Footprints in the Sea Vol 3 51

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Footprints in the Sea Volume 3
Chapter 51

The Enchanted Island
Frances Penwiddy

Copyright©Frances Penwiddy 2015

The characters in this novel are fictitious and any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
Footprints in the Sea is not suitable reading material for minors.

The Chapter numbers of Vol 3 continue from where Volume 2 ended. If you have not read Volumes 1 and 2, it is recommended that you do so before starting Volume 3.

Footprints in the Sea Volume 3
Chapter 51

It was a happy moment, exciting, the anticipation. I was standing right up in the bows of Pacific Wanderer and peering through my binoculars ahead and past Aurora searching for the slightly darker outline, the tiny spot that broke the smoothness of the horizon as the tip of Devonshire Hill rose above the sea.
And suddenly there it was just the tiniest curved triangle of the summit and I turned to the bridge to yell and tell them but I saw a lookout point and call something into the bridge. There was a slight tremble as Pacific Wanderer increased speed and moved to Stab’d to pass Aurora as a row of flags dropped from her mast and a second row ran up. I forgot all my protocols about behaviour, cheered and started to run to the bridge.

I clambered up the ladder to the bridge wing and straight in to the bridge, “We’re home, there’s the island, dead ahead.”

Everybody was smiling at me as Byron turned, saluted and said, “Commander Broughton you have the bridge.”

“I what?”

“You have the bridge, Marm. The captain of Aurora, Lieutenant Commander Bryant, respectfully requests that you take command of Her Majesties New Zealand Fleet Auxiliary Pacific Wanderer and lead us in to the lagoon on the north side of Charlotte Island.”

“What! I what! Me! “What are you talking about?” I looked at the helmsman who had a broad grin on his face, “Course one thirty five – speed half ahead, revs for eight knots, Marm.”

“Byron, what’s going on, Charlotte Island is on the horizon, that’s Devonshire Hill, I’d recognize it from any direction.”

“Yes commander, do you wish me to act as your first lieutenant?”

“Are you and Andy playing tricks on me?”

“Wouldn’t think of it, Commander Broughton. Lieutenant Commander Bryant wasn’t on the bridge the first time Aurora approached the island and is not sure of the procedure for entering the lagoon and as both you and Commander Devonshire are, he requests you take command and lead us into the lagoon.”

I did remember Will explaining it to me when he had put the two lights on the reef the evening we had pulled Wanderer of the reef and beached her and instinct took over. Keep at this speed and be ready to change course to 129 and reduce revs to slow ahead when I give the order.”

Byron repeated the instructions to the helmsman who was still grinning and I heard a voice in the radio shack relaying it to Aurora and then I strode across to the bridge phone and dialled the engine room. “Is Commander Devonshire there?” there was a brief pause,

“He’s with the Chief, Marm and can’t come to the phone at present.”
“I don’t care if he’s with the Prime Minister, get him to the phone – NOW!”

There was another pause and I heard Will’s voice, “Charlie, is there something wrong, you ill?”

“No I’m okay, it’s everybody else that has gone crazy. Andy Bryant has told me to take command of Wanderer and lead them into the lagoon, the island is full up on the horizon.”

“Well do it.”

“Will, are you listening to me, they want me to command Wanderer and play bloody silly games and lead them into the lagoon, I haven’t got a clue, you’ll have to come up here as quickly as possible before we hit the reef, I don’t want to be shipwrecked again especially with these loonies.”

“Charlie, I can’t leave the engine room whilst entering harbour, I’m needed down here, there’s nobody else. You’ll have to do it, I explained it to you when we beached Wanderer. Line the bow up with the centre of the gap between the two lanterns…”

“They won’t be alight now, they will have gone out weeks ago.”

“No they won’t, the people on the island have kept them refuelled and alight until something more permanent can be arranged. Just go through the gap and as soon as the stern clears the reef, go hard to port, line her up so you can turn her around and go stern first alongside the jetty they’ve built.” There was a click and the phone went dead.

