Footprints In The Sea 1 and 2

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Footprints In The Sea – Chapters 1 & 2

By Frances Penwiddy

Copyright © Frances Penwiddy 2015

Footprints In The Sea is a work of fiction and any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.

This novel is not considered suitable material for minors and is rated X

Shipwrecked on an island in the South Pacific and more than one thousand miles from the nearest habited land and located between New Zealand and South America, Charlie Broughton explores what he thinks is a deserted ship to find that there is one other survivor, Will Devonshire.
They work together to secure the ship and plan their rescue but things begin to happen to Charlie, things that frighten him and he begins to question who he is…


Chapter 1

I awoke slowly, staring up at the deck head slowly becoming aware of my surroundings.
Somebody once told me that when I go to bed, I don’t sleep, I die for the night and my consciousness reluctantly rose from the deep recesses of my mind until it reached the stage where I was able to ponder on whether I wanted to shower first or make coffee. Coffee won, if I tried to shower in my present state of mind I might well drown myself.

I rolled onto my side and slid my feet over the edge of the bunk at a pace in keeping with my awakening and sat up. I paused for a moment as my brain made its final effort and I became aware that something was wrong, it was too quiet. Day or night, a ship at sea produces noise, the engines and passengers even when trying to be quiet still make a noise but the only sounds I could hear were a light wind, the swish of the sea and a little creaking and the only motion I detected was a slight lifting and falling as a wave passed under the keel but nothing else. Then I noticed that I was leaning forward, the ship had a slight list to port, nothing much but just enough to cause my upper body to react. I pushed myself up and walked to the bulkhead opposite my bunk where the window overlooked the promenade deck but there was nothing to see, the deck was there and I could see one of the lifeboat davits and there were three or four deckchairs but no people, no chatter, just a pair of seagulls off to one side and a blue sky. Mysteries must wait, I needed caffeine to allow my brain to complete its awakening. I moved over to the dresser upon which stood the coffee percolator and switched it on – nothing, no little red light, no cheerful bubbling just silence. I tried the light switch, same result so I went over to the shower door and opened it and switched on the pump and heater, still nothing. They must have switched the power off in this section I thought and tilted my head and listened carefully. The main engines were definitely not running and the generators were silent as well. I know I would hear and feel them from my cabin, I had heard them in port before we left. I returned to the dresser, opened a drawer and took out clean underwear and socks and went back to the bed and dressed. If there was no power in the cabin I would have to go to the passenger saloon but I needed that coffee.

The passenger saloon was multi-functional, it was situated at the forward end of the promenade deck under the bridge and stretched the full width of the ship and served as a restaurant, bar and lounge which had easy chairs, bookshelves, card tables and a pair of computers for passenger use. If the dozen or so passengers required it, the stewards would move the furniture and change it into a mini-ballroom. The MV Pacific Wanderer was a general cargo vessel that also had eighteen passenger cabins and spent most of its life island hopping with a mixture of goods for the many islands and archipelagos that dotted the Pacific and from a passengers point of view, was luxuriously appointed and beautifully suited to my purpose and that was to meander from island to island and be waited on and treated as an honoured guest rather than just one of the herd to be found on regular passenger liners. The problem at present was that Pacific Wanderer was not wandering and I had the feeling that I was the only passenger on board and as I looked out of a forward facing window at the deserted cargo deck, I changed my mind, I now thought I might be the only human on board and the Pacific Wanderer was like the Mary Celeste. I tried a light switch again without success and there were no sounds coming from the galley at the rear of the restaurant section so I returned to the promenade deck beginning to feel apprehensive. I looked towards the stern but there was no sound or sight of crew or passengers but something had changed. I stood for a moment trying to work out what was out of place and then I noticed the lifeboat davits and became aware of something I hadn’t noticed when I looked out of my cabin window. It wasn’t so much about what WAS out of place, it was more what was NOT in place and that was the lifeboats!

