Footprints In The Sea 5,6,7 and 8

Printer-friendly version

Author: 

Audience Rating: 

Publication: 

Genre: 

Character Age: 

TG Elements: 

TG Themes: 

Other Keywords: 

Permission: 

Footprints In The Sea – Chapters 5, 6,7 and 8

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

I suggest you read Footprints In The Sea in chapter order so if you haven’t read Chapters 1 and 2, please do so.

A third person appears on Pacific Wanderer and a Mayday call is made.

5

“What are we going to do tomorrow?”
Will put his knife and fork down, “I would like to get to the top of the hill and have a look at the island. I'll probably be able to see most of it and it's more important now that we've found evidence that other people are or were here, there may be others.”
“Shall I come with you?”
“Yes of course and if you don't want to climb to the top you can explore the area around the old house and see what else is there. There may be outhouses, sheds, agricultural equipment and tools, it depends how long they were living there and why they left.”
“I was thinking about the pigs. If they did keep pigs then it's possible they may have had chickens or even a cow as well. Would they have bred and left descendants?”
“The chickens yes, assuming there was a cock and they were not killed and eaten by predators, a cow, again it's possible if they had a bull.”
“Okay, that's what I'll do, have a look around and see if I can find any evidence. It would solve our egg and milk problem and if the chickens have been really successful, then it will give us meat to eat. I stood up, “Leave the table, I'll clear it shortly but I have to go to the shop again, I need another pair of jeans and some tops, the stuff I wore this afternoon will need to be washed.”
“Right, I'll check the moorings on the boat, then I want to go round and switch of all the lights except the navigation lights. I'll adjust everything so that lights can be switched on locally in case we need to be up and about during the night. Then, if you don't mind, I'll move my stuff over to a cabin on your side so that we don't have to use a telephone or go wandering around the ship looking for each other and after that I'll see if I can find a couple of back-packs, more torches and one or two other things that will be useful.”
“What time will we go tomorrow?”
“Mid-morning, there are one or two things I want to look at in the cargo hold first and I also want to try and find a couple of two-way radios, there's bound to be some, they often used them on deck when they were docking or loading cargo and if we are to separate tomorrow, we'll need them.
“Why not use my old cabin, I'll move into the stateroom so my cabin will be empty. If you use one of the others, you'll have to move all the original passenger’s things elsewhere.
I left to go to the shop, I had another problem, underwear. I had worn my boxers today under the jeans but the waist was high whereas the jeans were hipsters and my boxers showed two or three inches over the jeans. It looked scruffy and though nobody was going to see me except Will, I didn't like feeling scruffy and they were too thick and made the jeans feel tight, I needed a few pairs of hipster jockeys.
There weren't any of course. Hipster clothing was designed for the younger physique whereas the ship tended to attract middle aged and above passengers, younger people preferred large cruise liners with discos, gyms and swimming pools. I put the underwear on hold and went to the women's section to look for more trousers and was walking past the underwear racks when I spotted the knickers. Women's underwear usually tended to be made out of lighter material but had the disadvantage of including lace, bows and generally frillier but I spotted some that were fairly plain with just a small amount of lace at the waist and legs. I stopped and thought about it, if Will found out I was wearing knickers under my trousers he might think...no, he WOULD think I was a weirdo, a transvestite or something like that and tend to shy away from me which, given our present circumstances, would make life difficult, even unpleasant. I know he had said he wouldn't care if I even wore a skirt if there were no trousers to fit, but frillies would stretch acceptance to its limits. I wish they had passed a maritime law making it obligatory for ships to carry clothes suitable for marooned passengers of all sizes but they hadn't so I was probably going to have to get used to the idea of going without or make my own from sheets or pillowcases, perhaps even the ships curtains, at least I could sew, another of Auntie Mo's survival and independence lessons and I could sew well enough to be able to make crude underwear.
I was about to ignore underwear when a thought came into my head so I returned to the men's section and looked for swimwear, perhaps they had some suitable Speedos but I drew a blank, there wasn't a wide choice and what there was tended to be waist high or just too heavy a material. Sod it, I'd make my own, even darn the one's I had and make do. Then I spotted the ladies bikinis and right at the top of the rack was a white set and when I looked they were made from a stretchy material and the size was 'W' and that I deduced meant the same as the men's 'M' so I took them I could always use the top bit as a sling for when we went hunting and whilst I was at it, I took a packet of three of the plain knickers; in for penny, in for a pound I thought. And went into the outer clothing aisles and my luck held I found two more pairs of ladies Chinos, one pale blue, the other a soft yellow and the last pair I found were a pair of standard blue jeans and when I held them against myself to check the length I was reminded of the anatomical difference between the male and female; the zip on the fly only came down about three quarters of the way compared with men's jeans. A woman sits to pee and only needs to unzip far enough to loosen the top of the Jeans for her to slip them over her hips whereas a standing man needs to go further so he can get it out and doesn't have to undo the waist fastening. If I wanted to pee in these jeans I would have to undo the waist and lower them, I must remember that in case I ended up with my trousers round my ankles and Will spotted me and thought such behaviour odd. If I got the computers up and running I must enter that important fact on Wikipedia. Yesterday I had not noticed anything wrong with the lilac Chinos but when I checked the new pairs, the zip on them ended a couple of centimetres higher than the Chinos, just enough difference to make undoing the waist necessary. The things I was learning about survival whilst marooned was invaluable and chuckling to myself I went to the checkout and wrote my purchases down, scrubbed out panties and re-entered underwear, something else Will might think odd if he spotted the entry. Heaven help me when I had worn out all the plain ones and was reduced to thongs.
When I got back I left my purchases on a dresser in my new cabin and went next door and spent thirty minutes moving house and sorting out my new home and then went to the kitchen to prepare dinner and the food for tomorrow's picnic.
When I was finished, I visited the infirmary and searched the cupboards until I found the medical reference books and selected Symptoms and Treatments for Tropical and Sub-tropical Diseases. I opened it to check the date of publication, it was three years old, good enough for what I wanted and then looked for a medical dictionary and took the two and met Will on his way up from below, “Fancy meeting you here,” I quipped.
“Charlie, how nice to see you again and you haven't changed a bit.” He looked at the cover of the top book, tropical diseases?”
“I have to bone up on them as far as I can with my limited knowledge.”
“Yes I suppose I should as well.”
“Leave it to me for the moment. If I can sort out a shortlist and then check what drugs we have on board it will be quicker. Don't forget I have done first aid, it's not a lot of good when it comes to malaria, anthrax or swamp fever but it will help.”
“Right, then I'll leave it to you, Doc and reserve my energies for ships and their equipment and on that subject, there is a treasure trove in the hold. I've found two small diesel generators, one medium which will kick out enough power for a large four or five bedroom house with some to spare and a large one. There's also a whole load of solar panels and equipment so if we are stuck here, I'll be able to rig something up and probably work out a way to convert one of the generators to run off the waterfall. There's also a whole load of assorted paraffin lanterns just in case.”
“In case of what?”
“I can't get one of the generators over to the island and make it work.”
“There wasn't an Argo solid fuel stove was there?”
“Charlie, I'm offended, you have no faith in me.” he grinned, “As it is there are two and a whole lot of tools, in fact the ship seems to be carrying quite a bit of stuff we'll find useful, not surprising really, some of the smaller inhabited islands need things like that. Do I have time to change cabins?”
“How long do you need, my old one is empty and ready for you unless you snore, in which case I would prefer you stayed on the starboard side.”
“Nope, I grind my teeth sometimes but no snoring and I'll get things done in an hour.”
“Okay, I'll have dinner ready in an hour and a half.”

