An open letter to Heinrichs everywhere

Dear Heinrich,

I've never met you and probably never will. In fact, if I'm honest, you don't actually exist. When I say that I'm writing to you, Heinrich, what I mean to say is that I'm writing an open letter to any, and every, of the tanker crews that I've seen on the water.

I have canoed on the Rhine, the Main and the Danube. I have shared the water with gigantic ships carrying cargoes of oil, coal and even tractors. I have ridden the waves from both tiny tugboats and luxurious liners. I just wanted to let you know that I know what you're going through.

I too have stubble and an afro, Heinrich. I too haven't cut my nails in a while. Just like you Heinrich, I too have embarked upon the high seas for the good of society... Kind of.

Heinrich, I know exactly what its like. The endless days with only an S-Club 7 lyric floating around your head. The conversations with the captain where he doesn't recognise your unbelievable wit. Trying to play the name game with someone who doesn't have an encyclopedic knowledge of Spanish football... I've been there too Heinrich.

You and me, Heinrich, we're outsiders. The cruise ships that go by, wanting us to wave and smile, they've got no idea. The cyclists on the bank who want to take photos of us, they just don't get it. The holiday-makers in my campsight, the customs authorities in your port... They really don't understand. You and me, Heinrich, we're not just men of the river, we're human beings with feelings and needs too.

I too would like a bubble bath now and again, Heinrich. I too wish that I knew the German for frapuccino. I'm secretly missing Robyn from 'How I met your mother' as well. I understand that it's a travesty that you can't get baked beans in Germany. I'm missing Alan Hansen's in depth analysis as much as you are, Heinrich.

You and me, Heinrich, we're kindred spirits. So next time you splash me with your waves, blow your foghorn or otherwise cause me to shit myself, I'll know you didn't really mean it, dearest Heinrich.

Yours understandably,

Nathan the Canoeist