I ran back through the passenger saloon and out onto the starboard deck and breathed a sigh of relief, there were two lifeboats still in the davits and then I heard a muffled banging that seemed to be coming from somewhere below the bridge. I went back inside and the noise was clearer so it had to be coming from here in the stern of the ship and not from the cargo holds. I went behind the bar and searched through two or three drawers until I found a torch and went out into the passage and down the stairs to the crews quarters and through a door with the sign; ‘No Admittance to Passengers – Dangerous Machinery – Strictly Crew Only’. I don’t know a lot about ships, just about enough to know that ‘Dangerous Machinery’ had to be the ship’s engines, auxiliaries and electrical controls and the door was open. I stood just inside and looked around; this part of the ship was purely functional, painted steel bulkheads and cabin doors with labels that indicated that the residents were engineers and electricians. The banging started again and was still coming from below so I returned to the stairs and went a deck lower but here the door labels were for various stores and the banging was still below me so down I went again and now the floor was a steel grating and there was no inboard bulkhead, just a waist high grating and when I looked over, there below was what had to be the main engines, so down I went again drawn by the muffled banging.

I stood beside one of the engines, they were huge, I don’t know what I had expected having never been in a ships engine room before but it certainly wasn’t anything like the engine in my car. I shone the torch towards the stern but there was wasn’t much to be seen in the light of the torch, just a bulkhead and racks of tools and work benches. Turning to look forward there was light coming from somewhere because the engines were silhouetted and there was a large control panel covered in switches and dials but it was lifeless and beyond this another bulkhead. I walked forward slowly and when I reached the control panel I peered round it. Again there were tool racks, panels with more dials and at the far end another machine, the auxiliary generator I suppose and the light and noise were coming from a large doorway about halfway along.
Treading carefully I made my way to the doorway and turned in. The light was coming from my right so I shone the torch to the left quickly and saw work benches, lathes and turret drills, it was obviously a machine shop and then I looked right. This was its partner, a carpenters shop and the centre piece was a large work bench at which stood a man, a tall man about six two against my five seven. He wore dark slacks and a blue patterned shirt open down to the waist and the body beneath the shirt was muscular, fit rather than weight lifter but his clothing didn’t fit the task. The man might have belonged here but his clothes were better suited to an office.
“What’s happened?”
He dropped the mallet he was using and looked up startled. “Where did you come from?”
“Upstairs. The ship, where is everybody?”
“Are you crew?”
“No a passenger.”
He stooped to retrieve the hammer and I walked towards him, “Where is everybody?” I repeated.
He straightened up and spent a second or two looking me over, “Gone, abandoned ship when we hit the reef.”
I reached out to the work bench to steady myself, “Hit a reef! Abandoned the ship! When?”
“You didn’t know! It happened at about 1am, where were you?”
“In my cabin, asleep.”
“And the steward never called to waken you and show you to a lifeboat station?”
“No, I didn’t know a thing until I woke up about a half hour ago and found the ship so quiet and there was no electricity supply to my cabin. I went to the saloon to get coffee and there’s nobody there so I heard you banging and came down here. Are you an engineer or something?”
