All At Sea In The Thames Estuary

Usually, corporate days out are organised to take place in civilised surroundings – a gentle game of golf, perhaps, ending up in the Club House for a few beers at the end of the day. Or, a cricket match, with a similar venue for the aftermath. Chris Harvey, however, decided that he had had enough of civilised behaviour and organised a day at sea, for his colleagues at Lloyds, (they're all non-marine insurance brokers, take note) aboard Colin Bond's boat – the Skerry Belle – out of Leigh-on-Sea, here in Essex.

Fortunately, it seems that the party of 'Help, I've never been on the high seas before, let alone fished' young men were all as uncivilised as Chris. They took plenty of provisions – 72 cans of strong Belgian lager, 6 bottles of wine, a bottle of port and a few sandwiches to sustain them during their foray into the eye of a storm. They started on the beer at 7.45 a.m., after Colin had insisted that they don a variety of waterproof clothing and offered sausage sarnies to soften the blow of an onslaught of alcohol so early in the day.

At anchor, it was wind against tide, according to their Skipper, which is, apparently, a nautical term for 'Crikey! This sea's rough today.' With ever increasing waves, the intrepid non-mariners were then introduced to the mysteries of rag-worm, lug and squid, instructed on presentation of the bait and urged to cast out.

Al BrownWithin minutes of the first drop Al Brown was into a fish. After a brief struggle a six pound smoothhound was on the deck, accompanied by cries of 'Golly! Gosh! Can we catch a fish like that, too?' from the rest of the party of novices, highly impressed with Al's success. With added incentive, the boys fished on with squid and lug proving to be the most popular baits. ('That rag thing's got teeth. I'm not touching THAT!') Fish seemed to be coming in from every direction.

It was during a lunch-break (three hours!) when disaster struck – the wine ran out. It was at this point that you find out just how good your skipper is. Colin Bond came up trumps. Down in the hold of his boat there is a sturdy engine…..and, obviously, a wine rack. The man in charge managed to supply his anglers with a touch of best mulled and, thus suitably fortified against the elements, they fished some more.

With a run of bass and roker (thornback) for everyone on the first part of the flood and the beer/bait dwindling they decided to call it a day, head for the wharf – and the nearest pub. Colin Bond called ahead to 'The Peterboat' in order to ensure that the beer was cold and the anticipated food hot, and there was just time for a photo-call.

With the dinner bell ringing ashore they headed towards it, happy – or should I say extremely merry – tired and proud of themselves for undertaking and enjoying an unfamiliar sport. Any future suggestions of a 'Golfing Day' will, I'm sure, be greeted with howls of derision.

The Obligatory Group Shot!