Confession: The case of the wooden trawler and the haunted VHF

In this month’s Confession we hear how a delivery trip for a classic trawler was haunted by a possessed VHF

After two years at Sandwich Marina, I had now decided to move ‘Sheena Mackay’ to a better situation.

I’d heard from Port Medway Marina on the river Medway that they now had an available mooring for me and I could take up the option immediately.

As I had been working for some years on the conversion of my 1932 wooden Zulu Scottish trawler, the time was right for me to make the move as she was now ready for extended voyages.

I’d taken her out on several trips and around to the South Coast and as far as Poole, but the River Stour is a little confining due to the tides, hence the need for a more accessible river.

It was going to be a mid-week trip so my wife would miss out on the adventure as she was working,
but my mate Greg volunteered to crew for me.

We set off that afternoon but knew that we couldn’t do the whole journey on the same tide, so planned to pull into Ramsgate to wait.

Unfortunately the weather turned against us and we ended up in Ramsgate for four days. Still, that
is the unpredictable nature of boating as well we know.

Finally we were off again; the trip was expected to take around nine hours, so I had arranged that my wife, Wendy, would phone me around mid-afternoon just to keep in touch.

‘Sheena Mackay’ was handling beautifully, and Greg and I were really relaxed. The weather was extremely good, very calm and sunny, altogether a very pleasant experience.

This was Greg’s first full trip on the boat, and he was really enjoying himself. We were taking turns at the helm, one hour on, one hour off and as it was winter, there was not a lot of other boating activities in sight.

On entering the mouth of the River Medway and approaching the Thamesport container terminal, it was obviously getting a lot busier with large container ships, of which one was steadily approaching from behind.

I was keeping a steady eye on the situation but all of a sudden the radio starts ringing very loudly, and I jumped out of my skin. This was something it did at times as a warning that it was not connected to my GPS. I quickly pressed a key to silence it, which seemed to always do the trick.

I then returned to concentrate on the container ships around us when the blasted ringing starts again. It was becoming so loud, I decided to turn the radio off for a while.

Still this did not deter the blessed thing from ringing again and again. “What was going on?” I thought to myself, convinced there were ghosts aboard.

Then, a severely irritated Greg disconnected the 12-volt supply completely but a few minutes later, the sound returned. Refusing to believe it, I disconnected the aerial, and promised to return to the chandlery, as it obviously had some fault.

By now, the radio had its buttons pressed, been turned off, disconnected, aerial disconnected, shoved back into its box and finally, no ringing… peace at last.

As we we’re only about an hour away from our destination, it was time I rang Wendy to ask her
to pick us up from the Port Medway Marina.

I was going to suggest that we all have dinner in the Rochester Queen floating restaurant, which was moored at our new marina.

On reaching for my mobile phone, I looked at the screen… four missed calls. Ooops. Better reconnect the radio and aerial, again!

The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.

For your chance to win, spill the beans on your funniest boating moments in 650 words. Email your story to:


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