Friday, 8 April 2016
Why the Teme's tame for boatman Ike
It's not surprising, then, that the locals, inconvenienced by the bridge's complete closure to cars during these latest repairs, have been squeezing past the scaffolding and warning cones on foot to check what's going on. They see the huge gap caused by the collision and the stonemasons' skilled-- but painstaking-- progress on this listed landmark.
And some of them lean over the bridge's 'good' side and spot Ike, bobbing about in his boat. They carry on with their dog walk; return an hour or two later...and find Ike's still there. And the next day, and the day after that.
"What's he doing down there then...health and safety?" chortles one elderly man. The workmen nod and smile and get on with the major task in hand.
But my curiosity gets the better of me, and four days later, I'm back to find the man you almost miss while the clever stuff's going on at road level. I'm in luck. The men are working a safe distance from the gaping hole in the bridge for a while, and so Ike's on dry land for a bit, and has time to talk.
It turns out that yes, Ike's there for 'health and safety'; yes, he's getting used to people asking whether he's caught any fish yet, and yes........nine hours bobbing about in a tethered boat is "the most boring job" he's ever done.
"Basically, yes, I sit in the boat and wait for someone to fall in--but that's not going to happen," he grins.
But it turns out that if it did...this guy's the one you'd want coming to your rescue. After a life on the ocean wave; for Ike, the Teme's tame.
A former commercial diver turned mariner, Ike--Isaac Adam-- spent around 20 years working around North Sea oil rigs on dive support vessels. Conditions were often rough; and occasionally life threatening. In 1998, for instance, his diving partner was trapped for 10 hours, 140 metres below the sea's surface.
The team had been undertaking decommissioning work on old wellheads, using explosives.
"There was a fault in the lifting gear," recalls Ike."A section of the wellhead being lifted, fell off. It just missed me, but hit his section."
It meant vital gas wires were disconnected and that the men had to get back to the diving bell, and after working at that kind of depth, had to spend four days in the ship's decompression chamber. Both were fine.
Four years later, Ike retired from diving,but rather than put his feet up, bought a 12 metre yacht and spent the next seven years sailing round the world with his then wife and son. From the UK, they headed out to Madeira, the Canaries, Cap Verdi, the Caribbean, Venezuela, through the so called ABC (Lesser Antilles) Islands to Panama...and on to the Galapagos Islands.
Their journey took them on to French Polynesia, to Tonga, and to New Zealand, where they stayed for seven months. After that, there was a year in and around Australia, with seven weeks of that stay seeing Ike laid up in hospital.
" We were on a river, and there'd been a flood," he remembers," We'd just cleared customs and were on our way but I got trapped between two yachts and smashed my pelvis."
It wasn't the only drama. Sailing between New Zealand and Australia, their yacht had hit major weather, which disabled the yacht's steering mechanism. They were 300 miles from New Zealand and found themselves having to shut themselves inside the boat, sails down; one keeping watch while the two others tried to sleep.
"But you had to sleep on the floor, not the bunks, " says Ike. "My wife tried it. The sea was so rough, she got flown out of the bunk, over the table on to the floor". When the storm eased, Ike managed to dive in, lash the broken steering system to the boat and continue repairs from the inside, using their supply of spares.
The family's amazing seven year trip also took in East Timor, Sumatra, Mauritius, South Africa--round the Cape to Capetown..on to St Helena and Tobago (a four month rest for the hurricane season there...) up to the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Azores and...eventually...to Falmouth.
Ike's been back from that trip for ten years now. These days, he often drives yachts for wealthy private owners. And, from time to time, helps a friend out manning safety boats like the one on the
"I just think," says the diver, turned mariner, "I write a bit, so I think about that, too.."
I urge him to write his autobiography, pump him for a bit more information about Tonga, before my own round the world trip this autumn. And reflect on my way home how even people who appear to be doing very "boring" jobs.....are rarely ever boring, themselves......
PS: Why would I want to know about Tonga?! Thought it might make a change from Aberdovey this year. Follow me with fellow empty nester Nigel on www.thetimeofourlives.net as we finalise plans to whiz round the world.