Friday, 20 February 2009 - 4:24 pm

Rockin’ and rollin’

I never want to go in a boat again. That was one of the most awful experiences of my life. Well, okay, not counting the bomb going off and the city coming down and the rain and all the bad stuff that’s happened since then. Just never again with the boat, okay?

I’ve been on boats before. Dad took me fishing a couple of times when I was young. It was fine – I never reacted badly to the motion. I remember one time he had to shout at me to stop running around the boat, because I was having so much fun. But not this time.

I think it was  the smell. I hadn’t noticed it before, but out on the river, surrounded by it, there was no escape. Rotting things, putrid waste all roiling together and sliding past the bow. The slapping of the water against the fibreglass hull. The humidity that made our clothes stick to our skin like undead, clammy hands. We couldn’t help but breathe it all in.

I managed not to throw up. God knows we don’t have the food supplies to go wasting it like that – that might be the only reason I managed to keep it down. But I really wanted to. I had to breathe shallowly and try to ignore the fact that it felt like the whole world was rippling and rolling, not just the water.


Once we were afloat and all on board, we hunkered down and waited for the sharks to stop throwing rocks at us. After a little while, they gave up and went away. Ben and Thorpe changed their wet pants and socks – we’re still wary of getting wet, even if this kind doesn’t burn on contact. Who knows what else it might do? And it’s disgusting: we might not have washed properly for weeks, but that doesn’t mean we want to go splashing in that. Once all was quiet, I started up the engines and off we went.

There was one tricky moment when the boat dipped into a swell, deep enough that the waves threatened to wash over the deck. It’s not something that any of us would have thought about twice before, but now that the river is broken and the skies have turned against us, nothing about this is safe.

Everyone was crammed down in the cabin below except Ben and me – he was the only one who had driven a boat like this before, and being enclosed just made me feel worse. Besides, I had to be topside in case there was a problem with the engines.

I shut the others belowdecks, lashing all the hatches closed, while Ben fought with the boat to keep the water off us. My heart felt like it was being thumped with heavy-tipped sticks, right up against my breastbone.

On reflection, the boys should have changed into dry clothes after we had finished with the river. Both Ben and I were splashed, which only made me want to vomit more strongly – there’s something slippery about the river water, as if there’s oil in it, or three-quarters moisturising cream.

I couldn’t wait to get that damn boat lashed up so we could get off. There was a concrete pier on the opposite bank, a short trek upriver from where we started, and we had chains to use in place of ropes. Once the chains were fastened and the hatches were opened, I was up that ladder like greased lightning (and wishing it was grease on me).


I’m dry now, fresh clothes all over (which means I’ve only worn them four or ten times before). I dumped the ones I was wearing. Matt said he’d read in a book about someone using oil to wash in rather than water. The next time we find a bottle of olive oil, I’m going swimming in it.

I am not looking forward to the return trip, not at all. 

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