It was yet another near-drowning experience, something that had become a standing, dark joke about their annual summer break. Last year it had been the scare of the errant air-bed in Ibiza where they stayed at the, what turned out to be less than classy, El Pinar apartments for Jack, Lucy and their young sons, Joe and Sam.
The bay had looked safe with its long shallow stretch of water, leading out to the deeper sea. Jack, thirty seven with a thinning crown, having played with the boys headed for a rest on his sun bed. After the year he’d had at the office, he had earned this break and he was going to switch off.
Lucy, still carrying some baby-weight behind the secret-support swimwear, had stood in the waist-high water with little Sam sat on the pink air bed. Joe, a confident swimmer, had paddled around them, his protruding toothy grin witness to some years of thumb-sucking. The waves had lifted them pleasantly with each lap, pulling them inshore and then outwards, with each enjoyable cycle.
As Lucy had bobbed in the water, smiling at the gurgling Sam, she had gone to push up on the sandy floor but found that her feet just kept going down, not meeting the reassuring base from which to bounce up again. She thought with panic that there must have been a sudden drop in the seabed.
Lucy had spluttered as Sam had wobbled precariously on the air bed. Her eyes were wide in fear as she looked around the jolly beach and spotted Jack asleep on his sun bed. She had shouted out for his help but there was no response and the dreadful realisation had settled in her stomach like a rock. She remembered at this inopportune moment an article about the fact that on each innocuous bank holiday in Britain, there were a predictable number of drownings amongst the day trippers who had headed to the coast for a bit of fun.
She had tried not to think of her three year old, and possibly even her five year old, becoming another sorry statistic. Then, a man swimming nearby had spotted her distress and in a few strokes had reached them and pulled their air bed to safety. Jack still lay relaxing a few metres away unaware of the near-miss.
This year, they were in the Mediterranean just off the coast of Qawra, in Malta. Lucy had taken more swimming lessons after last year’s fiasco, although she was still not comfortable swimming unless she could touch the bottom. Jack wanted to take the boys out on a the sea and so they had hired a motorboat. What could possibly go wrong?
They motored out a short distance to a lagoon where Jack turned off the outboard motor. Joe excitedly spotted some fish in the clear waters where the the rocky bottom was visible. Jack and Joe got out of the boat for a swim whilst Lucy stayed in the boat with Sam. When it came time for Jack to return to the boat, it took an almighty effort to overcome the sloping sides of the boat for Jack to get back in but eventually he did so, having helped Joe in first.
Lucy noticed that the boat seemed to be sitting much lower in the water than earlier, or perhaps it was just that the boat was unevenly weighted as Jack was at the back trying to start the engine. He left it after a while to see if the issue was that the engine was flooded. They sat bobbing around noticed that their boat seemed to be drawn towards an enamelled white luxury yacht with furled sails that had suddenly materialized. On its deck stood an over-tanned middle-aged man, wearing only sunglasses and budgie-smugglers, looking worriedly as their boat edged closer and closer to the yacht. Lucy shouted up at him to apologise, for being there, and to ask for help given their predicament, now that the sun was sinking on the horizon.
The man shook his head to indicate he did not understand her and projected his long wooden boat-hook to hold their boat at a distance from the paintwork, until his yacht had safely moved away.
It was a relief to see that their boat had not sunk further into the water and Jack reassured her, that at worst, the man from whom he had hired the boat, would come looking for them when they didn’t return at the agreed time. Jack tried the motor again and after a slight splutter, and a sigh of relief, it fired into action and they headed back to Qawra as the sun set, another near-drowning averted.