In the Lap of the Gods
The sinking of Emma Rose

‘What are you doing?’

Zeus looked back at Hera, ‘nothing.’

‘Yes you were, don’t tell lies, I’ve just seen you poking your finger down there,’ she pointed through the gap in the clouds to the ocean, ‘did you just flick that ship?’

‘Course not!’

Hera stamped over and stood behind him, looking down, ‘what’s all that stuff floating in the water then?’

Zeus shrugged, I don’t know.’

‘Did you just knock some of the cargo off the deck?’

‘No,’ said Zeus, his bottom lip sticking out in defiance.

‘Have you been seeing that idiot Poseidon again?’ Hera didn’t give him a chance to answer, ‘I told you to stay away from him,’ she snapped, ‘you’re only going to get into bother if you hang around with that dead beat.’

‘Who am I going to get into bother with? I’m the king of the gods,’ Zeus mumbled, stirring the clouds with his finger.

‘What did you say?’ Hera leaned down, her fist gripping the handle of her handbag.

‘Nothing.’

‘Are you trying to spoil my night out?’

‘No, but…’

‘I haven’t got time for this,’ she looked at her wrist, ‘I’m meeting the Vestal Virgins at seven. I’ve left a list of jobs on the kitchen table,’ she scowled down at him, ‘make sure you take the washing out of the machine when it’s finished. I don’t want everything covered in creases like last time.’ She spun around and walked away.

Zeus stuck out his tongue. Who the bloody hell did she think she was? When they first met, she was a right laugh, but lately she’d turned into a right misery. He looked down at hi bulging stomach. It was different for blokes. He winced as he heard the front door slam, immediately picking up the phone.

‘Hiya,… yeah, she’s just gone,….what’s the plan?’

 

29th October 2021

I needed adventure. Allison, my partner, had returned home, tired of the confines of the boat, but I’d given myself an early 60th birthday treat, some serious sailing time. I’d owned my 1984 Jeanneau Attalia 32, for 21 years, sailing her between Portugal and Greece. Now I felt, was the time to pick up the pace. Before it’s too late. I had to wait a couple of days for the weather to improve and the wind to turn in my favour. I spent my time writing my second book “Worthless” which is the follow up to my debut novel, The Making of Harry Manning. Set in 1975, it’s the story of thirteen year old Harry and his grandad, Jack, as they build an Airfix model of the battle cruiser HMS Hood together. Think, A Matter of Life and Death, meets Kes.

When the weather lifted and north easterly wind dropped, I left Kolymbari and headed east along the north coast of Crete. It was after twelve o’clock when I set off, a late start, but I made it around the headland. The anchorage was perfect, and I dropped the hook in four meters of water just in time to get things squared away and pour a beer before the sun set behind the hills overlooking Marathi bay.

The short days forced me to make early starts and by seven o’clock, I was well on my way. My course along the coast took me close to a NATO firing range. I kept the VHF on channel 16 to listen to the chatter. A slow moving gun boat passed me heading into port and the activity on the radio increased. A confident American accent asked a colleague in he was ready to start his run, practicing dropping mines I think, but the junior disappointed his commander by claiming he’d not received the email detailing the exercise. Is that how we’ll lose the next war? The server being down? I made a call to naval control and confirmed my position and course, which mercifully did not need amending. Some poor sod was given instruction to turn north for ten miles, then radio in for further instructions.

The westerly wind never picked up to its promised speed so I motor sailed all day. In the evening, I dithered about where to stop. The idea of pressing on was appealing. I was keen to make progress, but this would probably mean arriving after dark, or motoring through the night. Both unattractive for me when sailing solo. After a couple of about turns, I committed to anchor on the Islet of Dia, ten miles off the coast north of Heraklion. The best anchorage of the four available had a dog leg that would give me cover if the southerly forecast for the following day arrived early. The spot was perfect, not a sign of life on land. I had the anchorage to myself. There is no shower on Emma Rose, so I did my usual routine and jumped into the sea. Then it’s, climb out, apply shower gel, back in the sea for a scrub and up the ladder again for a final rinse in fresh water. I’d love to claim that I had a feeling of being watched, but I didn’t. I was definitely alone. But of course I wasn’t alone, and I was being watched.

 

‘Cheers old boy,’ said Zeus, offering his bottle up.

