Long ago on a cold December evening a wee baby was born. She was named Claire Gillian and her father proudly carted her in the big Silver cross pram around all the neighbours. I was my Dad’s (and mum’s) bestest oldest daughter and he is one of the most important wonderful men I have ever had the privilege to know.
As I grew I was given the job of taking his cup of tea out to the great hull of the wooden sailing boat he was building in our back garden – up the ladder I staggered, daring myself to not spill a drop for he might notice. Tea safely delivered I would settle myself down to watch him awhile hammering, sawing, steaming beams …. I loved that knowing rhythm of his hands as he created.
And so it was when I was twelve that Johara was launched and she was sailed out to the Menai Straits. So our voyaging began. We had many adventures Dad and I, and many salty stormy tales were shared around the winters feasting table over glasses of whisky. So I grew to love the sea and the wooden boats that sailed to my Dad’s song: to Ireland and up to the west coast of Scotland. He loved the Islands and every port, cove and harbour would receive this trickster of a sailor with open arms for a story and a dram.
The photo is him at his happiest – a days sailing under his belt, anchorage found, bottle of whisky and a fine meal cooked by him and watching the sun go down with a tongue polished story always ready on his lips. And there I am …. my name there in his log books … Voyages taken – rites of passage at different stages of my growing towards the sun.
So it doesn’t surprise me that I found the ancient tradition of storytelling and made it my life’s work. It doesn’t surprise me that I have had a deep longing to sail these Islands in a bonnie beautiful Tall ship, taking with me a heart full of sea stories from the land that rises from the ocean. And maybe there will be a chance to sing to the seals and dolphins as my Dad showed me once as we sailed around Anglesey.
My Dad ‘Stepped off the harbour wall and sailed away’ on the Autumn Equinox but he still visits me in my dreams. Two weeks ago he built me a beautiful Viking Longship and it waits at the waters edge to set sail. There’s preparation to do but I so look forward to the journey.
As I read Hugh Millers ‘ The Cruise of the Betsey’ I know my Dad would have loved the humour and the storyteller in the man as he sets sail from Tobermory. I also know that if they had met they would have enjoyed a dram or two together and spun a yarn or three as the sun went down over the yard arm!