14/04/10: Sea Patrol Season 4 Premiere in Australia.
Lieutenant Commander Mike Flynn, the Commanding Officer of HMAS Hammersley, is 38, having joined the Navy at the age of 17 and worked his way up through the ranks, making him what’s called in the Navy a “changeover man”. Sitting in his CO’s swivel chair on the bridge, he exudes a vigorous physicality combined with an air of quiet confidence, leavened by a laconic sense of humour. He is a man who by turns can be a laidback larrikin or dangerous when crossed.
He has a drive to win at all costs and this can lead him into conflict with his colleagues and superiors when in pursuit of boats illegally intruding on Australian waters. In Mike’s mind he knows just how close to the line he can go and he’s probably right, but spectators can have their hearts in their mouths. On one occasion, in what is termed a Graunch boarding, he brought his patrol boat directly alongside a large and recalcitrant fishing boat so that the boarding party could leap aboard, pirate-style. The danger and damage involved saw the practice banned and as a result Mike developed an undeserved (at least in his own mind) reputation as a wild man.
This doesn’t quite fit with the sight of Mike alone in his cabin, thumbing through a battered copy of Homer’s Odyssey, a book given to him by a sailor mentor when Mike himself was still an ordinary seaman, a book he has carried with him ever since. This mentor, now a commodore, encouraged Mike to aim high and when he spots talent among his own crew he passes that favour on.
If you get the impression that Mike could run the ship by himself, that would be pretty close to the truth, for he knows this ship, has known it since he was posted to her as a young sailor. He could show you the rack (bunk) he once occupied in the junior sailors’ mess, he’s cleaned her bilges, painted her decks, learned his trade in rough seas and calm, trained in boarding parties, learned to love the close confines and easygoing efficiency of the small ships.
Promotion and other ships followed and he never dreamed he’d set foot on Hammersley again, but he’s back as the CO and she’s older, soon to be decommissioned after 25 years’ honourable service on Australia’s northern borders. The situation both excites and moves him. He wants to make this, Hammersley’s last tour of duty, her finest.
There is a private side to Mike Flynn. Five years ago, as an instructor on a short course, he met and had a brief, passionate affair with one of his students, a young lieutenant named Kate McGregor. They both knew they’d crossed a professional line. She was ambitious, he was astounded that he could have let it happen and they parted.
But that is not foremost in his thoughts while he is at sea, for there, nothing else intrudes or matters. The sea is his wife and heaven help the woman who tries to compete with her.