After dinner, we cleared the table and washed up, this time Will stayed and helped and then we sat in the lounge. Will poured drinks and we chatted, made plans and listened to music and two hours later before ten I began to feel tired and within ten minutes I was struggling to stay awake. “Come on, you can't keep your eyes open, it's time we went to bed,” and that's what we did. We had been busy all day and certainly as far as I was concerned, work and sea air combined, I needed sleep. I ignored my earlier criticism of Will using the floor as a wardrobe and took my new clothes off the bed and left them in piles on the floor and then I undressed, climbed into a bed that I had forgotten to put sheets on and went to sleep.
I awoke at six and completely out of character I went into the shower before I had coffee, I had shaved yesterday so I didn't need to shave this morning so I wrapped myself in my terry towel dressing gown and padded back into the bedroom and switched on the percolator and whilst that was getting ready, I towelled off and without even thinking about it I slipped on a pair of the cotton panties and the blue Chinos, I didn't bother with socks, they were a nuisance when fooling around on a sandy beach and I had a new pair of Nike's with blue facings that matched the Chinos. I finished with a long sleeved white T shirt, my arms had burned slightly yesterday, I hadn't topped up my sun-blocker and that was after lecturing Will to make sure he did so. Until I got into the habit, long sleeves were going to be the order of the day. I brushed my hair, fixed the pony tail and went to the galley to get breakfasts ready.
I turned the radio on in the bar and tuned into a New Zealand station and they were playing retro music and I danced my way around frying pans, grills, coffee percolators, and was twisting as I poured cornflakes when a voice from the door said; “You can dance a bit then?”
I nearly dropped the packet as I spun round, “How long have you been there?”
“A minute or two, I came in half way through ‘Peggy Sue’.”
God, what did he think of me, dressed in pastel blue jeans, matching Nike's and dancing like a tart in a trance! I slammed the cornflake packet on the table, “You should have said something.”
“Sorry, I wasn't spying, just admiring your dancing, you have a fluid body and dance well, naturally. Can you twist right down?”
“Yes.”
“Go on, do it before the track ends.”
“No.” I moved to the grill and turned the sausages, “The coffees ready, you can pour your own, how many eggs do you want with your breakfast?
He chuckled, “One, thank you.”
The twist ended and ‘Stupid Cupid’ came on and I had to concentrate on making my feet walk normally and I heard him chuckle again as I walked back stiff legged from the fridge, poured milk onto my cornflakes and plonked the carton in front of his coffee. “Help yourself,” and I went to the frying pan to get his egg going.”
“Can you jive?”
I turned again, stuck my hands on my hips and my eyes were on fire, but the smile on his face cooled me down a bit, “As a matter of fact, yes and I can waltz, foxtrot quickstep and tango. I can samba, rumba, cha-cha and do the mambo and I can do both the male and female steps. Auntie Mo said I wasn't socialising with my own age group enough and she signed me up to dance classes and I ended up as an instructor.”
“Did you socialise?”
“Some,” I placed his plate in front of him, “But I was doing IT at tech college so there wasn't much opportunity and then when I started work a lot of it was evenings and often all night, companies don't like their machines being taken off-line during the working day.”
“Didn't you ever have a regular girl friend?”
“A few dates with the same girl but nothing more than that, as I said, there wasn't much time for a decent social life.”
He changed the subject, “I'm going to check the circuits and equipment in the radio room after breakfast to ensure they're safe and then they will be okay for you to work on. Them I'm going to get equipment loaded for the island and may need your help.”
“Okay, the picnics ready to go, I did most of it yesterday, whistle when you're ready,” and I grinned and started to clear the table. By the time I had washed up and added a few bits to the picnic box, he came in, “Radio room is okay now but don't start any big jobs because I will have everything ready for loading in about an hour.”
“I'll just pop up and see what is and what isn't working for now.”
“Right,” he looked at me for a moment, “Did you get sunburn yesterday?”
“Just a bit on my arms, that's why I'm wearing long sleeves. It's not serious.”
“It could be if you let it happen again, you nagged me yesterday about sun-blocker so I'm going to nag you because you need a different hat, the floppy hat you wore yesterday isn't wide enough so go into the shop and pick something with a wide brim. Your skin is a lot fairer than mine, Charlie so do it.”
I nodded sheepishly, “I forgot in all the excitement of landing on a desert island.” He nodded and went to sort out the supplies for the island and I went straight to the shop to look for a hat and needless to say there was nothing suitable in the men's section. Men don't normally wear wide brimmed hats, well not as wide as the one I was going to need so I went into the ladies bit and sure enough there was a selection but they were decorated with ribbons and one even had flowers around the brim. I picked one with a very wide brim and pastel blue ribbon around the crown, stuck it on my head and started to leave. I stopped to think if there was anything else we would need and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror behind the cosmetics counter and did a double take and stared, not a narcissus stare, a shock stare. With the combination of pastel blue jeans a white top and a woman's wide brimmed hat, if I had a bust I would look like a woman and the places where I had caught the sun on my cheeks looked uncomfortably like I'd used a blusher. I turned sideways to check my silhouette and see if the jeans fitted around my hips and derrière and smiled when I saw that the ribbon on the hat was almost a perfect match to the jeans and Nike's. Suddenly I realised what I was doing and icy fingers seemed to caress my spine and I hurried away from the mirror and back to the safety of my cabin and sat on the bed. What on earth was I doing, I was behaving just like a woman, admiring pretty hats and even allowing for my difficulty with sizes I seemed to be taking to wearing women's clothing too readily. I got up with the intention of taking the hat back and the phone rang.
“It's Will...”
“Thank heavens, I thought it might be that other person...” I stopped, I had meant it as a quip but there was another person on the ship, I had just seen her in the mirror. Will stopped chuckling, “Force of habit. Where are you?”
“In my cabin all ready to go.”
“Can you come down to the doors we used yesterday to drop things down to the boat, I need to show you how to operate the loading gear.”
“Shall I bring the picnic box, I can put it on a waiter's trolley and wheel it to the lift?”
“Good idea.”
It took me ten minutes to grab my shoulder bag and return to the galley and collect the picnic box and Will was waiting outside the lift. He showed me how to work the winch for loading and put the box and a large bag of tools onto the net and handed me a two-way radio. “It's switched on and when it buzzes just speak, the mike is voice activated,” then he stood in the middle of the net, and took hold of the hawser, “Okay lower away.”
“You as well!”
“Why not, the boat is directly underneath and it will save me having to use the landing steps.” I shrugged, ran the gantry out and lowered the net until he waved and started unloading the net into the lifeboat. The radio buzzed and I put it to my ear. “Is that it everything?”
“From there, yes.”
“Leave the hawser down we might need it later and I'll meet you on the starboard side about half way along by Number three hold, where the mast is.”
“I was still a bit preoccupied and didn't ask what mast so just said “Okay,” and walked out onto the deck and looked forward and there half way down stood a mast and boom centred over number three hold. I made my way along and heard Will come round the stern and go alongside and start tying up.
Whilst I waited I looked down into the hold and there was a pallet connected to a cable that ran up to the boom and back along it to the mast and then to a winch. I looked at the winch control box. There was a lever on one side and when I edged it forward, the cable slackened slightly so I stopped, that was obviously the up and down lever. I then put my hand on a thing like a computer joystick and eased it back and the angle of the boom changed, so now I knew how to control the boom. I went back to the bulwark to check on Will and he was slowly motoring down to me with the second lifeboat tied alongside the first. I saw him lift his walkie-talkie and mine buzzed, “Leading Deck Hand Charlie listening,” I said.
He looked up at me and smiled. “Right Leading Deck Hand go to the mast as soon as I'm level with you and I'll explain the crane controls.”
“Already sorted, Admiral, I tried them out whilst you were swanning about in the boats.”
He shook his head, “Right, when I'm level, will you be able to lift the pallet from the hold and swing it out to hang over the boats?”
“Aye, aye, Admiral.”
When I had the pallet over the boats he manoeuvred a little until he had the empty boat underneath the pallet, “Okay lower away very slowly and listen out for me to say stop.”
I did and after a short while I noticed the boom lift slightly and stopped the winch. “Not yet, carry on a bit more,”
“I thought it had reached you I saw the boom lift as the weight came off it.”
“It has but I need some slack in the cable to unhook it.”
I lowered the cable another couple of meters and he called “Stop.” and fifteen minutes later I had the boom back over the hatch and the hooks and chains lying on the deck of the hold. When I checked on Will he had untied the lifeboat and was about to leave, “What about me!”
“I'm going round to the boarding stairs now to pick you up,” so I grabbed my back pack and shoulder bag and flew back to the bridge and ran down the boarding steps just as he arrived and clambered on board. “What about the other boat?”
“We'll pick that up now and then get over to the beach.”
“It may have drifted off.”
“No wind, no current and in a lagoon, it won't have gone far.”
We were lucky when we got to the beach, the tide had only just started to ebb and we were able to get up to the beach and reduce the time needed to carry the load up to the house or cave. “Jump over Charlie, and I'll slide the generator to the edge and follow you, the two of us should be able to carry it between us. We did but had to take it along the beach to where the small cliff gave way to the slope and then up to the house. “We should be able to haul the jerry cans of fuel and picnic box over the cliff with a rope now, so we'll get the picnic and then I'll take the empty boat and moor it close to the river so it doesn't go aground.”
“What about the cargo boat, are you going to let it get high and dry?”
“Yes, if needs be. We can tow it off with the other boat if it isn't too far from the water, if not we can leave it until tomorrow and I can get it at high tide in the morning. In fact I might moor it in that position, we're much closer to the trees here so if the wind or sea did get up enough to affect the sea in the lagoon, the boat will be safe.”
After we left the picnic box under the cliffs, Will took the other boat and I started unloading the jerry cans of fuel for the generator and other equipment. I slipped and fell when I was carrying the third jerry can and got soaked so when I got back to the cliff, I took off the trainers and jeans and went back to the boat still wearing my top to protect me from the sun. Will returned when I was carrying the last bag of tools and waited at the water's edge. “You've gone transparent,” he said grinning.
“I fell in the water and took my shoes and jeans off to dry,” and then I realised he was referring to my underwear, started to blush and held the bag I was carrying in front of me, the bloody panties were too thin and were hiding nothing! “It was all I could find that would fit under the jeans,” I mumbled.
“Is there much left on the boat?”
“No that's everything, well everything you had on the pallet apart from our back packs and my shoulder bag.”
“There's a bag with spare batteries for the torches and radio sets and a long extension lead, I'll come and help.”
“No, you stay there, you're dry, I'll get the back packs first and then you can go up to the beach and get the tea going whilst I get the other stuff and we'll have something to eat.” I started back to the boat and a thought occurred to me, “Will, how did you manage to stay dry after you moored the boat?”
“Those rocks this side of the river run out to where it's deep enough to give water at low tide and I moored to them and scrambled back, it's easy enough.”

When we had finished our tea and sandwiches, Will took a radio battery out of his pack and gave it to me. “I doubt you'll need it, the one in there is fully charged but just in case. I'm going up to the cave and climb the hill from there. I'll call you when I think I'm about half way to see if we're still in range, okay?”
“Fine, call from the top of the hill as well, I won't be exploring too far from here.”
I watched him until he disappeared into the trees and wondered what he must have really thought when he saw me in the wet panties. He had made light of it and gave the impression that he didn't consider my clothing or for that matter my behaviour at breakfast when he saw me dancing as unusual but was that what he really thought? He remained the same outwardly; friendly, humorous and unhesitating when we had to work together, there was no attempt to shy away from being close to me and never hesitated to offer a hand to assist me out of the boat and on occasions had touched me, placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder, things like that. I turned and stepped up to the floor of the old house to begin exploring; but what about me? Seeing the girl in the mirror; using female clothing if it was more convenient and not worrying about the fact that I was doing it, only about what other people might think. I pushed the thoughts aside, I had work to do and this was no time for introspection.
I went to the chimney, the fireplace was open and intended to heat the entire house. I suspect that if we couldn't find the original ovens then it would be possible to adapt it to accommodate a modern Argo or support a grill. There were hooks protruding from the inside of the chimney and these would have been used for the cauldron and when I looked closely, there were holes either side of the fireplace, a row of three, I pondered these for a while and came to the conclusion that they must have been used for a spit. I stood, satisfied that both cooking and heating were up to survival standards and walked to the rear to check the plumbing. I found holes close to where the rear wall would have been and these were roughly the size that might have been used for a sink drain and water supply and further along in what I presume would have been a bedroom, another hole, a bath? I smiled to myself, an en-suite bathroom in a log cabin must have been something of a novelty as well as a luxury in the time that this place had been built but when I looked across the whole area, it had probably had only three rooms, a sitting room combined with a dining area, a kitchen and one bedroom with an en-suite but where had the toilet been? The hole for what I suspected had been a bath was too small for a water closet and there was nothing in the kitchen though I would have been surprised if there had been evidence of a WC in a kitchen, it must have been outside somewhere and I doubt it had been a water closet, Thomas Crapper's invention would hardly have travelled as far as a remote island in the South Pacific in those days. If we were to rebuild the house and live in it, then Will would have to add a second bedroom and an indoor loo.
I returned to the front of the house still inspecting the rough wooden planks that had been used and there was evidence that there had been a front porch and the view was picture book. Whoever the tenants had been, must have spent most of the fine evenings sitting here watching the sunset and the waves breaking on the reef and I could easily picture myself doing exactly the same in a comfortable lounger or even a rocking chair with a glass of vintage wine in my hand.
I jumped down onto what was once a lawn and walked a few paces and turned to look back to where the house had stood. There was level ground to either side, the section to the right after perhaps three metres began to rise toward the trees and the cave and to the left there was a clear section of about the same width and behind that, shrubbery but when I studied the shrubs I realised that they weren't random local plants, the row was too even and they were of about the same height but being middle to late spring, there were no flowers or fruit that might help me. I walked along this section and noticed that there seemed to be slightly rougher ground immediately next to the house and again in front of the shrubs, I was walking along a path between old forgotten flower beds. I went a little past the rear of the house and stopped to take a look, here again there was evidence that there had once been a lawn but it was only about ten metres and then there was the piles of stones where we had found the cooking pots and further along there was another pile of overgrown rough-hewn planks and beyond that rocky ground and then an area about five metres square that had a riot of mixed plants and small shrubs growing over it. It was different to the land around it which was much the same as the land to either side of the house and I spent a while wondering why and slowly walked towards it and then I put two and two together and realised it must be a midden or cesspit, well fertilized, hence the riot of wild plants and the hewn planks would have been the loo, now all I had to do was find the lavatory pan and if it had Shanks, Made in Stoke written on it I would scream.
I walked around the midden, I didn't want to get half way across and have the surface collapse and vanish for ever into a mixture of household refuse and human waste products even if it had dried out by now. Beyond the midden it was obvious the ground had been worked. It was the full width of the house and side paths and around twenty five metres in length and in one section there were the remains of one or two canes or sticks standing and I remembered Auntie Mo's garden. She had kept the back section for growing vegetables and salads and used canes just like the ones I was looking at to support runner beans and peas, this was obviously an allotment and a very large one, more than enough for two people, I took out my notebook and drew a quick sketch to illustrate the position of the midden and then moved on past the allotment to the stand of trees that marked its southern boundary and as I grew closer I recognised olive trees and judging by the flowers on others, orange, lime and lemon. As I went through I stopped under one of the trees and watched two or three bees moving about so there were honey bee colonies around somewhere. I doubt they lived in hand built beehives, not after all these years but they had certainly built colonies somewhere.
My radio buzzed, “Charlie's Fruit and Veg, may I take your order?”
Will chuckled, “I wonder what you'll say when you run out of ideas, how's the signal.”
“Not as good as it was outside the house.”
“Where are you?”
“Under some fruit and olive trees in what used to be an orchard I think.”
“Move away from the trees.”
I did so and spoke again, “How is it now?”
“Much better. I'm halfway up, I'll push on a bit, I taking it you're making discoveries?”
“Yes, I've found an archaeologists dream, a midden.”
“Don't fall in, I'll call again when I reach the top.”
“Will, did you take a notebook?”
“Yes of course.”
“Can you make notes and try and draw a rough map when you are at the top.”
“Yes and if I see any edible plants, I'll jot them down or bring samples. I'm hoping to find hops.”
“We don't need them, there's years of beer and lager on the ship.”
“Well you started the long term planning.”
“I'm still doing it and have mapped out where to build a second bedroom and inside loo for the house.”

