Ben was one of three ABs (or more properly, GPs) on the ship. The other two were Robert and Julian. All three were good lads. Good in that they essentially stayed sober, did their work without moaning, knew what they were doing and behaved like good ‘shipmates’.
Ben and Julian were in their late twenties, Robert was older, late forties. He was also that bit tubbier and slower but made up for that by never seeming to get tired or bored. Unlike the other two sailors, Ben was nakedly ambitious and wanted better for himself. This was an admirable attribute although in Ben’s case it could be a little amusing because he would often come out with rather cringe making statements such as “If I wasn’t at sea I ‘d be in middle management by now”. These cringers would also be said with with a straight face and in his high pitched Humberside accent. Although we didn’t make disparaging comments openly, this behaviour was almost comedic and invited a riposte, especially when he had his ‘really serious’ face on.
One evening when the ship was alongside in some god forsaken Norwegian two shop, three house town, Ben and Julian went ashore for a drink. They were friends and enjoyed each other’s company up the road. The following morning Julian reported for work with a very battered and bruised face. He’d been severely beaten although fortunately no lasting damage (it turned out) had been done. He was very uncommunicative with respect to the cause of this damage but after pressure from the Master it transpired that Ben, his shipmate, had done the beating. The reason? Well, that wasn’t made clear but seemingly it was, as these things so often are, over nothing.
I was sailing as Mate on the ship and wanted Ben sacked. I cannot abide violence, especially vindictive, brutish violence. I wasn’t happy at the thought of this GBH dealing thug remaining in the midst of our small, cramped, AHT world. The Master took a more lenient approach than me however and Ben remained with us for a further month or so before leaving to have testicular cancer treated. Julian never made a formal complaint about his shipmate’s behaviour.
Seven years later Ben’s name came up in conversation in the office and I was surprised to hear that he was working for our organisation as an independent surveyor. This puzzled me somewhat because I was under the impression that to work as a surveyor, peeps had to be either a qualified engineer or a Master Mariner or have some other specialist qualification. Ben had been sailing as an AB with no tickets (other than an EDH) only a few years previously, he certainly wouldn’t have had time (or, imho, the ability) to have got a Master’s licence. A check of his CV indeed confirmed that all he had achieved was a watch-keeping licence and been on a DP course. Now call me old fashioned but to talk his way into his current position is nothing short of fraud and/or chronic blagging. It could also, I’d argue, raise questions as to how forensic our organisation’s interview and screening processes are.
Whether someone is employed or not is not my shout nor,my business. It’s for others to make those calls, thankfully. However if my opinion was sought, I’d say that because he was 1/ A thug and 2/ A blagger, he shouldn’t be on the team.
Besides, he’s from Hull and that in itself, is reason enough.
The picture below is completely un-related to the diatribe above. Taken on a KMAR 404 type AHT off Riva Trigosa, Liguria, circa 2010. Bollard Bull trials with yours truly as the certifying authority representative. Italian chaos at its most amusing. Happy days.