I turned around and looked at the people on the bridge. They were just standing there waiting for me to do something and we were running out of time. I could see the island clearly now and the reef looked like a mountain range and the gap appeared so narrow I doubted that a donkey could have squeezed through. In desperation I turned to the helmsman. You see that small gap in the reef and the two lights?”

“Yes, Marm, clearly.”

“Well aim the bow to go through the centre of the space between the two lights and be ready to go hard to port when I tell you and we’ll be changing speed to dead slow ahead as we approach. I seem to remember there’s a bit of a current from stab’d to port as we get close to the reef so make allowances and keep the bow pointed at the centre of the gap.”

I strode back to the captain’s chair and climbed into it and cursed the full skirt and petticoats I was wearing which were pushed up by the armrests until I looked like a head buried in a bunch or screwed up tulle. I let loose a string of curses, forced the skirt down and glanced at Byron who had his glasses up to his eyes and was studying the reef carefully but I’ll swear there was a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth. I’d bloody well sort him out later but for the moment I satisfied myself with barking, “Number One, I need a pair of high power glasses, a mug of hot sweet coffee and send a signal to Captain Bryant to keep his bow pointed dead centre on Wanderer’s stern.” Somebody thrust a pair of high power glasses in my hand and I heard somebody call down to the saloon for coffee on the bridge pronto and was dimly aware of Byron dictating a message for the radio. I raised the glasses and looked at the reef and immediately wished I hadn’t, the reef seemed to tower above me, the gap had grown even narrower and the whole lot was bearing down on us at fifty miles an hour.

I coughed to clear my throat, “Byron, tell Andy we’re changing course rapidly to port once we clear the reef and I suggest he clears the reef himself and then stops until I have moored Wanderer. There isn’t room inside the lagoon for two ships to start waltzing with each other.” He didn’t burst out laughing or try to throw me out of the captain’s chair but started giving orders. I checked the reef again and shuddered and then remembered I needed somebody in the stern to let me know when we cleared the reef, assuming of course we weren’t already on the sea bed and trying to crawl through, underwater. “Yeoman,” I called out to the port lookout, “Who’s in charge of the deck?”

“Lieutenant Andrews, Marm.”

“My respects if you please and would you relay a request. I need a reliable man with a phone or radio in the stern to advise me as Wanderer enters the lagoon and is clear of the reef and when we start to enter the gap I need you to keep an eye on him as well and call out as soon as he signals we’re clear.”

“Aye, aye, Marm.”

“Byron, how long does it take for Wanderer to change from slow ahead to dead slow?”

“About two minutes from now if you want dead slow as we enter the reef.”

“Very good, arrange it and advise Aurora.”

I raised the glasses and looked again and with relief I saw the reef reduce itself in size and the gap had widened and Wanderer was aimed dead centre, “Keep her like that helmsman,”

“As she goes, revs for dead slow ahead, Marm.”

I sat back in the chair. I was committed now, there was nothing I could do until Wanderer either struck something or passed through the reef. I closed my eyes and prayed, “Penelopeia ask Artemis to get Poseidon to take us safely through and copy this to God in Heaven as well. PS; I’ll kill Will when this is finished.” I opened my eyes and looked out to starboard and all I could see was the reef and it was the same on the port side, I couldn’t see any water between us or the reef and I braced myself for the crash. Somebody tapped me on the right shoulder and I turned to see Mark holding a mug of coffee out. “Everybody is in the saloon and Gareth was busy so I brought this up.” I took it from him and then he tugged gently at the hem of my skirt to hide the petticoat and whispered, “Hold the skirt to your side when you get up from the seat or it may snag,” and he was gone.

The yeoman called from the port wing, “Stern clear of the reef,” and I twisted in my seat, "Helm hard to port, increase speed to Slow ahead and helmsman, as soon as Wanderer starts to turn, point the bows at the gap between the main reef and the spur and there may be a following current, reduce speed to dead slow once you have her lined up.” I waited until Wanderer had completed her turn to port and then Byron walked over, “Andy suggests that Wanderer might be safer if she was moored stern on to the island in case the weather turns foul and we need to make a fast exit and get into the Aurora inlet for shelter.”

“You can tell Andy he’s second on my hit list, directly below Will and what’s that barge over there?” I pointed towards the shore.