6

On the return to the boat, we had little to carry; our back packs were empty and we left the radios behind with the intention of commandeering a second pair for use on the ship. I carried the picnic box up to the galley whilst Will tied the boat up for the night and checked the ships moorings were still secure and we sat in the saloon. “What do you fancy for dinner tonight?”
“I'm not hungry at the moment that was quite a picnic you packed.”
“I enjoyed it, I'll do a supper, fish and chips or hot dogs later if you don't want a full meal.”
“Okay.”
I got up and switched on the music and picked some easy listening tracks and returned to my chair, I was back to thinking about this morning and clothes. I sat for a while half listening to the music and going back and forth in my thoughts until Will spoke; “You were very quiet coming back in the boat, and you seem a little worried about something now. It isn't about being rescued is it because if you want, I'll go over the ship in the morning, show you how basic things work and we can try and get her off the reef and go back to sea and look for help. It’s not as impossible as it may seem because there is a system that allows the engines to be controlled from the bridge.”
I shook my head, “No, it's not that, I feel safe at the moment and when I get the radio or satellite link working we can send for help.”
“Something's worrying you, Charlie, what is it. Something I've said or done?”
“No,” I said quickly, “No, Will, you've been terrific and made me feel safe on the island and I've been enjoying myself, no, it's nothing you've done.”
“Charlie,” he said quietly, “What is it.”
“Nothing, well nothing I feel I can talk about.”
“You have to talk about it, if not now then very soon. We are stuck here together and we don't really know for how long so we can't afford to have something going on that might cause friction.”
He was right but I just didn't know how to ask him, voice the doubts I had about myself.
“Later then,” he said after a couple of minutes of silence, “But tonight if you can, Charlie, I don't want to spend a sleepless night worrying about you worrying about something.”
He started to get up, “I'll go and get the cabling we'll need on the island so I can get the generator going and run lights up to the cave.”
“No don't go, not yet,” I paused and he sat down waiting for me to continue. “Do you think I'm strange, that I act strangely, do odd things?”
“Like what?”
“The dancing this morning, the business with my underwear and wearing the women's jeans, cooking, nursing, and the untypical things I do.”
“Untypical of what, Charlie. Untypical of a hairy chested over muscled man, the things I might not do? Not having had a regular girl friend?”
I couldn't look at him and just nodded and mumbled, “Yes, stuff like that,” and then it came out, I couldn't stop it, “Do you think I'm gay?”
He looked steadily at me, not hard, there was softness in his eyes. “I could answer that by asking you the same question. No, I don't think you're gay, you're a delicate man, a lot softer than most men allow themselves to admit to or demonstrate but I'm pretty sure you're not gay and if you are, I don't give a toss.”
I shook my head, “I'm not, well if I am I don't know about it but this morning when I was in the shop, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and for a second I thought it was somebody else, a woman and but for the fact that the reflection showed a flat chest, I would have believed there was a woman on board.”
“You're slim, have soft facial features and hair, are fair skinned and perhaps your waist is smaller by an inch or two for a man of your height which is on the shorter side of average and maybe your hips a little wider than average and it wouldn't be difficult at a quick glance to mistake you for a woman and if that's all that's worrying you stop it because there are men in very masculine occupations, married with loads of kids, men who are similar to you physically and don't perceive it as a problem.”
I smiled, “My problem Will is that I am not really worried about having to wear women's clothes, in fact if I were to be honest I prefer them, they are more comfortable and when I put the hat on, I liked the way it looked on me.”
“That doesn't necessarily mean you are gay in the strict sense of the word but it might be the symptom of something else.”
“Like what?”
“Charlie I am not a psychiatrist but from what I know about it from television and newspapers and I don't mean the sensation sheets, I think you should consider the possibility you are transsexual but I stress, it is only a suggestion. You are Charlie, I like you, we gel and we don't argue about who does what, we pick the jobs we do best and get on with it. When we are rescued and return to the known world I will want us to keep in touch, stay friends, friends that meet and have a drink and reminisce about the good old days when we were marooned on an uncharted island and your sexuality isn't relevant unless we're here for six months in which case I might ask you to wear a grass skirt and do a bit of hula-hula dancing.” He finished his drink and got up, “Do you want another?”
“Yes please, shall we watch a film? If there's a copy of ‘South Pacific’ I'll put that on and bone up on hula-hula dancing.”

I had the breakfast ready when I heard Will go into the saloon and place something heavy on the floor and then dropped something on a table. I picked up his eggs and bacon and my cornflakes and carried them to our favourite dining table and saw him holding something against himself but he had his back to me and as I placed the plates down he turned. “It's a wet-suit,” I exclaimed.
“It is but the size is too large for you, the trousers are too long for me, if you wore them you'd slip down into one of the legs.”
“Let me see,” and I took them from him and held them against myself. “They're perfect.”
“Perfect! The waist is halfway up your chest!”
“That's the way they're supposed to be,” I put them down and picked up the vest and struggled into it, “This too.” I didn't put the jacket on, a look was good enough.
“The trousers are supposed to fit half way up your chest?”
“Yup and then when I wear the vest and jacket, I'll have three layers of neoprene protecting most of my chest and hips and they will keep me snug and warm.” He shrugged and held up a pair of fluorescent pink fins, “What about these flippers, will they fit?”
I tried one on, lifted my leg and shook my foot, “Made for me.”
“What about the colour?”
I grinned, “That too, it will keep me visible and easy to find in the gloomy depths. The colour is more for visibility than fashion but they do match the jeans. Now eat your breakfast before it gets cold.”
He laughed, “If I see a pair with daisies painted on them, I'll get them for you,” and as he sat down he pointed, “I know that's an air bottle but it's empty and not knowing the pressures I left it that way but there is a compressor in the engine room and that cardboard box contains some other stuff that was packed with the air bottle.” I looked inside and it was a demand valve with a buddy breathing system, a contents gauge, depth gauge and two masks, one eyes and nose the other full face. “This is terrific, nearly everything I need.”
“There was an orange jacket down there as well but I wasn't sure if it was for diving and I was carrying enough anyway so I left it.”
“Did it have a small metal bottle attached to it?”
“Yes and a couple of rubber tubes.”
“That's a buoyancy jacket, I'll pop down after breakfast and fetch it up.”
“There's a choice but all the same colour,” he grinned “And it might clash with the fins. There are some more wet suits, a couple made from what looks like rubberised canvas and a few other bits and pieces.”
“Why would a small ship carry so much diving gear?”
“It's not part of the ship's equipment, its cargo. Don't forget the ship plies the islands, that's what it was built for and island people would find a lot of use for diving equipment with the sea all around them.” Changing the subject he went on, “We've been working pretty hard for three days, fancy something different today? I was thinking of taking the boat and motoring right round the island and explore the beaches and coves to look for signs of people being here. If the wind is right, we could put the mast up and do a bit of sailing as well.”
“I'd love to, I can do a bit of diving if we find a place where there might be crabs.”
As soon as breakfast was finished I rushed down to the forward hold and found the diving equipment straight away and took a second air bottle, a couple of snorkels and a pair of black fins just in case Will wanted a lesson. I browsed through the cartons and found a whole load of accessories and joy of joy, some air harpoon sets, so with luck it might be crayfish, crab and shark steaks for dinner. I went back to number three hold and claimed the trolley and when I got back I remembered weight belts and found some and a very, very heavy box of weights and when I had everything on the trolley, I pushed it back to the hull doors, a successful session of shop-lifting complete. Will was just coming down from the electrician's stores with rolls of cable and fittings, “Can we take all this stuff?”
“We can but why do you want so much?”
“I brought a spare set for you if we find safe water for beginners.”
He laughed, “You won't get me going under the sea, I'll start my lessons here in the lagoon.”
I didn't push him, a nervous swimmer trying to learn to use scuba equipment was no use but I would train him if we were here long enough. “Do I have time to charge the air bottles?”
“How long?”
“Fifteen or twenty minutes.”
“Okay but no longer or we will have to rush everything and spoil the day. I'll go up and get the picnic.”

