On the lake

Today we follow Thomas on the lake

The day before my birthday this November (2020), my father and I went out on the Baltic Sea. He’d come from Argentina where he lives, to Finland where I live.

Eyes on the forecast, I look out to sea, mind thinking of wind and waves; which direction, how strong, how high – can we go? Spotting a window, bike bags are packed and ready to go.  Not alone this time, I’m overflowing; rarely style-driven I bike in my life-jacket (a bee-like yellow-black ‘skirt’ just fits in my bag).  A picnic on board so we’re good to go. 

Beside me, pedalling too, my father wonders what’s coming ahead but shows only trust, enthusiasm.  We turn to the woods, I recall our first dinghy-sailing capsize when I was 9.  We’ve over 35 years’ water confidence together so still today’s the same.  This Autumn afternoon of low golden sun in Northern climes, we pass birches and pines either side, along flat earthy paths well worn, eagerly gently towards the sea.   

It might have been all for this single venture, that he crossed from Andes to Atlantic by car for a day and a night, dreamed over ocean and rode the torrent of restrictions across Europe to Baltic sea-shore.

In just a few moments, across green spaces now freed by geese, past sleeping raised beds and Sunday suburban streets, pleasure-craft tied up mean we’re here.  This is the place, our starting point, utterly unexceptional but to me just wonderful.  We pass between lines of boats drawn up out of water, wrapped in thin plastic sheets tied down with string, hopefully hunkered down for wind, rain, ice and snow.  Yes it’s far too late now, no barnacles grow. 

Bright yellow, cigar-shaped and long, my two-person boat upside-down on a rack.  No cinch at the waist and little taste, it’s a sea-kayak! – a bike for the sea.  Scratched and scraped from small-stone shores, day-trips for day-venturers – so second-hand – but it’s my sea-faring pleasure.  

Since cold, frosty, bright-blazing 2020 Spring mornings, I’ve travelled and marvelled, but still only paddled!  How little I thought this moment would come, so much I’ve looked forward to knowing we’re ‘on’!  Skirts up, gloves, sun-glasses too, gingerly my father who first took me to water in our hurried orange sailing hull, clings to the ‘cockpit’ surprised to be in.  So am I! 

Bow bobbing through water towards the coastal highway, reeds seemingly rush past beside; the breeze is light and sky so right!  Under lanes of tarmac the chatter of paddles rises louder off concrete supports and moments later – we’re out.  Curtains up time!  Before us, stretching East, South and West, the Gulf of Finland, only its islets interrupting blue horizon.  Conditions are perfect, surely he’ll like it!? 

Simple, short, easy passages passed, we’re into the lee of a gentle afternoon, plotting spots for a sunny floating stop.  The wind-shadow of a granite rock outcrop marks the spot.  There’s mustard herring in rye-bread, coffee and chocolate; selfies, no more maybes!  

We’ve done it; come so far and waited so long, to travel so near and be so close.  This is the place which I’ll return to, re-live, enjoy, close-in again.  Alone I’ll leap great distance in the eye of my mind, perhaps just a blink or two together will do.  So yes, we’ll be here again (my father and me), for big blues in a bright yellow craft, soft hues carefree of news.  Free beings, we’ll always cherish the sea!   

Thomas Jelley (Finland)

Leave a Reply