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Deck Shoes

Paul Roberts, Kent, UK
July 2006

I recently bought a boat on the River Medway, just a little old cruiser to get away from the world on. She was named 'Cressida' originally, but I've decided to change that a bit sharpish, but hadn't as yet come up with a name I liked.

I spent a couple of days fitting her out with bedding, crocks and pans, the usual paraphernalia that having a hide-hole brings, before taking her upstream for a weekend to get to know the old girl.
Typically, the weekend I chose to cruise, the rain decided to enliven my adventure.
I took my boat out of the boat yard and set off through a couple of locks en route to a nice little piece of riverbank I know, just away's upstream from a disused lock. It would be fine to moor there overnight, not tied up to the bank, but lying at anchor in the pool. This minimizes the chance of being cast adrift by some clown at chucking-out time at the local pub. You'd be amazed at what passes for entertainment with some folk.
Having reached journeys end for the evening, I anchored and having made fast, I set out to cook a bit of supper, before spending a while with a good book till night fell sufficiently to turn in.
I was in the galley preparing the food when I felt the whole boat roll under me, and then I heard a loud thud up at the bow, like the anchor hatch falling. Now I know I had made fast the hatch and I still have the blister to prove it. I carried on with the food, and in a short while had eaten and cleared away, prior to relaxing on deck with my book. Up on the aft deck, I lit a gas lamp and was reacquainting myself with the hero in my book, when the boat rolled again, just like before. Looking along the boat, I was able to make out the figure of a man, standing inboard straddling the forehatch, looking out toward the disused lock. The fact that I should have been alone didn't occur to me at the time, nor did I feel scared at the appearance of my 'guest'. Somewhat pathetically I called out something along the lines of 'Can I help you?' or some such platitude. At my voice, the figure slowly turned around, and glaring at me, took one step toward where I was sitting and melted away. That is the only word to describe what happened, he, simply, melted. It was only then that I realized the anchor hatch was open, but I KNOW I closed it. Well, needless to say I didn't close it again that evening, nor my eyelids.
The face of the man has stayed with me ever since, and this was some three years ago. I've spent not a little time since then trying to find out more about the area, and who owned the boat in the forty or so years before me. One thing has come to my attention though, the two previous owners of the 'Cressida' have gotten rid of the old bucket within a few weeks of buying her and funnily, neither will go into details of why their ownership was so short lived.
I love my tatty old boat though, and who knows, I may yet find out who the ghostly crewman is or, more accurately, was. I've even speculated whether he is connected to my boat or that particular stretch of river.
I've not seen him again, but often find small things have changed, such as sheets being coiled, lights switched off, that sort of thing. If you think you may be able to help, I'll be glad of your input.
Fair weather to you all,

Paul Roberts, Kent, UK
00:00 / 01:04
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