*Names are changed in our stories to protect our contributors.
Trigger Warning – This story contains descriptions of sexual harassment and suicidal thoughts which some readers may find distressing.
If you are experiencing suicidal feelings you can contact the Samaritans (UK). You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch. Worldwide, please visit https://www.befrienders.org/ to find a helpline local to you.
Its always difficult to think how to start recounting memories on paper that over the passage of time, I have tried to forget. Time has blurred the edges, and some details I can’t quite remember no matter how hard I try.I was a brand new, out the box, deck cadet. Fresh from my first 3 months pre-sea time at college and ready to live the dream. I was assigned day work with the Bosun – he was called Nelson but of course, to me he was just the Bosun, or Bos.
And so we sailed from Antwerp.It didn’t take long for that dream to start fading.
He went to the Paint Locker up forward with me one day to prepare my paint after either lunch or a smoko. The other deck crew were somewhere else. I can picture the scene – one of many scenes etched in my head as if it was a still photograph taken at that moment. He put my paint can down on the deck, then grabbed for me to try and kiss me.
I say kiss but it was more slobber than kiss. His hands went to fondle my breasts – well, more grab really. After that, it became a common occurrence in isolated parts of the ship. The smells of airbag dunnage, Fore and Aft cleaning fluid and thinners still causes me to be instantly transported back to those days.
I became quickly adept at gritting my teeth, literally, as his tongue tried to slobber around my mouth. He was undeterred and I dreaded being assigned to work with him – which was frequent considering he assigned my day-to-day work. I would face him in the duty mess, or at the Christmas table, and feel sick yet have to smile and carry on. I never knew how far he would try and take it, or when we would next try and grab me.
Over 3 months this game of cat and mouse continued, until I signed off as planned. Except it was a game I could never win – he was the Bosun and I was his charge, the cadet. All I could do was grit my teeth and try to pretend it wasn’t happening. There were times on that ship where the dream I had held on to for so long felt so far away, I stood on the poop deck watching the propeller wash and wanted to jump. I signed on my next ship, a month later, and who was standing at the top of the gangway?
That same bosun.