Adventure Contemporary Fiction

They collected the boat, and casting off the mooring ropes, headed the Great White Hope out of the small but bustling harbour. James was an experienced sailor and captain but the two others were not. Clare had only been on a canal boat previously but she was fun, willing and eager to learn. Paul had some knowledge, mainly of larger ships, as he had recently left the merchant navy. His experience was gained on the bridge of supertankers and huge container vessels. They were the only, English speaking, crew available at the time he needed them. 

Coral Bay, in the British Virgin Islands, was not a great spot to recruit from but it was where his client had abandoned his vessel and was happy to pay James handsomely to sail it to Florida for him. Time was not an issue, he just wanted it back in home waters. Flying his usual team out there would seriously eat into his payday so James had taken a chance and was hoping it would all work out for him. 

The sun was shining as they picked their way through the other yachts anchored in the sheltered bay. Many of them had sought refuge from the storm which Great White Hope had avoided but pressing business had made its owner leave his vessel and fly back to the States.

Clare stood beside him at the wheel whilst Paul tidied up some ropes and cables out on the deck. 

‘So what brought you to consider crewing with strangers?’ He asked her. She stood beside him wearing just a bikini and the life jacket he had insisted they all wear on deck. 

‘I want to do this for a living,’ she said, ‘so I won’t always be with people I know.’ They fell silent as he concentrated on moving the big vessel between the others and into the main channel. 

Once they were in clear water, he pushed the levers forward, white foam churned beneath them, the engine note increased and the boat sprung into life like a big cat suddenly seeing its prey and chasing it down. 

After a while, they were on the open sea. James gave the order to hoist the sails and, at once, the boat took on a different persona as it glided noiselessly across the water, heading north. 

Whilst Paul finished clearing away, Clare returned to the captain’s side in the wheelhouse. 

‘You did well,’ he said. She smiled at him.

‘Thanks, I’d like to learn more. Navigation and that sort of serious sailing.’

‘Okay, let’s see what we can teach you then,’ he replied, pleased to have something to do when the boat didn’t need him.

Over the next few days, he taught her how to navigate by the sun and the stars. Then a brief introduction to reading maps and charts, plus radio procedures. As the boat was equipped with all the latest technology he showed her as much as he knew. She was a willing pupil and soaked up knowledge like a sponge. One day she came on deck wearing her bikini and life jacket, as usual, but this time she had a small waterproof bag strapped around her waist. It was about the size of a man’s wallet. James spotted it straight away.

‘That’s new, why are you carrying that?’ he asked her.

‘It’s my life savings,’ she answered with a smile. ‘I’ve always had them with me but now I think I want to carry them. Just so they won’t get lost.’ James thought it strange but decided not to pursue it. She could do what she wanted, within reason, but he felt a little disappointed that somehow she no longer trusted the male’s onboard. He made light of it. ‘Well, you can’t have saved much, if they’re all in there,’ he smirked and went back to checking instruments.

Later, as the three sat in the galley sharing the evening meal, he addressed them.

‘There have been reports of a squall heading our way so, I think, we should work out a watch system spanning the next twenty-four hours. Four-hour shifts should do it and get us safely through the night. What do you think guys?’

‘I’m happy to do midnight until four,’ offered Clare,‘I’m a bit of a night owl anyway, so that will suit me.’

‘Paul, if you’ll cover from dark until midnight, I’ll do the early shift after relieving Clare,’ James said. 

Without argument, it was organised and they went about their tasks. 

Later that night, before he turned in, he found Clare pouring over the chart which covered the area they were passing through. He leant over her shoulder.

‘There are several uninhabited islands in the area so you’ll have to keep a keen eye out tonight,’ he told her. ‘Just keep the compass heading the same and we’ll be fine.’

‘Don’t worry James,’ she said, ’I will.’ With that he left her, Paul had already retired to his bunk. 

She looked out at the darkness, the blip from the radar creating a rhythmic soundtrack to her journey. She caressed the bag at her waist.

‘Soon daddy, soon I’ll be there,’ she said quietly as she stared ahead. 

It was a perfect night with clear skies as she looked up at the stars twinkling high above. Then she switched on the light above the table, studied the chart again and plotted a new course to her destination. 

When James came up on deck he was surprised to see the wheelhouse empty and the wheel locked in position. 

‘Clare?’ he called out several times but there was no reply.

‘What’s all the shouting about?’ said Paul as he came up from below.

‘Check to see if Clare’s in her bunk will you Paul? She’s not up here.’ Paul nodded and went back below but returned quickly.

‘She’s not there or in the bathroom,’ he said, confusion in his voice. 

‘I’ve just checked our position and we’re seriously off our planned course. I’m not sure what’s happened here but I don’t like it,’ said the captain. Paul sat down beside him and said quietly.

‘Maybe she fell overboard; should we alert the authorities?’ 

‘I doubt it, Paul,’ then pointed to where the painter boat was missing from it’s securing rope. 

‘I think she’s gone and taken the boat, we may as well forget her I think. 

With that, James worked out a new route to get them back on course.

Clare stepped onto the shore of the island she’d been heading towards for two hours. She drove the small boat half onto the soft sand beach and hopped ashore. Once clear of the water she sat down and unfastened the waterproof bag she had been so attached to. 

‘I made it daddy, all on my own.’ She thought of her father, locked away in prison for bank robbery. She removed a small, hand-drawn, map from her bag and studied it. Then she looked around trying to place landmarks and relate them to the paper in her hand. She headed towards an outcrop, off to her left and stood by it. She walked right, counting her paces, stopped, knelt down on the sand and dug down with her bare hands. After a few minutes, she found what she was looking for. A smile appeared on her lips and she treated herself to a long drink of water from the canteen on her hip. She picked up the shovel from the hole in the sand and studied the map once more. Heading further inland she stopped by a large palm tree and looked down. Then she began to dig. The ground was much harder and, even though this place was more sheltered it was still very hot work. 

After a while, the spade connected with something hard and as she cleared the soil from around it she saw her prize. It took a huge effort but she managed to raise the metal box from the ground. She opened the lid slowly and there she found her life savings. Two gold ingots shone; the sun making them glow. 

From her bag, she retrieved a miniature satellite phone and dialled out. It connected almost immediately.

‘I’ve got them, come and get me,’ she hung up and laughed into the sky.

March 05, 2021 14:45

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