‘Freddy; Freddy Friar. How the hell are you?’
The two old matelots shook hands. ‘Good. Good. Do you want a beer?’
‘Sure, a pale thanks, I’ll grab us a seat’
Bluey watched as Freddy approached carrying two pints. The bugger had not changed, yeah sure, a grey goatee, fatter than he was in the past; he was also a good 24 years older.
‘How bloody long has it been Blue?’
‘Years Mate, years, you don’t look much different to what you used to, what have you been doing? Why’d ya want catch-up after all this time?’
‘I’ve been busy mate, bloody busy, I got out of the mob in ‘93, 24 years ago this year actually. I’ve done well, but I am a bit sick of it all, sick of the corporate life, done some stupid things, marriage has broken down and I want to get back to sea, go back to being uncomplicated’
The truth of it all, Freddy has been more successful financially than he ever could have imagined, kicking around in a corporate life; climbing the ladder, playing in the c-suite He had done well. In this time though he had dealt with all sorts of things, worked too hard, had a family; lost it due to his stupidity, he wanted to leave all of this behind him, he wanted to stick his head in the sand and disappear.
The simpler life he had in mind was the life of a submariner, a life he had lived in the past, a life that in the complexity and turmoil of his current situation he had romanticised to a be a place, that he could leave all of the conflict and pain behind him, and go back to sea.
Where had this idea come from? He’d spotted an eBay add for a decommissioned Oberon Submarine. A submarine he had served on when he was in his late teens, early twenties. A submarine that he had bid on and now owned. Something he had not really thought through.
It was one thing to have a submarine, sure he’d bought it for a bargain price of $4.9 million. The problem he now had was that this purchase was going to be a financial sinkhole if he did not work out something soon.
All sorts of issues, where was he going to moor it, how was he going to maintain it? It was no ‘Hobie Cat’, there was no way he’d solo sail this thing. He needed a crew and not just any crew; again sailing one of these things wasn’t just a matter of getting any deckhand from the local yacht club. Then he gets a crew, how was he going to pay them, and really why did he even need them, it’s not like he could enter the Tuesday night sailing races on Sydney Harbour.
It was at this time Freddy reached out to Bluey, he’d not seen him for years, none of his current circle of friends even knew of Bluey. Being a submariner was a lifetime ago. Sure he told stories to his corporate friends, to his family about his days as a submariner, but they really did not have a clue, it was an abstract idea; for anyone except submariners, it was something contained to Hollywood movies.
Bluey was to be his pathway back to others such as Dinga Bell, Cuppy Joe, Windy Gale, Merlin Prentis, and Awesome Slade. A bunch of submariners he knew in the past. All of them now in their mid-forties too early 50’s, most have been landlocked for the last 10 to 20 years.
Freddy spends time juggling work, trying to keep the secret of the submarine purchase from his ex-wife, negotiating with the port authority in West Australia holding the boat, recruiting his crew, getting his captain's ticket.
It’s in this time and through the conversations he has as he recruits his old mates and others such as an ex-Russian submariner and a Scotsman that he starts to formulate what he will do. Initially ideas of running day tours out of Sydney harbour or weeklong experiences for the idle rich, fanatical hobbyists or well-funded retirees.
In the midst of all of this Freddy and his friends are approached by suit, a slick character with a proposal, a proposition that is too good to be true. He offers an opportunity for Freddy to recoup some of his cost, as well as pay his crew handsomely, letting him get back to the simple life.
Now his plans have changed a little, Freddy commercial considerations are stretched a little into an ethically grey realm, had he just agreed he and his crew were now a gun for hire or was it really a legitimate ‘Humanitarian’ task he had just been asked to carry out.
Who was this customer, why the need to quietly and expediently remove them from wherever they were? Of course, details were sketchy as the client did not want to disclose until they were committed, for risk of exposure and his need to find alternatives if Freddy said no.
Now he needed more specialist skills, people able to disembark from a submarine, land ashore extricate the customer and return to the submarine. He now needed some SAS operatives. Luckily for him, he and his crew had dealt with these guys in the past, they knew where to go, who to talk to the SAS and clearance divers came from the same world as they did.
He also needed to equip his boat differently, equip it to accommodate everyone at sea, underwater for 3 months, special considerations for the clients, he’d need a doctor, food, and more.
As Freddy and his crew are getting set to sail his life gets just that little more complex, the relationship with his ex-wife, the love of his life is re-igniting.