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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stop, or I'll shoot.

In Basterre, capital of Guadeloupe, I went ashore to clear customs and get some shopping, leaving the others on the boat. On these occasions, I take our handheld radio so that I can call back to the boat. We choose a little used channel, usually 72, and put both sets on that. I'm in the dinghy, which we call 'Badger' so this time the conversation goes a bit like this.

'Ty Dewi, Ty Dewi this is Badger, Over.' There is a pause whilst Gesa gets to the radio to reply.
'Badger. Ty Dewi. Go ahead. Over.'
'Yep, cleared customs, now in the supermarket but they've only got diet coke with lime, should I get that? Over'
'Yes, that's fine. Over'
'Good, I'll be back soon. Badger out'
'Ty Dewi listening 72'

As you can tell, we use the radios for serious issues. When I get back to the boat, we usually switch back to channel 16, the international calling and distress channel, so that we hear anything important. This time we forget and the radio sits on channel 72.

After about half an hour, it bursts into life with a conversation something like:
'Patrol Boat this is Warship blah. I demand that you leave your anchorage and return to Point a Pitre immediately or I will be forced to use my weapons'

What was that?

He repeats his demand, and in the face of no response from the other side, he issues an ultimatum - five minutes to move or a warning shot across the bows.

The patrol boat responds claiming engine trouble and is again ordered to move.

By this time we've worked out that, as this is happening on an obscure channel, it's probably a training exercise. Sure enough, after a few more minutes another voice cuts in and tells the patrol boat he's out of the game, sunk, thanks for his help and he is free to move on now.

So we have, by chance, chosen the same VHF channel out of about fifteen we could use, and whilst we discussed the finer points of diet coke with or without lime, some of France's finest were deciding whether to blow each other out of the water.

A little later, the patrol boat is calling the warship, agreeing to tie alongside and join them for lunch for a couple of hours. We imagine the scenario 'Er, oui, we were supposed to fight again at 2:30pm but you see the red wine was very good and Henri brought a fine bottle of Cognac....And did you hear, ze Engliish are having diet coke avec lime'

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