Adventures at Sea
Carole Hossell, the President of Exeter Choral Society, is a lively person, a pillar of her local village community, she runs a Cattery and is a flower arranger at Exeter Cathedral. But, before settling down to this busy life near Exeter, she had a very different and adventurous life, spending 16 years on the ocean wave with her “intrepid Captain” husband. As we were singing Ralph Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony in 2017 and supporting the RNLI, the choir's Publicity Officer decided to find out more about her adventures.
Carole and Hugh met at Exeter’s then only night club, the “Grenville Club”, when he was a Chief Officer in the merchant navy. When Carole brought home her new husband 50 years ago, her father was not best pleased. In today’s language she was “grounded” until she could show that their marriage at sea, conducted by the Ship’s Captain off the coast of Naples, was valid! It was all perfectly ‘above board’ of course, but for good measure they were married again at the local Registry Office.
Carole then set sail and joined Hugh on board tankers and similar Hong Kong-based vessels. During the long voyages she kept a low profile on board, so as not to interfere with the running of the ship, occupying her time with reading, needlework and writing letters home.
Three years later Hugh joined Southern Line as a Captain and they were based in Mombasa for six years. There followed a lively six-year period, with shorter trips at sea to places such as the Seychelles on board a cement carrier, interspersed with much partying on return to base! When sailing along the coast of Somalia, the crew would place fishing lines astern and then sell the tuna they’d caught to the Captain; Carole says she ate rather too much tuna for her liking in those days! In the early days Carole would enjoy shopping in Aden; she remembers carrying a bag of LPs back to the ship, only for them to warp in the heat before she returned to ship. Unfortunately, Aden later became dangerous for Europeans, who could have hand grenades thrown at them if they went ashore, so the shopping ceased.
Their next adventures took Hugh and Carole on long trips from the east coast of the USA, through the Panama Canal and over to China. It could be very rough crossing the Pacific in winter. Carole was fine in rough seas, coping with the slow roll of a large ship, but she does recall some less pleasant trips on smaller boats in heaving seas!
At one time they were stuck in Tocopilla, Chile, for six weeks where there were endless fiestas. Each evening Carole would clamber down the ship’s ladder in full evening dress, clutching her skirt and handbag, unable to see the launch below; when Hugh said the word, she would jump into the launch that was heaving about in the swell. On reaching land the process would be reversed, jumping onto slippery steps covered in seaweed, grabbing hold of dangling ropes for support! Carole survived such adventures but an American lady did once mistime her jump and went into the sea, fortunately bobbing back up unscathed, still clutching her handbag!
Hugh remembers the constant responsibility of captaining such large ships and valued Carole’s company and support at sea. Although never needing the help of rescue services himself, Hugh did sometimes provide a rescue service. He remembers a tricky rescue of a vessel that had to be towed back along the Somali coast to Mombasa after an explosion from a build-up of static in the ship.
On returning to Exeter, Carole set about achieving a long-held ambition of fostering cats and then running a commercial cattery, with Hugh’s help. Some 16 years ago Carole was persuaded to join the Whipton Choral Society for a performance of the Messiah. Soon she was helping as Librarian and then as Chair as well, and oversaw the society become a charity in its current form in 2005. Upon retiring as Chair, the Society acknowledged Carole’s service to the Choir by inviting her to become our President, thus she continues to provide advice and support (and occasionally cats) to the Trustees and Musical Director.