Funny things happen at sea

8th February 2009, 20:58
In the 1980's I was crewing for my nephew who was skipper of posh yachts - I was his navigator/mate. We had a passage crew of 11 on ocean pasages as the sails were big - Hoods at Lymington, for example had to make the mainsail in 2 bits as the sail loft wasn't big enough. The vessel was a 125ft, 250 ton, all aluminium ketch built in Germany.
We were taking the yacht to Gran Canaria and then across to Antigua. As usual, the owner was not on board - he used it as a floating hotel in differet places.
On board was a big chest full of fancy dress cotumes ( for parties aboard) incuding a bear's outfit with a big head and hairy claws. When we were some distance from passing Madeira one sunny afternoon with all sail up and a good wind on the quarter we saw a ship dead ahead and the bearing didn't change which suggested she was stationary. On looking at the chart she was stopped over a small shallow area. Our engineer - ex RN nuclear subs, suggested she was a Russin ship laying sonar buoys and indeed when we passed close-to she was a large Russian fishing vessel.
However, this is the funny thing. My nephew who has a keen sense of humour, donned the bear outfit and sent us all below in the saloon where we could peep out of the windows. He then stationed himself behind the large wheel on the stern ( she was on auto-pilot anyway) and pretended to steer the yacht. There were lots of crew on the Russian ship - women as well.
Nephew waved his hairy claw at them whilst the gazed in amazement at this big yacht, steered by a bear and no sign of any human !!
I wonder what their families thought when they told them of this apparition.
I wrote to the MOD when I got home telling them of this ship and its location. They replied giving details of its type etc and thanked me for telling them.