We motored over to the other life boat and Will quickly transferred the rolls of electric cable and fittings to it and then, staying a few meters off the beach, we continued until it curved out to meet the other reef which had started to curve inwards at this point. I was standing on the seat looking down at the sea bed, “Will, the bottom falls away very rapidly here,” I knelt and leaned over the side, “I can see the top of a kelp forest, no wait, that's out of view now, I think this is an underwater drop-off, a cliff.”
“The inside of the old volcano probably. When we investigate the section off the beach we've been using, it will probably do the same.”
We continued following the reef staying well clear and left the lagoon by the gap through which the ship must have entered and this close we realised how lucky we had been, had the Pacific Wanderer been seven or eight meters to either side of the course she had taken, we would have hit the outside of the reef and almost certainly have sunk. Providence had been with us that night.
We turned right and headed towards the eastern end of the island and after about a quarter of a mile the mixture of small beaches and rocky spurs gave way to cliffs. At first they were only about twenty meters high but as we progressed they climbed until we judged them to be about forty five and here there was some evidence of sandstone over limestone in the strata. Will studied them through the glasses for a few minutes and then gave them to me, “Look at the strata stripes, this mountain is very old and has been fully submerged at least four or five times.”
“Is that good?”
“I would think so because there are no signs of volcanic rock which means our volcano is small as volcanoes go and has been extinct for a few thousand years at least.”
“Do you want to land and have a closer look, there’s a small cove over there?”
“No, we'll continue for a while longer if that's okay, I would rather have a look at the other side of the island unless you want to go ashore?”
“No, I'm okay, I'd prefer the other side as well, if there is a place where there's a ridge of sorts jutting out into the sea, that would be more interesting for diving because it wouldn't be influenced by the volcano and there might be coral reefs.”
“You do know that the sea may be very cold?”
“It was warm in the lagoon.”
“Yes it's sheltered there but this is the open sea.”
I shrugged, “I've dived off Cornwall and Plymouth in early March and that's cold.”
“I think you may be in for a shock, test the temperature first. In the Channel, even after winter before the sun has had a chance to warm it up it's a lot warmer than here. In the Channel you have the benefit of the Gulf Stream, here if there are any predominant currents, they are likely to come from the Antarctic and it is just recovering from winter.”
“That's okay, I dived under ice once in a Norwegian fjord.”
“Did you catch anything?” he was grinning.
“An iceberg, oh yes, and a cold.”
As we continued I started getting the diving equipment ready but when I leaned over the side of the boat to reach down and test the water temperature, Will yelled at me, “Get back inboard, Charlie, you'll go over the side.”
I did as he told me but protested, “I would have been okay.”
“I wasn't going to take that chance.” He left the tiller and went to an under-seat locker and pulled out a couple of life-jackets, “Here put this on, we both should have done it before we set off.” He was right, in fact we should put one on every time we got into the boat, even in the lagoon. “Okay now?” I asked once I had tied it up.
“I suppose so but don't fall in it will be hard to find somebody to go in and rescue you because I'm not going in, it'll be too bloody cold for me.”
“Use the boat hook,” and I leaned over making sure I hooked my feet under an oarsman's seat and kept a firm grip on the gunwale. My hand wasn't in the water long before I pulled it out, “You're right it's definitely too cold for a wet suit. If I do go in and the water is like this I'll have to wear one of the drysuits.”
We continued heading east and then the land began to slope down and became a promontory which ended in a rocky spur reaching out to the sea like a finger. “It's beginning to look a bit like Beachy Head and Lyme Bay,” I said, “I feel quite at home.”
He nodded, “No lighthouse though and that spur looks like coral.”
“Coral! There'll be fish around here then, crab, crayfish and if there's a suitable sea bed, oysters, scallops, abalone, mackerel, sardines, skate, halibut, even rays and swordfish, they grill up nicely,” I looked beyond the spur, “I wonder what it's like on the other side?”
“We're about to find out,” he replied beginning to turn the boat to round the end of the spur. “Charlie can you jump up onto the bow locker and watch close in and ahead and yell if you see rocks or coral,” as he spoke he leaned forward and cut the engine speed to a crawl. We edged forward and I kept my eyes on the sea a few metres ahead of the bow, “Go left a bit, Will, there's reef just below the surface on the right.” He did so and I watched, “There's rock or coral dead ahead but it looks too deep, wait a tick,” and I lay down and peered over the bow, “Okay, it's at least two metres below us and then it drops off, I think we're clear now.” I felt the boat turn again and we started back towards the south side of the island on the other side of the spur but I still kept my eyes to the front.
I glanced up from the sea and looked ahead, “There's a cove dead ahead with a sandy beach and the sea looks undisturbed as the waves wash up,” I jumped down, “Let me have the high powered glasses.”
Will walked up the boat and handed them to me and waited whilst I climbed back onto the locker and studied the cove and the sea in front of it, “It looks clear of underwater rocks and there's plenty of rocks either side of the cove to moor the boat.”
“Let's go in and have a closer look,” he walked back to the stern and steered slowly into the cove whilst I continued to watch the sea and then we touched the beach gently. Without thinking I grabbed the mooring rope and slid over the bow and into the water. Had I been ready it wouldn't have been so bad but I was expecting water at lagoon temperature, it wasn't, it was at North Sea in a bad mood temperature and I yelped and reflex action made me leap four bounds onto the warm sand of the beach. The water had been knee deep and I looked down expecting to see penguins sitting on my feet. “Are you okay,” called a deeply concerned Will with a face splitting grin on the front of his head.
“Suicidal and if you start laughing, I'm walking back to the ship and you can moor your own boat,” and turned and stalked over to some rocks and tied the boat up. When I got back, Will jumped off the bow and waded onto the sand and he was wearing sea boots! “You might have told me you had those,” I growled, stooping to pull cold soggy jeans away from my calves.”
“You never gave me the chance, you went straight over the moment the boat touched. Anyway, they're size ten.”
“I'd rather flop around inside a pair of sea boots than paddle in Antarctic water outside them.” I pointed up the beach, “I think there's some sort of path off the beach where those rocks are.”
He used the glasses and then handed them to me, “You're right and it's not overgrown, let’s take a look.”
There was nothing of note about the path. There were signs of animal droppings and Will and I thought they might be left by goats or sheep but what goats and sheep would want on a path that led to a beach was a mystery to us unless the animals were farmed and left by people on another island and the droppings were left when the animals were either driven down or up from the beach for sheering or culling. When the slope from the beach levelled off it exposed the land to be not dissimilar to that of one of the moors on Britain's mainland, Dartmoor I thought. There were outcrops of rocks, grass and an abundance of heather like plants and mixed shrubbery and would certainly suit goats. After a short exploration we returned to the boat and once launched I took the helm and Will sat the other side of the engine cover making notes and drawing crude maps.
After half an hour, the cliffs we had been paralleling since leaving the cove gave way to a wide shallow bay and behind a sandy beach and line of palms there was a heavily wooded area and the land sloped rapidly up towards the top of the hill. “Are we going in?”
Will looked up from his map, “I'm hungry, fancy having the picnic now?”
“Yes, good idea.”
“Turn right and head for the middle of the beach.”
“Ten degrees of stab'd rudder come to course three five oh, aye-aye, Cap'n.”
Will chuckled, “You're really getting in to it.”
“I'm having fun, aren't you?”
“Yes, it's our ancient British genes, we're a maritime nation, born to the sea and exploration.”
I turned and looked astern, “Will, how far do you think we are from the nearest land, somewhere where there are people, hospitals, airports, stuff like that?”
“As far as I know from guessing the distance we headed south during the storm, I would think that New Zealand is probably two thousand miles to the west, South America about two and a half perhaps three thousand east and the nearest civilisation with a hospital and airport is most likely the Pitcairn Islands, about a thousand miles north-west.”
“A long way so unless the others are picked up and the captain of Pacific Wanderer knew our position when they abandoned us, we're going to be difficult to find?”
“We probably have thousands of square miles of Pacific Ocean around us, Charlie. I could give you false hope but I think you'd prefer to know the truth.”
“Yes, definitely. At the moment I'm not scared but if we are going to be here for two or three months, we need to look at augmenting our food. I know there's tons of food on the Wanderer but we are going to need fresh food if we're to stay healthy.”
“We've discovered coconuts already and I'm pretty sure I saw date palms a bit inland as we came into this bay and the fact that this island has been occupied in the past does indicate that there is food here, it's really a question of our finding and recognising it.”
I nudged the lifeboats bow onto the sand at a point where an area had a number of slight depressions in it. Will jumped over and as I handed the picnic box down I nodded to the depressions, “Try not to walk in those depressions.” Will glanced at them, “It's where a small stream is trickling down to the sea, that's all, there's no danger.”
“Yes there is, there may be cockles lying under the trickles and you'll crush them and I want to collect them.”
“Food gathering already?”
“Yes and when we get back to the lagoon we must see if there are many there. It's easier to scoop them out of the sand when the tide goes out than it is to dive for them and they tend to gather at places where warm fresh water trickles across a beach.”
“What about lobsters?” he asked with a grin, “I love lobster.”
“No lobsters but there may be crayfish we'll definitely have to dive for them but there are some likely looking places at Goat's Cove and back home in the lagoon.”
He gave me a careful look, nodded to himself rather than me and said, “Goat's Cove?”
“We'll have to give these places names so that we'll each know what the other is talking about when we discuss them.”
“You've made up your mind we'll be here long enough for that and you referred to the lagoon as home?”
I looked up from where I was gathering our backpacks and binoculars, “I like it here, Will, if we need to stay for a long while, I won't mind.”
He nodded again but didn't respond, “Stay there, I'll dump these on dry sand and comeback for the mooring rope.” He waded out of the water and a short distance up the sand, dropped the load and came back. I was standing with the mooring rope ready but he held out his arms, “Climb aboard, I'll carry you so you can stay dry.”
“In your arms?”
“You can sit on my head if you prefer.”
I sat on the edge of the gunwale and he eased one hand under my thighs the other around my shoulder blades and lifted me as if I were no more weight than the picnic box and turned, “Are you diving for crayfish?”
“From here,” I looked down, “The water isn't deep enough.”
He laughed and saying no more carried me through the water and didn't put me down until we were on dry land next to the picnic. He still remained silent, took the mooring rope of me and began to trudge up the beach to a convenient palm and I stood and watched him. I hadn't tried to climb on his back or objected when he lifted and held me close to his chest and the confusion inside me started again – I hadn't protested, not said a word and acted as if his carrying me as he would carry a girl was normal, no more than normal it was the expected way for him to carry me. I had felt no erotic thrill, no sexual arousal being in his arms, just secure and comfortable. He came back, picked up the picnic box and nodded to the tree line, “Where do you want to picnic?” Deferring to me again as he would a girl and the confusion increased and if he had held out a hand and taken mine to help me up the beach, I would have let him. I was frightened to speak in case my voice trembled but I spotted the perfect spot, “Over there between those two coconut palms, the ones leaning over the beach,” I pointed, “Not under the trees in case a coconut falls and brains one of us, somewhere between them.”
“Right,” he grabbed his backpack and the picnic box and went up the beach and I suddenly felt lonely, followed his example and shouldered my backpack, grabbed my bag and the water container and almost ran after him. I caught him up as he placed the box on the ground, “This okay?”
I looked up into the palms, “Yes we're clear of the coconuts.”
“I'll go and fetch one and then walk inland a short distance and see if I can find any fruit.”
“Fresh fruit in the spring?” I asked.
“The climate here is warm Mediterranean, there might be something even this early. Want any ice cream if I find a corner shop?”
I jumped up from where I had been laying the ground sheet and table cloth. “Salad cream, pepper sauce for the roast fillet of steak sandwiches. Do you want tea, beer or wine?”
“Beer, please. I'll be off, thirty minutes okay?”
“Fine I'll have it ready by then.”
He nodded, “Scream if you need me,” and he walked to the top of the grassy patch and vanished into a gap in the undergrowth.
The wine and beer were still on the boat so I was going to get wet again. No I wasn't, I glanced behind me but there was no sign of Will so I took off my shoes and jeans and went back to the boat. I collected the string bag containing the drinks which I had hung over the side of the boat and started back; 'Scream if you need me', not shout but ‘scream’. There was no doubt in my mind, Will was treating me as a woman but I didn't know whether he was doing it consciously or not. Dam! I got back to the picnic site and dressed, there was no point in brooding, I would have to speak to him, he was right if there was an atmosphere between us it was going to make life difficult. Tonight, when were back on the Wanderer, yes tonight I would bring the subject up, carefully and I must do it quietly after I've had a chance to think about what to say. I was sure now, I was beginning to understand things, questions I had never consciously asked myself where being answered, I was beginning to realise just who Charlie Broughton was and I was frightened, really frightened but I was determined to conquer the fear. This was not something that had just happened, it had been there all the time but perhaps it was the shipwreck, perhaps finding myself in such unusual circumstances or perhaps, despite being frightened I had subconsciously come to the decision that here, here on this lonely island, away from civilisation with only a nice man who wouldn’t harm me, here and now was the time and place to face reality. The worse that could happen is that I should have to move off the boat and fend for myself, Will I was convinced wouldn’t become violent unless avoiding contact with me, ignoring the fact that I existed was an act of violence.

