I left home for the Isle at 00.600 it was cold, dark and the start of a very poor day. I hit the motorway, and sat at eighty miles an hour for an hour until I saw the signs for the IOW ferry (Victor Spinetti`s words of Marlene Dietrich "rubies going up and diamonds coming down" was with me all the way, beauty in simple things). I turned into a multi story car park and left the car there for the day.
The ferry was over very quickly and I enjoyed the Roll and Coffee on the journey. It’s amazing how I just love to be on the sea, no matter how far or how rough! I have to say that a job skippering a ferry would drive me crazy. I would have to have a challenge at each end or I would go mad without any, so much so that I would have to create them (not a good thing) to preserve my sanity. I have docked a super sized hovercraft and parked a Super cat (Super Sea Sick as known by its staff) and would really get bored doing that for any length of time, so a small ferry ….eugh! Please don’t get me wrong! The skippers do a great job and I have nothing but admiration and respect for them and their great ability and staying power....but even though my ticket covers for me to do so it’s not for me!!!
My friend’s (Stephen) ….. Friend, (Pete) was truly waiting for me when I landed! But!!!!......... He was at the wrong ferry terminal ten minutes past the prearranged time and we rang each other to find out where we were. Stephen had told his friend that I would be at (of course) the wrong terminal. Good start to what was a great if not a hard working day.
We pulled into the Marina in Petes shogun 4x4, Steven spotted us arriving and as we came to a halt at his boat he jumped ten feet at least, off the ladder leading up to his boat and greeted me with a two handed handshake that nearly crippled me... "It’s really great to see you mate!" he boomed I do appreciate your coming down and giving me a hand like this, his ever bright eyes twinkling a deep blue. At just over five feet four tall and with a barrel chest more like that of a weight lifter, he hadn’t changed. At fifty four he was still a fit man, he prided himself still on being able to run an 11.5 second one hundred metres
In his early life after that of one started, like me, among the razor gangs and tenements of fifties South London. He had entered a specialist regiment as an alternative to receiving a long prison sentence, for a crime that he still denies committing, even though more than capable of doing so. I have no doubt that at some later time in his life he most certainly had carried out many similar acts but it would have been called by a different name then!... like defending his country…. fighting off the aggressor… Words like extreme valour would have been used.
In the rather dog eared document that he keeps as a mark in a pilot book on his Wheelhouse shelf of many, those very words are indeed used, that “in the face of adversity and with no consideration for his own safety he did”… etc etc etc. He had done more than his fair share of risky and good deeds in his life since his early impoverished upbringings.
Stephen had sailed most of his life (when he could)he starting by ferrying insurgents into countries that neither had efficient radar wanted or wanted them there. the early all wood boats were ideal as they never showed up on the radar.
Up until last year he had been the senior personal protector of a well known man of wealth, and had retired on a good pension to better enjoy his first love… the sea. He lived on his boat having never had any firm footing on land or any lasting relationship, due to the nature of his work. The trades he had learned and used to good effect in the regiment were of little use to him now and he, whilst a little “out of the water” as it were, managed to preserve a sense of optimism regarding his advancing years. His wit and well rounded sense of humour, grounded on very hard and dangerous times in places like the desert, glaciers, oceans and the jungles never left him.
We started with gusto into the washing and cleaning of the large steel motor cruiser Steven had chosen to make his home. It was now time for some maintenance to be done to his boat for the approaching season and we launched ourselves into it with the fervour of men possessed, with myself and Pete ragging him, over his “senior moment” regarding where I was to be met. Stephen made us a coffee and we commenced by washing down the whole of his large steel Motor yacht with a pressure washer which Pete took instant control of and like children we laughed and shouted as we were sprayed mercilessly as soon as the opportunity arose for Pete to be a little careless. By 19.00 and without another break we had antifouled her, having cleaned and polished the hull above waterline and topsides in total with a high quality marine polish. She was now looking like a new boat. Stephen was proudly exclaiming that we had done really well and that a “squadron of lads couldn`t have done better” I was absolutely Knackered.
We showered in the WC block which had no heating and was colder than doing so on the lawn out in front and I chucked my “ working clothes in the bin”( you guessed it Pete had been even more careless with the antifouling than the pressure washer) we dressed for our meal in town, on Steven, and off we went . I arrived back at the ferry at 21.00 and picked up my car 30 minutes later I drove home musing about my day watching the “rubies going up and diamonds coming down” I worryed about Stephen and his continued adventure into a strange new world, his living close to a holiday town, and that some day a yob or a group thereof, will expect to be able to get the better of this quiet ageing "old" man, only to find that his quiet demeanour isn`t actually fear but unregognised evidence of an in built capacitor charging up rapidly, ready to do the most frightening damage to the unweary, and he will certainly be in trouble again.