The balsa wood boat

The balsa wood boat


balsa             a kind of very thin light wood used to make toys

captain         the boss of a boat is called a captain

Spain            a country in Europe

sailor            a person working on a boat

North Pole    the icy area at the top of the world

sails              large areas of cloth to catch the wind and move the boat

spices           flavouring for food, like chilli, curry, cinnamon

chuckle         a little laugh

retrieved      to get back








The little boy’s arms ached as he reached out into the water. From a distance you’d think he was stretching out to save someone, but on closer examination you could see his little balsa wood boat.

Every Saturday afternoon, Tommy would come to the lake and play with his toy boat. He lay on his tummy, his colourful sweater damp from the grass.

‘Off you go. Off for an exciting trip. Off to the deepest oceans with the biggest waves and the biggest whales,’ he solemnly announced.

‘Captain Silver, you’re in charge. Make sure those sailors put up the sails and follow your orders exactly,’ he told the little toy sailor on the boat.

He pushed the boat gently away, and watched as it slowly glided on the current. It couldn’t go too far. The slow moving water took everything along the lake bank and into a small backwater about one hundred metres away.

‘Where’s your boat going lad?’ asked an old man sitting close by.

‘Today it’s going to the Spice Islands,’ he replied. ‘It’ll come back with loads of things for me to sell. The Spice Islands grow lots of spices you know,’ he said with his childish authority.

‘Will the captain get there? Does he know the way?’ asked the old man.

‘Oh sure, I gave him a map and told him exactly where to go. He’s a good captain,’ the boy boasted.

‘Where else has your boat been young man?’

‘Last week it went to Spain. It brought me back so much gold I couldn’t carry it all! I had to ask my dad to come and help me.’

‘Really? That’s amazing. What other trips has your boat made?’

‘Once it went to China. That was a long way, but then I had a captain from China and he knew the way. He brought me some lovely plates for my Mum.’

There was silence for a while and then the boy spoke again. ‘You know, I’m going to be a sailor when I grow up. I’m going to have my own boat, a really big one that can really go on the sea. I’m going to explore the North Pole and the South Pole.’ He hesitated then asked, ‘Is there a West Pole and an East Pole?’

The old man chuckled. ‘No I’m afraid not. But if you sail long enough you can sail right around the world and end up here again. That would be a great adventure!’

‘Is it a very long way?’ he asked. ‘Would I need more than two chocolate bars? My Mum and Dad don’t have much money, you see.’

‘Yes I think you would need more than two chocolate bars. But that would be a long time away yet. You still have to go to school. How old are you son?’

‘I’m eight already! I’m big and strong. I don’t know about going right round the world though. I have to go to school on Monday.’

‘Well school’s very important. You might have to wait and go travelling when you finish all your school years.’

‘But when I’m grown up, I’ll go all over the world. I’ll learn to drive a boat, and I’ll learn how to put up the sails, and how to catch fish when I’m hungry. Have you ever driven a big boat?’ he asked.

‘No I haven’t,’ replied the man. ‘There’s lots of things I would have liked to do, but wasn’t able.’

‘Why’s that then?’

‘Oh lots of reasons. My legs don’t work very well. I can’t walk far. You’d better keep an eye on your boat. It’s quite a way down the bank now.’

‘Yeah, I’ll go and get it.’

The boy ran off, spindly legs shooting out of his grey flannel shorts, black socks and shoes covering his flying feet. The old man watched as the boy retrieved the boat and ran back to him.

‘Got it. Look! Can you smell all those spices? Smell good eh? I’ll take them home to Mum and she can make a cake with them. She makes the best cakes. Do you make cakes?’ he asked the old man.

‘Sometimes I do.’

‘Okay. Here are some spices for you.’ The boy held out his hand full of pretend spices. The old man held out his upturned palm accepting the invisible gift.

‘Well son, that’s wonderful. I’ll use these tomorrow and make myself a lovely cake.’

‘Okay, well I better get home. My Mum worries if I’m too long, anyway I’m starving hungry. Will you be here next week do you think?’

‘If the weather’s good I’ll be here. Where is your boat going next week?’

‘Don’t know yet. Miss Walters my teacher will tell us some stories in school next Friday. She always tells us a new exciting story on Friday’s. I’ll decide after that.’

‘Bye then son. Maybe I’ll see you next week eh?’

‘Okay then,’ he replied, skipping off home with his little balsa wood boat tenderly tucked under his arm.



Questions for review.


  1. What was the boy’s name?
  2. How old was he?
  3. What was he doing in the story?
  4. What are spices?
  5. Who was the old man?
  6. How often did he go to the lake?
  7. What country had his boat been to?
  8. Was this a true story? Why or why not?
  9. Did this boy have a good imagination?
  10. Where would you like to travel?



©Lana Kerr                                          


3 Responses to The balsa wood boat

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