7

We stayed longer than we planned at the bay. After the picnic we both explored inland a little way and we found date palms and tried them, they were edible but not really sweet enough and Will thought it would be another two weeks before they were ready. We also discovered squash and melons and what I thought might be lettuce that had run wild and we sampled a few leaves to test them. They tasted like lettuce and provided we didn't die from poisoning in the next few hours, they were something I could use in salads. We didn't have the time to go too far but there was evidence that further up the hill attempts had been made to terrace the land and that looked promising and would need to be explored on another day. Will said that what he had seen from the top of the hill suggested the terraces could be easily reached from the house.
On the way back we didn't land again, the island curved to the north and here there were steep cliffs like giant steps going to the summit. In places they were covered in wild vegetation and were over thirty metres in height and we again saw strata evidence that the island had once been fully submerged but on the whole it was more a place for mountain goats and seabirds and there were plenty of the later nesting on the cliff faces.
Neither of us wanted a large dinner so as I had yesterday I improvised and finding some frozen pita bread I made hot dog kebabs and we sat, me with a glass of wine and Will with a beer and listened to music. After a while Will started to make notes and draw sketches of the parts of the island we had explored that day, “Have you thought of a name for the other bay” he asked.
“Revelation Bay,” I answered quickly.
“Revelation? Did you discover something?”
“Will, when you carried me to the beach from the boat, you lifted me and carried me in your arms, held close to your chest.”
“Of course, I didn't see any sense in your getting wet unnecessarily and it wasn't far, just a dozen paces.”
“A bloke doesn't carry another man like that, Will, he'll offer a piggy-back, you carried me in the way a man might carry a woman.”
“You were light and sitting on the gunwales it was the easiest way to pick you up.”
I remained silent for a minute and then, “When I was laying out the picnic and you went off to explore, you told me to scream if I needed you. You hold out your hand to offer me support on rough ground or if I'm climbing out of the boat...”
“Of course I'll offer, to stop you falli...”
“No, let me finish, I'm not complaining, not criticising your actions, I'm trying to explain why I would like the bay to be named Revelation.
“When you had gone I remembered the wine and had to go back to the boat so I took my jeans off but I looked first to make sure you couldn't see me despite you having seen me before in those light cotton knickers. A man wouldn't have bothered to look, he would have ignored the possibility that you would see him in feminine underwear having already explained the necessity. I was acting like a shy girl and you, unwittingly I think, have been treating me like one.” He started to speak again, “No please let me carry on, I'm finding it difficult to find the words, words that won't offend or shock you.” I stopped to think and he remained silent, just looking at me, looking into my eyes. “Will, do you think of me as a girl sometimes. I don't mean fancy me but just somebody who is not really male, somebody who might need your strength, need your protection?”
He still held my eyes, there was softness in them so at least I hadn't said anything that might offend him, “Will?”
He nodded, “I had to think about it Charlie but the honest answer is yes, sometimes I do. When I saw you on the beach wearing the wet knickers you had your back to me, your hair was loose and your body is slim with a small waist and slightly wider and rounder hips and you definitely looked like a girl and when you turned and walked towards me, you still looked like a girl apart from the slight bulge in your knickers and the transparency revealing enough to state that you were male. I was confused for a moment, quite a bit in fact, you were pretty and had you been a girl, I would definitely have asked you for a dance. I shook myself mentally and the thought passed and I went back to thinking of you as a skinny bloke with a warm personality who is perhaps transsexual. Sorry, Charlie, you did ask me and I have to tell the truth.”
“I'm glad you did but does the thought of having to live on this island with somebody as perverse as me worry you?”
“I've already answered that, I've told you it doesn't worry me other than on occasions having to be a little careful when asking you to do something before considering that you may not have the muscle or frame for it. And, Charlie I think perverse is the wrong word, different is a better description, you're soft both, your personality and physique, gentle, have a sense of fun and a load of courage. You wouldn't think twice about putting on a wet-suit and diving down below the lagoon in the hunt for something to feed us but if you asked me to do it, I'd freak out. Fine, if you trained me, I could probably do it but I wouldn't stay five seconds if you weren't down there with me.
“Again, as I explained to you, I was impressed with the way you took the news that the ship had been wrecked on a reef and we were abandoned, you just shook it off and adapted to it and thought of ways to correct the situation or adjust. And now I think you have come to realise something about yourself and whereas I would hide in a corner at best or commit suicide at worst, you have come to a positive decision?”
“Yes, I think I have, that's why I asked you to name the bay Revelation Bay.”
He got up, “I'm having another beer, do you want topping-up?”
“No, I'm going shopping, I may be a while but please don't follow me, what I'm about to do is scaring me, really scaring me, partly because of how you may react but more as to how I will react. Will, wait for me here.”
“Are you going to do something dangerous, if so, I'm coming, no arguments?”
“Nothing dangerous, so wait here, please. I might be and hour so if you get impatient or worried, call out and I'll answer, watch a film or finish your map.” He looked uncertainly at me but eventually he spoke, “Definitely not dangerous?”
“Definitely not,” I pointed at his sketch book, “Don't forget; Revelation Bay.”
I walked rapidly out of the saloon and down the stairs and started pulling my T shirt off as I entered the shop. I turned into the women's section, grabbed the back of a chair as I passed and dragged it in front of the cosmetics counter and wriggled out of my jeans, placed them over the back of the chair and stepped to one side of the counter and gazed into the full length mirror. I studied my face first, I was on holiday, not going to a ball and I considered what I would be doing, where, what time of the year and how I felt. I was going to sit in a lounge, talking, listening to music, a drink or two of wine, perhaps eventually a dance, nothing formal, just a pleasant, relaxed evening. I went behind the cosmetics counter and stared at the organised confusion of make-up, hair ornaments, perfume and costume jewellery. I didn't know where to start and then I delved back into my memory and tried to remember everything I could about my mother and Auntie Mo and how they had set about making themselves look good. I turned back to the mirror, my face was slightly tanned so I wouldn't need a heavy foundation or blusher, just a light touch of powder but I would have to thin my eyebrows a little and walked along the counter and small carousels holding accessories and picked nail scissors, tweezers and nail boards and slid the magnifying mirror opposite the chair. I picked what I thought was a suitable compacted powder almost matching my tanned skin and went back to the wall mirror. Eyes! Auntie Mo was the one who had always taken a great deal of trouble with her eyes and little by little I collected a medium and light shade of eye shadow, a liquid eye liner and a bottle of the magic mascara women used to make normal eye lashes appear half a metre longer than they were, bearing in mind the look I wanted, a millimetre or two would be enough and then I selected a shade of glossy lip liner and lipstick to match the deeper shade of eye shadow I had and then I sat and using the magnifying mirror I went to work and though I made a few mistakes, I wasn't bad and took less than the fourteen hours I had anticipated. When I finished I took a hair brush and a couple of pretty hair slides and brushed out my hair and clipped it into place and then returned to the wall mirror. I stood back and looked at myself full length, I looked good enough to find the confidence to approach the mirror and study my face and hair carefully, it was okay, not perfect but I didn't want Will to think I had been doing this all my life but I did need to do something about my brows, I had tweaked a few out and they were tidy but they needed some enhancement so I sat down again and applied a little eyebrow pencil, went back to the wall mirror and nodded, just right, it could be better and I would certainly need to practice and experiment but for tonight, my face was just right. For a moment I was tempted to go into the sick-bay and find a needle and pierce my ears but put that to one side, blood, even a little wouldn't improve the look so clip-ons would have to do.
I went over to the clothing section and stood and wondered; lingerie first or should I pick a dress. If I were going to wear a suit, collar and tie, I would pick the suit first and the shirt and tie to match so I adopted that strategy and walked along the racks of dresses, pulled a few out and held them against myself until I found a white shirt-waister with soft pleats in a generous skirt and a faint pink pattern of vines, with leaves and flowers, summery but not beach wear, a dress to be worn on informal get-togethers in warm holiday resorts. I placed that over the chair and went back to the knickers, reached out for a set not unlike the ones I was wearing and then stepped sideways. A woman wouldn't wear cotton knickers under that dress on a pleasantly warm evening and I went for a pair of pretty lace, white bikini panties made with a silk like material, if I wanted to look like a woman then I needed to feel like one so I picked a bra that matched and nearly took a suspender belt to complete the set but changed my mind, fiddling with these more complex garments and learning to connect suspenders to stockings would take too long so I went for a pair of glossy light tan tights and picked a multi packet of white ones, something was needed for the cups of the bra otherwise it might die of malnutrition. I dressed, had a minor problem doing up the bra but got that sorted when I simply turned it round, connected the hooks with the eyes, turned it back and slipped my arms through the shoulder straps and then undid the dress all the way down so I wouldn't upset my hair and then stood in front of the mirror. I was beginning to appreciate why women needed mirrors so much. I lifted the dress pulled the tights down to my thighs, twisted them slightly and pulled them back into position so that the seam at the top was straight and then took another look, it was good, I felt comfortable and didn't fail to take note of the feeling that I was looking at the real me, the decision I had made in Revelation Bay was the correct one or would be if I was to wear a pair of shoes, so off I went again to clothing and walked up and down the shoe racks three times when I heard Will, “You okay?”
I rushed over to the shop door and called back, “Fine, I'll be up in ten minutes, has The Cruel Sea finished?”
“No, how did you know I was watching that?”
“I recognised Jack Hawkins voice and thought what else could you be watching, given our present circumstances.”
I heard him chuckle and went back to the shoes, settled on a pair of white sandals with two inch square heels and tried on an imitation pearl necklace and a pair of matching clip-on earrings. I went over every part of me carefully in the mirror and finally, satisfied that I looked good and hadn't overdone anything I collected all the make-up I had used and dropped them into a medium sized shoulder bag, added a perfume spritzer after giving myself a short squirt, looked once more into the mirror did a slow twirl and walked out of the shop and started up the stairs. Half-way up I began to get scared and stopped. What was Will going to think when he saw me? Would he laugh or tell me to put other clothes on and stop acting like some bloody perv in a drag bar? I turned round and took one step down, I couldn't go through with it.
BUT I HAD TO! I couldn't let things continue as they had, I made a discovery this afternoon, I had found out who I really was and I knew that I had to face up to it, do something and if that meant losing Will's friendship it was better than continuing as we had been with me becoming more confused every day. I turned again and climbed to the landing and walked towards the saloon and stopped again, took a deep breath and stepped through the door. As I entered, he was standing beside the television set removing the film disc. He straightened up and stood looking at me without saying a word. I waited for him to say something but he remained silent, just looking at me, occasionally his eyes travelled down to my feet and then slowly back to my face, “Will?” I managed to say.
He still said nothing but started to walk towards me and then an arm’s length away he stopped and looked at my face, still silent. I looked into his eyes expecting to see scorn, anger, even hate but all they held were the same soft expression they always had when he was looking directly at me. “Will, please say something, tell me to go and change, anything, please say something.”
At last he spoke, “Stay there, Charlie, stay right there,” and he walked behind the bar and opened the chiller cabinet and then fiddled with a bottle and I heard a faint pop. He took two flutes from a shelf placed them between the fingers holding the bottle and returned to me, took my hand in his and lead me to a pair of arm chairs, poured two glasses and placed the bottle on a table and held one of the glasses out to me. “You are something else, Charlie, something else and you look stunning, all girl, absolutely stunning.”
I glanced down at the bottle and saw enough of the label to read Krug, “If you want, I'll go downstairs and change back.”
“I think I'm looking at the real Charlie now, Charlie as in Charlotte, not Charles, don't you dare change back. Unless you feel uncomfortable.”
“No, this is the real me, that was the revelation this afternoon. I feel comfortable now. No, more than comfortable, I really like wearing these clothes, I feel as if I was telling the world about me, apologising for spending so many years not being me. As long as you don't mind, don't feel embarrassed about being here and speaking to me.”
“Embarrassed? I feel honoured.”
I was becoming embarrassed now and I started to lift my glass but he put his hand out and stopped me, “To the most gentle, courageous and beautiful woman I have ever met,” and he lifted his glass and drank half of it. I tried to lift my own glass but my hand began to tremble and for the first and only time in my life, I held a glass of Krug in my hand and couldn't lift it to my lips so I started to cry instead.
I didn't cry too long because as soon as I started, Will took the glass from my hand and pulled me in to him, wrapped his arms around me and held me whilst I cried on his shoulder and when I finished and smiled rather sheepishly at him, he smiled himself, eased me into my chair and handed me the glass, “You never drank the toast,” so I raised my glass to him, “To a lovely man who gave me a shoulder to cry on,”
Then we sat and talked about the island, about the log cabin and about Pacific Wanderer until the fourth champagne started to make me giddy and Will walked me to my cabin, placed his hands on my shoulder and kissed me on the forehead, “Goodnight and you'll have a hangover tomorrow so I'll leave a bottle of Paracetamol beside the percolator in the saloon.”

