused our muscles to recoil in shock, by evening, exhaustion had set so deep that we couldn’t think straight and our eyes closed against the pain of it all. In the mornings when we woke it was to the realisation that Shemaron demanded even more tortuous rounds of physical labour. We bent so low under her hull to apply toxic antifouling that we thought we might never be able to straighten our spines again. We hauled steel so high our muscles bunched tighter than the knots that secured the long metal bands onto the ropes that we inched upward, before moulding them into place along her upper quarters. When the soft planks were taken out and the winter wind blew around her ribs scouring the dark places that perhaps afford comfort to an old wooden boat, I imagine Shemaron felt it too, but if she voiced her anguish I didn’t hear it. Even when she was re-launched I did not hear her. Perhaps she was drowsy like a patient on waking from anesthetic and then quiet through her long weeks of convalescence, for myself, I was too involved with my own coping mechanisms to remember to listen out for her.
I was simultaneously attempting to undergo my own private metamorphism, trying desperately to find within myself the qualities needed to push the Shemaron project forward. After years of working from snug comfort of our kitchen the thought of putting the project out for public scrutiny via the development of the trust and publication of a book took me so far out of my comfort zone I thought I would never feel calm again. I have somehow survived so far. It was therefore soothing to share a communication with Shemaron, one that rose in the warmth of her fo’c’sle, a small bloom of latent memory. The warmth of it was consolatory and I was reminded of the bond we shared. I can know little of her fishing career having only known her since her working days were finished; despite this there have been many powerful situations on the sea that we have experienced together. I appreciated her reaching out, we both look forward to an uncertain future and can only hope we have it within us to do enough to make it all come right.
Since her re-launch we have taken Shemaron to the head of Loch Fyne. The trip had a double purpose, one, to see that everything was in working order and two, to say hello again to Argyll. It was approaching mid summer the days were long and unusually hot. I lay on the fish hold listening to the engine steady up the loch, above me, dissected by the cross masts, the sky stretched away in acres of blue. We passed Otter Spit then navigated the Minaird Narrows, we said a quick hello to Ivererary, and the engine steadied away nicely. We passed people paddling and picnicking on the loch side and we eventually stopped at Cairndow where we caught a mooring.
We sat on the scorched deck, Shemaron was so still, she didn’t tug on the mooring, or rock, or sway, she sat just so. Everything was easy, the loch was mirrored, the trees unruffled, and when we cut her engine she simply became part of the tranquil landscape connecting imperceptibly to her former life. We stayed on deck while evening tiptoed across the sky turning the hills from green to grey under the shadow of the summer night, then we slept, the three of us taking a well-earned rest. When we woke the loch was bright with the reflection of morning, the air was deliciously cool and it seemed to me all too soon that our bow slid away from the mooring buoy causing lazy ripples to roll towards the shore.
This had been the tonic we had all needed, a restorative interlude in a busy year that allowed the three of us become reacquainted.