Boatman's dream 36
By Parson Thru
“Blimey! Are you sure you should be up there at your age, Eddie?”
“Don’t be telling him that, James. He’ll be getting ideas about retiring.”
Merlin was standing holding the free end of a rope. The other end passed through a rig that terminated at Eddie’s wooden perch at the masthead.
“I’ll be working till I drop. Just you keep that end of yours fast, Merlin. I’m not going anywhere yet.”
Bellingham-Smythe enjoyed the yard banter. He felt much more at ease here than in sanitised meeting rooms.
“Merlin, have you seen the pictures of the hotel fire in the Herald?”
“Salt Winds, weren’t it? I don’t need to read it in the paper. It’s all over town.”
“Have you seen any photographs?”
“Nope. Can’t say that I have, James. What’s up?”
“I should have brought the damn thing with me. Do you know about any visiting tall ships?”
“Up the Channel, you mean? No. I haven’t heard anything.”
“Do you think you would?”
“I expect so. I’d probably sail up there myself for a look.”
“Wait here. I’ll get the paper.”
Bellingham-Smythe ran back to the office.
“What’s up with him?” Eddie called down.
“Something about a tall ship in the Channel. You heard anything?”
Eddie gave a final turn with a spanner and wiped the aluminium clean at the top of the mast.
He threw the spanner and the rag to the ground at Merlin’s feet.
“That’ll do her. Coming down. Give me some slack.”
Merlin fed the rope through his hands as Eddie descended to the deck.
Bellingham-Smythe appeared with the newspaper.
Merlin looked at the front page.
“Oooh, aye. She’s a nice-looking craft. Three-master. I wonder where she’s come from?”
“Do you know any of these ships?” Bellingham-Smythe asked.
Eddie climbed from the deck of the yacht and peered over.
“Most of the well-known tall ships do a circuit. There’s a few in private hands that might not get around so much. Haven’t seen many like this one though.”
Bellingham-Smythe opened the paper.
“It’s a shame there’s not a better picture.” Merlin observed. “Was it that young lad down the Herald took it? He’ll have the originals.”
“Hmmm. Good point.”
Eddie was wiping his hands. “Kev seems to know him. He’s coming down later to go through some jobs on the moorings. I’ll mention it.”
“Thanks, Eddie. Odd, though, don’t you think?”
“Dunno, James. I have to say, she looks old. Not so Bristol Fashion, either.”
“Yep. She’s a scruffy old boat.” Merlin clapped his hand on Eddie’s back. “Are we having a brew, matey?”
Eddie gave Merlin a friendly dig. “Fancy a cuppa, James?”
Bellingham-Smythe couldn’t remember the last time he’d been invited for tea in Eddie’s mobile workshop – even though it was slowly crumbling onto his site.
“Thanks, Eddie. I’ll take you up on that.”
It was cramped in the motorhome amongst all the spares. Bellingham-Smythe recognised one of his old outboards that must be doing the rounds in the yard.
He accepted the mug from Eddie and scraped the dried milk debris from the surface.
“Sorry, James. Powdered’s safer than the other stuff.”
Eddie picked the carton up. “No idea how long we’ve had that.”
“Do you mind if I ask something?”
“Ask away.” Merlin replied.
“Do you know anything about historical societies, that kind of thing, on the Levels?”
Eddie shook his head. “What kind of societies?”
“The sort that might build an old sailing barge and take it up the Brue or along one of the drains.”
Merin nodded. “Don't know about historical societies and barges, but people used to navigate up the Parrett at one time. Until they put a low bridge in a few years back. Can’t get beyond Bridgwater now.”
“Aye. That’s right, Merl. I used to take boats up there as a kid.”
“This wasn’t the Parrett. It was near Shipton, heading towards Street.”
“That’s a good way up.” Merlin observed. “Near Glastonbury. Rowing boat’s about all you’d get up there, though.”
“Or a small motor cruiser.” Eddie chipped in. “One or two folks have cabin cruisers on the river, yonder.”
“No good once the weed come in summer, though.”
Merlin turned his gaze to Bellingham-Smythe.
“Why do you ask?”