Summer nights had begun to get very short this far north, so it was already bright day, though the sun wouldn’t be up for a bit yet. If anybody saw him he was ready to explain that he was taking his new boat down to the bay to see how she sailed, before he had to get ready for school; but he’d much rather not talk to anyone so he turned down the alley just beyond the hotel to avoid the main street. An early jogger passed him in Slug Road, but barely glanced at him.
There were a few strollers, as well as the joggers, out on the sea-front promenade, so before crossing it he waited till nobody was near enough to notice how beautiful Selkie was, and to want to talk about her. But once he was down the steps and onto the beach there was no one else about. The tide was well out, with light waves lapping against the shingle, and a gentle off-shore breeze blowing, just as he would have expected with the sea warmer than the land after the cooling night.
He waded into the water far enough for the keel to clear in the troughs between the light waves, set Selkie afloat and adjusted the sails and rudder. Deliberately he’d left the radio control box behind in case at the last minute he couldn’t bear it and changed his mind.
Then he let go for the last time.
She faltered slightly as she nosed into the next line of foam, rose to it and sailed smoothly on. She sailed like a dream over the pearly grey dawn sea, rising and falling steadily to the rhythm of the waves. He watched her out of sight and walked slowly back up the hill, telling himself that this was the last, most desperate thing he could try. It filled him with a terrible bitter ache of loss, but he’d had to do it. If it didn’t work, then nothing else would.Excerpt from The Gift Boat (Inside Grandad), copyright © Peter Dickinson 2004