“Not a ship’s engineer or member of the crew, like you I’m a passenger.” He took a step towards me, “Name's Will we’d better find you something to sit on.” he held out his hand.
“Charlie,” and I shook hands, “I’m okay, more surprised than frightened and certainly confused. I can’t understand why I didn’t feel or hear the crash when we hit the reef.”
“There wasn’t a crash, the ship bumped the reef and slip onto it, we were only travelling at slow speed because of the storm.”
“Storm? What storm?”
He shook his head, “You didn’t hear that either?”
“No, I’m a deep sleeper and I had a half bottle of wine last night with dinner and a G&T after, I don’t drink a lot, I get drunk too quickly.”
“You’re certainly a deep sleeper if nothing woke you. We caught the edge of a tropical storm just after midnight, very heavy rain, visibility just a few yards and we went aground at about one am.” He looked closely at me, “You sure you’re okay, no injuries, no hangover?” he said with a smile.
“I’m fine, really, a cup of coffee and I’ll be able to take this in. I’m not accustomed to being shipwrecked and abandoned. Why are you still here?”
“Like you, I was left behind, I was in the hold,” he nodded to a wide doorway set in the forward bulkhead, “I felt the ship strike and didn’t think much of it, as I said, it was no more than a bump before we slid onto the reef. I was studying the hold construction and storage methods and was a bit too engrossed in what I was doing. The sirens weren’t sounded and the crew must have forgotten I was down here and like you I was left behind.”
“Well it doesn’t say much for the shipping line or the crew. What was the captain doing going off like that without checking that everybody was accounted for!”
“This is not the Royal Navy or P&O, it’s just a small shipping line with four ships running between Australia, New Zealand and the States keeping the islands supplied and the crew are minimally qualified, well the officers are, the majority of the rest are just casual labour. This is the only one of their ships that carries passengers, it’s cheaper and quicker to fly these days. I’ll get you some coffee, it’s only the instant variety but it is strong.” He walked over to a bench against the bulkhead and lit a primus stove and placed a pot of water on it.
I followed him over, “What were you making when I came in?”
There’s a hole up at the bow, not large but enough to slowly sink the ship if the tide lifts her off the reef which it may do later. I’ve managed to get some collision mats over it and they are held in place with packing cases but it won’t be enough to stop the sea getting in if she breaks free so I was going to shore everything up with that timber. I was making a temporary frame to do that, in fact I’ve finished it but it’s in sections so we’ll have to assemble it in the forward hold where the hole is otherwise we won’t be able to carry it down there. There’s a four wheeled trolley we can use to carry the sections but we’ll have the coffee first.”
He was so calm and logical about everything and it rubbed off on me. Without him I would have been in a state of panic but he was treating being shipwrecked in the middle of the world’s largest ocean as something that happened every day.
“Sugar?”
“Two please.” I took a long drink from the mug and sighed, with his strength and self-confidence and now the coffee I was ready. Perhaps there’s something in the human spirit that makes being shipwrecked seem like an everyday thing, after all. Mending a hole in a ship’s hull can’t be all that different to mending a dent on the wing of a car.

