My hand was shaking as I held the phone to my ear, pacing up and down in the salon.
“Da” My Russian boss answered.
“Um, Hello sir, this is Melissa, your yacht engineer calling from Sardinia.”
“Da” His impatience was clearly in his voice.
“I realise that you are arriving on board the yacht for your holiday tomorrow sir, but I am unable to get the faulty turbocharger replaced in time. MTU Sardinia are out of stock and will have to have one sent from Germany head office which could take a few days, and then it still needs to be fitted. It could mean a few extra days in port until we can have the yacht ready to leave.”
“Nyet! Zis not acceptable! Zou! Zou vil fly Germany and fetch zourself. Ve don’t vait for things. Ve get ourselves! Ze money no problem! I vil have boat working tomorrow! Zou have twenty four hours to bring new turbocharger or zou say goodbye to job.
Go!” [Dead telephone line]
Our yacht was still under warranty and we needed to replace a turbocharger on one of our M92 engines before we could think of going anywhere. It was August which meant most Italians took their yearly vacation around this time. We'd had back to back charters for weeks and the boss had decided to come onboard for a few days before the next charter.
The moments that followed were pure madness. I phoned MTU Sardinia to explain the situation, and they contacted MTU head office in Germany. It just so happened that Germany had a turbocharger sitting on their shelf. The captain organised a flight and I was on the next flight out of Sardinia to Spain, then onto Zurich. There was no time to consider changing into more suitable clothing. I grabbed the chef’s wheeled trolley bag from behind the galley door and threw in a hairbrush, my passport and a jumper for later.
There was a taxi already waiting outside. I grabbed the boat credit card, and still wearing my uniform and flip-flops, I ran down the dock, dragging my wheelie bag along. I was flying to Germany to collect a 37 kg turbocharger and my job depended on it!
My flight was in the afternoon and by the time I arrived in Zurich it was late in the evening. There was a rather large friendly lady waiting at the airport gate with a sign with my name on it. She introduced herself as Beatrice. Beatrice did not speak much English but she seemed to know where I was headed. All she could say was “Come! Come with me.”
I was taken to a black E-Class Mercedes Benz with tinted windows. It felt like I was in a movie. I had no idea where we were going or how long the drive would be. I just had to trust that Beatrice was a nice person and that she wasn’t going to drug me and sell me as a sex slave. It was cold, much colder than Sardinia. I put on my jumper and my eyes grew heavy as I watched the streetlights on the highway flash past. I curled up on the soft leather backseat and fell asleep.
Beatrice shook me awake. We had arrived at our destination. I was told we were in Romanshorn, Switzerland. She pointed to a Tavern Inn and explained as best she could that I would sleep at the Inn for the night. It was already after midnight and the streets were quiet and eerie like a ghost town.
I waved good bye to Beatrice and knocked on the Tavern Inn door. With slight hesitation I turned the handle and walked into a flood of warmth, light, smoke and very loud music. The place was packed with drunken people. Pints of beer were being raised and sloshed everywhere and the crowd was singing at the tops of their voices. Any other time, this would have been a great lively pub to find. But I was stone-cold sober and I desperately needed a bed. I finally found the singing inn keeper through all the mayhem and was taken to my room. I was told that a ferry was booked for me the following morning- I would be crossing the Rhine River to Friedrichshafen, Germany – Home of the MTU Head Quarters!
The scenery at sunrise as we crossed the river was breathtaking. There I was, crossing the famous Rhine River to collect a turbocharger and make it back to Sardinia in time to save my job.
I arrived in Friedrichshafen and the cobbled streets were alive with people. Street vendors were setting up their stands with the smell of freshly baked bread and coffee. People were rushing around trying to get to work on time. All I had with me was a little paper map to get me through the maze of the village. I managed to find a taxi and asked to be taken to the MTU factory. We drove out of the village and into open fields. We were driving through cornfields and I had no idea if the taxi driver had understood me and if we were going in the right direction.
I was anxiously sitting on the edge of my seat, looking for any sign of MTU but all I could see was rows and rows of cornfields. Finally I saw it - a huge stone factory building with the red, blue and white MTU sign. I had arrived at my destination.
I asked the taxi driver to wait for me and walked with my bag to the entrance and rang the buzzer. Any engineer would understand the excitement I felt as I was standing there. I was greeted by a friendly German man who said that they had been expecting me. He then looked outside and asked me where my truck was. I explained my journey and that I had come with no truck, and that I wanted to fit the turbocharger into my bag and head back the way I had come. He was gob-smacked! He took me into the reception and was laughing and speaking in German to all the other employees.
By now I was causing a huge stir in the reception room and others had heard the commotion and come in to see what was going on. I was feeling pretty embarrassed and I tried to explain what my boss had told me over the phone, hence why I was there. The man said to me “You realize that the turbocharger weighs 37kg? How are you going to just walk out of here with it and carry it with you all the way back to Sardinia?” I realized how crazy my situation was but I had made it all this way and there was no turning back.
We went into the factory and I felt like Charlie in the chocolate factory. It was enormous, pristine and spotless. It was filled with shiny new MTU engine parts on layer belts. It was perfect. It was heaven. One of the factory workers came over with a large box on a trolley – my turbocharger. News had spread by now of a crazy blonde woman coming to collect a piece of machinery. We unpacked the box and just managed to fit the turbo into my bag. A small crowd had gathered as I tested wheeling my bag. I shook hands with all the Germans and bid them farewell. I had made their day. And just like that, I strolled out of there with my piece of treasure.
The bag was heavy, and I knew what a long journey I had ahead of me. After my ferry ride to Romanshorn, I took another taxi to the train station. It was lunch rush hour and there were so many people trying to push past me. The problem came when I had to get my heavy but yet so delicate bag up a long flight of stairs. I was using all my strength to lift the bag one step at a time. A very kind gentleman came over to help me with my bag. He felt how heavy it was and asked what was in it. When I innocently told him it was a 37kg turbocharger, he looked at me as if I were mad.
At Zurich airport I checked the bag in as “Delicate” and paid the extra weight allowance costs. I had made it. Sitting on the plane looking out over the clouds, I recapped on the past twenty four hours and how crazy this had all been. I had been from Italy to Spain, then Switzerland onto Germany and back again in less than one day!
I arrived in Sardinia airport and waited for my bag. I waited and waited and nothing came. I went over to the baggage desk and asked for my bag. A lady explained in broken English that they had withheld the bag and I was not allowed to take it into Sardinia until it had been cleared by customs for tax purposes- and that it could take a few days. They would call me when it was ready for collection. I was devastated. I had made it all the way back to Sardinia in record time and now it seemed I would return to the boat empty-handed after all.
My boss arrived that evening and I had to explain the whole story to him from beginning to end. In theory, I had done what he had asked. I had managed to source out a turbocharger for his boat in Sardinia – it just had to be cleared first. He listened to what I had to tell him and strangely, he didn’t seem to mind. He was neither angry nor grateful.
I got to keep my job. MTU managed to clear the item. The turbocharger was fitted and the yacht was up and running and ready to go even though it was two days later than previously scheduled.
My boss seemed unaware of all the fuss and bother as he spent the rest of his holiday playing golf. As for the yacht, it never left the marina after all!