by Andrew Foote
I finished my cigarette and headed back to Conqueror. A considerable weight had been lifted from my shoulders, but keeping this news secret until we berthed at Penzance didn't sit comfortably with me. I loved both Cathy and Aruno, and alright, Aruno wasn't my real concern, but Cathy had taken a real knock and some good news might just cheer her up and help her focus on the task of piloting her Dad's boat back home.
Aruno was up and about by the time I stepped on board, Cathy and Rob were obviously still asleep, so after a cuddle and the undeniable temptation to go back to bed, we made a start on breakfast.
"The news about the other drugs is in the local paper so with a bit of luck we'll be able to get on our way tomorrow, more especially if it's been on the telly. Nice as Torquay is, I'm getting fed up with just sculling around here with nothing to do."
"I like it here Mimi-cu."
"More than Tresgillith?"
"No, not more. It's different, it's busier but not as pretty."
"Everywhere is busier than Tresgillith! Lots of places are prettier too but I'm not complaining. There's a rumour going around that someone has plans to open up the old tin mine as a tourist attraction – sort of like a working museum, and if that ever gets off the ground, that'll bring some life back to the village."
"Maybe help the pub as well."
"Possibly, but that brings with it more work and to be truthful, I'm not sure how my Mum would feel about that. She runs it as a hobby, something to enjoy rather than it being a full blown commercial venture. Best guess? I think she'd cash in her chips, take the money and run."
"Where would she run to?"
"Not literally run, she'd wait until the trade was such that the business became an attractive proposition, sell it on to one of the big breweries for a tidy profit, then retire to somewhere she could be nearer to her family – Plymouth possibly."
"Would you go with her?"
"To Plymouth? Not a chance! I have a healthy dislike for cities, my home is Tresgillith, like your real home is your village in Brazil. I could never settle in Plymouth, and besides, I want to be with you."
Aruno smiled. "Good! But where would you live and how might you earn money?"
"Live on the boat I imagine, and as for work? I'm not sure. I might get shifts working at the Nelson, I might even buy a decent car and run it as a taxi, I hadn't given it much thought. It's all pie in the sky although something like leaving the pub is bound to happen sooner or later.
There is one other possibility though? Maybe that'll be the cue to go to your village and live there."
"I like that idea but it would mean selling your boat and that would sadden you Mimi-cu."
"Ah-ha, but maybe there can be another way! A way where we can go to Brazil and keep the boat with us. It would be impossible to sail her there but what if…… what if we could hitch a ride?"
"I don't understand."
"I'll explain another time, but it might just work!"
Rob put the phone down and gave us the thumbs-up. "That was a call from the Customs shed. They, the coastguard and the police say they've done as much as they can in order to put the word around that Marion is clean. I guess that means we're good to go."
Cath looked at me, "Right now or leave at first light tomorrow."
"If everyone agrees, tomorrow gets my vote. Leaving now would mean not putting in to Penzance much before nine this evening and I don't know about you, but these last few days have been stress magnified and Marion isn't even my boat."
"And you Rob?"
"I agree. It's too late to go now, and then there's the added bonus that if those responsible didn't listen to the news this morning, they might tonight and I have this overwhelming desire to get back in one piece."
In the event, we were on our way by five in the morning, docking at Penzance by nine. A problem free run with only moderate seas and good visibility.
As per my instructions, I made the suggestion that Cath, Aruno and Rob took the opportunity to visit Anita, Cath and Aruno's Mum. She might remember Rob but he would only have been four or five when last they saw each other, and what with the serious smell of a lasting relationship in the air……? I would stay behind and do jobs that didn't need doing so as to give them time together.
I loved the time spent on my own on board Conqueror. I would sit up on the bridge with a mug of something or down in the machinery room, probably my favourite place to be.
Engine rooms don't offer any creature comforts – they're very functional places but they have a smell all of their own. Hot metal, oil and diesel plus you get a sense of their sheer power and reliability…… well, they do if you maintain them! They're also surprisingly clean and tidy places. If not polished and sparkling, clean engines will highlight minor issues like weeping gaskets, water and air leaks and these can be attended to before they become major problems.
