Two of the shoreside team at the Swedish repair yard where the Sheaf Royal was berthed were expat Brits who had married Swedish nurses. Together with a couple of our engineers they arranged a party on board for the evening of Friday 2 November 1973. There was great excitement when twenty people, sixteen of them female, arrived in the officers’ bar that evening. The four males were married to four of the females, but the other twelve ladies were all single. You can imagine the effect that this had on the ship’s officers.

I got chatting to a twenty-five-year-old psychiatric nurse by the name of Ingar. The nine-year age gap didn’t seem to bother her, but I probably forgot to disclose just how young I was. Sadly, our conversation was interrupted by the chief officer who told me in no uncertain terms that he needed words with me and George, the other cadet, outside. This sounded ominous. Outside in the alleyway we were quizzed as to which one of us had spilt his pint of beer over the old man (the captain). I knew it wasn’t me because I hadn’t been anywhere near the old man. But George had been sitting next to him unable to escape. The old man was a little worse for wear and wanted George to talk to him instead of one the Swedish ladies. Somehow, perhaps deliberately, perhaps accidentally, first trip cadet George had spilt a pint of beer over the captain. It had the desired effect and left George free of the captain. The captain found the chief officer to complain but couldn’t remember which cadet had showered him in ale.

The Officer’s Bar (taken at Christmas). George is on the far right. The second engineer, who is seated next to George, lost his life in the Falklands War in 1982. He was posthumously awarded the George Medal for bravery.

George of course denied spilling beer on the captain. As did I. The consequence of our denials was that we were both told to go to our beds. That was the end of our evening. The next day we were given the task of cleaning the bar, just to rub salt in the wound I believe. I wrote the sorry saga up in my journal hoping that the chief officer would read it and that I would be exonerated. He didn’t and I wasn’t but on my next ship I had the pleasure of sailing with the same captain again. He asked to read my journal and was overjoyed to finally confirm the identity of the miscreant who had doused him with beer on the Sheaf Royal. He thanked me and advised that he was very much looking forward to the possibility of sailing with George again!

I don’t know if they did sail together again, but at least the truth was out! That’s the problem when we do wrong. Inevitably we get caught (ask my kids).  Our sins catch up with us eventually, as we know from the way that the media latches onto past lapses of famous people, especially politicians. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the way that the world deals with our shortfalls. It seems to me as if forgiveness is rarely a consideration. Did I forgive George? Of course I did. We had started out on our maritime journey together on our two-week induction course and were now serving on our first ship. As cadets we needed to stick together. And we did.

George in working kit. Note the very tiny swimming pool behind George. George eventually became Captain George. Sadly, he passed away three years ago.

Which brings me to the one day of reckoning we are all required to face. Is God going to read through the journal he has kept of my life and then throw the book at me? He could and He should. The fact is that He doesn’t want to. How do I know that with absolute confidence? Because just as I had to accept being removed from a party and sent to my cabin for something I hadn’t done, so God sent Jesus to Earth to accept the punishment for something He hadn’t done. Jesus took the blame for everything everyone has done since that day in Eden when Adam and Eve went fruit picking. From the wrong tree. Because of Jesus I am forgiven. For everything.

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT)