Adventure Fiction

    The news spread around the waterfront with the power of a moon tide surge. The search net was still empty. Nothing. No anchor. Despite promising the harbormaster and the Coast Guard, Blue Water Construction (BWC) was no closer to reopening the businesses which shuttered just after the holidays.

    Anchorage B was still closed, and it was costing everyone money. No tug income, no fuel sales, no food for workers, no supplies. The outer anchorage was ten miles offshore. making it so much more expensive and aggravating to operate the port. Companies were changing their schedule.

    Still, others caught and sieved the information floating around. Was there a way to exploit the problem and make it an opportunity? BWC was being paid thousands of dollars a day as they sent their boats criss-crossing the bay. More than a few outlandish ideas were proposed in the local dives and diners as the wharf rats watched and waited.

    All ships were required to have two anchors in order to dock in a U.S. port. When the tanker arrived at the end of December, it displayed two anchors in its bow. As the ship, S.J. Neta was leaving, that was not the case. The harbormaster stood firm in the face of S.J. Neta’s owners, the ship was missing an anchor and it must be found.


    Stan and Brad met at the dock as they waited for their next water-taxi fares to arrive. The buddies sought refuge, in a wheelhouse. Escaping the north wind which blew across the open water.

    “It’s been three weeks,” Stan said. “I can’t believe they haven’t found it yet.”

    “They don’t know where they lost it. They were trying to slink away.” Brad said, “It’s amazing the tug captain actually noticed the chain was empty when it came up.”

    “And in the near future, we’d be sitting in the middle of a freakin’ oil spill like the Athos in Delaware.” Stan shook his head, “Stupid jerks.”

    Brad stamped his feet and peered out at the parking lot for their fares. “I heard from Big Skip, BW’s contract is up at the end of the week.”

    “So, we could scoop it?”

    “If we knew where to look.” Brad caught a glimpse of a car pulling into the parking lot. He moved to open the wheelhouse door, “Why don’t you chat up the ship’s agent? Find out what’s shaking.”

    “Ok,” Stan said. “Then what?”

    “Then we meet at my house tonight and see if we can figure out where this piece of valuable salvage is.” Brad stepped out onto the bobbing deck and made his way to the ladder. He met the family at the top of the pier ramp and helped to carry groceries down further to his boat. The woman shepherded the kids along.

    Commuter runs out to the many islands dotting Casco Bay were part of the bread and butter for water taxi businesses. Lucrative, however, they are not. Not much for tips since the riders are regular clients. They viewed it just like paying a toll on a highway. And there rarely was a back-haul fare on the other side. A crappy deal whichever way you were going except in the height of the summer.

    The guys knew the work was simply a way to keep their boats moving during the winter. Finding an opportunity to make some real money was on their minds all the time. After salvaging a small boat which ran aground in the fall and was abandoned, they worked the waterfront and kept their eyes open.


    “BWC has called a company in Rhode Island,” Stan announced when he opened Brad’s kitchen door with a flourish.

    “For what?” Brad asked. He moved the maps laid out on the table to make space for the pizza box Stan was holding.

    “Why do you think?” Stan asked. “They’re out of time. They haven’t been able to find it with their side scanning sonar. So, they’re bringing in the big boys.”

     “What did our local rep say?”

    “The Coast Guard informed the company that if the anchor was not on dry land in six days, the fines would begin.” Stan took a paper plate and lifted a couple of slices out of the box.

    “Hence, the southern company is hired to come in and get serious with the search.” Brad sat and chewed on his own piece while staring at the information littering the kitchen table. “I wonder how much that outfit will cost.”

     Stan laughed, “Agent Caleb said it would easily equal what the shipping company has already spent.”

    “Hoo-wheee, seems like we should try for a piece.” Brad got up to wash his hands before pulling a notebook off the pile. “You been keeping notes, too, right?”


    The two men mapped the information they had. The ship’s log-book showed the location of the tanker when it ‘parked’ in the anchorage, off-loaded and left. Their notes documented the areas where Blue Water searched. That left their years of experience in the bay as a resource to mine.

    “I don’t know. Remember, that baby is over 900 feet long. What is the GPS going to record as the drop zone?” Stan said pointing to a spot off Peaks Island.

    “What do we know about where most pilots are trying to hit when they are in the anchorage? Brad asked.

    “They go for the center.” Stan shrugged, “Doesn’t mean the ship cooperates.”

    “Or the anchor.” Brad snorted, “A twelve-ton hunk of metal which could be capable of piercing the hull of a tanker or any other boat floating through here.”

    “That’s only if the shank is up,” Stan said. “It could lay there for years, the flukes buried in the mud.”

    “Until some other ship raises their anchor and pulls the shank up and sets it.”

    “I know,” Stan shook his head. “But still twelve-tons, how do you lose it?”

    “That’s what we’ve got to figure out.”


    The next few days passed in agony as the men watched the search boats move across the area where they felt the anchor was resting. They researched the tide charts and weather for when the tanker was in town. They talked to Big Skip and his buddies again after work to glean some information on what the searchers thought. The price of the beer brought them some comfort as they listened to the frustration of the group

    And they sweated, despite the frozen weather, as January became February. Friday night the contract expired with the anchor still missing.

    Stan called Caleb, the ship’s agent and told him they were going to look. The agent reminded them the other company would be coming on Monday.

    With equipment prepped and stowed on the lobster boat, the men headed off to pick up Brad’s regular Sunday morning fare. Father Frank was a local priest who traveled out to a larger island community and said Mass after his early service on the mainland.

    As the boat jounced through the water, the men shot the breeze about the day’s big story, that annual football event. Since the local favorite, the Patriots were competing. Once the topic was exhausted, the priest looked at the unusually large pile of gear resting in the back of the boat and asked about their plans while he was on the island.

    “Looking for some missing lobster traps,” Brad said as he checked the depth finder screen and the boat’s position.

    “Missing traps, huh?” Father Frank was a long-time resident of the area. He worked with the waterfront crowd and was as aware of the current situation with the closed anchorage as anyone else. “What are you going to do if you find them?”

    “Put lines back on them so he can pull them on the next hauling day,” Stan answered. He glanced at Brad and then busied himself looking at a map.

    “You know how tough it is to keep traps in this area,” Brad said.

    Father Frank looked at the pair as the island came into view. “Exactly. I do know how hard it is to keep traps up in this area.” He scanned the water behind the boat observing its lack of lobster buoys.

    Brad pulled slowly into the dock. As Stan held the boat steady, Father Frank gathered his tote bag and exited the craft.

    Looking at the two men, he wished them good luck and headed off to his appointment. They breathed a sigh of relief and headed back into the bay. The clock was now on. They had two hours to make their first pass in the hunt for the most valuable salvage of their careers.

    Arriving at the spot Stan marked the night before, they double checked GPS data. Brad donned his dry suit and scuba gear so he could manually search the sea floor.

    As Brad descended, he knew many people envisioned diving in the ocean to look like the videos of tropical locations with colorful fish swimming around. However, silt and depth darken the water making it very difficult to see more than a couple of feet. On this day, visibility was a couple of feet max.

    Carrying a flashlight, a scallop bag line and a marker line, he began to search in a circular pattern. He looked for drag marks in the murky water. He and Stan postulated the ship may have lost the pin holding the shackle and chain on the anchor. A common problem for smaller boats.

    After several passes, Brad realized there was a trench about a foot wide in the muck on the bay floor. He followed the trail and discovered a large curved piece of metal. The shackle? he thought. Holy cow, it’s huge. He carefully felt around the object, mapping the four-inch-thick loop. He and Stan were guessing the size of the anchor based on what they saw hanging on the ships in the harbor. But he wasn’t sure. He marked it and swam to the surface.

    Stan raced to the side of the boat. “What do you think? Did you find it?” He stared down where Brad bobbed in the water. The small waves rocking against him as he swam toward the ladder.

    Brad motioned with a seesaw wiggle of his hand to signify ‘maybe’. He held up his mittened hands again and gestured as if he was taking a picture.

    “Camera, no prob.” Handing the camera with its elongated handle over the side, Stan said, “Good luck.” He started to get excited with the thought of a possible payday. Salvage is a tricky business.

    After salvaging a vintage plane for an insurance company, Brad invested in one of the all-purpose cameras for pictures and video of underwater wrecks. The images provided valuable documentation to justify the bill since most people were unable to see what reality looked like under water.

    Making his way back to the anchor, Brad tried to move carefully “down flow” of the anchor in order to capture the best possible images. The goal of documenting the article was to enhance their position with the shipping company. The more he looked at it, the more Brad was convinced it was the missing anchor.

    He re-surfaced and handed the camera back to Stan. Holding onto the ladder, he rested a minute and checked his pressure gauge for air remaining. Time to change air tanks.

    The next step was to mark the location in such a way it would not attract any notice. He signaled to Stan to hand over the prepared line. Heading back, Brad unfurled a trawl line with three lobster traps attached. He tied it to the shackle at the head of the anchor. The line allowed the buoy to be set outside the shipping lane and more than two hundred yards from their salvage prize. Confusing any other treasure hunters.

    On the surface, Brad climbed up the ladder into the back of the boat. The men looked at each other and over the water. The result of their work barely showed. Just like the thousands of buoys which dotted the water’s surface all around the bay. Their assorted colors and markings denoted the owners of the traps.

    Brad dropped onto an overturned tote and started pulling his gear off. Stan turned the engines over and sent the vessel cutting through the water back to the island to make the pick-up.

    “Do you really think it’s the right anchor?” Stan asked, looking back as Brad stripped off his mask and regulator so he could talk.

