I remember taking refuge in the gentle bobbing of the boat. The tapping sounds of tiny waves against the hull. The rapid tick-tick-tick-tick-ticking of the thin iron threads along the aluminium masts of this boat and others at the dock, swaying in the light wind.
It was early morning. The sun was barely up. Seagulls were already loud as a trawler made way to sea, stirring up the smelly waters of the harbour. I turned over and stretched out. I was rested well and did not feel any sleep any more. I felt like I could do with some breakfast and some fresh coffee too.
I sat up and looked around. I was alone. Donncha was still asleep I guessed. I got up and stepped into my trousers. Then I walked up to the galley, put some water in the kettle and switched on the gas burner. I put some ground coffee in the filter and placed it on top of the coffee pot. I then found some mugs in the cupboard over the sink and set them ready too. I took out the sugar and cream. But then I put back the cream. I did not use any and I was not sure Donncha would wake up this early.
Waiting for the water to boil I went back to where I had been asleep. Quietly I folded the bedding and rolled up the futon I used for the night. I tried to pick up the board without making too much noise, but inevitably there was some banging as I placed it back to be the tabletop once again. “Be quiet!” I heard coming from the front of the boat. “Sorry!” I replied. “I’ve got you some coffee. You want some.” “What time is it?” Donncha asked. “I don’t know.” I replied. “Early still.”
Donncha showed up in the door to his cabin. In his underwear. He was rubbing his eyes with fists, like a child. “Coffee sounds good.” he said.
I finished clearing away my stuff from the night and took the cream out of the refrigerator again. I set up the coffee things on the table. As I was pouring the boiling water onto the ground coffee in the filter over the pot, Donncha appeared again. Now fully dressed accept for his bare feet. He was still rubbing his eyes. “Smells good.” he said. He started to get some bread and spreads and jam and put them on the table. Two dishes, some cutlery.
We sat and drank our coffee quietly. The sounds of the early hours in the harbour were a nice treat with the breakfast. I was eating a sandwich with apricot jam and listening in on them. I watched Donncha. He was deeply involved in his mug with coffee and sugar and cream.
Donncha was some thirty years old. He lived on this sailing boat. He did not have much, but he was ready to share it. And he never seemed to want anything in return. He drifted in with some good and evil Gaoithe an iarthair, he used to say. ‘The Western Wind’, the name of his boat. He never got around to leaving again, he would add. I was not sure how he paid for his living. I did not really care to know actually. I had come across all sorts of subsistence and came to understand it was never anything of my business.
Donncha had a thick and bushy, dark scalp and black eyes. His posture was rather thin but he made a strong and muscled impression on you none the less. He dressed for the sea. A lot of dark wool. Trousers, thin pullovers and turtle-necks. He never wore shoes unless he went up deck. But he used to stay inside. No matter how good the weather was, he did not go up deck to enjoy it. At least not that I got to see. He seldom went out otherwise.
Although my English was good, I sometimes had a hard time understanding Donncha’s speak. He had a thick accent and an idiom I was not accustomed to. It was clear he was Irish, but he never talked about home.
I got introduced to him the other day by Juni and Lindsey. I ran into those two when I was strolling along the Boulevard. They were doing well for themselves by the looks of it. Relatively speaking. You could see from a distance Lindsey was doing drugs now too. She got skinnier and the colour of her teenage brown skin got old around eyes that had fallen to the back of her face. But the two of them were enjoying each others company and had a good time, laughing, joking around. As we approached each other I greeted them. They greeted me back with joy and in loud and happy voices.
We got to talk a little. About nothing really. And as we were walking together, they met with Donncha. They knew each other obviously. They embraced for greetings and laughed and started some lively talking. Donncha pulled a flask out of the pockets of his trousers. Woolen trousers, which I found remarkable at that moment. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. We sat down at the foot of a sand dune as we were talking. And then we went quiet and just enjoyed the passing of time. The other three enjoyed the drink from the flask too. I let it pass.
As it got later, and the flask was empty, Juni and Lindsey left us. Donncha and I just sat there. I felt a bit uneasy, but Donncha never gave reason for that. After some minutes he too got up. “Right, time to eat something.” He paused and looked at me. “Want to join me?” I looked up at him. His thin and dark grey woollen trousers rolled up a bit above the navy blue canvas shoes with white rubber soles. No socks. He swept the sand off his red turtle-neck, thin wool too. He wore it tucked in his trousers. No belt. He put an eight piece that he had been carrying around in his back pocket, on his head. Very traditional tweed. Grey, salt and pepper. It looked too exotic for this beach. Almost a caricature of what he really was, Irish to the bone.
“It’s all right.” he said. “I’ve got a boat in the harbour. Some warm foods and a beer waiting for you there.” He waited. “If you want it?” I did not know what to do. He moved the cap a bit and adjusted it to a position better to his liking, with the flap a bit lower in his face. “Join me.” he simply said with a gentle smile. He put his hands in his pockets, turned around and he started to walk, taking slow and mindful steps in the cooling sands of the beach, walking towards the harbour.
Why not? So I got up and followed him. To the harbour, on to his boat.