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.

By flash fiction Writer and RNLI Helm Eleanor Hooker

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.