The original idea for this book was to write about one particular substandard and disaster-prone motor yacht called the ‘Passing Fancy’ that I joined in Belgium and delivered to Cannes via the Belgium and French canals. The mishaps that we endured are almost unbelievable for a brand new vessel. It all began on the first day we left the safety of the port when both rudders snapped off in the North Sea leaving me with no steerage. I then spent the summer season cruising the Western Mediterranean with charterers. One of my crew members was almost shot. Another was an oversexed female who had a miscarriage in her cabin. I found myself adrift in a boat with no power and my only survival tactic was to make it to the base of a cliff and scale the heights to a lighthouse at night. We suffered the second worst sea passage I’d had in my 20 plus years as a mariner. One group of six charterers opened my eyes wider than they’d ever been opened before. I was no prude but their antics were singularly deviant whilst we were anchored offshore of a nudist colony and there was much more.
As I was writing this book, it was suggested to me that I include a resumé of my errant childhood on a council estate and my years working on Thames steam tugs. I joined Ship Towage Ltd when I was 15 years old in my native Gravesend as cook progressing to junior deckhand aboard the Atlantic Cock and then as senior deckhand on the company’s latest diesel tug, Moorcock. I have tried to capture the essence of life aboard with the tough, hard working tugmen, the ever present potential dangers, the long hours working through the days and nights in the open air, what those days were like for a young boy in that hard environment and the joys of living through the swinging sixties and the “make love not war” attitude.