My musings were cut short as my phone rang.
"Simeon? Can you come up to the house? Something you should see and also, something you should know."
"Yeah, 'course I can but I'll need an address Cath."
"Two Watchmaker Lane. Get a taxi, it'll be a lot easier."
"I'll lock up and be on my way."
I had the Waverly Arms provide me with a number for a local cab company but on my arrival, what I was confronted with didn't surprise me, I was already in the loop
Sitting in the living room of this pretty ordinary '50's style semi-detached home, were Rob, Cathy, Aruno and…… Mr Penfold.
Anita, who had greeted me at the door, had me sit down beside Aruno and proceeded to offer me a drink which I refused. She then left it to Arthur Penfold to talk to us.
"This is like one hundred Christmas's all arriving on the same day! Not only am I, and my boys very fortunate to be alive, now I'm faced with the people who managed to pull it off and, not only that, they're people who I've known for all of their lifetimes.
I've told everyone this barring you Simeon, so now I want to say something – a lot of things actually, but directly to you, so listen up.
I need to offer you my undying gratitude. Your actions and those of Cathy and Sam, undoubtedly saved our lives and there are no words that can possibly do justice to how we feel, together with the debt we owe you.
I, and all the boys on board that day, cannot thank you, all of you, enough. I feel the need to carry on, to thank you more but I want to turn to weightier issues, and by that, I'm referring to family matters.
Anita and I separated and all due to my attitude and I guess, the frustration I felt towards all the regulations that were being imposed on the fishing industry by the EU.
I started to drink...... and I mean massively and when Sam was due, that was the straw that broke the camel's back – I really hit it. The upshot? Well, you all know what happened, no point in being in denial. I didn't want Sam, he was just one more weight around my neck, another reason for Anita not to return to work as a decently paid doctor. The pressure was on and I suppose, looking back, I was too young, to idealistic, too full of what I wanted to realise, life is about people, not money or position, but now I know…… I know what life is about and I'm dreadfully sorry for the past and my actions.
I now have a chance to make amends and I intend to grasp it with both hands, try to rectify what's gone on before, never to make the same mistakes or errors of judgement again.
How do I say just how sorry I am to you Sam? Sorry isn't adequate, penitent maybe? Contrite? I just don't have words enough to even begin to express how I feel. Can you forgive me Sam?"
"What is there to forgive father? Your life was hard and I can understand how having another mouth to feed, another child to raise must have made you feel. I think it right that no mention of these things are made in the future, that way we can grow to love and respect each other.
We have a saying back at home which in Portuguese says, "Entre um pae e urn filho, un vinculo inabalavel." This means, "Between a father and son, an unwavering bond."
We work towards this, yes?"
"Yes. With all of my being son."
I was having to fight back tears but Mr Penfold took a deep breath then continued.
"Following this recent episode, I've taken one hell of a knock which has severely dented my confidence. This translates itself into me having no wish to carry on with my life as a trawler man and, as I understand there will be a sizable reward coming to myself and my crew together with considerations from the Criminal Compensation people and insurance, both for the damage sustained to the boat and also personal injury, I'm going to retire.
I was also very good at paying in as much as I could afford to my pension plan and with the cottage bought and paid for, I'll be, or should I say we'll be, comfortably off but what should I do with my boat. There's no market for it – there are more boats on brokerage than enough so I plan on hanging on to her. Rob has expressed an interest in learning my trade and I've offered to teach him as much as I can but not as Marion's skipper, Rob has all the necessary qualifications to take on that responsibility. He will need crew, so if any of you would like to come out with us, then you might also get an understanding and who knows, all this talk about us possibly leaving the EU, perhaps the industry would be better regulated and better placed to thrive again.
Before you dismiss this out of hand Simeon, I realise that you have responsibilities towards the pub so I'm not talking about a fortnight at sea, two or three day's tops okay?
