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Launching Chaos

Author: Linda Brown

Ham and cheese pieces, a big bag of crisps, bottle of ginger (made fae girders), red and silver wrapped teacakes and… a packet of motion sickness tablets. A belter of a feast, packed in a picnic bag, ready to celebrate launching Chaos.

We left early morning, Chaos behind us, heading north from Ayrshire. Our destination? The quiet shores of Loch Earn in the glorious surroundings of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

Chaos was our nickname for the vintage cabin cruiser my husband splashed out on as lockdown restrictions were easing. Scott saw her listed for sale on eBay. Hooked at first sight – he’d always dreamt of owning a wee boat to go fishing – he impulsively stuck in the first bid.

‘Don’t worry… ,’ he said when I panicked at the prospect of bankruptcy in return for ownership of a rusty old tub. ‘The opening bid’s low. This braw boat will attract plenty of attention – other bidders will jump onboard, battle it out as the clock counts down. My bid will never win.’

However, as the final seconds ticked away, no would-be Captain Birdseyes gazumped his offer. A few days later, a socially distanced handover of the cruiser and its trailer took place in a service station car park.

We were officially boat owners.

But we’ll never be in competition with P&O. Our purchase is only nineteen feet long with a two-berth cabin, a galley you could scarcely swing a strand of spaghetti in and toilet arrangements best left to the imagination.

Although cherished and cared for by her previous owner, the boat, at over fifty years old (almost as old as me) was needing a little TLC to get her shipshape for summer (snap!). Chaos reigned (hence her nickname) and it was all hands on deck as Scott’s family rallied round. He and his father carried out minor repair and maintenance jobs every evening for over a week. Slap of paint here, glug of oil there. Replacing wooden deck boards, tinkering with the engine and cleaning the bilge pump. Meanwhile, his mum and auntie, both talented seamstresses and upholsterers, ordered nautical themed material (cute little blue anchors) to run up cushion covers and curtains. New foam covered with heavy-duty fabric replaced the tired bench seating. The little cabin had a professional make-over.

Being handless with hammers and screwdrivers, never mind needles and thread, I watched with apprehension from dry-dock as they readied the boat. Why apprehension? Well… I was scared of boats. Actually, scared not so much of boats, but the wet deep stuff they sailed on. Since 1999, I’d only been on water once and that was a few years ago on a sunny and calm June day, when I bravely crossed a looking glass sea on the Cairnryan to Larne ferry – ironically, to visit Belfast’s Titanic Museum.

But after the stressful year we’d just endured, I realised I needed to take a deep breath, conquer my fear, support my husband’s long held dream, embrace this new experience and simply… enjoy freedom and life.

Loch Earn, basked in May sunshine. Gentle waves rippled and glittered like fine silver threads across inky satin.
With a little help from our mooring’s owner, we reversed the trailer down the slipway into the water, released the winch and successfully floated Chaos off the trailer into the loch then tied her to the jetty. Scott clambered onboard and carried out some checks and adjustments before fuelling her up while I bit my nails and promenaded up and down the small beach. Steeling myself for what lay ahead.

By late morning we were ready to go. Scott sparked the ignition and the onboard engine spluttered then thrummed into life. Life jacket fastened securely, picnic bag slung over my shoulder, I teetered down the metal jetty, conscious of water inches below my feet. Holding out a supportive arm, Scott helped haul me over the side of the boat and I landed with an ungainly thump on the deck. Sitting on the passenger seat, pale knuckles grasping its armrests, my heart pounded as my husband cast off then steered us away from the pier.

We cut effortlessly through the water, a small bow wave forming on each side and a frothy white fish tail spuming at the stern. Craning my neck, I spied a castle on the opposite bank then marvelled at the panoramic view of majestic mountains; a verdant moss green landscape punctuated with brown heather, vibrant yellow broom and hardy white sheep. Stubborn snow patches still clung to crevices on the mountains steep shaded slopes. Their wild beauty uplifted me.

Cruising the south bank, we waved to fishermen and campers and scanned Ben Vorlich through binoculars for hill walkers.

Soon I was relaxing. Enjoying the cool breeze ruffling my hair. Quite happy to let go of my seat. Stand up. Move about. Take photographs of the yachts in the marina and the daredevil jet skiers who scudded across the middle of the loch at a fair lick.

The it dawned on me my fear had subsided. I felt safe. Content to be on the water. And I hadn’t even felt the need for motion sickness pills.

An hour into our adventure, Scott cut the engine. Time for lunch.

Chaos drifted while soaking up tranquility, we wolfed our picnic banquet, sunshine toasting our faces and bare arms. We caught glimpses of inquisitive fish breaking the loch’s surface. Watched wild swimmers take the plunge and a skein of Canada geese skimming overhead before skidding into the shallows, honking their indignant arrival.

Smiling at my husband, I raised my mug of rusty ginger. He held up his mug too and we clinked our drinks. Droplets of Irn-Bru cascaded over the deck.

‘A toast,’ I said. ‘Farewell to Chaos. I rename this cruiser Serendipity. Good luck and happy sailing to her crew.’

We celebrated our Serendipity with melted chocolate teacakes.