How’s this for a creepy Halloween:

I had just arrived in Studland Bay after a brisk sail from Weymouth. The sun had gone down and dusk closed in with the speed that always takes me by surprise at this time of year.

Never mind, the anchor was set fast and I was standing in the companionway with a cup of tea, admiring the colours as the last of the light drained out of the western sky.

And then, very quietly, a voice said: “Good evening.”

This is the sort of thing that happens to the single-hander three weeks into an ocean passage. In fact, many report long and detailed conversations with imaginary crew members. However, this spectre offered a very solid appearance. He was standing at the wheel of a RIB off my starboard quarter with the engine ticking over so slowly that only now did I notice it.

“You’re not thinking of leaving, are you? Only we’re about to have a parachute exercise…”

It was at this point that I noticed his beret – and the two other figures in camouflage battledress. The Royal Marines were paying a courtesy call.

I assured them I had no plans to go anywhere until the morning and they thanked me politely and drifted off into the gloaming.

And then, within five minutes, a Hercules transport plane appeared. In fact “appeared” is exactly what it did – maybe “materialised” would be the right word: It was going so slowly there appeared to be no more sound than the marine made with his RIB – and then, just as the light faded to a point where it was almost impossible to see anything at all, four black shapes dropped out and drifted silently down into the water.

Some unlit black shapes cut across the lights of Bournemouth seafront – more RIBs, I imagined, picking them up – and within five minutes the place was deserted.

I shut the hatch, fired up the stove and opened up Spotify for something lively.

The Old Man