I once sailed to the Slate Islands of Argyll with an old man missing part of his nose.
No heed was taken of his warning and our birlinn foundered when the waves rose.
Just two men of the score that were the crew scrambled to the landing craft.
I bent my back to the oars amidships and the old man huddled aft.
Never flinching, staring into the spray, rudder in firm grasp, to land he turned.
When the breakers began to build upon the beach they swamped over the stern.
I jumped up and let the wave carry me to shore, dashing me to the sand.
I used my hands as hooks and pulled myself from surf to dry land.
The old man was not so spry and when the wave retreated, it carried him away.
I still see him in my sleep, a smile on his face, staring calmly into the spray.
So when I heft a pint or two, or maybe three.
I say a prayer, for the sailor lost at sea.