“Penguin sent her barge round to act as a tug if we need it. She’s the only small vessel with engines powerful enough to do the job.”

I lost it them and glared at him before giving the worst order I would ever make, “We don’t need a bloody tug to help Wanderer to turn round, I’ll do a three point turn! Just tell that bloody barge to keep out of the way!” As soon as I said it, I could have bitten my tongue off. “Sorry, Byron, it’s the tension of the past half hour.”

“Think nothing of it, Commander, you’re correct, Wanderer doesn’t need any help from a tug.”

“Are you going to take over now?”

“Prefer not, Marm, there may be hidden hazards you will know and I won’t, you’ve swum in this lagoon I am told and did a quick survey when you were beaching Wanderer.”

I sighed, “As you say, I’ve swum here.” I eased myself out of the chair, remembering to hold the skirt tight to my thighs and walked out to the port wing and looked across to the reef, there was space to spare on that side and when I checked the starboard, it was tight. I went back to the helm, “Will you return to slow ahead and ease Wanderer closer to the reef on the port side, I need more room to stab’d.”

“Should I leave space for the hull to swing when we start to manoeuvre, Marm?”

“Yes, thank you and if I make a cock up, it’s down to you to get us out of trouble.”

“You won’t, you’ve done a bloody good job so far, I’ll serve under you again, that’s for sure, Marm.”

“Yes but now I have to do a three point turn and I nearly ruined that on my driving test and just scraped through.”

“Cars are more difficult, there’s too many other cars swanning about not to mention jay-walking pedestrians. Shall I increase revs a bit to give the rudder more bite?”

“Yes please, go ahead now and I’ll leave the revs to you, increase and decrease as you see fit. I want the tightest turn possible and then I’ll switch to slow astern ten metres off the beach where the water is deep enough even at low tide. I’ll back up until there’s room to complete the turn and I think the best thing to do is head to stop above the jetty and a bit past it and reverse again with a hawser over a bollard and swing her round until she’s stern on.” I looked at Byron with a question on my face and he nodded and returned to stand at the chair.

“Okay go ahead helmsman, Byron will you tell Andy what we’re doing and I ask him to stay where he is until I’ve moored Wanderer.” He nodded and went over to the radio shack, “I could do with a plate full of gingerbread right now,” I said it to myself not realising I was speaking out loud and jumped when I heard Tamati yell down the stairs to the saloon, “Philips, a plate of gingerbread men on the bridge at the double.”

I turned back to the helmsman, “Slow ahead full stab’d helm, let’s go.” I walked slowly back to the chair and arrived as Gareth placed a plate of gingerbread men and a fresh coffee on the small table beside it. I picked a gingerbread man up, bit its head off, gulped a mouthful of coffee, smiled my thanks and with the gingerbread man in one hand and the coffee in the other I went to the window and watched as Wanderer slowly turned and headed towards the beach. “Stop engines, midships helm and slow astern,” I glanced at the helmsman, stop her and go to slow ahead when you think there’s room to complete the turn I took another bite off the gingerbread man, slurped more coffee and longed to go to my cabin and get into bed and stay there, even if we sank but I think Poseidon must have been underneath Wanderer and guiding her hull at just the right speed and helm. I replaced the coffee on the table and walked out to the port wing again, “Martin, when I start manoeuvring at the jetty, I’ll need the stern cable over one of the bollards to hold her whilst I go astern and try to swing her round so she’s stern on to the beach and then I’ll need the cable off the bollard and walked down to the beach end of the jetty as we swing round and go astern down the side of the jetty and then the bow cable sent over to hold her bows as well.” He waved an acknowledgement so even if I got the order wrong, he understood what I intended. I waited until he called up that the stern cable was secured to the jetty and I called into the bridge, “Byron, slow astern and try to coax the bows to swing round.” I went back to the rail and took a deep breath as I felt the tremble as Wanderer’s screw bit into the water and waited with my fists clenched as she backed up and took the slack out of the cable and nearly cheered as I saw the bows begin to swing.