Two and a half hours later the job was done. I admit to feeling some concern when we moved the packing cases to one side and the collision mat fell inwards and sea poured in but Will my companion didn’t seem bothered. Following his example I feigned nonchalance as I helped to slide a section of grating over the hole and even stood on a packing case and held the mat in place whilst he slid a second grating over it to complete the sandwich before struggling with the assembled timber support frame.
“That’ll do until I get the power up and running and there’s something better than the Tilley lamps to work with and then I can weld a patch in place.”
“There’s still water seeping in though.”
“Nothing that the pumps can’t deal with once I get them working.”
“Get the power on and I’ll go into the galley and cook breakfast.”
We moved two or three packing cases into position to hold the frame until Will could do his welding and walked down the aisle between the cargo sections closing the watertight hatches as we went. “What sort of cargo is she carrying?”
“Furniture, household equipment, clothing, grain, compressors, pumps, generators, building materials, all the sort of things islanders would need and can’t make themselves.”
“Useful stuff if we can find an island, we can build a couple of houses and set up home.”
“We don’t need to go looking for an island, we’re on one.”
“Are we, well why not go ashore and find some civilisation and get help?”
“It’s uninhabited, too small to attract a community and not worth calling at so it won’t be on the tourist routes.”
“Surely the crew would have made for it, we could find them and get them back on board.”
“They almost certainly went north making for Hawaii, New Zealand or America. The island isn’t on the charts, too small and the local chart would probably only show it as a shipping hazard. I checked this morning and there was no signs of the lifeboats or of survivors. The nearest inhabited islands are closer to South America, New Zealand or Australia, this bit of the Pacific is no-man’s-land. If we can get the ship floated we could try for the smaller islands, Pitcairn, Clifford, those sort but I doubt there’s enough fuel to allow for errors and with only two of us, navigating a damaged ship of this size is fraught with difficulties.”
“Yes, I suppose it would be. So what are we going to do?”
“Get the power on and try to raise the alarm with the radio or computers.”
“Is there a satellite uplink because I think Wi-Fi is too much to hope for in the middle of the Pacific.”
“There is but it’s not working, that’s why we hit the reef, it went down about an hour or so before the storm hit us and the skipper’s navigation wasn’t up to it.”
“Well that’s my department possibly if you get the power on.”
“You know about computers and sat-navs?”
“The software, not the hardware, well not a lot about the hardware but I used to write code and work as a consultant debugging other people’s programming.”
“A hacker, I’m shocked.”
I grinned, “I could be but I enjoyed checking other people’s work. Chasing bugs and fixing them then looking for places where the programming might be vulnerable to virus attacks or hackers.”
“So the cruise was a holiday or were you travelling to a new job?”
“Holiday. My only living relative died six months ago and left me with a lot of money and a large house in Berkshire.” I felt my eyes filling and brushed my wrist across them, “She was a lovely lady, an aunt and looked after me from the time my parents died when I was fourteen until she died herself, a lovely lady,” I repeated, “Full of life, fun and love and even at ninety loved to play little tricks on me.”
I felt his hand on my shoulder, “I’m sorry, Charlie, it’s upset you and in the present circumstances I didn’t do well.”
“Not your fault, you weren’t to know. It was the main reason I chose to come on a cargo ship rather than a liner. I wanted to have time for myself, to recall happy memories and get over her death. A liner full of people having fun and laughing a lot wouldn’t have worked, not yet anyway.”
Changing the subject just as we were about to enter the engine room he pointed to the crates and boxes on the starboard side, “That’s the valuable stuff, semi-precious jewellery, ornaments, rolls of silk, cosmetics, perfume, watches, the luxury goods for island life.”
“You’ll make a fortune out of the salvage.”
“A bob or two, enough to set me up in my own business, you have a half share as well, you never left the ship and helped to keep her afloat.”
“I don’t need it, I have plenty of money as well as a five bedroom house in posh Berkshire.”
He shrugged, “I’ll cut you in for a half share of my business. Do you fancy taking up engineering and installing turbines and industrial machinery.”
“That’s the same as telling me I can spend my life up to my ankles in hydraulic oil and axle grease. Nope I’ll stick to working in an air-conditioned environment and content myself with small soldering irons and top pocket circuit testers.”
He smiled and took my arm and guided me down an aisle to the generator engine. “You hold the Tilley, I’ll need both hands,” and as soon as I had it he undid the wing nuts and opened the circuit box. He spent ten minutes going over it and then went down to the auxiliary engine. Again he spent a few minutes checking with a circuit tester, nodded and stepped back, “That’s as far as I can go without switching everything on. The generator engine battery is okay so we’ll get that going and then we can sort out the circuits and check them.”
“Get the kitchen going first and I’ll get breakfast on the go.”
He went to the engine board, looked at me and said, “Step back three or four paces in case something blows,” and when I had he pushed the starter button. The engine turned slowly, wheezed a little and then roared into life and almost immediately the engine room lights came on. He nodded, walked to the control panel and flicked a few switches, nodded again, “That’s the bridge section lights fixed, if you pop up there you can check the cookers, fridge and freezers, the food should be okay, the control panel for the kitchen will be on the bulkhead somewhere probably hidden in its own cupboard, about the size of a domestic wall cupboard. The switches for the various circuits will be labelled and there will probably be a main switch which will still be in the on position. Any problems use the red wall phone,” he looked at the inside of the door of the control panel, dial 0012 that’s this phone and if I don’t answer try 0010 or 0011, they will be at the engineers positions. You okay going up on your own?”
“Yes of course, I came down in the dark.” felt embarrassed, he was treating me like a nervous girl, “I’ll leave you with the torch and I placed it on the deck beside the Tilley Lamp, “There’s bound to be one in the kitchen,” and I left hurriedly before he saw the blush I was wearing.