‘Less of the old if you don’t mind,’ said Poseidon, tapping bottle necks with his mate.

‘You’re only as old as you feel,’ said Zeus.

‘Wise words mate, wise words,’ Poseidon took a swig, ‘so,’ he released a loud burp, ‘what’s going on then?’

‘Come here,’ Zeus pointed at the gap in the clouds.

‘Ooh, chicken curry,’ said Poseidon, ‘does he do takeaways?’ he laughed.

Zeus chuckled, ‘I give you,’ he did a drum roll on the coffee table, ‘ tonight’s entertainment.’

‘I’d have preferred it if you’d hired a couple of strippers, Z.’

‘Oh you’re on fire tonight P,’ he offered his bottle up in salute, ‘on fire, man.’

Poseidon smirked and pointed down, ‘are we going to mess him up then?’

Zeus nodded, taking a long gulp, ‘that, my fishy friend, is exactly what we’re going to do.’

Poseidon nodded, ‘sweet.’

 

After chicken curry and a couple of beers, I turned in. It was a late night, nearly 8.30! As I read my old copy of Treasure Island for the umpteenth time, I heard the patter of tiny feet on the deck. A bird? No. My heart sank as I recalled one of the reviews of the adjacent anchorages in the Navily anchorage app. “Take precautions, rats will swim out and try to board the boat.” But I hadn’t taken it seriously. Surely it was an old wives tale, like the containers that fall from ships and bob just below the surface, it never actually happened and anyway, rats aren’t that smart are they? Yes, they bloody are! I followed the footsteps along the side deck, some scratching in the cockpit, then up the other side. There was nothing edible out there, but the thought of having one, or more, furry stow away made me shudder. If one got inside the boat, the best I could hope for was that I would catch it and splatter it innards around the interior in the process. As a teenager, I can remember reading a story in the Daily Mirror about a group of golfers on holiday in Ireland. One had lost his ball in a drainage ditch. While searching for it, a rat had run up his trouser leg. The man had rightly panicked, as did the rat, peeing itself in the struggle to escape. After ridding himself of the creature, against his friend’s warnings, he lit a cigarette to settle his nerves. The pee transferred from his leg, to his fingers, to the cigarette, to his lips, to his bloodstream. Within 24 hours, he was dead. I knew Weil’s disease was not a joke. The stowaway had to go. I armed myself with a brolly. Banging on the hatch and the washboards to frighten it away from the companion way, fearing it might jump in if I gave it chance. I quickly unfastened the boards, got into the cockpit and closed up the hatch. Luckily, there aren’t that many places for a rat to hide on my board and I systematically worked my way forward. It had to be under the dinghy on the foredeck. I undid the straps and sure enough, there it was. But before I had a chance to take a swing at it, it ran to the bow and dived off. I stood on the foredeck shaking, stark naked with my brolly.

 

‘Who the hell does he think he is,’ said Zeus, ‘Tarzan?’

‘Tarzan tin ribs, more like,’ said Poseidon, chinking bottle necks with his mate.

‘I wish he’d put some clothes on, it’s turning my stomach,’ Zeus said, stifling a burp I his fist.

‘Can’t you turn the rat into a dragon or something a bit scarier?’

‘Look at him, he’s scared out of his wits as it is, if you send anything bigger, he’ll have a heart attack.

If she’d buggered off earlier, we could have got him while he was going through that firing range,’ Zeus sent out an upper cut, ‘that’d mess his schedule right up.’

‘Yeh, right up it,’ Poseidon jabbed his thumb in the air.

 

It might come back. With no bespoke rat guards on board, I had to improvise. I had a small projector, a gift from my daughter and her partner, a few years earlier. On occasions when we were storm bound we’d watch movies which we projected onto a piece of white faced hardboard. The screen would have to be sacrificed. I cut a slot with the bread knife to its centre and wedged it on the chain, having first removed the snubber line. That did the trick, and I spent a disrupted night between imagined footsteps and the chain grinding around on the sandy bottom.

At 4.30, I’d had enough and decided to make an extra early start. Sun up wasn’t for a couple of hours as I motored out under a clear sky, a light westerly wind was just strong enough to bring the diesel fumes into the cockpit.

 

Poseidon passed the joint to his buddy, ‘what have we got to eat then?’

