A MASTER mariner has widened his horizons by winning a competition for budding comedy sketch writers.

Captain Michael Nicholson’s sketch about a wine vintner from Alnwick impressed the judges at the final of the Sketch for Sammy competition for new comedy writers.

Now, his winning sketch will be shown to 10,000 people in The Sunday for Sammy shows on February 18 at Newcastle Metro Radio Arena.

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Mr Nicholson and the other shortlisted writers all benefited from mentoring sessions with comedy writer Ed Waugh, who helped them polish the scripts. They then saw their sketches performed by a professional cast from the Laffalang Gang in front of an enthusiastic and supportive audience at The Stand in Newcastle.

A panel of celebrity judges composed of comedian Jason Cook,musicians Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell together with award winning director Geoff Wonfor were unanimous in choosing The Alnwick Vintner as the winner of the 2017 Phil Richardson Comedy Award.

The former Port of Tyne Harbour Master, of Chester-le-Street, had done the occasional after dinner speech in the past but this was his first attempt at writing a sketch. He said

“My experiences at sea have widened my horizons and I can usually see the funny side of things in most situations.

"Writing comedy however was all new to me and I was grateful for the help I was given by Ed Waugh and the superb interpretation given by the Laffalang Gang.”

Fed up of school, Mr Nicholson ran away to sea at 17, joining the Merchant Navy as an apprentice navigator.

He rose through the ranks and was given his first command of the Kingsnorth Fisher in 1990 at the age of 29.

Coming ashore after 15 years at sea he became a pilot on the river Humber and latterly Harbour Master at the Port of Tyne.

Two years ago Mike started up his own company Shipmove, as a freelance marine consultant. In this role, he pilots ships at Blyth and Seaham, moves barges on the Tyne, drives the River Escapes Party Boats, and performs safety and quality audits.