Chapter 2

I was hungry as too was Will I suspect so I didn’t want to take too long in getting something ready. The food in the freezer was fine and so was the fridge but the bread had gone stale. I looked in the pantry and after prodding a few loaves I found one that was acceptable. I also found fresh salad and potatoes and took everything over to a preparation table adjacent to the sinks. Half an hour later there were chicken thighs in the oven, potatoes boiling away and a bowl of mixed salad, plates, cutlery and a table cloth on the nearest dining table to the galley, all I needed to do was to slice the bread, mix up the spicy sauce with a little tomato puree and it was ready. I went behind the bar opened the chiller and found a good white wine and opened it, poured a half glass, topped it up with lemonade, took a sip and put it and a bottle of red on the table with a clean glass for Will and went back to the galley, took the phone down and dialled the number. He answered on the second ring, “I was just about to come up and make sure you were okay.”
“I’m fine, lunch will be ready in about twenty minutes unless you want me to delay it.”
“Twenty minutes is fine, do you want me to change and wear my dinner jacket.”
“No keep that for dinner, I’ve found fillet steak in the freezer so it’s Steak Diane for dinner with a good red wine. There’s bottles of lager and beer in the chiller, I didn't know if you preferred beer at room temperature or chilled.”
He laughed, “Chilled and when I come up, I’ll sort out the music system so we’ll have entertainment. There’s a big screen video up there as well with a pretty extensive library of films.”
“Have a look and see if Robinson Crusoe is amongst the films, we might need some tips.”

He was hungry and between us we finished off the chicken and salad and Will must have eaten four thick slices of bread and butter. He only drank one glass of wine so at least I didn’t have to worry about having a shipmate with a drink problem, “Did you have enough, there is some bread left and ham if you’d like a sandwich?”
“I’m fine, want me to take a turn at the cooking and do the dinner tonight?”
“Can you cook Steak Diane?”
“Well no not really but I can manage the steak on its own with boiled potatoes and veg.”
“Asparagus tips?”
“No, not a clue.”
“You fix the ship, I’ll fix dinner.”
He grinned, “Fair enough, by the way, the shower in your cabin works now.”
“Good, I’ll take a shower, I’m still wearing yesterday’s dead skin.” He started to pick up the dirty crockery, “Leave that I’ll do it, I’ve found a domestic size washing machine in a utility room off the pantry, so if you have any clothes that need washing like that shirt you’re wearing and the trousers, let me have them.” I started to walk towards the door to the promenade deck and had a thought. “You said part of the cargo was clothing, where in the holds is it?”
“Number two hold on the port side. There’s two sections, the one on the right is women’s and the left is men’s, what are you after?”
“Cooks trousers and jackets or aprons, the stuff up here is too large and if I walk around in the galley with a yard of rolled up sleeve or trouser leg I’m going to have an accident.”
“There’s bound to be something there, if not just pick jeans and tops that will do.”
I nodded and started for my cabin and stopped again, “Will, how long do you think we’ll be stuck here before somebody comes looking?”
He shrugged, “Can’t say really, when the ship is missed they will send aircraft out looking for us but I suspect we were blown off course last night, hence hitting the reef. When they find the lifeboats, the captain or somebody will tell them that two people are missing and failing that, if we can get the computer link up and running we can get a message out. There’s a ships radio of course but I haven’t a clue about them and I suppose you’re the same so it looks like an internet S.O.S.”
“What’s the position about the ships stores and cargo if we’re here a long time?”
“The stores we can use in view of the fact that our being here is the fault of the shipping line and the neglect of the crew in failing to ensure that nobody was left behind. I’m not sure about maritime law but the ship was abandoned and I believe we have salvage rights, I’ll read up on it tomorrow and if we are here for weeks rather than days, we are going to have to use the dried and canned food in the cargo.”
I nodded, “There’s a walk-in freezer off the galley, I’ll take inventory later but we are going to run out of fresh milk.”
“So it’s black coffee or dried milk, or we can take a lifeboat and go over to the island and catch a cow or camel and milk that.”
“I’ll leave that to you,” I answered, “I might be able to catch a cow and milk it but a camel I’m not sure about,” and I left to have my shower, I took three steps along the promenade deck and stopped again, the lights were on! I returned to the saloon and Will was just standing by the table staring at the door as I entered, he smiled, “Another question?”
“No, I came back to tell you that the promenade lights are on.”
“I'll be going over the ship this afternoon and checking the lights and turning the one's we don't need off. It was night time when they abandoned ship so most of the lights were on and nobody took the time to go around switching things off. Leaving them on isn't dangerous but it makes the generator work harder and wastes fuel, whilst I'm down in the engine room, would you like me to try and find overalls or aprons in your size?”
“Yes please, it will give me more time to take an inventory of the food and a few other things. I know there's a shop on the deck above us, is there anything else I should look at?”
“There's the ship's hospital with a couple of beds, an operating table and drugs cupboards but what else I don't know. The only person with medical knowledge was the first mate and that was only basic cuts and bruises stuff. They didn't need a doctor because normally they were never much more than a couple of days from civilisation or if there was a need for urgent hospitalisation, a helicopter was only a few hours away. There's the pursers office, the armoury with a couple of rifles, hand guns and odds and ends and the rest of it would be bridge stores and equipment. Above that is the captain’s cabin and office, wireless room, chart room and the bridge and over that is the observation bridge.”
“The sat-nav is on the bridge?”
“Yes and the satellite equipment is in the wireless room but don't touch any of that until I've made sure it's safe.”
“Okay, I might stick my head in to see what's there but I will take a look at the hospital and see what drugs we have.”
“Do you have any medical training?”
“My auntie insisted I was able to look after myself so I had to do first-aid. If you have a cut I can stitch it. If you have a heart attack I can probably resuscitate you but I'm not up to speed on open heart surgery so keep a check on your cholesterol intake. Now I am going to get that shower.”
“One last thing, I've switched the phone exchange to open circuit, if you press the red button all the phones will ring so I'll hear you wherever I am on the ship. I will be wandering about all over for a few hours.”
“But if the call is for you, do you want me to transfer it or take a message?”
He grinned, “Take a message.”

