When the boat appeared out of the fading light on the lagoon we thought it was the GNR coming to break up the party. The GNR police are not particularly well known for their sense of fun and as beach fires are illegal we figured they would take a dim view of the campfire of burning driftwood we had built on the beach.
As it happened the boat wasn’t full of sour-faced policemen armed with fire extinguishers and wet blankets, just a solitary guy motoring back with the vastness of the lagoon behind him. He pulled his boat up in the next cove along and there was something empty and desolate about the sight of him wading alone through the dark water to shore.
The problem was his boat. It was not one of the traditional wooden fishing boats that work the waters of Óbidos lagoon. I expect these to be crewed by solitary men because that’s the way it’s always been and I’m not about to start questioning tradition or even wondering what is so bad about home that makes the damp waters of the lagoon appear to be better company.
To my mind this guy’s boat was not designed for solitary occupation. It was a semi-rigid inflatable thing with a sexy upward rake to its bow, upholstered seats and one of those cool cockpits that look a bit like the conning tower of a submarine. I bet it even had a built-in ice box, although I also bet this guy had done the unthinkable and filled it with fish.
It was the kind of boat that brings parties to mind, the kind you see carving across the water while beautiful people on board hold onto their hats and sip from glasses of chilled wine. It was not a boat that you picture being pulled from the cold water by a man working alone in the gathering night.
I should admit here that my approach to boating is not exactly hardcore. I love being on boats but I don’t really care if they even leave the quayside as long as the fridge is well stocked. I have been on a fair number of these things and have never yet left one sober, so I naturally equate owning a boat with being at the centre of a whole lot of fun. This guy had either shunned the social circle or failed to find one. Either way it looked sad to me.
But then I was sitting with good friends around a fire watching the day go down on the shores of Óbidos lagoon. We had ignored the weather and made our stand on a sandy beach where we barbecued, ate and drank while the children hunted after sea cucumbers and threw bamboo spears at imaginary sea monsters. The rain held off and even the sun made an appearance once or twice.
So I sat around the fire watching him wrestle the boat onto a trailer and thinking about how I’d lusted after one of those things ever since I saw Crockett and Tubbs tearing up the waters of Miami. And I figured that if I was ever asked to choose between sitting in great company around a fire on the beach or owning the boat of my dreams – even with the champagne and complementary beautiful people thrown in – I’d choose the fire every time.
Sometimes there is nowhere else you would rather be. Those times often involve a fire on the beach. I think I’m going to have to discuss this with the GNR.