Grunt – 28 August 2014


I was born on an island, so it’s hardly surprising that the sea, ships, and boats played a large part in my early life. There were car trips to what was referred to in the family as “the seaside” when I was perhaps three or four years old. The weather was often foul, and none of my relatives ever swam in the sea. I do have a black-and-white box camera photograph of my paternal grandfather paddling, the trousers of his suit rolled up rather daringly to just below his calf. Ah, those were the days!
When we travelled to India, my father flew out there, but my mother and I went on a ship called the Chittagong. It belonged to the
P & O line, I think, and I thought its name rather daft then. When we went back to England, we sailed on the Chinkoa, all 7000 tons of her! She was under the command of a Captain Pugh; his Christian name might have been George, although I wouldn’t swear to it. It was quite a hairy adventure, filled with tremendous storms (with waves to match), but I loved every minute of it.
We got to Port Sudan rather more sedately on the Rhodesia Castle, a passenger vessel that had too many people on it for my liking. I preferred my own boat, the Red Dragon, all two metres of her, which I manoeuvred around the lagoon. Later, when we sailed back to England on the same Castle Line ship, there were still too many people on it.
After a hiatus of about twelve years, I cruised to New Zealand on the Northern Star, a passenger liner filled with Brits dashing off to Australia on assisted passages. I wonder how many stayed.
Inevitably then, I was interested to read about a fellow sailing across the Atlantic in a three-metre dinghy. On board, he had some hotdogs, some water – and a map of Southampton. There’s nothing more crucial for navigating the Atlantic than a map of Southampton. And yet he still managed to get lost! How quaint…