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Saturday, 22 December 2012
Corfu PDF Print E-mail
While this was going on, we continued working on preparing the ship for it's eventual voyage. The chartroom was built, CIC was floored and rigged out for command use, storage cages constructed for crew baggage, the fresh water tanks prepared and many other tasks undertaken.The ship was moored in a snug corner of the harbour.

We had a phone line stretched across the dock to the ship and one night a worker on a motor scooter ran into the line, taking him across the throat. We dashed out onto the dock and administered what little first aid we knew. Fortunately he came around and with a wad of cash pressed into his hand, he decided not to complain.

One night (on my watch), disaster struck. A large ship entering harbour too fast sent out a bow wave that smashed us against the side if the dock. Even the rubbing strake along the side could not prevent us hitting the dock. The result was a buckled hull plate and the salt water intake pipe to the cooling system sheared off in the engine room. Hubbard went crazy and as I was the officer in charge, I and my deck crew got assigned Liability.

We were given the task of constructing 3 large camels (fenders) and to lay out the aft anchor chain - without moving the ship! We worked for three days and nights and this is probably the best example of the crew's interaction and spirit.

We got truck tyres and with a heated rod we made holes in them, threaded them into a row, lay heavy chain through the middle, packed them with wood and secured them to the dock.In order to do this we had a fire going on the dock. Hubbard would look down from the upper deck to see we were working and the moment he went, out would come a jug of coffee to be put by the fire and a plate of meat cubes which we threaded on baling wire and cooked over the fire. One time Hubbard came by. He could clearly smell meat cooking. However, a couple of the crew appeared in front of him and began giving him all sorts of irrelevant information about something, leading him away from our fire. Everyone looked out for everyone else.

We hired an old landing craft and lowered the aft anchor onto the lowered ramp, then backing away and paying out anchor chain, we got some way out before the weight of the chain almost sank the craft. The restraining lines got chopped, the anchor splashed into the harbour and we were able to use both the fore and aft anchors to hold ourselves off the dock. Hubbard pronounced himself satisfied and upgraded us to Non Existence.

Our deckforce was a law into itself. I had a bosun, a very dour Yorkshireman, Mike Stainforth, who used to be cashier at St Hill. However, he had a very wicked sense of humour. We were forever "borrowing" tools from the engine room and Malcolm, Chief Engineer, sent David K. an effete voice coach from Boston to demand the return of a particular spanner. Mike, looked at him and told him that we had hidden it in a large can of red lead paint and if he wanted it back he had to put his hand (and arm) in and recover it. David hummed and hawed for a while and rolled upo his sleeve and put his arm in. It was not there. He was dripping red lead and we wrapped his arm in paper. We then told him it must be in the white lead can and amid much high-brow cursing, he put his other arm in to retrieve it. It was not there either, so with both arms covered in paint and wrapped in newspaper we "remembered" that the spanner was on the bench in front of him all the time. He was sent off, clutching his spanner and under dire warnings not to drip any paint on his way back to the engine room.

Our ship's agents at the port were the Patras brothers, both of them fully qualified ships captains. They were our link with the rest of the outside world. All our telex traffic was sent via their office and they received and dispatched our mail packets, although on frequent occasion these were sent by courier.

Hubbard relied on the agents to facilitate his attempts to break into the upper echelons of Corfu government and administration. Both the brothers were friendly, approachable and happy to assist.

Up until about 1963 Hubbard had no real problems with authorities, the media or his public. His affairs were "swept under the carpet" and he was well loved by his followers. However, his first real attempt to cosy up to the press; a revealing guard-down interview that was based on his work to show that other living forms, (tomatoes), had feelings was smashed by the ferocity of the article. "Are you a boo-hoo? " ran the headline. Hubbard was absolutely devastated. He had sought acknowledgement from the media and his peers. He desperately wanted to be taken seriously as a true research pioneer. His attitude to the media changed overnight. Gone was the open and welcoming approach. To him they were "Fair Game". They were not to be trusted.

His humiliation in Rhodesia followed, in 1966, where sought to set up a friendly country where "OT's could work together", Hubbard and Scientology began to run into scrutiny from the British government. The Victoria Enquiry did a huge amount of damage to Scientology's credibility and this reflected on the subsequent bans on individuals coming to the UK to enrol on Scientology services (and spend lots of cash doing so). Hubbard had taken to the sea where he could stay out of reach of authority and the media in general. In late 1967 Hubbard and a squad of Sea Project members made a furtive visit to the UK to collect the Royal Scotsman, a former Scottish cattle ferry, and quickly decamp from Southampton before the authorities knew he was back in the country. (He had been barred from re-entering).

It was thus that Hubbard chose Corfu as a possible destination for his next project and after some months meandering his way around the Med, including North African ports he finally made his way there.

The Advanced Org had been set up in Edinburgh and an offshoot subsequently set up in LA, following the ban on Scilons visiting the UK, Hubbard decided to set up an AO in Europe and Corfu was chosen. It was designated AO Greece, a highly secret project to be put in place under the noses of any potential opponents. Thus the importance of the Patras brothers in making the necessary introductions.

Hubbard was a brilliant net worker. He could enter a room and charm all there. The first stage was a PR offensive. We held Open Days so that locals could visit the ship and tour all over. The idea was to show we were just a bunch of friendly hardworking regular people who were absolutely no threat at all. The ship was all decked out and we had signal flags dressed out as bunting. I remember the local Greek Naval guys having a real laugh because they could read the message spelled out on the bunting. Hubbard and the rest of the crew just thought we had strung up flags to make the ship look pretty. (The message read " I want to f**k you). No, we never told a soul, especially Hubbard. The Patras brothers were smiling and quietly asked me if I had arranged the message. My look of complete innocence convinced them I knew nothing about it.

The public days were very successful, lots came and we developed a good rapport with the locals. All the officers on duty had to be in u8niform and on one occasion, Richard Gorman was standing on an upper deck away from visitors, looking over the side. I waved for him to come down but he refused. He looked very smart, complete with braid and cap. So I went up to find out why he would not come down. He was wearing his shirt, tie, jacket and....pyjama bottoms! He could not find his uniform trouser but was determined to do his bit to help, that was the crew spirit we had.

There were VIP cocktail parties for local dignitaries. We had champagne and caviar by the bucket load. Senior officers (at least, those who would not scoff all the caviar in the first 5 minutes) were in attendance and we had to circulate and mingle with the guests. Hubbard was at his best form and really got across to these people. They really welcomed him. At least, that is what he thought they were doing.

The trouble was that we were under constant but discreet scrutiny from the Greek Navy, the British Consulate and British Intelligence. There was nothing overt, but as doors seemed to open, they quietly closed again. Hubbard was becoming more and more frustrated with these perceived blocks to his plans. The building we had rented for the AO was suddenly subject to certain planning application problems, meetings with key parties became deferred and the general feeling Hubbard had was that this was Rhodesia and the UK all over again.

One evening Frankie F. and myself went off on a liberty trip to the casino where we won some money. Frankie, being an ex-Vegas croupier knew all the various moves. We went to dine and about 30 minutes later, Hubbard appeared with guests, also to dine. He threw us a quizzical look but said nothing. The next day in the local paper it was reported that Hubbard had dined out with the Mayor and other dignitaries and that he had his bodyguards sitting nearby. He was quite tickled by that.

Of course, the Overboard ceremonies had quite a negative impact on our PR program. Questions began to be asked about this strange routine of throwing people, sometimes blindfolded or tied up, into the dirty harbour.

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