31st October 2001
I woke up and looked out of my porthole. Uniformed maritime police officers scoured the deck, and a new island, São Jorge provided the backdrop. The mafia style clean-up job sprang immediately to mind, and I imagined myself embroiled in a maritime murder investigation. I saw the headlines ‘Briton held in Azorean prison for multiple maritime murders’. There would be a photograph of Mum & Dad looking anxious, trying to block the camera as paparazzi clamoured at the door.
It turned out that the maritime police were more interested in the more mundane fire extinguisher expiry dates and life raft service history than mafia killings; we were having a safety inspection of course the old Santa Maria was failing miserably. The Captain, fire extinguishers and a life raft were loaded into a small boat and taken ashore.
Not surprisingly the police wondered who I was and what I was doing on a Portuguese fishing boat. Their curiosity provoked in me a reflexive shifty response whereby I acted guilty of unknown but terrible crimes. I don’t know why I have such a guilty conscience, but I’m the same when I notice a security camera pointing at me in a shop. I immediately act all wooden and awkward as if I’ve just stuffed a bottle of whisky under my jumper. On top of this ridiculous behaviour I couldn’t find when asked, my passport. I searched my cabin frantically but it wasn’t among any of my papers or in any of my drawers. Minutes seemed like hours as the officer watched me turn my cabin over in a growing frenzy. Eventually I remembered putting it inside one of my books for safekeeping – what a ridiculous thing to do.
The Captain, the fire extinguishers and the life raft, now accompanied by a new 5 man crew returned just before midnight in a small inflatable boat. It took some jostling to get them all aboard without one or more of the newly serviced emergency lifesaving devices being brought into play. Not long afterwards I heard the anchor being hauled. We were underway, heading back to the cold and stormy fishing grounds off of Newfoundland.
As we hit open water and the boat began to roll, the mysterious object under my bunk began to bang again. It’s not like most noises on board, of which there are many groans, creeks and murmurs, this banging is sporadic and so while the others are soothing like a heartbeat, this noise just drives me crazy. I emptied the drawers but couldn’t find anything, I pulled the drawers out and looked underneath but still I couldn’t find what was causing the infuriating noise.
I have changed some of the names of the people and vessels to protect the identity of those involved, but this is otherwise a true account of my experience. If you enjoyed reading this diary extract please feel free to share it. If you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe by clicking here, and ensure you never miss a post.