The Great Oilskin Affair (A Dad and John Story)


'Juss one more 'n we'll go back to the boat for a nap'  Dad said waving his arm helpfully in the direction of the bar. It was a bitterly cold, wet and miserable October lunchtime well over ten years ago. We were in the yacht club and we were absolutely rat-arsed.

Of course we didn't know this. What we knew was that the beer we had drunk had given us the strength of ten tigers, the mental agililty of two university professors and we were enjoying ourselves.

Earlier that morning we'd delivered Dad's boat, Sea Frog,  into her winter marina berth and with her safely tucked up and a cold, grey, sleety rain, steadily falling we'd decided the only sensible thing to do was to keep our oilskins on and walk up to the club for a quick pint of beer. It was half past eleven in the morning.

The Good Ship Sea Frog - Ebbtide 33
Inevitably, we had more than 'juss one' before we left the club. Witnesses later described us as unsteady, incoherent, confused and a little bit loud.

Before we left we booked a table for dinner at seven .. the barman seemed surprised, even concerned, he had a facial twitch and he twitched slightly as we made our reservation. We walked back to the boat and enjoyed a brief and well earned afternoon nap. It was now five o'clock.

By seven o clock we were in the pub again, thirsty, hungry and happy. We drank, we ate a little bit and we drank some more. We discussed important things that fathers and sons discuss when drunk. We planned, we debated, we argued and we drank some more. Finally, close to midnight we were asked to leave.

We walked to the cloakroom to collect our oilskins only to find that they'd been stolen. Well to be specific Dad;s trousers had been stolen and my jacket. We were both very upset. This stuff is really expensive and in any case, oilskins stolen from the club? .. what is the world coming to? I went to discuss with the management. The barmen received my rant with concern and empathy .. his twitch twitched. He asked for my name .. I paused from my rant ... now, this could be tricky .. I focussed .. I really focussed ... I mouthed the words silently in preperation .. I went for it .. 'Shon Hoe Shawl'. He asked for the name of the boat. I really focussed, the name thing had gone badly .. I must try better. I focussed again. 'She fog'. It was close, I thought a good effort.

I grabbed my oilskin trousers and we left, happy that we had done the right thing by sharing our disappointment with the bar staff.

Dad's jacket did look a bit strange though. The colour wasn't  quite right and it was really tight, the sleeves stopped at his elbows. The whole outfit looked like it had shrunk in a washing machine .. In fact, it was so tight that Dads arms were sort of forced up away from his body as if someone had stuck a mop handle through his sleeves. He seemed happy but I couldn't really understand how he'd managed to get it on, it looked more like a tank top than an oilskin jacket.

The short walk back to the boat was uneventful other than Dad occasional colliding with gangways and boats due to the unusual elevation of his arms. We said little because we were no longer able to.

We arrived at Sea Frog, clambered aboard and went down below. The sight that met us was a complete surprise because hanging up, seemingly everywhere, were oilskins. Our earlier mental agility had faded considerably by now and we were overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation so we went to sleep.

We woke late. I looked up from my saloon berth to a forrest of oilskins hanging around me. I went through the inevitable step by step review of the previous night and pieced together the jigsaw. It was not pretty.

In a nutshell, when we had returned to the bar we weren't wearing oilskins. So when we left we had actually stolen other people's oilskins. They then reported the theft to the barman with the twitch. He was so concerned at the emerging crime spree in his club that he called the police. And so it was that at two in the morning Ipswich CID were walking round the marina in search of Shon Hoe Shawl on She Fog. In the absence of a Shon or a She Fog or anything similar they started to wake up a number of people on similar named boats including the crew of the unfortunately named Sea Dog. They may have approached us but we were asleep and unwakeable.

All this emerged later and was revealed by a gleeful harbourmaster over subsequent weeks. But back to the morning. We had to return the stolen oilskins! 'Well I can't do it, said Dad. This is my home port, they'll know me and in any case look at the size of the jacket'. It was a fair point. The jacket dad had pinched was tiny, probably a woman's and Dad was 6ft 2". I begrudgingly agreed.

It was confession time. I went up to the club. The barman was there. He flinched a little as I walked in and as I approached him he started to twitch. I'd obviously made an impression. I explained what had happened. I actually said Dad had pinched everything. It seemed only fair. He gave me the name of the boat and the name of the victims of our crime.

The repatriation was not a friendly affair.  Our fellow shipmates didn't have a little chuckle as I explained how Dad had accidentally picked them up when we left. There was no slap on the back and the wise words 'oh, we've done exactly the same thing ourselves, don't worry at all'. It was frosty, very frosty. I left. I didn't really feel very well anyway.

The rising crime levels in the Woolverstone area were briefly reported in the local press but interest soon waned when nothing else happened. The nervous barman left and the whole affair would have been forgotten except for the harbourmaster. He never forgot it. And every time Dad and I were together .. and I do mean every time,  he would ask the same question  .. 'Are we on the syrup tonight lads, coz if you are I just need to warn the staff?'

Next in the 'Dad and John Series' .. the Dreadful Affair of the Backfiring Toilet









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