The shower worked perfectly, the settings I had used previously were unchanged and I spent twice as much time as I usually do and stepped out feeling squeaky clean. I returned to the main part of the cabin, threw clean underwear and socks on the bed and opened the wardrobe. I had brought three pairs of casual trousers, a sports coat and bomber jacket and one suit in case I visited a collar and tie establishment. I had three lightweight shirts, three T shirts and two long sleeved shirts and two ties. I had intended to buy shorts and extra clothing on voyage when I could be certain of what I would need. If I was going to be working in the ship during the day and relaxing in the evenings I was going to need at least two pairs of trousers and probably more shirts, depending on what the work entailed. I took out a pair of light tan chinos and a T shirt for this afternoon, changed my mind and decided to wear the same trousers I had worn this morning and once dressed I sat in one of the cabin’s two chairs and pondered on my clothes. If we were going to be here for just a day or so I didn’t have a problem but if we were here for more than a week then I was going to have to wash things every two or three days and they weren’t going to last long. If some of the work when helping Will was heavy and things started getting torn or stained with oil then in a short time, I was going to have a serious clothing problem. I was under the normal clothing sizes for men, I had had problems often enough when high street shopping, even small was often too large and there were occasions when I had resorted to buying junior sizes. I would have to have a look in the shop, there was a reasonable selection but I could still see me having to unpack a great deal of the cargo.

I left my cabin climbed the stairs and started my inventory of the ship's emporium. It was larger than I thought but I had only visited it once on the voyage. There were the customary shelves of propriety medicines so I collected a basket picked a couple of packets each of Ibuprofen, paracetamol and indigestion tablets and moved on to toiletries took a large tube of toothpaste, changed my mind and took two, Will might need one. I ignored the perfumed soaps, found Dove unperfumed and took two of those stopped and had a think and then moved onto first aid and selected an assortment of plasters, bandages, antiseptic ointments and a hand sterilising gel moved on past ladies personal sanitary products, ignored baby foods and disposable nappies and selected two tubes of sun-blocker, the strongest I could find, even Will with his suntanned skin would need added protection against the South Pacific sun if he was working on deck and then walked over to the menswear section. I went the full length of the trouser rack and found nothing better than a fit 2” too long on inside leg and the same in waist measurement and went to the summer clothes and again, the smallest shorts were 2” too large around the waist. I returned to the main section and stopped to think what else we might need, couldn't think of anything and was about to go to the checkout when I thought, whilst I was here I might just as well check the ladies wear. I was luckier here, there was two pairs of jeans in my waist size but even a quick glance was enough to tell me they were hipsters and I didn't think I'd be comfortable in them, the colours didn't help much either, lilac and white. I had similar luck with the shirts and blouses, chests would have been okay but the colours and patterns were too feminine. I operated the checkout myself having seen it done a few thousand times in supermarkets at home and wrote out an IOU and left that in the till because I had left my money in the cabin.

