The cormorant splashes as she takes ungainly steps across the creek surface and then flies, yellow beak extended, less than a metre above the water. The drips from her feet are tiny stepping stones. Air whispers to me from her pumping wings as she passes by the cockpit where I sit listening to silence. Not a creak, like the armature of a swan or a goose, but just the sibilant whisper of approaching death.
As the slow morning begins, I hear Fiona making tea in the cabin below, two gulls squabbling over some delicacy, the distant putt-putt of an outboard. Blackbirds and finches squabble in the lush gardens of the shoreline. The rudder grunts arrhythmically as the tide reaches its zenith and the boat starts to swing. There is no wind at all. Ensigns hang limp and even the smallest twigs at the tops of trees are unmoving. It was foggy when the tide was low at three o’clock this morning but the mist has long gone and now the sun is high. It is already hot. For a little while, around five-thirty, I was cool under my thin blanket, but by six I had warmed up and drifted back to the wondrous sleep of a comfortable bunk on a secure mooring.
Children have come down the river bank and are splashing and calling each other. Another engine starts briefly, maybe a scooter in a lane, and then a fishing dory comes by, its engine creating broad ripples. Very slowly, on a morning as beautiful as any of those of our remembered childhood holidays, this tiny corner of Cornwall is coming awake.
A little later, a man, dressed only in shorts, a dry bag perched in front of his feet, poles a paddle-board across the mouth of the creek and on into the main river. He is completely steady, unfazed by the gentle wakes that reach him from slow boats or the reach of the tide, as if he stood on an escalator propelled by the tidy movement of his arms. A large black traditional boat slips down river, her engine nearly silent, while someone works in her rigging. Rowers are training out on the Fal and we can hear the calls of their coach and the crash of their oars. It is time to shatter the peace and make our own small passage south to the Helford.