Rolling Stone rebel Bob Orrell, like his superstar namesakes, reached the point where wild men turn pensioners.

But the untamed stay feral, firing two fingers at firesides. Two days after his 65th birthday, the Lake District writer, broadcaster, adventurer set off to revisit his life in a boat bought for a bottle of whisky.

He'd seen the rotting carcass in a garden, and longed to breathe new life into her old timbers.

There had been other boats in a long and speckled career with plenty of colour - and no cash.

The bank took the last one, after a chartering enterprise was scuppered. Margaret and Denis Thatcher once booked. They didn't make it, though her advisor Tony Marlow and solicitor general Nicholas Lyle were entertained on board.

Living back in West Cumbria not settling, because Bob Orrell's spirit is a restless one - he got a job editing a magazine in Carlisle. En-route to work he spotted Amulet. It means lucky charm'.

"With my typical impetuous excitement, I thought I'd got a bargain and, after the odd repair and a lick of paint, would sail off around the Western Isles of Scotland," he said.

"Anyone with a grain of sense would have put a match to it. She was a wreck."

In an 18-month long stretch of "sheer lunacy", the labour of love progressed, as Amulet went through a £12,000 restoration, suffering many setbacks along the way.

Bob was told he was too old for the 1,000-mile Western Isle challenge. He figured it was just another chapter, and would produce a book into the bargain.

Since the age of nine, when he ran away for the first time, Bob has made shunning convention a speciality.

His career spans lighthouse keeping to millionaire's yacht skipper, RAF mountain rescue team member to working with world famous Texan oil rig fire-fighter Red Adair - always a writer, ever the rebel.

At 14, he stowed away on a Fleetwood trawler and was handed over to police in the Isle of Man. He later tried again, and got to Iceland.

As a young man he ran off to the Isle of Skye, and lived in a cave for a spell with an earl's daughter.

The incurable romantic met his perfect woman while serving in the RAF. She shared his love of adventure but was shot while travelling alone in Morocco. In his devastation, Bob went to the Hebrides and became lighthouse keeper on the Butt of Lewis.

He has been a deerstalker, hospital porter fired for inciting nurses to strike Brathay instructor, boat skipper in the Mediterranean.

Blow Out, one of Bob's many books, tells of the horrors of Hewett A oil rig disaster, which he witnessed first-hand. Working as a radio operator in 1968, he saw the rig explode. Helicopters and lifeboats fought against gale force winds and raging seas to evacuate men from the gas-filled platform. Three perished.

When world-renowned Texan fire-fighter Red Adair was called in, Bob went with him to man communications. Red got quarter-of-a-million pounds, Bob a tenner, which was taken from his wages the following week.

Writing countryside columns and broadcasting for the BBC, Bob pedalled his own distinctive brand of contentious and controversial comment.

"The Lake District is lovely, but there is nowhere on earth quite like the Western Isles. I longed to get back, to see the people I used to know, the places I'd loved the best," explained Bob.

During the 18-month re-birth of Amulet, Bob forged a love-hate relationship amid horrendous setbacks. She fell over, a new engine turned out to be fake, but eventually she was ready for the sea. Launched at Maryport, she immediately started to leak badly.

Problem partly sorted, she, Bob, and old publishing friend Patricia Eve set off on a three-month voyage pumping out water most of the way.

"Everyone told me I was too old and, at 65, the time had come to settle down. No way was I ready for that," laughed Bob. "Setting off two days after becoming an OAP had its appeal."

There were many setbacks, hilariously recounted, in newly published Amulet, including a lifeboat tow in stormy waters off the Mull of Kintyre.

Landscape and sea were as beautiful as ever "apart from the hideous Skye Bridge" only the communities had changed.

"The old Highlanders I had known and loved had been taken away by the 2lst century, replaced by new people. Whole communities had changed, and a wonderful indigenous population succeed by often unhelpful and occasionally rude off-comers."

Coming home was a wrench, particularly as Amulet was to be sold, a bigger, better boat Halycon already in the picture.

Back in Scotland a year later, Bob had an uncanny chance meeting with a man who told him how decades ago his brother Jim had built a boat in his garage in Fort William, before his tragic death in a car crash.

As he described the 26ft long boat, the hairs on the back of Bob's neck tingled and his throat tightened. "She was called Amulet," said the man, "named after the colour of paint he'd used on the hull."

Ironically she was still on the market and immediately snatched up by the family.

It brought the story to a timely and very happy ending.

As for Bob Orrell, there'll be no slippers and afternoon snoozes for him. Halcyon in the Hebrides, adventure and book, are to follow.

l Amulet, by Bob Orrell, is published by Seafarer Books, 01394-420789, and costs £10.95.