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Family matters

A fortnight ago this Friday – on one of his rare visits back to Blighty – my son Barry flew in from the Mediterranean at 36 hours’ notice to spend what he intended to be four to six weeks “sorting out” his belongings before placing them in storage, renewing his commercial licence as an Ocean yachtmaster, attending two seamanship “refresher courses” and visiting friends and family.

To date his Covid-19 crisis had consisted of him imposing a strict lockdown on board his current vessel – which by chance then happened to be in Spain – and living/observing the course of the pandemic from there until very recently when his command ended by mutual consent and on excellent terms.

By nature and circumstance Barry has always made his own way in the world.

Being dyslexic he was destined never to do particularly well at exams and announced shortly before leaving school that he had no intention of “flying a desk” in a conventional office job like the rest of us.

Instead, after a period of lying around thinking what he might do, he joined a Russian theatre company as a stagehand and spent two years touring Europe, Australasia, the Far East and the United States of America, ending as one of its two production managers.

At that point, with a run on Broadway imminent and American equity union rules requiring that “backstage staff” could not work in the USA – instead their jobs had to be done by US equity union members – he was obliged to teach American counterparts how to do his job before being “let go” for six months.

This he used to attend an intensive UK Sailing Association course that enabled him to go from having no sailing qualifications at all to Ocean yachtmaster (both “sail” and “motor” versions) status and a new career in the marine industry.

For the past 15 years he has worked all over the world (bar the Pacific) and captained superyachts in innumerable waters on both sides of the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean and the North and Baltic seas.

Having him back in the UK has been an interesting experience.

Although he was/is always something of a virus-and-vaccination sceptic – and despite his misgivings – he managed to obtain himself a first jab of the Pfizer vaccine.

In our personal conversations I have not been able to shift him from his conviction that Western governments have been putting out “fake news” as part of some global conspiracy by (“we know not who”) to control the human race.

It’s either that, or alternatively those in charge of us haven’t a clue what they’re doing and are floundering around like a group of proverbial corks upon the ocean and in the process systematically wrecking everyone’s lives.

In any event life goes on.

Just two days after arriving in Blighty, Barry suddenly received an urgent request to take command of a super yacht on its “delivery” passage from a port in a Scandinavian country to one in Poland.

It was a “take it or leave” situation for him. Having not taken a break from work for almost eighteen months – and having planned to be in the UK for up to six weeks without going near a boat – he could quite easily have declined the offer if he had wished.

On the other hand, the owner concerned had received three direct recommendations from people in the marine industry that Barry was one of a few captains capable of taking on a command in the waters concerned – and one in which he would be both working on a vessel and with a crew that he had never set eyes on before.

For him therefore, it was a case of “take it or leave it” – and it didn’t matter which.

The following morning I drove him to Heathrow in time for him to catch a 10.00am flight to Scandinavia and have no idea when he will return.




About William Byford

A partner in an international firm of loss adjusters, William is a keen blogger and member of the internet community. More Posts