Every year, the smell of thick gloss blue and grey paint would fill the evening sky, as the work continued past dusk.
We had three lake boats on Mask; solid timber boats, not fibreglass. Every autumn they would come in off the water and be left in our back garden. Upturned, left to dry for the winter, to drip dry; to get some rest from heavy waders from heavier anglers pounding on them as they navigated the currents that rattled over from Tourmakeady and into the shelter of Cushlough. Now, for four months, they could rest, relax, rejuvenate. Their timbers could stretch and get ready for a new coat, a new season.
And then in January, they’d be uprighted again; and the scrapers would come out. Every piece of dying paint from the previous year would be painstakingly removed by hand until the boats looked bare, and the grass would be covered with a mound of scraped dead gloss. A gloss made matt by the water. Paint that had kept it sealed while out there on the lake Now, the timbers, refreshed would get a new coat. Pared back, scraped clean, the pores of that wood just gaspiing to be filled with paint; to be covered again for the challenges ahead.
And so three layers of that heavy gloss would go on. One dark blue for the big boat; one sky blue for the middle one; and a mournful grey for the baby boat, which although the same length as the others, just looked light, not a boat for the heavy lifting.
When the seats were varnished and the oars brushed tip to tip, finished off with the most delicate strokes, they'd be there, ready to fit onto the pins; the floorboards ready to cover up the bare ribs that lay beneath; leaving enough space for a dropeen of water to come in or come over the edge and still not flood your waders or endanger your footing.
Then a new rope would go around the winch and drag those new shiny vessels onto a trailer which would have been hitched to a borrowed car, and one after one, they’d make their trip to Lough Mask for another year on the water. Another year where we wouldn’t see them until October.
How many tales would be told from those sitting on those seats in the interim? Yarns from those with their hands on the tiller of the Seagull outboard motor; how many Green Peters would entrap unwilling trout; How many flasks of lukewarm tea and ham and corned beef sandwiches would be consumed on rocky islands onto which they sail.
And when they’d leave the garden, there would be a boat-shaped discolouration on the grass where they had lain all winter, mixed in with the paint shavings, but they’d soon be gone as Spring and summer arrived and heated the ground.
This week, this scene will be replicated all round the west as the lakes get ready to open again. The ripples ready to welcome new visitors; producers of the sound of silence that roars across a glassy lake of a Spring and summer evening.
I love this time of the year. Now more than ever, we get to see a renewal. The arrival of a new light, of different colours, it is energy giving; it fuels up the saneness. Now more than ever is the chance to act on the resolutions we so foolhardily rise into at the turn of the year. Now, let nature bring you along. Get you out on that road, walking, running, skipping, cycling. Get you out on that water, swimming, sailing, rowing, fishing.
We are so fortunate here to live where we do. In terms of nature, it is a pinch-me moment every day. We should embrace it, like the boats after the winter. We have had our rest, our fill of food, heat, and comfort. Now, is the time to treat the mind to the wonders that live right on our doorsteps.