I didn't have a hangover, in fact I awoke in an instant and felt bright, sparkling, and really alive. I pulled a clean pair of cotton knickers from a drawer, looked around for my jeans, started to panic before I remembered I had left them in the shop yesterday evening so grabbed the dress and was about to step into it when I remembered the bra so I stepped out of the dress and went to hunt for the bra and eventually found it under the foot of the bed. It must have got fed up last night having only rolled up tights to support and had tried to hide. I got the bra on and had my tights half way up my thighs when I remembered I hadn't showered so I took everything off again, went into the shower shampooed my hair, washed in the perfume deficient Dove and returned to my bedroom and this time I managed to get dressed correctly and went off to sort out my statutory coffee.
Whilst I was drinking it I wondered what to do about Will's breakfast. It was late when I went to bed and he must have been at least a half hour behind me. I thought it better to let him sleep so I wrote a note telling him where I would be and left it by the percolator, took a second cup for myself, found my new shoulder bag beside a chair and went off to the shop. The first thing I did was to go to the cosmetics counter and do a quick job, admired the result and went over to the separates and picked a light blue skirt and white short sleeved blouse and then wrote out a list of the things I had taken yesterday and this morning and then another list of the things I needed urgently and then went shopping for cleansing cream, lipsticks, nail varnish and more pretty bras and knickers, white and black three inch heeled shoes and a ladies swimsuit, a one piece, I wasn't ready for a bikini yet and anyway I thought a one piece would be better under a wet suit. That would do for now, Will would be up soon looking for food so I went back to my cabin, put everything away, hung the white dress in a wardrobe made my bed, picked up the clothes that needed washing and went to Will's cabin and listened at the door for sounds of movement but all I could hear were faint sounds of breathing so I left him and went to get breakfast ready.
I switched on some happy music and whilst I was preparing the food I thought about the previous evening and of course doubts started creeping in. I was sure of myself and the decision I had made but would Will be as accepting of the new me in the cold light of day. He had had two or three beers when he first saw me as the new Charlotte and had certainly reacted in a manner far beyond what I had expected but would it be the same at breakfast, I shrugged, there was no point in speculating, I would find out soon enough so I got on with breakfast and was on the point of going to call him when I heard him walking across the saloon. “You look fresh and sunny.” I breathed a sigh of relief, he was still the same as last night, he was happy with and even seemed to like Charlotte. “Breakfast is almost ready, four eggs or six?”
He grinned, “Two and there's some champagne left if you want a Bucks Fizz with yours.”
“I'll stick to coffee and scrambled eggs and we're nearly out of eggs so we'll have to find some chickens or start eating seagull eggs.”
“What time do you want to go over to the island?”
“Not me, Will, I should stay here today and get the satellite link working and the ship’s radio and if there's time, I found some heavy flour and yeast in the pantry so I was going to make bread.”
“You can bake bread?”
“Yes and cakes. Auntie Mo was ruthless in her plans to make me self-sufficient. What are you going to do on the island?”
“Sort out the electricity and run a cable up to the cave. I was going to put the generator in the cave and run a supply to the house but it will be quicker if I leave the generator near the house because if we move in and something goes wrong, I can get to it quicker.”
“Are you going to leave it out in the open?”
“No, that’s asking for trouble. I’ll build a waterproof shed for it or perhaps an extension on the house. When I’ve done that, if there’s time, I’ll start sorting out the materials for the house because I may need to take over some of the heavier equipment like the bench saw for planking.”
“There’s rubber dinghies on the ship aren’t there, inflatable life rafts?”
“Yes, maritime law and Lloyds insist on it as a back-up if the lifeboats are damaged. Not worried about us sinking are you because there’s loads of stuff available if the two lifeboats get sunk?”
“No, I was planning to go down with the ship, preferably wearing a wet suit. It just occurred to me that if we are going to move some of the ship’s equipment and even the cargo onto the island wouldn’t it be worth tying some inflatables together and then putting a deck across them to carry cargo across, we could tow it behind a lifeboat, all we’d need is a hand winch and block and pulleys and we could build a small timber framed crane to off-load.”
He stood up, “That’s a good idea, yes it would save a lot of heavy work and be quicker, I’ll start that tomorrow if I finish with the cave and house. I might need help in an hour to load some stuff, will you be okay stuck here on your own?”
“Fine, I have loads to do and if I get lonely, I’ll phone and annoy you or start talking to myself, there are two of me now.”
He laughed, “I like the one in front of me now, whatever decision you made yesterday at Revelation Bay was the right one, you were born to be a woman, Charlie.”
“Yes, I realise that now, it was confirmed this morning, when I woke-up I felt so alive, as if I had discovered myself, been born again. It isn’t going to make a difference to us is it?”
He smiled, a gentle, warm understanding smile, “Only if I keep finding lipstick and mascara brushes on the chart table and handbags hanging on the helm.”
“It’s one of the drawbacks of sharing a ship with a woman, and I don’t want to be nagged when I hang a washing line between the cargo derricks with my lingerie hanging from it.”
“He laughed, “Just remember to check the international flag signal book to ensure you aren’t sending the wrong messages.” He picked up his phone, “Scream if you need me,” and turned to leave but changed his mind, “Do you want me to continue calling you Charlie or would you prefer Charlotte?”
“Charlie is okay, I’m used to it and its quite common for Charlotte’s to be called Charlie, they even have a perfume with the name but if there are other people about, introduce me as Charlotte. Charlie is personal, just for you and me.”
He gave that warm smile again, “Okay, I’ll give you a call if I need help with the loading.”
As soon as he left I cleared away the breakfast things, refilled the percolator and took the washing into the galley and then went into the pantry and collected a couple of five kilo bags of heavy flour and yeast then went to work.
I had just enough time to finish and was half-way down to the engine room when my walkie-talkie started ringing, I put the dough on the floor and unhooked it from by belt, “Hovis, Charlotte speaking, may I take your order?”
“A scampi roll please, no mayonnaise.”
“I’m sorry no scampi but we can do mayonnaise on rye. Unless you want to wait until tomorrow for straight out of the oven fresh bread provided I can find a warm place to let the dough prove.”
“There’s a shelf behind the auxiliary engine which will be warm, failing that, on the deck above the bridge beside the ventilator that way you get the warmth from the sun and from inside the ship.”
“Where do you want me, the engine room doors or out on deck?”
“Same place as yesterday, there’s only one load so it won’t take long.”
“I’ll be there in five minutes.”
I now considered myself a seasoned deckhand and with the polish one would expect, I had the cargo pallet swung out and lowered onto the boat. Will secured it and called out, “Put the boom back in place and close the hatch cover, I won’t be bringing anything heavy back.”
“Aye, aye Cap’n. What time do you want me to bring your lunch over, oh, I can’t, you have both boats.”
“I’ve inflated a small dinghy and left it moored at the landing steps.”
“Good, I can go looking for lobsters after I deliver lunch, what would you like, ham, cheese or relish and is two pm okay?”
“Two is fine and bring whatever is handy with a bottle of beer.”
I watched him until he rounded the reef and I went back to my dough. The heat behind the generator was just right so I left my dough and went to the electricians workshop found a tool box with the sort of equipment I needed and took the lift to the radio room.
Two hours later I had found two faults, one the fuse inside the radio the second was a transistor that was not working on the transmit circuit. The fuse I replaced in minutes, there was a box full in a cupboard and there was a box of transistors but not the one I wanted so I sat, tapping my fingers wondering if there might be one in a radar set that I could use but thought better of it, we might need the radar urgently. I got up; one from a domestic wireless set might work on a temporary basis so I would have to go through all the cabins looking for a fairly powerful domestic receiver and then a second alternative came to me and I grabbed my radio, “Will, we are using four of the walkie-talkies would it matter if I stripped one and used one of the transistors?”
“Not a lot, there are four more, two in the electrician’s stores and two in the captain’s cabin. What do you want them for?”
“The ship’s radio transmitter.”
“I don’t think they will be the right sort, the walkie-talkie has a very limited range.”
“Can you think of anything else on the ship that transmits a strong signal, I know radar does but we might need that in a hurry so if I take one, I’ll have to put it back again and it’s a fiddly soldering job and I might damage it.”
There was a silence for a while and then, “There’s the depth sounder which has to be pretty strong they can transmit a signal down thousands of feet through sea water and there may be something similar that is focussed ahead to detect underwater reefs ahead of the ship.
“I’ll look, that would be the best bet unless you have plans to go visiting in the Wanderer this evening.”
“Nothing I can’t cancel.”
“Okay, I’ll have a quick look and then come over with lunch.”
I found the depth and echo sounder equipment behind a curtain in a cuddy off the radio room and again, everything was either damaged or switched off, I would have to strip them later but I was feeling hungry so I returned to the galley and loaded the picnic box onto the trolley, called into my cabin for my swimsuit and large shoulder bag and went down to the landing stairs. I managed to get both myself and the load into the dinghy without falling into the lagoon and set off for the beach.
The water in the lagoon was very quiet, there was hardly a wave breaking on the beach and the day was hot and still, I had an urge to stop and jump in but Will was waiting to catch my mooring rope. I started to row the last few metres. The oars were a little too long for the width of the dinghy so I had to row with one hand in front of the other and when I stopped to throw the rope, Will pointed behind me, “Look at that.” I turned and could clearly see the swirls left by the oars and rather than lie in pairs they were parallel to each other lying in two perfect rows but alternatively left and right. “Footprints in the sea,” he said, “You’ve left your mark here. When the tide goes out they’ll settle in the sand.”
A childhood memory came back, “I remember my first Christmas with Auntie Mo, she gave me a card. It was a country cottage with warm orange and yellow light coming from the windows and a Christmas tree outside the door. A single set of footprints in the snow went up the garden path to the door and across the top were the words; A Christmas Hearth Warm with Love. She had signed it at the bottom not inside in the normal manner and written; Happy Christmas and Welcome Home, Charlie.” I threw the rope to him and sat on the side of the dinghy, buried my face in my hands and started to cry.
I was dimly aware of Will pulling the dinghy higher onto the beach but my mind was flooded with memories of that house in Berkshire and the wonderful woman who had opened her arms for me to run into, run into at a time when I had been torn apart with the loss of my parents and had felt so isolated, so lonely as if everything I loved and cherished had gone and gone forever.
I remembered the way she had kissed me a minute or two before she peacefully slipped away and said, “Remember all I’ve taught you, Charlie, use it and one day somebody else will come and love you as much as mum, dad and me. You were born to be loved, so be patient, they exist and you will know them when they open their arms for you.” And then she smiled at me, squeezed my hand and slipped away. I had looked at that frail old hand and wondered that it had had the strength to guide and protect me for the fourteen years we had lived together and I stroked it and hoped that some of her strength and love would flow into me. When I looked at her face, her eyes were closed and there was a smile of peace and happiness on it and I managed to draw some comfort from the knowledge that she had died happy and the smile and her words showed me that she, if not me, was sure in the knowledge that I had a happy life in front of me.
It helped for the first few days until that dreadful moment when the vicar had stopped reciting the funeral prayers and nodded at me and I had stooped to take a handful of earth and hold it over her coffin but I couldn’t let it trickle onto her, it was too final, it was like saying goodbye for ever, this is the end. So I pulled back my hand and let the earth fall at my feet and looked at the vicar. He understood because he stooped down and took some earth and let it trickle down and nodded slowly at me with a soft smile on his face.
Whilst I had been crying I was only faintly aware of Will as he unloaded the dinghy, he didn’t say anything, just left me to cry and remember the footprints in the snow and the footprints in the sea. I felt his hands turn me gently and lift me from the boat and carry me past where he had left the picnic box, on up the beach to our spot under the coconut trees and then he put me down on my feet but I kept my arms wrapped around him and for a minute or two I stayed like that until I stopped crying. He eased me back and holding one of my hands he used his other to gently wipe away the tears, “Memories?”
I nodded, “Auntie Mo, mum and dad.”
“It was only a short while ago, Charlie, it does get better.”
I nodded again, “It was the patterns made by the oars, it made me think of that awful day she died and reminded me of how much love I have lost.”
“You haven’t lost it, it’s still with you, inside. Remember her and that love every time you put a cake in the oven, sew on a button or dress a wound, it’s still there, there in all the things she taught you.”
I felt much better now and I managed a smile, “Yes, I know, she’s still with me. Thank you for letting me cry it out.”
He returned my smile and turned to go for my things, jumped down to the beach and turned back to me, “Your Aunt Mo knew more about you than you realise,” and he went to the dinghy.
I watched for a while wondering what he meant, what was it that Auntie Mo may have known about me, we were close, there was no argument about that.
It was no use wondering, I had too much on my mind at the moment, whatever it was, I had thrust it to the back and that is why I had cried in the boat and cried for quite a while and it came from deep down. The footsteps in the sea had forced it forward and it had happened at a time when I was undergoing a pretty traumatic change, a change that thus far I had not realised was having so deep an effect on me. It was silly to have not realised it, after all suddenly realising that I was no longer the gender I had assumed I was and that I really belonged to the opposite gender is not something to shrug off, my life was going to be different now, totally different. To have something like that to contend with whilst discovering a few days ago that I was shipwrecked on an uninhabited island in the middle of thousands of square miles of ocean, ocean that was capable of extreme temperature changes and violent storms was an event that was going to shake me, no shatter me if I allowed it. My first reactions had been frivolous, being relieved at finding clothes that would fit me and then discovering that Will wasn’t bothered by the colours or styles was a sub-conscious attempt to suppress something that I was now prepared to admit to myself. Even when I had to wear the cotton panties, who made that decision? Was it Charlie on his own or was Charlotte forcing a compromise on him? She didn’t want heavy, functional underwear, she wanted something pretty, light and smooth next to her skin but for the moment she was prepared to go along with cotton until the opportunity arose to make her move and get the lingerie she wanted?
And then, the next day she had allowed Will to carry Charlie to the beach as if he were handling a light, delicate woman and not one of his mates suffering a bit of discomfort. I had gone to the shop and picked up that wide brimmed hat with the light blue satin ribbon and worn it with hardly a second thought. Had I really been concerned about the ribbon, I could have found scissors and cut it off in a minute or two but I hadn’t, I left it on and then Charlotte made her move, she showed herself to me in the mirror behind the cosmetics counter. How had I reacted, shock, repulsion, confusion? No just a little surprised and now she was here.
I needed that to sink in, give myself time to consider all the consequences, my whole life had been turned upside down and so far I had not given it as much thought as I would have to having a new hair style or nail extensions. I had failed to make a note of something that even Will had been aware of, aware of since the first time he had seen me in the carpenter’s workshop and taken that long look at me. He had held my hand on occasions, hugged me and of course carried me and each of those gestures had been one a man would make to a woman. He had gone out of his way to ensure I didn’t undertake work that required heavy lifting and I had accepted that and thought nothing of it and now a new revelation came to me, I was attracted to him. He was handsome, had lovely hair and beautiful eyes that were soft when he listened to me and I admired his body, not in the way a man would admire another, an admiration born of envy, I admired it because…because, I didn’t know why I admired it. I didn’t want a body like his, it was too strong, too masculine but I did love it and wanted to touch him. I had to stop thinking about him, if Will detected the way I was beginning to feel, it would be a disaster, a total, wretched, wicked disaster. I shook myself both mentally and physically, I had to give myself time to really sort out my emotions and make decisions on how I was to reshape my life and I had to do it quickly and conceal my feelings about Will whilst I did and cope with being marooned and the best way for me to be objective in my self-assessment was to keep my mind unemotional and think and do practical things like looking for coconuts, planning the next meal and trying to get the radio working.
Will returned with the picnic box placed it between the trees and nodded at the four coconuts I was carrying, “Are we eating all of those?”
“No, only one, the rest I’m taking back to the boat for cooking.”
“I’m starving,” and he jumped down onto the beach, “Your swimming costume is amongst the things I unloaded, are you going swimming?”
“I was planning to do a bit of diving but I’ll do it some other time, I have too much to do this afternoon and I wasted time when I became emotional.”
His face became serious, “Make time for yourself, Charlie, don’t bottle things up. We all need to cry, laugh, sing and lose our tempers because a spanner slips or a game of solitaire doesn’t play out.”
I smiled, “Or a finger nail breaks. Put the swimsuit in the lifeboat, I’ll leave it there with the diving equipment and I’ll have the picnic ready when you get back.”
He left and I unpacked the picnic and found one of those problems I was going to have to solve; I was wearing a knee length A line skirt, had I worn anything fuller or longer it may have got caught whilst I was moving about in the ship so A line was perfect for work but decidedly imperfect for sitting on the grass and enjoying a picnic. If I sat crossed legged, I would be flashing more than I intended, if I bent my knees and kept them together I would be okay but balancing a plate on my knees whilst eating was impossible so how was I going to relax and feed myself. I would have to sit with my legs bent and to the side and if I started to cramp up, then I could swing them over to the other side, or I could keep my legs straight and place the plate in my lap and when that got tiresome I could lay down on my stomach with the plate in front of me, ditch the cutlery and eat with my fingers, well why not, it was a picnic and I wouldn’t think twice about eating with my fingers at a barbecue.

