I was telling about a horrible shock that happened while visiting friends, one of the biggest surprises of my life, and one that most of us wouldn't imagine could happen in a modern democracy like Britain, not outside television, anyway.
|Serious intent ... A worrying confrontation by Capone and company from a famous film, The Untouchables. The scene reminds me very much of the ambush I experienced suddenly at a friend's home. Thanks to AC magazine for the scene.|
To be living a normal life, visiting friends, and then to be ambushed, and to be imprisoned, and not to know freedom again for years and years?
It was an astounding drama that began with that visit to really good friends, people who had helped get Spirit of Pentax ready for my singlehanded circumnavigation many years earlier.
Commenting on yesterday's blog, Jan from Glasgow questions whether I am being over-dramatic using the term ambush for a raid by Customs. The then customs department, I should say.
I use the term ambush because that’s precisely what it was.
I had just stepped inside the home of great friends with my fiancée and my young daughter.
Hardly had the front door closed than the uproar of a stampede followed. Cars pulled into the driveway, my car was wedged in fore and aft, and a whole gang of men began racing round the house, encircling it.
|They decided, perhaps during some Friday night pub session, that the drugs must have come from Sunday yachtsmen who collected the cargos in the Caribbean and sailed them up to Britain.|
Many unpleasant shocks have happened to me at sea. But here on land, close to the city of Portsmouth, an ambush?
A Brit public servant arresting me? And for the unlikeliest of charges, of smuggling drugs? When, where? How?
They’d explain at headquarters. I was bundled into a car and raced off to London, and strangely enough by an almost devious back route.
|Far fetched ... The crazy modus operandi had amateurs sailing from the bottom left of this chartlet up to UK, top-right, in yachts laden with drugs worth millions. The jury, decidedly of landlubbers, swallowed the story. Thanks to Google Maps for the chartlet.|
Having seen and been utterly shocked by the ambush, she returned to the sea.
Why would they ambush me? Why not pop round to my home? In journalism days, if I wanted to find a stranger, I would look first in the electoral roll.
Had their 'investigators' done that, they would have found my address, and could have popped round.
And yet rather than call at my home, they staged an ambush far from London.
I learned afterwards that carloads of them had been seen relaxing for days on end in cars in the neighbourhood.
Why that address? It was the address I used as my maildrop whenever I was at sea.
And yet my last voyage, my 8,000-mile swallowing-the-anchor journey told in my book, Sailing to Purgatory, had ended months before.
A 'gang' waiting in prison
The department - now replaced, I’m pleased to report - had imprisoned a 'gang' who they said traded in drugs.
Where did their supplies come from? Most people know forbidden products usually arrive in shipping containers.
However, for whatever reason, these public servants invented the most unrealistic of modus operandis.
They decided, perhaps during some Friday night pub session, that the drugs must have come from Sunday yachtsmen who collected the cargos in the Caribbean and sailed them up to Britain.
★ No thought by the investigators for the few times of year when an amateur could make the passage relatively safely,
★ no thought of the prevailing head winds most of the way back,
★ no thought about whether any drugs supplier might entrust millions of pounds of goods to a sailing boat with an amateur crew.
Of course, as I was to learn with English justice, the envy of the world, you just need the right jury with the majority of gullible people not exactly intellectually gifted, to win your argument.
The trial became the longest criminal trial in England. And to keep out any questioning reporters, it was held ‘in camera’, in secret.
More revelations here tomorrow ….