‘There’s a box of Quality Street over there. I don’t know what she’s left in the fridge, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s bugger all.’

‘She’s taking the mick Z. You need to put your foot down mate, she’s walking all over you.’Zeus scowled and looked at the kitchen. His mate was right, who the bloody hell did she think she was? He was the king for pity’s sake. Next time she started, he’d show her who the boss was.

Poseidon stuffed two sweets in his mouth, the good ones in the purple wrapper, with the nut and soft caramel. He’d sorted through the entire box and apart from a few orange creams, the rest were toffee. ‘Ye can stick that lot up ye backside,’ he mumbled as he pushed the chocolates into his cheeks.

‘Here look, who’s this?’ he turned the corners of his mouth down. ‘I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.’

‘I knew it was Brando before you even started,’ Zeus puffed out his cheeks, ‘it’s the only one you ever do.’

‘I know, but it’s good, isn’t it? I think I could have done something with it if I’d had a chance early on.’

‘What’s up with you? You’re the king of the sodding oceans most people’d kill for that job.’

‘I know, but everything’s always blooming damp,’ his shoulders slumped, ‘to be honest, it’s getting me down.’

Zeus held the joint up, ‘it’s this that’s the problem? Is the damp stopping you skinning up?’

‘No,’ Poseidon said, looking down at his sandals.

‘No, I dint think so, you’re doing too much man,’ Zeus said, taking a huge drag and holding it in before tilting his head back and blowing the smoke in a series of interlocking rings, ‘it’s making paranoid,’ his friend watched the rings dissolve.

Poseidon dropped the sweet wrappers on the floor. Zeus picked them up. There was no need to antagonize her unnecessarily. He twisted one of the wrappers, enjoying the sensation of the smooth plastic film sliding between his fingers. ‘Here,’ he said brightly, ‘watch this,’ he looked down through the clouds at the small boat and dropped the wrapper into the sea.

 

An hour later, the engine spluttered to a stop. My thoughts immediately doing to the worst-case scenario, the gearbox. In neutral, the engine started and ran as normal. Yep, it definitely could be the gearbox. There was nothing to do but wait for sun up. As I sailed along at 1.5 knots, I prepared myself for a swim. An hour later, I hove to. With the boat effectively stationary, I trailed two lines over the side and jumped overboard to investigate. Sure enough, and much to my relief, there was a large sheet of purple plastic wrapped around the propeller. A couple of dives and five minutes later, I was back on my way. I didn’t even need the bread knife, my go-to universal tool.

The wind picked up a little, but again, never to the promised extent and again I motor sailed all day. Anchoring off the beach at Elounda in the bay of Spinalongas.

The following evening I anchored in 4 meters on a sandy bottom at Siteia and went with my jerry cans in search of diesel. A couple of trips later, as the sun set, I hosted an open buffet for the local mosquito population before slathering myself in insect repellent. The next day, Friday, I was heading to Cyprus.

The distance, 315 Nm was my longest solo run yet. The route took me past the island of Kasos and close to the island of Karpathos, both potential stops if I decided to shorten the crossing. Again, I spent all the morning motoring. The wind only appearing a few miles short of the shadow of Kasos. I was motoring again. The northerly forecast for the following day seemed nailed on, and so I pressed on to Karpathosos and anchored just after dusk off the beach at Amoopi. I’d done 60 miles and knocked 55 off the leg to Cyprus. Now it was only 260 miles to Paphos.

 

‘Blooming hell Z, he goes on a bit, doesn’t he?’

‘Chelp chelp chelp, all the bloody time man. Turn the sound down if you want.’

Despite the date on screen, this is actually footage from the fatefull day.

November 6th 2021

With a great forecast for the next three days, I set off at 7 am in a cloudless sky, hoping that the predicted wind, northerly 4-5 would show itself as I left the shadow of the Island. It did, for a while. From 9am t around 1pm I was happily sailing at 4.5-5 knots. Then the wind dropped. Now I was only doing 3 knots. That was going to make two nights at sea into four. The motor went on again. At a third throttle, I was back up to 5 knots. Other than the lack of wind, the conditions were perfect, visibility was excellent and the sun warm, maybe even too hot.

Throughout the afternoon, I weaved my way through debris that can only have been thrown from a ship. All five cushions from a three-piece suite, two tyres, a couple of massive plastic bin liners and six or seven shrink-wrapped bales of straw.

As afternoon turned to evening and the wind died to nothing, I increased the revs to keep up my speed. But as the night progressed, I had to face the facts. I didn’t have enough diesel to motor all the way to Cyprus. Of course the wind might turn up tomorrow. Or maybe not.

At 9.30pm I made the decision and turned 90 degrees to port, setting a course for Rhodes town on the north-east tip of Rhodes, 80 miles away. I’d be there just after dawn. There, I’d refuel and if need be, spend a few days exploring the nearby islands waiting for the next weather window and a chance to leap off to Cyprus, and from there to Beirut.

I had promised myself an adventure, an early gift to myself for my 60th birthday next March. Beirut was my target, an iconic city that filled the news during my childhood. The home office said it was safe and Airbnb said it was affordable. I had to go. The delay was a little frustrating, but my commitment to my family was “I’ll be home for Christmas.” I had plenty of time.

Almost immediately my course change, as if to confirm I’d made the right decision. The dolphins arrived.

 

‘What the hell are they doing here?’ said Zeus.

‘I’ve got no idea, there always sticking their noses in,’ Poseidon banged his fist on his knee.

‘I thought you were supposed to have control over, “all the creatures of the oceans”,’ he wiggled his fingers in air quotation marks.

‘Those little freaks are out of control. I’m going to bring it up at next year’s AGM.’

Zeus looked doubtfully at his old mate, knowing full well the agenda was already chock-a-block and he’d have no chance of getting a resolution through. But there was no point in spoiling their night, so he kept schtum. ‘What are they doing, anyway?’

‘They’re trying to warn him, to get him back on his old course.’

‘Bloody do gooders,’ grumbled Zeus.

 

Although I only saw them when they surfaced into the glow of the nav lights, their trails were etched in silver by the phosphorescent plankton that glowed in their wake. They stayed with me for an hour or more, swooping and diving around and under the boat, jumping and splashing, their breaths caught in sharp gasps as they gulped in air around me.

 

‘Are sure that’s big enough?’ asked Zeus.

‘Ye, look at the point on that!’ Poseidon pinged the tip of the tree trunk, ‘I’ve just sharpened it up with this,’ he waved his trident around his head.

‘Steady on P, you’re gonna have somebodi’s eye out.’

 

At 12.30 am, I hit something. Whatever it was, it hit the starboard side. There were three distinct bangs. I looked over the side but could see nothing. Whatever it was must have had a fair amount of weight, because the boat lurched to port at the first strike. The log (speed indicator) had stopped, which must mean that the impeller (small paddle wheel that rotates to measure speed) must have been damaged. Not critical in itself. The Navionics app on my phone is more accurate, but it could indicate damage to the hull. I went below to investigate. The through hull fitting is amidships inside a small cupboard for tools and spares. The stern anchor warp drains into the bilges, so there is always a little water sloshing around. There didn’t appear to be any damage so I moved aft into the heads (toilet) compartment. There are three skin fittings in a cluster on the starboard side, toilet inlet and outlet, and sink outlet. I was drawn there because I figured they were the next most vulnerable point. All was well, so I moved forward to check the bow. Lifting my bed base, I was alarmed to find the space underneath was already full of water. As quickly as I could, I pulled out the foam mattress, then removed the plywood panels. By this time the water was already overflowing into the saloon. The space is awkward. A thin doorway leads into the cabin, which doesn’t have full headroom and tapers to a point at the front. It’s used to store tools and spare, mostly kept in plastic baskets. I reached into the water and lifted them out, stacking them on the floor behind me, feeling for the damage as I cleared each section. I had to work by feel. The cabin light was dim and also behind me, so everywhere I moved I was casting a shadow in front of me, my head torch simply reflected back at me from the disturbed surface. As I moved forward I had to climb over the timber frame which dug into my knees and shins, reluctant to step into the water for fear of getting my foot trapped I balanced awkwardly on the frame, trying to feel down into the lockers, some beyond my reach. I looked back into the saloon to see the floorboards floating. I needed to get out. I flicked on the electric bilge pump as I passed the navigation table. The handle for the manual pump is fixed on clips to the front of the gas locker in the cockpit. I grabbed it and started to pump and think. Glad to have something positive to do. Hopefully I would be able to delay things until daybreak, still 5 hours away. But after half an hour, I seemed to be making little if any progress. I changed my priority; I wasn’t trying to save the boat any more, just myself.

I was always confident that I’d be OK. The water was flat calm, there was no wind and I had a dinghy already inflated on the foredeck. The next thing was to gather together the other lifesaving equipment I had, starting with the life raft. The raft has been stored just forward of the companionway hatch on a wooden frame since I bought it in 2016. I cut the webbing straps that held it in place and pushed it overboard, tying off the operating cord to a cleat at the stern. Pulling the cord from inside the canister, I felt resistance. One more tug and the canister split as the life raft inflated. Good. Next, I unfastened the dinghy and threw that overboard, tying off on the same cleat. Then I got out the flare pack from inside the cockpit locker and went back inside. The water level was now above my knees. How much water did it take before it sank? I had no idea, but I knew I had to get anything I needed quickly and get back outside. Clearing away the floorboards, I pulled a large holdall from the back cabin, noting that it wouldn’t be long before the batteries would be under water. I stuffed a change of clothes and the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) along with two bottles of water into the bag and put my grab bag (a pre prepared waterproof bag with essential items, passport, boat documents, cash and cards) into my ruck sack. I made a mayday distress call to “all ships”, on the VHF, but received no reply. Back on deck, I continued to pump the bilges and look around to see if there were any ships in sight as I still hoped not to have to activate the EPIRB. There were none.

That last couple of hours were strange. The navigation lights cast a weak pool of light around Emma Rose. It was easy to imagine that I was on a stage and beyond the light was an audience, or a shore. But of course I knew there was neither. I was seventy-five miles away from the nearest land in water that was three to four thousand meters deep.

Now the foredeck was under water, it was time to abandon ship. Throwing the holdall, and the tub of flares, I climbed in, untied the lines from the cleat, and pushed away. I’d put my phone into a Tupperware container to keep it dry. There was one last chance of a photo, so I took it out and took the shot. Almost immediately, the boats stern rose into the air, the cockpit was full of debris and as she gained pace, air escaped from the stern locker and vents as she went down quicker than I could ever have imagined.

 

‘Is that it then?’ asked Poseidon.

‘No, is it bloody hell, watch this, I’ve just tied that rope to the propeller!’

 

For a moment, all was still, then the line to the raft tightened and started to pull me under. The line, which was spooled between the boat and the life raft, must have snagged on something, I’m guessing the rudder or the boarding ladder. Whatever it was stuck on, as the life raft went under, I fell forward into the sea, my lifejacket immediately inflating and bringing me back up.

 

‘Classic P, classic, that’ll mess him right up,’ they both chuckled at the splash.

‘Did you get his phone?’ asked Zeus.

‘Course I did, it’s in the bottom of the rafty thing; his daughter's face is staring up at him.’

‘Oh,’ said Zeus, clutching his heart, ‘it’s a sign from the gods, my beloved daughter watches over me.’

Poseidon laughed, ‘exactly, the silly sods are into all that nonsense aren’t they.’

‘Prats,’ said Zeus.

 

By the time I’d come to my senses, the line had broken free and the life raft was free, but of course, now it was full of water. I climbed back in to find my daughter Emmaline’s face on the home screen, staring up at me from my phone at the bottom of the raft. I used the Tupperware container to bail out the water. I knew it would come in handy. That done, I retrieved the EPIRB, only to find its dunking had activated it automatically. All there was to do now was wait.

This gave me time to think about an appointment I had with the cardiology department at Barnsley hospital in December. Anyone aware of my current position could be forgiven for assuming I was trying to provoke some kind of negative outcome. Then dolphins turned up again, slowly swimming around the raft, trying to cheer me up? Belatedly, I realized my mistake with the raft launch.

 

‘Now what are those little sods up to?’ Zeus said, pointing at the dolphins.

‘I don’t know, trying to keep him company or raise his spirits.’ Zeus raised his eyebrows and shook his head.

‘Do you want me to send a thunderbolt down? Blow the little buggers up?’ Zeus beamed.

