The Vigilance Poems (1)


Years ago, when I lived on the Isle of Man, I would go fishing at the top end of Castletown harbour. You could get mackerel there sometimes, and sea trout , though to be honest, I didn’t catch much. One afternoon I was walking along the harbour wall when I noticed there was a new boat moored alongside. She was a two master, solidly built, with a lovely straight bow and a rounded cruiser stern. A tall chap in a boiler suit and sea boots was doing something nautical to two bits of rope.

We got talking. The boat was called ” Vigilance” and she was a Brixham trawler- one of the big, solid boats who cruised the fishing grounds of the North Sea in the 1890’s. The skipper ( who was also the crew) was taking her to Ireland where she would meet her new owner. He had put into Castletown to get supplies, he said, and would be off on the morning tide.

There was something about ” Vigilance” that has stuck in my mind ever since perhaps it was the pure beauty of her lines, or the name, or the fact she had survived so long. I ended up writing two poems about her- and you can read the first one here:

Framed in crook’d oak a century past
From trees whose rings were forged in George’s reign.
They felled a single pine for each tall mast
And tapered it with axe and adze and plane.
They planked her carvel style, boards edge to edge,
From lines snapped out on a tarpaulin floor,
Then stepped the mast with mallet, glue and wedge,
Bound all with iron, made every joint secure.
Steel wire for rigging, wood blocks and hempen rope,
A varnished wheel, a suit of canvas sails,
A galley stove, a brassbound telescope,
A counter stern made neat with polished rails.

Drum tight, sails set and button bright, she
slipped the harbour for the waiting sea.

As always, comments are always welcome.Oh- by the way- the photo is actually her, taken years later.


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