The wind is inconsolable.
Crouching to vent my drysuit,
I hear gravel scatter, greeting calls
as my fellow crew rush to change
for the Shout. What’s out there?
they ask. I tell them what I know.
It’s seven and gusting, our Launching
Authority says. It’ll be rough by Parker’s.
This we already know.
One, two whacks on my back tell me
crew are seated, feet in stirrups.
With an all-clear port and starboard,
I open the throttle, launch into the maelstrom.
The water is bruised purple and black.
Our ballast tank full equals the weight
of three men in the bow, keeps our
nose down as we face the tumult
of this inland sea. On our port side,
a conspiracy of cormorants
huddle on Salmon Island’s
rocky crop, keeping watch.
In open water the waves
heap up, retching, dumping turf-
stained lake across our bow. I power
up the face then throttle off
so we don’t take flight at the crest,
pendulum to a bow-over-
stern capsize. By Hare Island
a turn to port and a beam sea
makes us wary of rogue waves
quarter side on. I hold a reserve
on the helm - to power us away
from harm if needed, and, for safety,
steer in at forty-five degrees.
At Parker’s Point with a boxing sea
and pyramid waves, we read all
movement, call it as I steer behind,
in front and away from breakers.
In my earpiece our Radio
Operator, seated behind me, transmits
our location every fifteen, to Valentia.
We see them ahead below the Middle
Ground, side on to weather and sliding
down the shoulder of a breaking wave.
But with nothing beneath them,
their anchor drags before their makeshift
drogue snaps them to, bow to weather.
I ease us in from windward.
A crew climbs across, carrying
a radio, a smile, First Aid.
Eight on board, all below
except the skipper, luminescent
in his orange lifejacket.
My crew shouts to those below,
reassures them. After a quick survey
of frightened faces he gets to,
sets up a bridle before he
and the skipper haul in anchor
and drogue. I helm into wind to
cross the T and pass the tow, count
sets as crew pay out line until I call,
secure the tow. Making way,
we radio back ‘centre your rudder’.
With an eye to the swell, the wind
and boat astern, we plough a trough,
ease back as the line groans, then into weather
we point west through Scarriff Bay, steering clear
of the Middle Ground. In the lee of Bushy Island,
we shorten the tow, safe harbour in sight at last.
From A Tug of Blue, a collection of poems published by Dedalus Press 2016.
Also featured in an anthology of Irish poetry, The Enchanting Verses, published in India, November 2016.