I left the shopping beside the stairs and went to look at the purser's office which was much as I expected. A desk, a couple of chairs a safe and a couple of locked cupboards which I assumed contained the ship's passenger lists, accounts and stuff like that and of no real interest to me for the moment. Again, the ship's hospital was much as Will had described it and I went through the desk drawers found the key to the drugs cupboard and opened it. There was morphine, syringes, phials of antibiotics and everything was neatly labelled and a small pile of medical guides giving recommended doses. I also found trays of surgical instruments another set of guides presumably giving instructions for childbirths, open heart surgery, amputations and hopefully, if I were ever called on to do something as drastic as the instruments suggested, instructions for burials at sea.
Satisfied that I had learned all I needed to know at this stage I returned to the galley and began making a close inspection of the shelves, cupboards and catering equipment. I found a coffee percolator and soon after, a container of coffee beans and filled the percolator and plugged that in, took the phone of the wall and pressed the red button and jumped when I heard two phones start ringing in the saloon and several others in other parts of the ship close to the saloon. Will answered, “Real coffee ready in ten minutes.”
“I'll be up.”
He timed it perfectly and walked into the saloon as the percolator started bubbling and produced a black, aromatic coffee. I filled two cups, put them on a tray with pots of pre-packed cream and sugar and carried them to the table we had been using. It was like drinking champagne after spending a day in the desert without water, sheer beauty and it was good quality coffee. “I found a supply of dried baby milk in the shop and there's bottles and cans of baby food if we get desperate,” I told him as I sat down.
“Delicious,” he replied, “We can mix it with limpets and seaweed.
“Will, do you have any allergies or being treated for any illnesses, you know, pills, potions, stuff like that?”
“No, nothing.”
“You don't use drugs do you, cocaine, grass, anything like that?”
He frowned, “No, never, are you worried I might go crazy and run amok?”
“No of course not but I checked the drugs cupboard in the infirmary and there's morphine and syringes and if there's an accident and you are hurt and I gave you morphine and you had been popping pills or snorting coke I could kill you or cause brain damage.”
He laughed, “Charlie, you should have been a doctor or nurse, it's something I would never have thought of. Not planning to operate are you?”
I smiled, for a moment I thought I had annoyed him but he was okay with my questions, “No but if you were badly cut or broke a bone and I had to set it, I would need the morphine, that's if there are doubts about being rescued in time.”
“You could do that?”
“I think so, I've done the theory and practised on dummies when I did my first aid but I've never treated a real person for anything like that. The only real injury I've treated was Auntie Mo when she twisted an ankle. The hospital did say I had done a good job, so you'd better make sure you don't break a leg because I might reset it with your foot pointing backwards.”
He looked at me quietly for a moment and then nodded, “Charlie if I do get hurt like that, just go ahead and do what is necessary and I'll write a disclaimer if you wish giving you permission to carry out any medical or surgical treatment necessary.”
“God, don't say things like that and don't write any permissions it’s tempting fate. Just be careful and if you're going into the dark recesses below decks, let me know first, I'll come with you.”
He smiled and reached across the table and squeezed my hand, “I'll be careful and just to prove I'm serious, when I've finished the coffee I'm going down to number two hold to look for clothing and then checking the repairs we did this morning in the forward hold.”
I nodded, “I looked at the clothing in the shop and all I could find were two pairs of ladies jeans, one was white which is not the best colour for swabbing decks or cleaning out bilges and the other pair were lilac and I'm not being seen in lilac jeans.”
“Charlie, the only person likely to see you is me and I'll close my eyes and pretend they are dark blue or green. Don't be daft, if they are all that fit, wear them it won't worry me, you can wear a bloody skirt for all I care.” He stood up, “What size are you?”
“Small, 28 inside leg, 28 waist, 36 chest, you can see my problem, it's bad enough on land, at sea it's going to be near impossible. I've had to have slacks made to measure a few times in the past.”
“I'll find something. Now in case you get injured, where will you be?”
“Checking the walk-in freezer then I'm going up to the bridge to look at the equipment up there. What time do you want dinner?”
“Whenever suits you.”
“Seven be okay? That will give me time to check the bridge equipment and then get back here and prepare dinner”.
When he left I sat with a second cup of coffee and thought about the conversation we had just had; 'you can wear a bloody skirt for all I care', he had said it as a throw-away line but I wasn't sure if there wasn't something, a hidden message perhaps. I shrugged, the way he said it had been very casual and finished my coffee and went to look for a note book I could use for my inventory.