I would also urge you, Cathy, to think about taking your own Master's Certificate because if yours and Rob's relationship blossoms, then I'll hand over ownership of the Marion to you."
Cathy's face was a picture! "I…… I…… I mean…… you'd actually give the Marion to ME?"
"Certainly. What the hell else do you expect me to do with her girl? She stays in the family and safe in trustworthy hands. It's the most obvious solution."
"Then I'll do it Dad. I'll do my Master's qualification and whatever else is necessary."
"Good girl. Thank you.
That only leaves two people for me to consider, Sam and Anita.
Sam? You're easy.
Many things have been explained to me over the last few days and before you lose all control over your bowels Simeon, Sam's place is by your side. I'm not angry or upset about this, quite the contrary as it happens. Tread life's path together with my blessing.
That brings me neatly to Anita.
I was, and still am in need of constant medical supervision following that incident even though no further interventions were necessary, so I was effectively bed-blocking. Anita was very gracious and offered to have me stay here in her care.
The thing is, even though we'd separated, we never divorced, and now? We both realise that we never actually fell out of love – the only problem was I'd become impossible to live with. These last couple of weeks have allowed us time to get to know each other again and so, we are going to reaffirm our marriage vows and she will return to Tresgillith allowing us to pick up from where sadly, we left off – a family once more."
Any ideas we might've had about putting back out that day suddenly got shelved. It was party time and it was gone midnight by the time we staggered back to the boats. We could allow ourselves the luxury of a delayed departure so we sat around talking for an hour.
Short term we would all learn from Mr Penfold. That had to happen if my little scheme ever got off the ground. Days we weren't out, Cath could study for her Master's Certificate – radio licence she already possessed while both Rob and Aruno would help out at the Nelson interspersed with redesigning the accommodating deck of both boats, such as the conversion of the single cabins into doubles.
The trip back from Penzance went smoothly and as it would be some few weeks before Mr Penfold was fit enough to start our training, I wanted to keep this time and use it to further investigate my idea without letting on as to what it entailed.
I began to amass plenty of information both practical and technical which I stored as encrypted files on my laptop and also on a remote hard drive.
Aruno had remembered to ask his Mum if he could borrow all the photos taken of his village and islands and Oh My God, it looked idyllic, but on seeing pictures of spiders, snakes and bugs that were bigger than my hand and with body's thicker than my wrist, I moderated my enthusiasm somewhat.
Refitting the Marion S had begun, the first task was to finish ripping out what remained of the accommodation interior which we dumped into a heap then set it alight. Now that only the steel bulkheads remained, Mr Penfold together with Cath and Rob could decide how to organise things in such a way that suited their purpose. The skippers cabin was big enough to convert into a double, the crew's quarters were divided off into two further doubles separated by using foam insulated studding partitions leaving one single cabin which was too small to be altered. The steel bulkheads they had spray foam insulated then cladded with a wood veneer, replacement light fittings and carpets, new shower facilities and heads completed the picture. She looked good!
The only modification I needed doing on Conqueror was possibly converting my cabin to a double, so while the contractors were working on Marion, I asked their works supervisor to take a look and give me his opinion.
The design he came up with was ingenious. Conqueror's accommodation was not as spacious as Marion's plus I didn't have the luxury of a substantial insurance pay-out, but what was suggested was affordable.
Rather than take out the existing bunk, a second single was made which, when not in use, would slide under the original fixed one and locked into place for reasons of safety. It was just a simple matter of sliding it out, spring loaded cantilevers would pop it into position effectively making two single bunks into a double. The desk had to be modified as it was in the way of the second single but hinging it to the bulkhead solved that problem.
I also made some alterations to the cabin lighting. I used powerful and dimmable LED's recessed into the overhead cladding which doubled as reading lights for when the bunks were in use and general lighting for when they weren't. It would've been nice to convert all interior lighting to LED's but at somewhere in the order of between ten and twenty pounds for each LED cluster? Not possible given my tight budget.
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