Monday 13 February 2023

Changing Tack by Gordon Pinckheard, flat white


'I don't want to!'

'Don't be silly, girl. All you'll need to do is sit there and do what I tell you. Pull on the ropes occasionally, take the tiller when I need to go below. You've done it before; you can do it again.'

'But, Dad! The sea gets rough around the end of the Point. I don't like it. I get scared.'

'Hurry it up. I want to get going. Get your stuff together. I've made sandwiches for us both. The day's a-wasting.'

Pat threw the holdall of supplies into the car, stood beside it, holding the passenger door open, waiting. Marie paused on her way out, called out a goodbye to her mother, sat into the car, and glared up at her father, the corners of her mouth twisted down. He shut her door.

Pat drove down to the marina, hurried along the pontoon to the ageing sailboat, Marie lagging behind.

Exchanging only essential words, they motored out of the marina, raised the sails. Once in the bay, engine off, sails full, Pat relaxed.

'There, my girl,' he said. 'Isn't this grand? Alone on the sea, quiet, under a blue sky. Who could ask for more? And don't be frightened of getting round the Point; we'll deal with that when we get to it.'

'I s'pose.'

'Ah, c'mon, lighten up. We don't spend much time together. Let's enjoy it while we have it.' Trying to catch averted eyes, Pat added, 'What're you doing lately?'

'Not much. Living.'

'Seriously now, talk to me! How're your studies going?'

'Well enough. I've been getting the work in on time. That's good for me, I suppose.' A brief smile flickered across Marie's face. 'That's something I've learnt. Decent marks too.' She turned away from her father, looked out across the waves towards the green slopes underlined in gold, said softly, 'Dublin's a long way from home. Different too, I suppose.'

'You get homesick? You can always give us a call, me or Mom. Come home at weekends too.'

'Oh no, it's - just - different. It has its good side too. There's a lot going on. Theatre and stuff.' She flashed a glance at her father, added, 'Parties.'

'Parties? You're not doing anything daft? Drugs? You do watch your drink? Don't let it out of your sight! Some fucker could stick something in it.'

'Dad! I know all that! How old do you think I am? It's not like there's no drugs 'round here. They're all over the country. I got through okay, didn't I?'

'I s'pose. Yeah, you're all growed up.' Pat stood and looked at the sea ahead and the rocky shore they were nearing. 'Well, we're nearly at the Point. Check the straps on your lifejacket.' Then, seeing the pale face of his daughter, he added, 'Ah, don't worry. Just to be sure, that's all. Better safe than sorry.'

The boat pitched in the lumpy sea. Marie held herself in place with one hand on the edge of the cockpit. She kept her gaze fixed on the land, the only steady thing in sight.

Pat kept a firm pull on the tiller, maintained his course. 'It's just the tidal current against wind. Causes the waves to steepen. We'll be out of it soon.' Looking at Marie's grip on the boat, he added, 'Real soon.'

Later, well away from the erratic waves, Pat looked around. 'Now, this is where she belongs.' He thumped the hull. 'Deep water, away from land. A floating home that'll take you anywhere. Everything you need nearby. Well, my girl, lunch?'


Returning to port, the tide had turned, and the sea at the Point had quietened. As they passed, Pat asked, 'So when are you heading back up? Or do you want to stay on a bit longer? Have more time at home?'

'Tomorrow. Don't get me wrong, Dad, I like home, always will, but I've got a life in Dublin too.'

'Well, yeah. Your studies. But they're not forever.'

'No, Dad, a life. Maybe I should have said it earlier, but next time I come home, I'm bringing someone with me. Paul. It's about time he met you and Mom.'

'Oh, okay. So you're bringing a boy home? Finally!' Pat's smile made a joke of his remark.

'Yeah. And, Dad, he's not a boy. He's all growed up. Like me.'

'Okay, okay. Have you told your mother?'

'No, not yet. I thought I'd tell you together, but it didn't work out that way. Sometimes things don't, do they?'

'That's true.' Pat looked appraisingly at his daughter. 'Wise words.'


In the marina, as they walked away from the boat, Pat said, 'That was fun. Next time you're down, on your own like, you can crew again.'

'No, Dad. It wasn't. And I won't.'

About the author

Gordon Pinckheard lives in County Kerry, Ireland. Retired from a working life spent writing computer programs and technical documents, now freed of constraints and encouraged by Thursday Night Writers (Tralee), he can write anything he likes to entertain himself and - hopefully - others. 

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