IT WAS supposed to be surprise for Mick Rowsell to mark the end of his 41-year career with the navy and coastguard.
But a training exercise which was meant to see him winch his son Ivan Rowsell into the coastguard helicopter, turned into a real-life drama.
As the winchman was lowered to the Gafirs Rib where Ivan was waiting, the call came in for an emergency in Dorset and the crew of Coastguard 104 were suddenly whisked away.
The rest of the Rowsell family were left on the beach at Lee-on-the-Solent scratching their heads, wondering what was going on, until the Rib came ashore and Ivan could explain.
Mick, 67, said: ‘Fortunately that last call wasn’t anything serious and we only got as far as Calshot before we were sent back.’
And he joked: ‘It meant I got to finish my last day of work on time, which was good.’
When they finally got back to the coastguard base at Daedalus in Lee-on-the-Solent, Mick was greeted by his family, including his wife Christine Rowsell, Ivan, daughter-in-law Emma, and their children, Evie, Alice, Seth and Tess.
Several of his off-duty colleagues turned up to crack open the Champagne and wish him well, too.
Mick, from Gosport, was a member of the navy’s Search and Rescue team before he joined the coastguard.
He said: ‘I’m going to take to my retirement now like a duck to water.
‘I was going to retire a couple of months back on my birthday, but I was asked to stay on until now while they trained someone up.
‘For the past six years I’ve been the winch operator, and before that I was the winchman as well. It was a dual role.
‘I have enjoyed absolutely every minute of it and I have had a career which is quite enviable. What more could I ask for?’
Ivan, 44, from Stubbington, added: ‘It was Simon O’Mahony who came up with the idea, he was the one that was on the winch.
‘Dad must have suspected something was going on – he doesn’t normally get all the family down here on the beach watching them do a routine exercise.
‘I think he’s going to miss it – he’s been doing this pretty much all my life and he loves it.’