Touring the Cornish Coast

by | Feb 19, 2022 | Jonathan Cardew - February Day 2

Something about Neil’s eyes said he’d seen more, too much more, sailing out of the harbor in the misty coastal Cornwall morning and while he wasn’t old and his tour boat was modern and sharp, the craggy rocks and tiny islands carved from mineral shorelines and high tide harbors, filled with fishing boats and harbor rats, (not rats at all but the children diving from ancient stone walls,) walls that protected them from fifty-foot waves and hundred mile winds, like the one that came just before Christmas in 1981, one that foundered the good ship Union Star, whose captain waited too long, fearful of salvage, to ask for help until eight of the finest watermen Cornwall ever grew would slip the lifeboat Solomon Browne, tight and yare, into the thrashing, would try to save the souls on board, would try to find their way back to their families and their Saturday night in the Ship’s Inn Pub, to tell tales of giant fish and singing sailing shanties, to remind the youngsters that Father Christmas rode such storms to deliver his goods to the good, but the briny sea, the sea from which they made their living, the sea that woke them in the morning with gentle surf lifting their fishing boats on the tide, the sea that set the boats back down in the evening to rest in the soft mud, the sea on which they’d courted their first loves, the sea into which they’d dived, as rats themselves, from ancient stone harbor walls, the sea that had rocked them to sleep as babes, the sea that held their hearts and minds and all their respect, spit back in anger and swallowed them all, the Union Star, the Solomon Browne, the Skipper and his crew and the eight fine watermen and left them with nothing but Christmas fairy lights and all plaques and monuments and a place in history, and a village of widows and orphans, like Neil.

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