God bless her and all who sail in her!

This week's Cavanman's Diary

A few months back, a fellow expert angler and I invested in a small boat. I know it’s dodgy to assume anyone’s pronouns these days but I’m going to call the boat ‘her’ for handiness.

The day after we bought it, I happened to mention it in passing to someone, who quickly came up with a pronoun of his own: We were, he said, a pair of ‘thundering eegits’.

“You know what BOAT stands for?” he asked, rhetorically. I awaited the killer punchline. “Bring On Another Thousand!” he howled.

I’d like to say that, if I had heard that acronym beforehand, I wouldn’t have splashed out – pun totally intended – on the vessel but, in hindsight, it was sort of like purchasing a new car. You might not really need it or be able to afford it but, once you’re in it, you’re overcome by the buzz - that new car smell, the comfortable seats, the latest gizmo for turning up and down the radio, which you never knew was missing from your life.

The novelty and opportunity of it all is intoxicating. And when you’re intoxicated, as we know, you don’t always make the wisest decisions…

Anyway, no point crying over it now. We bought her – boat, trailer and 25 horsepower engine – and brought her home. And I have to say, at this remove, while it is relatively costly to run, as everything is these days given the price of fuel and materials (two sheets of marine ply cost us €96!), it has been the best money I have spent in years.

Until yesterday, the boat remained untitled. Readers will not be surprised to know I was considering naming her in honour of some famous Cavan sportsperson or particular feat.

The ‘Gallant John Joe’, maybe, or, to bring her into a more modern era, the ‘Lady Leona’ or ‘Skin him, Larry!’ - or something along those lines, painted brightly on the starboard side. Unfortunately, this crew is run democratically and we could not reach a consensus so she carried on, unchristened.

We moored her on the Erne, which is an angler’s paradise. We kept her in a remote location, on a small lake, which connects to the main part of the river via a narrow channel, which may not even be passable in summer. It all adds to the adventure; inching our way up this little inlet at dawn, small fish jumping, the odd pike ascending from the depths to attack. And if the fishing wasn’t good, there is always the sandwiches.

Recently, the boat needed some TLC (Tender Loving Care, not Throw Loads of Cash, although it would be equally accurate). We took her out of the water and, like Elvis, starting taking care of business, my co-owner as foreman and structural engineer on the job, me as general skivvy, relegated to jobs like painting, sanding and coming up with silly names (see above), which he would inevitably reject anyway.

The attraction of fishing, to me, is like that of playing golf. Okay, it’s not as competitive but it’s something to do on a day off, a few hours away from the laptop, out in the fresh air. And like a golf shot, you just never know which cast will be the one.

It’s amazing what you see, too, when you’re out on the water. In the last couple of weeks, a few things have happened that I probably will never experience again, thankfully, to be honest.

About a fortnight ago, I was on the Erne, not far from Wattlebridge, when two swans flew overhead, whooping as they went. Now, boaty types like me know that swans have very poor forward vision. Their eyes can see left and right, which is ideal for detecting incoming danger such as predators, but the price for that is that they can’t see much in front of them.

These weren’t particularly high in the air on this occasion as my bearded shipmate and I observed them flapping away, heading in the direction of Galoon Bridge, when suddenly, there was a sickening thud.

One of the swans had flown directly into the bridge, as his comrade flew off, and dropped like a stone. We watched him, dazed, as he recovered his senses but when we returned a few hours later, he was sitting on the bank. What became of him – I’m presuming this swan was male and am not going to make the obvious joke about women drivers – I don’t know. Hopefully, he came round okay.

Fast forward a week and we were on the water again, on a narrow enough channel. We stopped to throw out some floats and open a flask when I spotted something stirring up on a hill.

On closer inspection, it was a deer, tangled in barbed wire, in serious distress. The poor animal was frantic and the more it struggled, the more caught up it became.

We got off the boat, with difficulty given where we were, and approached gingerly. My buddy, armed with pliers, cut the wire but it made no difference. Going any closer to the deer would have been impossible. It was horrifying to witness.

We were in bad phone coverage, just along the border. I managed to call a few vets but none were interested in assisting; “have you tried googling it?” was the risible response I got from one.

Eventually, we managed to get in touch with someone who knew a person who might be able to help. Darkness was approaching and we had to keep moving. I heard that night that a man had come with a rifle and mercifully put the creature out of its misery.

And then, yesterday, another curious event, this one with a happier ending. I was fishing off the pier at Lough Ramor. Across from me, a man with a tent and what looked like military-grade equipment hauled in a 17lb pike.

A storm was coming and the place was alive with the squawks of seagulls. I had a deadbait out, on a treble hook, bobbing about a foot under the water, when I spotted a seagull soaring. In a flash, he had taken my bait from the water and was away with it.

My heart almost stopped. Had he bitten down on the hook, I genuinely don’t know what I would have done. Thankfully, after about two seconds, he dropped it. I reeled it in; that was me done for the day.

At least, though, it finally gave me a name. As I write, I’m checking the weather forecast to see when we might get launching again. God bless her, The Hungry Seagull, and all who sail in her!