An excerpt from my forthcoming autobiography…
HOW I BROKE INTO COL GADDAFI'S YACHT
While I was living in Hilversum in 1980 it happened that the Eurovision Song Contest was being held in Holland that year, - and I thought it would be fun to drive down to the Hague to be there. At the same time, I could take advantage of the fact that a potential skipper for the Braemar trip was in Holland, (his name was Ian, I can’t remember his surname) and the ship of which he was then Captain was docked at the Van Lendt shipyard on a stretch of canal, en route to the Hague from Hilversum. It was owned by the infamous Libyan dictator Colonel Muammer Gaddafi, and had fairly recently been used for a summit meeting of dangerous African leaders including Idi Amin.
When I arrived for my appointment, the entire yard was seemingly deserted. I presumed there would at least be someone aboard the vessel so I did what one does when approaching , and shouted the name of the yacht up the gangplank. No response. I stepped up the gangplank, and from the top of it, again called the name. There was a noise of a generator coming from the open door to the engine room. Taking off my shoes, I followed the noise, expecting to find an engineer or someone. Nobody. I ventured along the side deck and called again. Nothing. I entered another door and went down below, to find that I was in a magnificent stateroom with light beige suede wallpaper, luxurious fittings and what looked like an automatic weapon ,mounted on the bulkhead. I realised to my horror that I was in Gaddafi’s personal quarters! I legged it back up to the main deck pretty sharpish. Calling again , I seemed to find my way into the rear saloon, upper deck, where the French windows were open. I entered, closing the doors behind me. I couldn’t believe the yacht would be left like that, and I guess I must have been looking for a deckhand, or the skipper himself. Suddenly realising that I had, in a way broken into Gadaffi’s yacht, - and if discovered by anyone other than the skipper (who would know he was meeting me) it might be an unfortunate encounter, I decided to get out of there as soon as I could. Except when I tried to open the the French windows behind me they wouldn’t open! I tried for about five minutes. The plot was beginning to thicken! The headline “Womble Singer Wasted By Gaddafi Bodyguards After being Caught Breaking Into Yacht” flitted across my mind. Eventually I went further forward into the yacht and by a stroke of luck found a door that led to a service companionway ladder that enabled me to reach the main deck. I climbed down it and breathed a sigh of relief. At that moment, the captain arrived in a small vehicle and greeted me from onshore. “I see you found it then” He shouted.
We went to a restaurant for our interview and had something to eat. He was a really nice guy, and obviously a first class skipper, but he told me he’d had enough of being with Gaddafi, - it was all too tense. It didn’t work out between us when it came to the job, - I can’t remember why. I think I may even have offered it to him a few days later and perhaps he turned it down. I think dates and availability came into it. But the thing I CAN remember is that sudden panic when I realised I was trapped as an intruder inside Gaddafi’s yacht, and scrambling down a narrow ladder to make my escape!