A Boat on the Side
22Sep/100

Still Here Then?

This year, we at Scruffie Marine celebrate out 20th anniversary. It seems like yesterday when we started our first boat and here we are celebrating with over 300 in nine different countries.

I was talking to a future Secret 20 builder the other week. He’s a doctor specialising in ageing. There’s one thing, he said that stands out among those of his patients who live a long and healthy life, they all share the same attitude – they are passionate about their projects and never stop thinking about and making plans for their future. Well that’s good news I thought – I tick a lot of boxes there and having survived several near death experiences, I’m probably pre-disastered by now and look set for another couple of decades at least. For starters, I’ve fallen off horses and buildings and cracked my spine a bit. I’ve had a kalashnikov shoved in my ribs prior to spending a few frightening hours in a Middle Eastern jail.

North Sea Oil Production Platform

In the Seventies I took a formwork job on a North Sea oil production platform. These things were huge floating concrete storage tanks, built ashore in massive excavated basins which were then flooded and the whole edifice towed out to the deeper waters of the sea loch. Once there, several industrial strength ocean going tugs pushed and pulled them around while endless rivers of concrete were pumped into the steel shutters. The forms were pumped up ever higher to keep pace with the steel and concrete until finally they towered above the tugs. I was sent to the top to help set up the timber formwork for the cone shaped roofs. As I gingerly walked up the scaffolding to the top I noticed out of the corner of one eye that part of the safety barrier was missing. “That’s where they’re hauling the timber in” said my mate. We worked on. A light drizzle came in from the Atlantic. The form-ply was oiled. I stumbled. I slipped, I slid down the sloping roof straight for the only gap in the railings. I scrabbled for a grip. I heard the distant cries of seagulls wheeling far below that concrete cliff of death. I came to a halt on the brink, spread-eagled on the scaffold boards. I froze. I could only crawl to the lift cage where I huddled in a corner whimpering. Not a good look on a big burly building site. Not a good look when only days before a steel-fixer had fallen down on to some starter bars some of which had gone right through various limbs. He waved to his friends as the helicopter winched him up and away to the hospital. I worked ashore after that and quit shortly after.

“Don’t worry dearest, I’ll be back at the drawing board before you can say Stornaway!”

I nearly lost it during emergency surgery for peritonitis and on one memorable occasion a particularly virulent tick poisoned me to a state of near death. It was in retrospect a bit of a Fawlty Towers moment. Fighting for breath and rapidly deteriorating I was driven at breakneck speed to the doctor’s where emergency adrenaline awaited. I staggered in, supported by my then wife. The receptionist said sweetly “take a seat the doctor will be right along with you.” “Out of my way” I croaked, “I’m f****** dying!” and lunged for his door which he opened just as I got there. He half dragged, half lifted me on to the couch. Seconds’ later enough adrenaline was pumped into my heart to re-start the thing, along with various other drugs to keep me going. It all goes to show how vulnerable we are and why we must never stop planning ahead. So the birthday ambitions are pretty straightforward. Build better boats and a better business based on them and the greener the better. Raise awareness of the gargantuan environmental problems we face. Plant lots more trees. Generate good profits and plough as much as possible into our new projects which will surely leave the world a better place, most of all though, we must live our passions.

Simple enough.

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