THE PHONE WAS ringing in the upstairs bedroom I used as my office. Taking the steps two at a time I made it on the fifth ring.
"Hello, Colray International," said I in my best business voice.
"Hello Braid, Bernie here. Will you be available for a few days this week to do a job with me?"
It was second January 1985 in Singapore, and I'd been 'available' too many days in the past two months already. Business was not exactly booming.
"Yes, I think I can fit that in with my schedule Bernie. What do you have in mind?'
He told me there was a large drilling barge to bring into dock. The crew were being paid off, and we would have to take up anchors, sail her to the docking berth, and organize an overhaul and refit. The owner would be coming along to pay off the old crew and take command. The barge was apparently anchored far out at her drilling position, and it would take the best part of a day to sail out to her in a catamaran, sort things out, and sail her back to the dock, as she only did five knots on her auxiliary engine. On the way in we could start checking her over and listing parts etc for purchase/repair. I jumped at the chance, and agreed to meet Bernie at his flat at six o'clock next morning. He said the job should be worth a net thousand dollars.
Two weeks earlier Bernie and I had worked successfully on a cargo ship newly purchased by a mutual friend. Bernie was a marine engineer, and had checked the ship out mechanically, while I organized the purchase, delivery and payment of parts and stores – from a new engine blower to the fresh meat and vegetables and safety equipment. It had worked well and the owner, being pleased with the results, had appointed my company (which meant me and my Cortina station sedan) as his Purchasing Agent in Singapore, with the use of his telex. This sounded good, but his ships were in Singapore at the rate of only just over one a month, so I had to find more work to keep the wolf from the door. His ship had netted me fifteen hundred dollars, so a thousand seemed reasonable for a drilling barge.