‘No,’ said Poseidon said glumly, ‘I’ll sort ’em out later. There’s nothing they can do. Look at ’em, bloody useless. If I get my way, I’m going to make them taste like chocolate mousse, then the fishermen would hoover them up, the tuna got cocky, and I sorted them out.’

Zeus looked doubtfully at his mate as he ground his teeth and clenched his fist. ‘I’d just smash their little beaky faces I if they were anything to do with me,’ he chuntered under his breath.

 

Inside the raft is a safety knife, for the single purpose of cutting the activation cord. By untying the cord instead, I’d created a danger I didn’t know existed until it was too late. Next time, I’ll use the knife.

My rescue was a stream of false alarms as the stars rose over the eastern horizon, each misinterpreted as a ship. I’d stick my head up every so often, putting my hand over the strobe that sent out an SOS Morse signal, to retain my night vision. After another couple of hours, a rising star got bigger and split into green and red, the navigation lights of my rescuers.

Navigation lights on a ship give you the information you need in order to discern the direction it is travelling. Green and red on a steady bearing meant it was heading straight towards me. Like a rescue ship would. Or like a ship that just happened to be heading straight for me would. I gave it a while before my nerve cracked and I fired a rocket flare. Now that is something that I wished I’d rehearsed before doing it for the first time in a liferaft! They don’t half go off with a whoosh! Ten minutes later, I fired another. The surrounding area was lit up by a threatening red light as the flare fell slowly on its parachute. He’d definitely see that. Wouldn’t he? After another ten, I lit a hand held flare, ducking my head and stretching my arm out as much as possible. Still, the effect was blinding. I still had no sign if they had seen me, although I was sure the ship was slowing. Just in case, I lit up another. He’d seen me now and to make sure I knew it, he tooted the fog horn like a taxi on a chilly night, when the driver wants to stay warm, Bwah Bwe Bwe Bwe Bwe, Bwa Bwahhhh! The blasts overlapped and collided, like Les Dawson playing the piano, but I knew what he meant.

The ship took a long time to arrive, slowly drawing to a standstill a hundred yards short. Inside the life raft among the useful items are two small paddles. I extended the handle, locked it in place, and started the painfully slow process of trying to get a life raft to move through the water in the direction you want it to. On the underside of the raft are four large triangular pockets which fold down and fill with water to make it more stable, but they do nothing to make it easier to paddle.

Photo taken from the bridge of MSC Sheila by Captain Bogdanovic 

‘Have you got any mates down there that can help us out?’

‘The turtles are always up for a laugh, why?’ said Poseidon, taking another big toke of the spliff.

‘Get a couple of them to grab hold of the raft and slow him down. I want to see how he copes with that ladder when he’s proper knackered.’

‘Good call bro, nice thinking,’ Poseidon said, spluttering and giggling as he released the smoke through his nose, ‘here man, take that while I sort it.’ Zeus examined the spliff, wetting the tip of his finger and dabbing the paper to slow the burn down on one side.

 

It would be hard enough for two, but on my own, most of my effort went into slowly turning around in circles. My technique improved and with a burst of energy, I dug in and slowly moved forward. The progress was that slow that at one point I took off my life jacket and coat, ready to dive in and swim for it. Luckily I didn’t, because when I finally reached the ship’s side, with the aid of a thrown line, the first rung of the ladder the crew had lowered down the ship’s side, was just about level with my chin. The delay as I waited for it to be lowered was welcome. After three or more hours folded under me in the raft, my legs had stopped working. The ladder was made from a series of decking boards about two feet long, threaded on thick rope. The natural place to hold on, was behind the boards. But that option wasn’t available, as the boards were flush up to the hull, so I held the rope. The ladder was just wide enough to make the job difficult but not impossible, and slowly, I climbed onto the deck.

Climbing ladder.JPG

Climbing up the side of the rescue ship from the liferaft and on the bridge of MSC Sheila with the captain and chief engineer.

‘Come, come,’ said the man in orange overalls, ‘the captain wants to meet you.’ I looked up toward the bridge, about seven stories high, and wished he wanted to meet me enough to come down to see me. As I trudged up after my new friend, I looked at the horizon. The first sign of dawn was bringing a warm orange light to eastern horizon.

