I had my doubts, a lot of them, but it seems we have been encapsulated in a bubble of support and love.
We meet Peter at the key side with his lady volunteers. The sun is shining and the sea conditions are good. The best day of a week, which has been fraught with cancellations due to sea fret and sea swells.
We don our life jackets. Our youngest has brought along RLNI Ted also wearing a red buoyancy aid. She’s a little nervous. Her big brother has told her tales of the high sea, it will be his second trip aboard ‘Wetwheels’.
On our last adventure we were incredibly fortunate to see seals dolphins and minke whales, today only a few playful seals put in an audience but the trip takes on a whole different adventure.
Today it’s all about going fast and getting wet.
As confidence grows the boat heads out into the sea, the familiar landmarks of the north east coast grow smaller.
The inky sea meets a clear sky and the horizon goes on forever dividing them both, the occasional inquisitive seal checks us out.
There are eight and four crew on board. Our nucleus family fused together for fun on board and a shared adventure.
Ken is the first to get wet. Sat next to James on the starboard side I can see his glasses getting steamed up with spray. I’m not sure if he’s happy at first, but then a huge grin covers his face as the speed board cuts through the waves.
I’ve our granddaughter on my knee at the aft. She very quickly overcomes her nerves and sways with the rock of the boat, urging it faster. Her ‘old sea dog’ brother leans his head into the stiff breeze, looking every inch the Captain’s mate, loving every second of exhilarating action.
The rest of the grown ups listen to Peter’s expert commentary as he points our things of interest and shares his passion for this coast line. No one thank goodness is looking green.
We share the contents of my cool box, with crew as Peter cuts the engine for a little while, I was told to bring cake, but we’ve sausage rolls again and sandwiches as well as very posh macaroons from Betty’s. It is a sociable, friendly affair and an opportunity for photos with some of my most precious people.
I think we covered 81km, and we’re out well over two hours but it is the return journey that will be etched in all our hearts forever.
‘Who wants a turn to drive?’ Peter asks.
Of course our red tousled haired grandson is keen.
All under very close supervision of course, and risk assessed, but of course he’s not aware of that.
He takes his place in the driving seat.
Already accomplished in a golf buggy he has progressed to a speed boat in three days!
The concentration is intense, I don’t quite think he believes he’s been given this opportunity. Last time he was aboard we had to practice social distancing and Covid rules, this is a whole new experience. A special opportunity that boys can only dream of.
Ken also takes his turn in the hot seat. I don’t need to say a single word to Peter he has seen how Ken has changed. In the last two years dementia has stolen more than perhaps we realise until we revisit this point again from his past.
Peter and his crew give Ken a chance to feel something though. Something normal life doesn’t often do these days. Ken feels he’s in control, that’s a powerful emotion, in charge of a powerful beast of a speedboat. That’s one to build self esteem and pride.
Last but not least our four year old takes the helm. Mummy can’t believe it and almost faints . I’m amazed at her poise and confidence again. You’d think she has been skippering boats all her life. Peter guides he every move of course, and she executes a turn that throws water all over her brother and Uncle James. They are absolutely soaked, but this is the game, and we all howl with laughter.
We head back to the harbour with lips tasting of salt and hair like straw. Jovial banter and happy faces. Ken has loved his birthday adventure I’m sure of it, but understandably is beginning to flag.
Every thing about wet wheels is aimed at giving people with disabilities and their families the opportunity to make magical amazing memories to share and cherish.
Even if the memory eventually fades for Ken, the rest of us have had an afternoon we won’t ever forget and will treasure forever.