8

I was in a much better frame of mind when we sat down to our picnic. Will had helped me get it ready and asked, “You’re feeling better?”
“Yes much better but it may happen again, Will”
“Of course it will and heed my advice, let it out, find a place where you can be alone if you wish but if you need somebody to talk to…”
“I know, I know, just scream,” I said before he finished.
“Be sure you do.”
“Will, you hinted that Auntie Mo had guessed something about me earlier?”
“I think she knew, Charlie, she must have done but didn’t want to say anything directly so she tried to confirm her suspicions her own way.”
“Her lessons in cookery, dancing and all that stuff?”
“Yes, some of it can be accepted as a desire to ensure somebody as unworldly as you, and you do seem unworldly, would be able to look after themselves, be prepared to live alone successfully but I think there was more to it because there was a lot she taught you that wasn’t really necessary to ensure a young man could get by without a woman. Cooking yes but bread and cake baking? Not really part of a man’s world are they unless they are training to be a chef?”
“There was more, I didn’t think anything of it at the time but now I realise it reinforces what you’ve said. She used to get me to help when she was doing her hair, made me put rollers in, brush it out and trim bits off and when she was doing her make-up, she would make sure I was there on quite a few occasions and would ask me if her lipstick was okay and had she overdone her eyes, things like that but now I think she was also showing me how it was done.”
“I think had she lived much longer, she would have spoken to you.”
I thought about that for a few moments and Will was right, she had increased the lessons in a subtle way, taught me the settings on an iron for delicate materials, what soap powders to use for hand washing and on two or three occasions shown me illustrations of a dress or skirt she was thinking of buying and ask if I thought it would look right for her or did the colours suit something she had already and on at least one occasion she showed me a lingerie book and had told me she wished they had lingerie like that when she was my age and even went to the trouble of explaining women’s clothing sizes. I must have really been unworldly, any other man would have either been embarrassed or bored but I had been interested and did what I could to help her pick clothing. Yes, I think she was preparing the ground ready for a ‘chat’ with me. Nothing technical of course but enough to make me take a closer look at myself and then perhaps she would have steered me towards a doctor.
“Will, when did you guess? I know you had realised something because of the way you reacted to my wearing colourful jeans and cotton panties.”
“The first time I saw you, the day you had woken up to discover we were shipwrecked and wandered down to the carpenter’s workshop. At first I just put you down as a lightly built man but I had suspicions that you might be transsexual and you confirmed it with your choice of clothing and the morning you were dancing your way through breakfast. You had a grace and poise that a man, even a dancing instructor, doesn’t have, it was totally female. So despite your seemingly rational explanation about the jeans and panties being the only things in your size, I reckoned there was something more behind it and that was a something that you were not aware of yourself. The shipwreck I think was something of a catharsis, the female you surfaced and pushed the male aside because she didn’t think the male could cope, whereas she could.”

After lunch, Will carried the picnic box back to the dinghy whilst I struggled with my load of three coconuts and the hair from the one we had eaten. At the rate we were going, I would have enough to make a welcome mat for the log cabin by the time it was built and if we found an inland lake or large pond, there might be rushes I could weave for carpeting.
“I’ve had a thought,” Will said as we pulled the dinghy into the water, “I’m sure I saw a drawer or box filled with transistors and stuff like it in the electrician’s workshop a couple of days ago. Leave the radio until I get back, there may be something suitable amongst that stuff and it will save removing something from the other equipment.”
“Why would they be stored in the electrician’s workshop, things like that should be in the radio room?”
“A lot of the stuff in the engine room has computers, so do the auxiliary engines and the circuit boards for the electrical supply and equipment in the galley. It’s worth a look.”
“Okay, I also want to make up a medical kit for the island and see if I can find a cargo manifest in the purser’s office. If I can find out what food we’re carrying amongst the cargo that would save me shifting cases of tins about. If there’s time I want to look for a little black dress in the shop, just in case we’re invited out to dinner one evening.”
“Have a look for a dinner suit for me whilst you’re at it.”
“I’ll wear high heels so we’ll have to use the lifeboat rather than the dinghy.”
“Why”
“Cos heels will puncture the air bags on a dinghy.”
“Aunty Mo thought of everything,” he laughed, “I just want to be there when you start practising your high heel walk.”
“I’m sure you’ve seen a woman gliding gracefully across a room before.”
“I have, that’s why I want to be there when you try the heels out.”

