The Chancer

Posted on May 26, 2018


“Seamus?!” I yelled as I approached the figure sat crouched on the corner of the street.

The man looked up, his blue eyes and weathered face a little obscured by his baseball cap. He squinted at me from across the road.

As I got nearer, I realised I had made a mistake. The man I was yelling at was not the man I had sat next to on the plane over. He looked remarkably similar, a skinnier doppelgänger perhaps. Typical me making an arse of myself!

He craned his neck back to look up at me, “I thought you were saying “shameless”,” he said. “It was the name of a boat I worked on a few years back,” he replied.

“Ahhh, well no. I was saying “Seamus”, as I thought you were the guy I sat next to on my flight over,” I said now somewhat embarrassed.

“Take a seat, anyway,” he gestured to the curb.

I plonked myself down happy to rest my feet.

We chatted, not about anything particular. Why I was here, what I was doing next. I asked what was a must-see in Antigua and particularly here in English Harbour. Turns out he claimed to be a captain. His knowledge of the sailing industry seemed genuine but there was something about him that didn’t feel right, my gut was telling me something was “off”.

I’ve travelled enough to always trust my instinct and be cautious of people and the yarns they spin me. Often, to my advantage, people think I’m fairly young and look naive so I play up to that and I nod acceptingly filtering out their bull**** in my head.

Firstly he told me his name which sounded made up. Let’s call him Mr H. While he talked I watched his face and body language. I’m looking at this man thinking he doesn’t have the confidence or assurance a captain should. He’s also painfully thin. The type of skinny that usually comes with alcoholics or heavy drug use. I’ve seen and interviewed a lot of those over the years. I asked him about the sailing industry to be fair he gave me advice about what certs I would need to get work on a boat; which seemed legitimate from the research I’ve already carried out. But then came the bombshell…

There was an small pause, and he nervously spluttered out the next few lines,”So we seem to have a connection here, wouldn’t you agree?” He continued earnestly. I looked at him blankly and said nothing. “I’m supposed to be delivering a super yacht owned by a Russia billionaire back to Europe. It arrives tonight. I’ve been in Spain and the thing is, my credit card doesn’t work here. I think the magnetic strip is worn down. The boat as I said comes in tomorrow night and……errrrm, I don’t wanna impose, …….but I was wondering….”

“Why don’t you go to the bank with your credit card and passport and withdraw cash over the counter?” I said matter of fact.

“The time difference means I have to be up really early to call the bank and over here the western union branch has a glitch,” he whined.

“You’re a captain, surely that carries kudos over here? Don’t you know people here? You must be able to get an IOU for what you need that you can guarantee back tomorrow when the yacht comes in?” I pressed.

He winced and continued…. “I also need phone credit, do you think you can you possibly….” I stopped listening. It was just a blur of noise. In my head i kept thinking what kind of captain are you that you have got yourself into this position? The role of captain comes with responsibility and organisational skills which you clearly don’t possess. If your boss is a billionaire how on earth did a numpty like you get a job on this vessel? Why didn’t you take a wad of cash out before you left Spain if you know how slow the banks are? I did. Plan!! Why can’t you get a message to your boss through the yacht club and ask for an advance? So many thoughts raced through my head.

This geezer doesn’t know me. I am on a budget. I’ve only got enough cash for me to last until I fly to BVI. I don’t know him. I don’t trust him. And now I was irritated by him. He was trying to make me feel awkward to the point where I would open my wallet.

Maybe his story was genuine. But it didn’t feel right. He wasn’t dressed like a man who was about to sail a super yacht back across the ocean.

“Sorry, I’m a Londoner. I don’t even give money to the homeless. If you’re hungry I have a pear in my bag and you’re welcome to it,” I said rummaging and pulling out the fruit. I had been saving that to enjoy it after my walk. If he was genuine he’d appreciate the gesture and if he wasn’t, well then stuff him. He took the pear and we parted ways.

I didn’t leave feeling bad, I was still convinced this was a sob story to try to get me to cough up cash. A day later I’m still convinced he was a chancer. Antigua is not the glossy pristine tourist area most people think it is. There is an underbelly of grime and a community of ex pats who are alcoholics and cocaine users. Not too dissimilar to Fiji.

The more I travel the more I stop looking at the holiday facade many people suck up. I don’t need a month to realise it’s there, I can now smell it in a few days and by keeping my eyes and ears open. Island life is mirrored across the world no matter where you go.