Captain Bob Andrews joined the Sheaf Royal just before we sailed from Gothenburg. Captain Andrews, who was quite a serious man, had a policy of not allowing first trip cadets to drink alcohol, whereas his predecessor allowed us two pints of beer a day. Fellow first trip cadet George and I were not too happy about the thought of just drinking Coca-Cola for the next five months.

mv Sheaf Royal. Christmas 1973. Captain Andrews is on the far left.

Captain Andrews was the same age as my father. He had a son my age who went to sea as a cadet a couple of years later. The next time I sailed with him I was second mate. It didn’t stop him coming into my cabin to tell me to turn the volume down on my stereo. That’s the sort of thing my father would have done.

There are other things that stick in my mind about Captain Andrews apart from not allowing the cadets to drink and a fatherly attitude to loud music! Towards the end of my first trip, the Sheaf Royal spent nearly four weeks in Nakhodka in the Soviet Far East discharging grain. There was a lot of down time and Scrabble and Monopoly came out in the officers’ bar. Captain Andrews had Monopoly removed from the bar due to the emotions the game was provoking. That left Scrabble. I feared that Scrabble was going to be removed too. Captain Andrews did not seem to enjoy the game, perhaps because he had trouble producing words with more than three letters. It doesn’t do for the captain to get beaten at Scrabble.

Ten of us finally paid off the Sheaf Royal in Japan travelling home from Otaru via Sapporo, Tokyo, Anchorage and Amsterdam. While we were sitting in the departure lounge at Sapporo Airport, I started fiddling with the penknife I had purchased in Rotterdam. I say penknife but the knife in question happened to have a four-inch blade. When Captain Andrews spotted my knife there was a verbal explosion that might have been heard in Tokyo. Captain Andrews felt that the knife should have been stowed in my hold baggage.

The memory of Captain Andrews that left the greatest impression on me is of when our Chinese deck crew chose to withhold their labour in Rotterdam. They had decided that the bonus payments for sweeping the holds after our grain cargo had been discharged needed to be increased. Captain Andrews disagreed and mobilised the deck officers and cadets to get the job done. Furthermore, Captain Andrews put on a boilersuit and joined us in the holds with a broom. The crew very quickly decided that the bonus payments were sufficient. What an example of leadership!

Compare Captain Andrews putting on a boilersuit, grabbing a broom and descending from his palatial cabin into a dirty dusty ship’s hold with what Jesus did 2,000 plus years ago. Jesus put on human flesh and descended from the glory of Heaven to live and work in a dirty, dusty world for thirty-three years. He did return to Heaven but only after taking the most horrendous beating and dying a horrible and extremely painful death as a demonstration of His/God’s love for humanity. I respect Captain Andrews for what he did in Rotterdam. I learned a lot that day. I learned a lot more when I found out that what Jesus did, He did for me. And for you.

Because God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. (Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT)