Boy on the Towpath

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 4

I woke the following morning and I don't believe we'd moved all night.

Once my brain was functioning clearly I became aware that Tom had popped a woody – probably piss hard but a woody none the less and it was laying in the crack of my bum!

Under different circumstances I would more than likely wriggled against it hoping to encourage some action but Tom had trusted me and I was damned if I was going to betray that trust. Anyhow it wasn't long before he stirred.

As he came to he stretched himself then clung onto me again like he was almost afraid that it was never going to happen again and so milk those last few moments.

Good morning Tom. Sleep well?"

"Umm. Yes very well thank you! I have an embarrassing problem though."

This time I did wriggle my butt onto his dick!

"This problem?!"

"Uh yeah" he laughed "It's embarrassing!"

"Just got a piss-hard that's all. We all get them and absolutely nothing to get fucked up about honest! Why don't you go and use the can and come back to bed for five minutes."

Tom swung onto the side of the bed and stretched himself again then looked at me with a cheeky grin.

"Promise not to perve me up?"

My response of "No! I'm not going to promise! Get going" drew a gale of laughter from him and as he stood up he deliberately waved his dick at me inches from my face.

Oh God! He was perfect in every detail. His dick had risen to a good four and a half inches and stood bolt upright against his tummy. His foreskin half retracted over his glans, his cock bounced with every beat of his heart.

"Get thee behind me Satan! Go and take a leak before I lose control of my desires you little bastard!!"

"Okay, okay I'm gone already!"

A few minutes later he was back in bed and again all inhibitions forgotten even though he was still half hard.

"Turn over Stu. Let me cuddle you?"

ALARM BELLS! I turned over towards him and he melted into me, both of us clinging tightly to each other for dear life. It was no good. We both were hard as nails in a heart-beat. I can remember the thought that flashed through my mind. 'This has got to stop! He's just a little kid and it's so very wrong!'

With some massive amount of will power I eased myself away from him making the excuse that I had to use the toilet and take a shower preferably a cold one!

Once I'd finished I came back into the bedroom to find Tom sitting on the end of the bed wearing just his shorts and with a subdued look on his face.

He looked up at me and spoke.

"Are you angry with me Stu?"

"Me? Angry with you? God no! That's the last thing I am. If anything I'm angry with myself and very disappointed with myself."

"Why?"

"Because I allowed myself to get carried away. What just happened –cuddling up like that. Well it was wrong of me. If it's not illegal then it's so damned close. Probably be viewed as the very least as inappropriate behaviour at worst sexual abuse of a minor. My only excuse is that I walked up to the wire and accidently tripped over it but Tom, it must never happen again. Do you understand?"

"I think so but I liked it and wanted you to cuddle me like that. Doesn't that make it alright?"

"Unfortunately not. The law sees things in black and white – there are no shades of grey in fact it could be seen as if I'd groomed you into that way of thinking. From now on if you want to share my bed then you and I will wear at least underpants. Okay?"

"Okay. I do understand Stu but I think the law is stupid!"

"No it isn't. It's there to protect you until such time as you're old enough to make considered decisions for yourself. I know we joked about it but there are men and some women who prey on young kids with the specific intentions of forcing them into sexual activity physically hurting them – sometimes even killing them and mentally scarring them for life."

We sat together talking for another five minutes before I suggested we finished getting dressed. After all we had a boat to move.


With breakfast eaten and the dishes washed and stowed I went out and started the engines. The sun had burnt back the clouds and it promised to be a beautiful day. I know Tom was really excited about taking the boat out also I was rather looking forward to being on the move again having been bankside for the best part of three weeks.

Before we cast off I asked Tom if he could swim. He replied in the affirmative but admitted to me that he wasn't particularly good at it. I sorted out a life jacket that fitted him then looked for a suitable box he could stand on if he wanted to have a go at helming.

We had a mile to cover before the first lock – about a twenty minute run and I took the opportunity to explain what I was doing and why, how the boat handled, prop-walk (how she handled when going astern) and how to approach mooring points. He listened intently and asked some very intelligent questions.

We approached the first lock and tied up on a bollard. I suggested that we both walked up to it and I would explain the mechanics of locking through and the order in which things were done.

All simple enough but it became evident that whilst he knew what to do, he just wasn't strong enough to do it which was a pity as it would have made the whole process far quicker. No matter. We weren't in any rush.

Back on board I suggested he took over and helmed the boat away from the bank and into the open lock gate. He climbed up onto the box and looked at me nervously.

"Are you sure about this Stu? I mean what happens if I hit something?"

"She weighs over twenty tonnes and made of ten millimetre thick steel. If you hit something, it won't be the boat that suffers!"

Okay he was almost crapping himself but he had listened to everything I'd told him earlier and he performed the complete operation faultlessly. He entered the lock without so much as nudging the sides which is no mean feat given the lock is only six inches wider than the boat. Neither did he touch the far lock gate – going astern at just the right revolutions to come to a comfortable stop.

I came off the boat and locked us through and once the far gate was open to allow us passage out, I came back on board and grabbed a set of hand held VHF transceivers. I set the frequency on both of them and locked it in. I showed Tom how to use the one I'd given him and fixed mine to my jeans.

"Why do we need these?"

"Because as my First Officer you will be helming and I'll be operating the locks so I won't be on board. You've shown me that you are very capable of handling her so she's all yours. You drop me off when we get out of here, I'll close the gate and walk up the towpath to the next one. Drive slowly and I'll radio you and let you know when the lock is open for you. Just remember not to be in any hurry and think ahead as you just did back then and you'll be fine!"

"But what if..."

"The worst that can happen is that you reach the lock before it's set for you and in that case you just idle the engines and drift. I know you'll be fine. Okay let's go!"

A clockwork operation! Tom was a superstar. Not one problem up the remaining fourteen locks and because I wasn't having to keep getting on and off the boat every ten minutes we fairly shot up them!

After the last was cleared he pulled over to allow me back on board and I told him how I felt.

"That was nothing short of awesome Tom! A truly professional piece of boat handling if I may say so! You didn't make one mistake, not one miscalculation. Proud of you doesn't come close! Oh the other thing? Did you see the folk watching you?"

"Yes I did and that made me even more nervous!"

"Well one guy said he thought you were far too young to be in charge of a boat especially one as big as this but I told him that he should watch and learn and you didn't disappoint! He was gob-smacked! Hey! He also thought you were my son. I hope you don't mind but I wasn't going to tell him otherwise. I didn't say you were but neither was I about to correct him."

"Wow. I don't mind. I told you it would be cool if you were my Dad and I meant it. Did I really do okay?"

"It was text book boat handling Tom and you did every bit as well as I could and I've been living on the damned thing for almost ten years! I'm so very proud of you and you should take pride in what you did! Anyhow 'number one', let's go. Fourteen hundred revolutions should do it. We'll be fairly skipping along so just keep concentrating.


We made Headingly by four-thirty that afternoon and aside from the first bit of the trip when I was giving Tom some instruction, Tom did all the helming including reversing onto my mooring.

Going astern on a narrow boat is perhaps the single most difficult manoeuvre to master and I had to give him a few pointers. After all he'd not done it before and I hadn't covered it in our earlier instruction. That said, the boy did good! I showed him the correct method of tying off and the right knots to use, untied and got him to do it. God this boy forgot nothing I showed him and I found myself getting even more attached to him than I was before. Emotionally proud of him to the point where I wanted to shout to the world 'this boy is a fucking genius and I love him to bits!'

That evening we BBQ'd again. Our exertions had made us both more than a little peckish and the meal lasted almost two hours. At nine in the evening we abandoned the BBQ and had a wander around the marina. A few boats had smoke curling out of their chimneys but most were still locked down following the winter but it was nice to know there were at least some other live-aboards around for company.

I lit the stove and the rest of the evening we sat around playing cribbage allowing Tom a glass of wine which without me having to tell him, made it last the rest of the evening. Is he actually from this planet? If I'd been given a glass of wine at twelve or thirteen I would probably downed the lot and be holding out my glass for more! His demeanour was still that of a young boy and that I loved but his approach to things like the boat handling were measured and well thought through. Also he was a mean crib player! I lost way more points than I won and my penny jar was sadly depleted by the end of the evening!

Squatting on the floor in front of the dying embers of the stove, Tom was sat in between my legs with his back to my chest. I think the day had made us both weary as the conversation had slowed and we'd almost but finished our wine when Tom spoke up. In a small voice almost as if he was upset about having done something wrong.

"I'm really going to miss today. It's been great in a way I can't explain?"

"How so?"

"You know. You gave me all the responsibility and stuff and I was shi... sorry so frightened but you had faith in me. Like you knew I wouldn't screw up. Now we're here and I'll miss it."

"I don't think so. I don't have a boat like this and not go out with it at every opportunity I get and so long as your Mum is cool with it, I can think of nothing better in the world than you joining me whenever you can."

"Really!?"

"Come on!! What I will miss most of all is you going home tomorrow afternoon. 'Movin Home' will never feel the same without you on board! You're part of it now and also my 'Number One'!"

"Oh wow! I don't know what to say!"

"Just promise me that if Mum says it's okay, you'll visit as much as you can? It's almost like it's 'our' boat now. You're the very first crew I've had. You know I love you to bits and after today –, well I'd be suicidal if you didn't come back and soon."

Tom looked up at me with tears rolling down his face.

"I love you too and not just for the boat and stuff. I love you... I just love you!!"

I thought I was going to lose it too at that point but I managed to remain composed as I wrapped my arms around him, rocking him gently as if he was a babe in arms.

Despite everything else that had happened between us I think that simple act was far and away the most meaningful thing we'd experienced. Tom regained emotional equilibrium – I knew this as he noisily snorted down the phlegm generated by his crying.

He giggled "Sorry! It was either that or your carpet! Anyhow what does 'number one' mean?"

"It's a term used in the navy – both the fighting navy and the merchant marine. First you have the Captain – in this case me and then you have the first officer otherwise referred to as 'Number One'. The Captain is in overall command of the vessel but when he's off duty his first officer or 'Number One' assumes command. Unless over ruled by his Captain, 'Number One' has as much authority within the ship as the Captain during that time. Also if anything happens to render the Captain incapable of command either by sickness, accident or death, 'Number One' assumes total command of the vessel."

"Well cool! So I must call you Captain from now on!"

"AHHHHH! Not on a narrow boat! I'm what they call the 'Skipper' and that name goes right back to the times of the old working boats. When the horse drawn boats were replaced by ones with heavy oil engines, either they didn't have a crew or the term 'Number One' was used."

"You think I'm good enough to be your 'Number One'?"

"Ever since I met you, you have been No 1 in my life but you've earned you stripes today and in spectacular fashion. Yes 'Number One'! You are!"

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