Captain Yevgeniy Bogdanovic introduced himself and Bonarenko Yuriy “Chief” officer, the man in the orange overalls. Almost immediately, the Captain was distracted with prolonged conversations on the VHF with the coast guard. As looked down from the bridge, cutter circled around. They made me tea, and I told my story.

Earwigging to the VHF chatter and before I’d even finished my first brew, three sugars, no milk on the ship, if you can believe that, I understood I was going to have to go back down the ladder and go with coast guard to Rhodes. I tried to persuade the captain that I’d be no bother if he fancied taking me with them on MSC Sheila to Haifa, but he wasn’t going to get into trouble with the coast guard on my account. So, reluctantly, I said my goodbyes, had a photo taken with him and Chief, and set off back down to the deck. Having gained a little of my common sense, I requested a harness and safety line. Falling off the ladder onto an inflatable life raft is one thing, falling onto the deck of the cutter, another.

Within seconds of stepping on the deck and having given them assurances I wasn’t injured and there was nobody else to rescue, we were off. I waved goodbye to the crew leaning over the guardrail and we were soon flying back to Rhodes at 45kn.

The port police were waiting to collect me from Mandraki Marina and I was taken to the station, where I was offered food, drink, more medical assistance if required.

 

‘Anything else planned?’ asked Poseidon.

‘Zeus waved his hand, ‘just to add insult to injury.’

‘But he’s not injured.’

‘I know it’s just an expression, isn’t it.’

 

Then I was arrested. ‘It’s just a formality, I will release you immediately,’ the officer laughed, ‘but I need to know if you would like legal representation while I’m questioning you?’

Mmm, he was still smiling. I declined is kind offer and decided to defend myself. Turns out, I’m a gifted public defender. Although their concept of “immediately” is a little loose. I was finally released back into the community at 3pm, around 7 hours later.

 

‘He should have got life for that. Have you seen how much plastic and stuff he’s put in the sea? It’s a right bloody mess. And who do you think’s going to get it in the neck for all that?’ Poseidon jabbed his thumb into his chest, ‘yours truly.’

‘Since when did you give a toss about plastic n that?’

‘Well, I don’t, but I’m just saying, it’s on my turf isn’t it?’

‘It’s not turf though is it, it’s the sea.’

‘The sea bed’s turf,’ Poseidon claimed.

‘Not the same though, is it? Not like real turf, dry land, it’s not like that, is it?’

‘It’s just an expression in it, like you said one.’

‘You didn’t say that straight away though, did you? You went on about the sea bed n that.’

So what,’ Poseidon stood up, ‘you’re always the same when you’re stoned, picking fault with everything I say, it’s a right downer,’ Poseidon picked up his trident, ‘I’m off, I’ll see you later.’

‘Ye, whatever,’ Zeus said, distracted by the thought of getting a takeaway delivered. It was probably too late anyway. They always put too much chilli on everything. It played havoc with his guts. If he had anything this late, he’d be up all night guzzling Gaviscon.

 

I booked into a hotel, The Savoy, no, not like that one, and had a good cry before ringing my family to tell them I wasn’t dead yet. Manolo at the hotel looked after me and organized all the paperwork for me to return home on Tuesday the 9th. The coastguard recovered my dinghy, and I made a gift of it to Manolo and his dad.

 

The front door banged shut. She was back. He listened; trying to guess what kind of mood she was in, it could go either way. Hera stumbled into the room, her high heels dangling from her fingers.

‘Hiya love, did you have a good night?’

‘I think I had too mu….’ Hera’s face contorted, and she put her hand over her mouth, but the vomit projected through her fingers in multi coloured foul smelling spray, covering the floor and one of the sofas.

Zeus looked at the mess, ‘brilliant, just bloody brilliant.’

On board the coastguard cutter, heading for Rhodes.

I would just like to say a big thank you to:

Captain Bogdanovic and the Ukrainian crew of my rescue ship MSC Sheila. For being there.

The staff of the Hellenic coast guard in Rhodes, Greece. For their understanding.

Manolis Ligkonakos from the Savoy hotel in Rhodes. For his help in returning me home.

Dan Temple and the staff at Seago Yachting, (Liferaft, Life jacket) Hailsham, East Sussex, UK. For their generosity and excellent products.

Codi Mason and the staff of ACR Electronics, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. (EPIRB) For being generous, flexible and, like Seago, making fantastic things that really work when you need them!