All aboard the Nancy Lugger

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All aboard the Nancy Lugger

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As my father used to shout to encourage his family to get into the car to go anywhere. It was an an outing, a voyage, an adventure. The same refrain passes though my head as I line up Nicoletta to clatter up the gangway into the maw of the ferry to – where this time? Calasetta to Carloforte.

Nothing spoils my simple pleasure – waiting on the dock for the ferry to appear; inspecting the fishing boats, the yachts, the sleek, identikit ocean cruisers; watching fellow travellers; wondering about the nature of their respective relationships; squinting at the sea at the comings and goings of any port; savouring the smells: oil, diesel, fish, vegetal decay. Then there she is, white, odd shaped because on her roll on, roll off for stern and bow, turning in, slowing, stopping, thick ropes leaping from the bow (or is it the stern?) to hold her fast to the quay. The bow slowly descends, disgorging a disorderly queue of cars, motor bikes, passengers on foot, the odd truck. Then on we go, surging up the ramp, to park neatly in lines in the hold.

Slowly the stern (or it it the bow?) rises and clanks into place; the thick ropes leap back inside, choreographed by the orange-jacketed crew; the ferry shudders; a surge in the smell of diesel; water beside churns; we move; shouting and laughter from the passengers; cameras emerge, poses taken, loos sought, drinks provided; children chase each other; parents look on with indulgent smiles, couples lean against each other; the port recedes, grows distant; behind, an ice-blue wake; creamy wave beneath the bow; fine marine breeze tempering the heat of the day; sun winking a million morse code signals on the sea, deep blue, light blue, aquamarine, topaz, azure, indigo whatever blue you want.

Carloforte, the island, a shape, low slung, a curved mound silhouette. I wonder what it’s like. Carloforte, the town, a blob, a blur, a mound within a mound; less of a blur; individual houses, buildings taking shape; the quay waiting for us; houses, crisp-painted in the sun; palm trees; bougainvillaea as brilliant as a sari; cars lining the quay; our turn to be disgorged in a disorderly queue; another place beside the sea to explore, to discover, the puzzle over.

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