    “It looks like it is the right size. And we don’t know of any other missing ones.” Brad looked at the camera laying on the dashboard shelf. “Did you try to check out the pictures?”

    “Not yet. Don’t want to get any water in the housing,” he said. “Once we’re back on dry land.”

    “You’re going to have to call the Caleb.” Brad grinned, “Can you imagine the gasket BWC is going to blow when they learn we found it?”

    Stan grinned back as the boat began to approach the island dock. “Don’t forget, we have to be cool.”

    Brad started to strip off the dry suit and put it away. The men could see Father Frank standing at the dock waiting for them. They were late.

    “Was it a successful trip?” the priest asked as he stepped onto the deck.

    “I guess,” Stan said with a quick glance at Brad.

    Brad made a non-committal grunt as he continued to pull on his outer jacket and woolen hat. He moved around the small space trying to keep the grin off his face.

    Stan asked about the service and attempted to make small talk while the boat plied the water heading back to the Portland wharf.

    After a few minutes of looking from one face to the other, Father Frank finally said, “You found it.”

    “Found what?”

    “Found the anchor.” Frank looked at the men. “I know guilt and it is coming off you in waves.”

    “I don’t know what you are talking about,” Brad said as he peeled a banana for a snack. “What have we got to feel guilty about?”

    “I don’t know, but you are.” Frank looked at them again. “There hasn’t been any action or news in weeks around here except the search for that hunk of metal. And here you guys are, all excited.”

    “It was just a good swim looking for traps. You know how expensive they are, so it’s good to recover them,” Stan said.

    “Yeah, right,” the priest said with a smile.


    With the site was secure, the two salvagers called the shipping company agent. The prep homework helped to maximize their profit. 

    Stan’s research provided the ammunition to negotiate a windfall for the team. The dive company from Rhode Island was expensive and would have continued to rack up a bill far above what had already been paid out. While the value of the anchor itself was fairly inconsequential to the company, the Coast Guard does not allow a ship to dock in a U.S. port with only one anchor. It is a safety hazard and the S.J. Neta was already on record for being in port with only one anchor.

    But even more valuable to the team’s negotiations was the threat from the Coast Guard of fines for abandoning the anchor and closing the anchorage beyond a reasonable timeframe. Stan utilized all information while being purposefully vague about the amount of effort the two opportunists committed to the project.

    Once the deal was struck, Brad made another trip out to directly mark the site for the pick-up.

    Then he and Stan watched, hoping that the wait was going to result in a windfall. But like most people, there was a little voice that kept tormenting them by reminding them this could be some other anchor lost years before. They didn’t know of any and nothing was marked on the maps about this location, but it was still possible. With fingers crossed, they waited. 


    A barge loaded with a crane was dispatched to the site on the chosen date. Brad and Stan monitored radio traffic and were at the dock when the BWC barge returned. The metal lying on the deck was impressive. They walked around it taking pictures.

    The crane started its engines and raised its boom pulling the shank upright. Now the full glory of the treasure was revealed – the shank rose twelve feet above the flukes. In a world where the bottom clearance in the harbor is only two to four feet on a navigable channel forty-two feet deep, this anchor was a destructive weapon poised to strike.

    The ship’s agent approached the men and thanked them. His hand tailored suit-clad figure as out of place on the cold dock as a bikini.

    As they turned back, a couple of the BWC guys walked over as they watched the crane maneuver the prize. “How the heck did you wharf rats find this stinking thing?” one asked. “We looked everywhere.”

    “I guess our side scan sonar was better than yours,” Stan said with a smirk as he and Brad turned away.

    Brad glanced back as they walked. “Yep, funny that two guys with brains, maps and a laptop could beat out a team with a tugboat and eighty thousand dollars in equipment.”

    The pair of scavengers headed back to their work.

    “At least it will bring a good payday,” Brad said as he jammed his gloved hands into his pockets. His rubber boots scuffing along on the packed dirty snow.

    “Just a couple of modern pirates hunting for buried treasure,” Stan said with a grin.

November 13, 2020 23:54

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Julie Frederick
11:51 Nov 19, 2020

Hi Sandy, I think what makes this story so engaging is the language; you clearly are well versed in all things nautical, which helps to paint a very convincing fictional world. The only (minor) critique I can offer is to watch your tense in places. A couple times you slip into present; e.g. 'the Coast Guard does not allow a ship to dock in a U.S. port with only one anchor...' I love the imagery, and the phrase "caught and sieved the information" sticks in my head. Well done, and well written!


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Robert Clarion
00:25 Nov 19, 2020

Well written story, I wish my writing was as polished as yours! The opening didn't really grab me, the stakes weren't very high and the anchor wasn't particularly "mythical", though I loved the "moon tide surge" in the first sentence. The last line, too, was very satisfying. I love a modern day pirate


Sandy Buxton
02:21 Nov 28, 2020

Thanks Robert...probably will be revamping some and I will keep your thoughts in mind.


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