It took longer than I expected, we had enough food in the freezer to last for weeks. The ship carried supplies for up to 24 passengers and probably as many crew and there was only two of us so we weren't going to starve for a long time. I left my list on the bar with the stuff from my earlier raid on the shop and went back there to have another look at the lilac jeans. They would fit me around the hips and so would the white pair so just in case, I took both pairs and went to look for a belt which I found amongst a whole section of accessories so I took two and a shoulder bag as well to carry note books, pens and a torch in. If Will wasn't worried about me wearing lilac jeans or a 'bloody skirt' he was hardly likely to think anything unusual if he saw me with a ladies shoulder bag, particularly when it contained only writing instruments. As I turned away I noticed a rack of hair accessories; I hadn't had my hair cut since Aunty Mo's funeral, it was getting long and I was preparing food to be eaten by another person so I took a scrunchy with the idea of pulling it back into a pony tail when I was working in the galley. I left a note in the till again and put the new bag of purchases at the corner of the stairs and went up to the bridge.

The first thing I noticed was flashing lights and what was obviously the radar and they were all working. I went to the radar first and watched as it swept around and showed a whole mess of white at the top and nothing elsewhere except a small white spot near the centre and on the port side. Not really understanding it I left it as it was and went to investigate what I assumed was the control position where there was one prominent flashing red light and one smaller. One was labelled bulkheads and the other was a screen and the flashing red light was marked 4. Not understanding that I left them and went to the phone and pressed the red button and once again jumped when two or three other phones on the bridge started ringing, I would have to get used to some parts of the ship having more than one phone. Will answered immediately, “I'm on the bridge and everything is working and there are two flashing red lights, one is marked bulkheads and the other just a number 4.”
“That's okay, the bulkhead alarm is indicating that the bulkhead hatches to the holds are open and the number 4 is just telling us that the hull has been holed in number 4 hold, I'll switch them off when I come up. Anything on the radar?”
“Only a big white mess at the top of the screen and one white dot near the centre on the port side.”
“The big mess is the island and a part of the reef we're sitting on and the small dot is another part of the reef. The Island and reef are part of the lip of an undersea volcano, there's loads of them in the Pacific, in fact most of the islands are old volcanoes.”
“God, it won't start exploding will it?”
I heard him laugh, “No, Krakatoa is miles away, this volcano is dead and has probably been so for a few million years. Take a look out of the bridge window, you'll see well established trees on the island, they've been there for years.”
“I hope you're right. There's nothing else I recognise but all the machines do seem to be working.”
“I'll give you a tour later. What about the radio and GPS?”
“Only repeaters in here I'm going into the radio room next.”
“Okay but remember, don't touch anything until I've had a chance to look and make sure there are no short circuits.”
“I wasn't going to anyway, I have to get dinner ready.”

In chapters 3 and 4 things begin to happen and Charlie's confusion develops into fear and how will he continue his friendship with Will?
This is a long novel but my imagination can only be refuelled by your support so please do review the story.

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