An insightful account of working in the dangerous environment of Thames steam tugs in the 50’s and 60’s, and the momentous decisions that can change the course of a life.
The story continues with Edwards skippering yachts in the Mediterranean. His first command was a disaster-prone motor yacht that he delivered to Cannes via the French canals. The ensuing mishaps were almost unbelievable for a brand new vessel. On the first day when they left the safety of port both rudders snapped off in the North Sea.
This is an enjoyable narrative about working on boats, but woven in there are insightful personal accounts of life and loves. Some people might question whether climbing up a cliff face in the dark or being tossed around in a storm in the Bay of Biscay could be considered the dream, but at least he was doing what he wanted to do!
Anthony Edwards was born in Gravesend in 1943. Early life on a council estate just after the war had its drawbacks. His father had been injured in an industrial accident and once his compensation had been spent, money was tight. You had to make your own amusements. Catching eels on the marshes, riding ponies at the nearby riding school before the owners were awake and long cycle rides on an old bike which had to be shared with his best friend – one standing pedalling and the other sitting on the seat.
At an early age, he was also fascinated by and loved watching films. They were an insight into what life could be like if you didn’t live on a council estate. However, it was a simple choice. If you wanted to go to Saturday morning cinema, the best option of amassing the necessary sixpence was to have a paper round – unless, of course, you were prepared to risk the ignominy of a heavy hand on your shoulder as you were climbing through the toilet window.
Although he would amuse himself with writing and illustrating stories, Amazon had not yet been invented and the only recourse to fame and fortune, or at least the fortune, was to get a job working on the Steam tugs, which he joined when he was 15. Like all new recruits, he started as cook, but went onto working on deck until he left nearly 7 years later. The hours were long – on average 140 a week – but the pay was good. If by the end of the week you were still alive that is. In those days there was no such thing as ‘health and safety’.
There was then a Eureka moment when he saw a film clip about Prince Phillip’s yacht Bloodhound. He directed all his energies into achieving the dream of sailing. He got a job as permanent crew on an ocean racer and later qualified as a yacht skipper. New horizons beckoned. Sailing was the thing – a choice which led to a life full of adventure. There’s nothing like boating for producing challenging life and death decisions mixed with hilarious fiascos.