A Christmas Surprise

By TASC Member Tom Purvis (River Tyne Pilot Retired)

One Christmas I was on-call pilot till 9am Christmas day. Checking with the office before I turned-in. was told “all quiet- nothing doing” So off to bed and looking forward to a good night’s sleep and a work-free Christmas day.

About 3am, the phone’ rang and the voice on the other end said “This is not a wind-up, there’s a Danish coaster off the piers. The Master has informed Tyne Harbour that the cook has stabbed one of the sailors and he is lying dead on the boat deck: The police will be at the Pilot jetty in half an hour, can you be there and bring the ship  into the Tyne Commissioners quay ?”

Once I realised I was awake and not dreaming! I got dressed, and proceeded to the jetty. There waiting, were 6 PC’s all armed and wearing body armour. As we got alongside the ship we were advised that the Master had locked himself in the bridge. The sergeant said she would board first secure the scene and told me to wait. Quickly I was told that the scene was secure, the cook was sitting very calmly in the mess. “But come up to the bridge on the port side because the sailor is lying under the starboard lifeboat and the deck is swimming in blood!” 

The master was in no fit state to do anything and I took the controls and got the vessel into the river and alongside the quay moved here. Not a lot of conversation and all I could do was get my bill signed and make my way ashore. Yes you guessed we were starboard side alongside and I forgot about the blood!!

Eventually, at home, we sat down to Christmas dinner and deciding that this year we would have roast beef I made sure it was well-done.!!