The captain of a freighter swims to save an unusual “passenger”


The freighter Gry Maritha got some excitement when a ‘passenger’ fell overboard and the captain dived to save the animal (Nilfanion/Wikimedia UK)

Posted on June 21, 2022 8:37 PM by

The Maritime Executive

It’s not very often you hear the story of a captain who dives overboard to save one of his wayward ‘passengers’ from the sea, but the BBC is reporting such a story today. Additionally, the passengers were the four-legged type, but the owner and captain feared the creature couldn’t swim, leaving little choice but to stage the unusual rescue.

Tom Sexton took command of the small freighter on Gry Maritha in April after the ship’s senior captain retired in the spring after 22 years with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company. Just a small 123ft knockabout built in 1981, the 590 tonne vessel provides vital year-round cargo service between Penzance in Cornwall in the UK and 36 miles to St. Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly. She is equipped to carry palletized cargo and bulk fuel and has a deck crane which allows the vessel to carry bulky cargo up to a maximum weight of six tonnes, including vehicles and machinery.

Last week, on one of her regular runs, she picked up two unusual passengers, meerkats who were being carried by their owner en route to a zoo in Axminster, Devon, England. Named Doris and Boris, the animals which weigh less than two pounds have been caged for the journey from the Isles of Scilly. Some how when they arrived at Penzance the animals broke free and ran onto the deck of the small freighter.

The crew managed to catch Doris, but much to their owner’s dismay, Boris decided to take a break and went over the side of the ship 10ft into the harbour. Owner Stephen Griffin told the BBC he didn’t think the meerkat could swim, but Captain Sexton said he saw the animal swim but realized he had no way back to board the ship.

Sexton quickly changed into swimming shorts and put on a pair of gloves to prevent the animal from biting and he dove after his wayward passenger. At the same time, the crew tied a cage to a rope and lowered it to the side. Telling his story to the BBC, Sexton said it was “easier” than he thought, saying the animal was “pretty happy” to be caught and back on dry ground.

The captain laughs as he returns to his job ferrying vital supplies to the islands, but you have to assume he was having fun in the pub recounting the day the meerkats cruised his boat.

Top photo by Nilfanion/Wikimedia UK — (CC BY-SA 4.0)


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