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Star of the sea

20 September 2013

NIGEL RENNIE always found army padres to be good people to speak to in the days when he was in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and spent some of his time skippering army yachts. He had also experienced three events that had made him think seriously about the preciousness of life: when he had had to steer a yacht into Crete in a Force-10 gale; a Force-12 storm in the Pacific, when the boat rolled over and was lost, and "we were in the water for two hours and the people sent to rescue us lost their lives;" and when his baby son was critically ill.

Settled in Portsmouth, he started going to church, and was persuaded to take part in an Alpha course by the Revd Andrew Norris, who had been supportive during his son's illness. It led to confirmation, and regular attendance at St Mary's, Warsash, where his children loved the Messy Church, and the family became part of the church community.

Soon, Mr Rennie was helping his Vicar to learn to sail, and they sailed together back from Cork. Mr Norris skippered the yacht for the first time, from Falmouth back home. In 2012, Mr Rennie helped his friend to prepare to sail around Britain, and mentored him for his sea survival and diesel-engine courses.

Mr Norris is now Vicar of Alverstoke, but "Nigel was determined to get me through the [yachtmaster offshore] exam before I left the parish," he says. "It was his parting gift to me, because, if I had done it commercially, it would have been quite expensive." Mr Rennie said that he was only too pleased to have done it. "You can't always help the person who helps you, but I was more than happy to help Andy through his exam, as he had been such a support to me and my family."

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