Novel – ‘Tuff Ship’

In this darkly absurd seafaring satire set during the 1970s, the ageing Navy destroyer HMAS Mulga becomes a floating circus of incompetence and chaos. At the helm is the egotistical Captain Doherty, whose unchecked ambition and political connections wreak havoc on his long-suffering crew….

Warning: Some colourful language.

The individual characters are in video also. See the Videos here.

Captain Malcolm Doherty: Commanding Officer, HMAS Mulga: Ambitious, ruthless, and often misguided, Captain Doherty is a man obsessed with advancing his own career, no matter the cost to the Navy or the crew. But his connections ensure his ambitions prevail.
Chief Coxswain “Piggy” Pigget: Strict, vindictive, and paranoid, Pigget is determined to maintain discipline on HMAS Mulga. As he clashes with the crew and becomes increasingly unhinged, his erratic behaviour pushes everyone to their limits.
Mario Naldani: Captain’s Steward. Kind, empathetic, and resilient, Mario finds himself caught in the chaos. Despite the madness, he forges meaningful friendships and stay true to himself, unknowingly becoming the catalyst for change and destruction.
Petty Officer “Slug”: Abrasive, unpopular, and struggling to assert his authority, Slug is a petty officer who finds himself at odds with the crew and facing an uphill battle to maintain control.
“Dinger” Bell: Talented wardroom cook – he is very good with a knife. Dinger is also paid by a crime family to watch over their son on Mulga. And presents a challenge to the bullies.
Navigating Officer – Will Paing: Competent, level-headed, and committed to his duty. He’s a skilled navigator who must constantly adapt to Captain Doherty’s questionable decisions.
Lieutenant “Schools”: Training Officer: Eager to please and initially blind to the consequences of his actions, Schools is an officer out of his depth and his comfort zone. Obeys Captain Doherty without question.
As the Oceanographic Survey SHip, HMAS Kendra, passed the Mulga in Bass Strait, they saluted each other. But a stoker on Kendra did his own form of salute which upset Captain Doherty considerably.
Able Seaman Two-pack: Chief’s Messman: Mischievous, irreverent, and always ready with a quip. He finds joy in the camaraderie of his crewmates and the satisfaction of putting arrogant crew in their place.
Lennie Butterfield: Second Officer, Lawyer WRANS Reservist: Smart, tough, and principled, Lennie is a force to be reckoned with as she creates a storm for Captain Doherty and the Fleet Commander.
Junior Recruit: A distraught JR suffered the verbal abuse of his leading seaman when berthing the Mulga at Fremantle. Too many ropes too many orders, far too much for a fifteen year old.
Chief Stoker Alwyn Ring: Pragmatic, reliable, and loyal to his friends, the Chief Stoker is the steady hand that keeps Mulga running, despite the Captain’s erratic behavior and the various crises that befall the ship.


Author Jack Fringe gleefully skewers the pomp and politics of the Australian Navy in “TUFF SHIP.” When a stowaway cat named Sneaky appears on board, it triggers a domino effect of misfortunes—from scandalous affairs to suspicious deaths. As the four-month voyage descends into mayhem, the crew prays for its end.

For readers, “TUFF SHIP” offers a rollicking adventure brimming with colorful characters and laugh-out-loud moments. But for the hapless sailors, it’s pure hell. Our unassuming hero, the Captain’s Steward Mario Naldani, unknowingly becomes the catalyst for change and destruction. Meanwhile, the Chief Coxswain’s increasingly erratic behavior pushes the crew to their limits. As tensions mount and sanity wears thin, the sailors discover just how far they can be pushed as they strive to break the Chief Coxswain.

Alternating between hilarious antics and poignant moments, “TUFF SHIP” navigates the turbulent waters of naval bureaucracy, questioning ambition, loyalty, and the limits of human endurance. This motley crew of underdogs reveals their best and worst traits as they struggle with the insanity of the hierarchy.

Dive into a tale so audacious it borders on the unbelievable, yet resonates with the unmistakable ring of truth for anyone who’s ever found themselves at the mercy of absurd authority. “TUFF SHIP” is a satirical voyage you won’t forget.