As soon as there was slack in the cable, the shore party slipped the cable off the bollard and walked alongside Wanderer as she slid alongside the jetty as sweetly as a train slowly coming into a station. I saw them slip the cable over the beach end bollard and went back into the bridge. “Dead slow ahead, take the way off her and then stop engines,” and without waiting for an acknowledgement, I turned towards the bow and watched as the bow cable was hauled up and slipped over its bollard and the ship came to a standstill. I sighed with relief as I saw the bows drift slowly as the light current from the lagoon entrance moved her a little. “Martin, start the winches and pull her in to the jetty and don’t forget the fenders cos I’ll keelhaul any man who allows the paintwork to be scratched.”

He grinned, “Keelhauling it is, Commander, I’ll bring it to the notice of the hands.”

I nodded at the yeoman, “Thanks for your help.”

“It was sweetly done, Marm.”

I nodded and went back into the bridge, picked up another gingerbread man, bit an arm off and said, “Lieutenant Commander Wellington, you have the bridge and please log that the helmsman is to be commended for his attention to duty and do the same for the others.”

“I have the bridge, Commander and congratulations that was a first class demonstration of seamanship.”

“Byron, I’ve had a thought. When Aurora came to our aid in the storm, she had cruised at top speed through a force nine with five metre seas, stopped to help us and then entered the lagoon, dropped her anchor and got half her crew aboard Wanderer whilst she was doing it. Andy had to have been on the bridge even if he was only first lieutenant at the time. How come he didn’t know how to enter the lagoon in a calm sea?”

Byron looked embarrassed, “I wasn’t there so I don’t know the circumstances, perhaps he was in another part of the ship overseeing the repairs to the storm damaged equipment. You’ll have to ask him.”

“I bloody well will because he took over command of Wanderer the whole time she was in the lagoon and took her out and brought her back after we had the dustup with the pirates and out again when we came home. He used to be a shipmate of mine, I will ask him because he knew this lagoon better than I did!”

Byron smiled, “He was right though, you brought us in, turned her round and did as good a job as any of us could.”

I looked at him, his eyes were a soft green and when he saluted me, I automatically bobbed a quick curtsy and went downstairs to the saloon and sat down, “Thank God that’s over.”

“What happened?” asked Liz.

“I had to take command of the bridge and bring Wanderer back safely into harbour.”

Emma looked puzzled, “What do you mean?”

“I had command of the ship and had to bring her through the reef, turn her round and moor alongside the new jetty.”

“You what!”

I sighed, “Somebody explain it to her.”

Gwyneth took Emma’s hand in hers, “Charlotte had command of Wanderer when we safely entered harbour, she was driving the ship.”

Emma turned green, “You came through the reef and all that backing and forwarding was done by you…I feel ill, I’m going to be sick.”

“Me too,” squeaked Liz.

Faye remained calm, “I don’t know what you’re worried about. Charlie helped me shoot down a helicopter and bringing a ship into a harbour can’t be that difficult. In fact it’s the same as doing it with a dinghy except a ship is just a bit larger.”

A slim mug appeared on the table in front of me and when I looked up, it was Victor beaming down on me. “It’s cream floating on the top and chocolate chips.”

I stared at it and took the remains of the gingerbread man from out of my skirt pocket, “Is this a goodbye present before you jump ship?”

He chuckled, “Gareth told me you brought her in and it must have been perfect because we didn’t spill a thing in the galley and that’s always a sign that a ship is being well handled.”

“Didn’t you panic?”

He shook his head, “No nor did any of the crew but we didn’t mention it to the passengers in case they all wanted to go up and watch. Who’s in charge up there now.”

I shrugged, “I handed the bridge back to Byron, I just hope he doesn’t break anything.”

“That’s the ticket, Miss Broughton, er sorry, I meant Commander Broughton.”

He left and I returned my attention to the others and Ted was wearing a size ten grin, “I won’t complain the next time you drive the Bentley,” he said.

“Or the Land Rover,” I added.

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Footprints in the Sea Vol 3 is now published on Kindle Ebooks.
Vol 4 will follow in November.
I will be posting a little more of Vol 3 here but I cannot publish the full volume because it contravenes the Kindle terms.

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