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Sam, bless him, had only expected five or ten people to turn up and really hadn’t prepared himself to explain why he was doing what he was doing in front of so many people. He moved the audience with his story and had to field some difficult questions. Some were uncertain of the whole point of Sam’s quest, which, in simple terms, was to bring about awareness of the Chagossian’s plight and eventually help get some Chagossian’s back to their islands.
Under the 30-year rule documents from the FCO show us all the facts, and oh dear me, how those documents reveal Britain’s jaded and cynical viewpoint of the world. Those 1960s Sir Humphreys** describe the islanders as “mere Tarzans and Men Fridays” with “little aptitude for anything except growing coconuts”. They wrote that “there will be no indigenous population except seagulls”. The deportations would be “ordered and timed to attract the least attention”. They connived with the Americans to label the islanders as “migrant contract labourers” with no right of abode – even though their families had lived there for generations.
I lowered myself down the companion-way and eased myself into what could only be described as a log cabin. Every bit of the boat was covered in reclaimed wood and other materials. The shelves came from his home in Devon and the stove had been chucked out as trash. The centre-piece, however, was the compression post (the post that follows the mast down into the boat). It was a piece of English oak that was to be used for a wooden boat reconstruction project that had fallen on hard times.
By the end of the weekend the grand total raised was $1500, which went to the Turkish national charity, Ozel Olimyatlar, which helps young people with learning disabilities to take part in organised Olympic sports (see the yellow box for more information on the charity). Proof that whilst we swan around in our expensive yachts, living an enviable and carefree lifestyle, some of us can still show a bit of humility and compassion.
So a chance meeting with one man and his boat changed everything. It changed our future plans as sailors. It created a crossroads at which we would normally have gone one way, but have chosen to go the other. You know what I mean: one of those rare occasions which you look back on as being a significant moment in your life.