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An Interesting Meeting

A few years ago Mike Devonshire, one of Hoo Ness Yacht club's few retired judges, familiarly known to many as "Hang 'em and flog 'em", entered a competition at the London Boat Show about Safety at Sea arranged by HM Coastguard. Mike had at one time chaired IMO, so it was not surprising that he knew a thing or two about the subject and in due course he was announced as the winner.

HM Coastguard wanted to present the prize at Chatham Marina where Mike had his boat, a modest Fisher called Ngalawa (pronounced "inga-lawa", rather cunningly the Swahili for fisherman), where they hoped for good photographic opportunities. Mike was happy to accommodate them but had spotted an even more advantageous empty berth nearby and enlisted Tony Chamberlain, our prodigal son turned trustee, and myself to help relocate the boat. This we did and the prize giving took place with various splendidly uniformed coastguards in attendance. Noticeable among them was the very own longstanding Freezer Rescue Boat man Bob Hall in unfamiliar official mode.

After the presentation we accepted an invitation from Mike to go on board Ngalawa for a drink in recognition of our boat moving services. When I arrived there were already several people in the wheelhouse, one of whom turned out to be Mr. Lapthorn of the Lapthorn shipping company. He was in Chatham in his enormous Fisher "Hoo Tact", en route to a Fisher rally in London. He was being asked by one of the other guests if he was part of the Ratsey and Lapthorn sail making dynasty. He replied that his arm of the family had left sails behind in the belief that the day of sail was over. I was able to join in the conversation and provide the correct answer, namely that they had become accountants instead.

Mr. Lapthorn was very surprised that I knew this and enquired how it came about. I was able to advise that I had just finished reading "R.Lapthorn and Company Ltd" a "Ships in Focus" fleet history which had been published to celebrate the company's Golden Jubilee. He was mystified as to how I had gained access to the very recent publication so I had to explain that Stan Yeates had lent me his presentation copy to assist with my investigations into the history of Hoo Ness Yacht Club. Once Stan's name was mentioned, no further explanation was necessary. As a long serving company barge skipper and at one time, with his wife Chick, part owner of the company, he was the best source of information I could have had.

Martin Richards - February 2009

Date Published 27th Jun 2011