I was going to dress up for dinner but by the time Will got back from the island and I had the dinner prepared there wasn’t time to visit the shop or for that matter the purser’s office for the cargo manifest. The snapper was good though and it was worth sacrificing the time to look for a Balenciaga ball gown to prepare it. We went to the electrician’s workshop and found the box of electronic spares that Will had spoken about and lo and behold there were six of the transistors I needed so Will picked up the box, “These are better in the radio room or bridge for the moment,” and we took them up to the bridge with a canvas tool holder and the small screw drivers and soldering iron I would need and I started to take the back off the wireless. “Do you need me to stay?” he asked, “If not I’ll sort out the boats for tomorrow and put the ship to sleep.”
“I’ll be okay, I’m better off on my own, it’s a fiddly job and I might start swearing and having tantrums whilst I’m doing it.”
“Something else to make a note of, you having tantrums whilst wearing heels has got to be worth watching.”
“No it isn’t, Auntie Mo told me that in a sulk I made the Grim Reaper look like a stand-up comedian.”
He laughed and left me to my tantrums with, “Scream if you need me.”
It took a while to remove the defective transistor, I was working with silicon chips around it and when I tried to read the type references they were too small and worn, this part was probably original equipment and judging by the dust that had accumulated inside the cover and behind the set, the radio was also original equipment. I sat back, I needed a magnifying glass and where was I going to find one, the sick-bay or the electricians workshop seemed the most likely and I got up and then it occurred to me there would be one in the chart room off the bridge which was a deal closer so I went in and sure enough there was one on the chart table. I returned and picked up one of the six transistors I thought most likely to work and sure enough, the part number tallied with the old one so I spent another thirty minutes trying to solder it in place keeping a firm grip on any tantrum that looked like developing.
The job was eventually finished but I left the back off the set, just in case, and switched on and started to move through the frequencies. At first all I heard were the carrier waves so at least the set was working and then I heard a very faint voice, strength one and breaking and was about to move on when I stopped, took my hand of the dial and switched the set off. I didn’t want to be rescued, not yet, perhaps in a day or two. I was about to remove the fuse from the radio and tell Will that I had failed but a voice nagged at me, “You may want to stay here but what about Will?” I pushed my chair back and stood up looking down at the radio set. Who was I going to be? What would I do if I received a response from another vessel and they came to our assistance? Was Charles or Charlotte going to greet them? I wanted to find a hammer and smash the radio but I didn’t, instead I left the radio room and went into the saloon to make myself a strong coffee. There was a small devil standing in front of the percolator, “Good girl,” he said, “Forget the radio, forget Will and go to your cabin and let Charlotte have a nicely perfumed bubble bath.”
I turned away and went back to the entrance and picked up the phone, dialled one, jumped when all the telephones started ringing and waited. Will answered, “Charlie, you okay?” he answered a little out of breath.
“Yes, Will sorry I didn’t mean to startle you, everything is fine.” I stopped speaking, should I tell him the radio is working or say I had failed to repair it.
“Charlie, something is wrong, tell me, I can hear it in your silence.”
“No, Will, no, I mean yes, oh dam, dam, dam, the radio, it’s working,” and I hung up. The phone rang almost immediately, “Charlie, where are you, the radio room?”
“No, the saloon, Will, I need you, please come up.”
“Stay there right beside the phone.”
I heard him, he was taking the stairs two at a time and in seconds he appeared in the doorway, looked at me, came over, took my hand and led me to an armchair, “Sit down, I’ll make coffee or would you prefer a brandy?”
“Coffee please. Will I’m sorry to do this to you…”
“Save it until I’ve done the coffee.”
When he returned he placed a cup in front of me and reached for my free hand as I drank, “Tell me.”
“The radio, I fixed it and turned it on, it worked and I heard a very faint voice, just about in range and breaking and I went to pieces, I couldn’t speak and turned the set off. I was going to get a hammer and smash it up.”
“It’s Charlie that’s frightened, isn’t it?”
I nodded, “Scared, really scared he wants to run away.”
“But Charlotte, what does she want?”
I shook my head, “I don’t know, I think she wants to go and meet the world but Charlie won’t let her, he knows people are going to laugh, hate and ridicule him. What can I do, Will, I want to stay here where I’m safe, I don’t want a ship to come here and rescue us not yet, perhaps after a while I’ll change my mind.” I got up, “I’ll make the call, send for help but when they get here, I’ll hide on the island and you can say you’re the only survivor and go with them.” He wouldn’t let go of my hand when I tried to free it he said, “Sit down again.”
I did, “Will we must make the call, I’ll make contact and you can speak to them, just tell them you were left behind on your own.”
“If you’re staying, Charlotte, then I’m staying until you’re ready to leave and before you start, it’s non-negotiable. You won’t make it on your own in your present state of mind, I’m staying. We can make the distress call in the morning.”
“No Will, we have to make it now, the other survivors, the lifeboats may not have made landfall and could be lost, we have to tell the authorities about them.”
He stood up, “Let’s do it now,” he picked up my coffee and led me back to the radio and I followed meekly, he had called me Charlotte, he had called me Charlotte, Will had made up his mind that Charlotte took priority over Charles!
I sat down in front of the set and switched on, waited a few seconds for it to get comfortable whilst I thought about frequencies. The station I had heard earlier was at maximum range and speaking French and would be no good. I took hold of the tuning button and stopped to think. Five hundred megahertz was no longer officially monitored but I think I had read that there were still some stations that kept a listening watch, the best bet was to start there and work my way down, I tuned the set, glanced at Will and was about to start when another thought came into my head; strictly speaking we were not in a mayday situation, we were grounded on a reef but the ship wasn’t sinking nor were we injured and we had water, food and medical supplies so a pan-pan-pan could be justified but a mayday, I thought not and was about to start when Will placed his hand over mine, “The lifeboats, Charlotte, those people will be short of food and water and getting desperate, hurry up.”
He had made up my mind for me; “Mayday – Mayday – Mayday, this is MV Pacific Wanderer to all stations. We are aground on a volcanic reef adjacent to an atoll. Our approximate position is forty one south, one twenty-two west. I repeated the message and ended with “Pacific Wanderer listening, over.”
I looked at Will and he smiled I smiled back and returned my attention to the set and lifted the mike ready to repeat the message when I nearly jumped with fright;
Mayday - Mayday – Mayday. This is Royal New Zealand Navy frigate Aurora, all stations cease transmission, I am dealing with a Mayday, I say again, all stations cease transmission.” There was a short pause and then; “Mayday – Mayday – Mayday. MV Pacific Wanderer, please confirm your position, our charts indicate no atoll at your coordinates.”
“Aurora, I have you strength three and confirm our estimated position is forty one south, one twenty two west. I must point out our position is dead reckoning, we were caught by the tropical storm during Sunday night and the captain, crew and passengers abandoned ship at,” I looked at Will and he quickly scribbled on a sheet of paper. “Abandoned ship at about oh one hundred local time in four lifeboats. We believe they may have headed in a northerly direction in severe weather conditions and near zero visibility. Pacific Wanderer is aground and holed in the port bow into number four hold but is not in imminent danger of sinking if current weather conditions continue. There are…” I looked at Will, closed my eyes and said, “Two, I repeat two passengers still on board and overlooked when the order to abandon ship was given. Neither passenger is in need of urgent medical assistance. We have ample food, water and medical supplies, but we do not know the condition of the others since they took to the lifeboats hence our mayday and not pan – pan. Pacific Wanderer, over.”
“Pacific Wanderer this is Aurora, please wait listening we are checking the cross bearings on your transmission, we repeat, our charts indicate no reef or island in the vicinity of your dead reckoning position.”
I heard him start to speak to another station and leaned back with my eyes closed and felt rather than heard Will get up and leave and return shortly with a fresh coffee. “They are going to get a copy of the passenger list, Will, whatever can I tell them?”
“Just give your name as Charlie and when they ask for me, tell them Sweeney Todd, I don’t want to get involved, but I am impressed with your professional manner on the radio.”
“Scuba diving days, a trawler skipper we dived with a few times let me take the helm occasionally and taught me a bit. What’s your full name, they are bound to ask because they may think this is a spoof particularly now that they’ve asked me to confirm our DR position.”
“William George Devonshire, what about you?
“Well I used to be Charles Broughton and I thought that had changed but Charlie’s not giving in easily.”
“Charlotte will have to be patient a little longer. You feeling a bit better now.”
“Yes but I’m not handling it very well am I?”
“You’re doing marvellously, both of you. If it had been left to me, I would have switched on and shouted ‘Is there anybody there’ and kept fiddling with dials and switches until somebody answered.”
“That’s all I did, just used a different approach.”
“But with panache, I...”
Mayday – Mayday – Mayday. Pacific Wanderer this is RNZAF Maritime Surveillance Marine 5. Do you copy? Over.
I grabbed the mike, a new call sign, more help, “Marine Five, strength four, over.”
Pacific Wanderer, I have messages can you accept them?”
“Roger, Marine Five ready to receive, over.”
“Pacific Wanderer, I have triangulated your position with Aurora and another call sign, your present location is one-one-eight, twenty seven, sixteen west. Thirty nine degrees fifty minutes, thirty three seconds south, over.”
“Roger that, Marine Five, I shall rap my navigator over the knuckles, over.”
“Be kind, Pacific Wanderer, under the circumstances it was excellent dead reckoning. I am currently flying down your bearing but have only one hour’s fuel left and must return to Auckland. HMNZ Ship Aurora is underway to your location at full speed with a doctor on board and her ETA is three six hours. She may, if your situation remains unchanged, delay at Pacific Wanderer’s last confirmed position and begin a search for your lifeboats. Roger so far, over.”
“Roger all that, Marine Five. Please relay to Aurora that Pacific Wanderer was under power at slow speed for approximately five hours after the last known confirmed position and was being clipped by the tropical storm. We notice that the captain appeared to be well south of his expected course before we encountered the storm. We were out of Chatham Island bound for Adamstown and are not aware of any reason why the course was so southerly, over.”
“Roger Pacific Wanderer. Will you describe current wind and sea at your location, over.”
“Maritime Five – wind sou, sou, west, strength one to two, sea calm with approximately one metre waves. Virtually no surf on the reef surrounded our lagoon. The island adjacent to the reef has a hill of two hundred metres and shields us from southerly winds, over.”
“Pacific Wanderer, Roger that. The USAF have diverted an AWAC to search the estimated location of your lifeboats, currently the lifeboats are not sending any emergency beacon signals can you confirm that they have that equipment, over?”
“Maritime Five, I can confirm that the two lifeboats remaining with Pacific Wanderer have beacons so would assume that those at sea also have them. Would it help if we were to switch one of ours on?”
“Pacific Wanderer, negative to that it may confuse searching ships and aircraft. We have been notified that a Royal Navy Antarctic Survey ship and an RNZN Antarctic supply ship are both moving to your area but are one thousand plus miles from you. A United States airliner from Hawaii bound for Wellington is also diverting to overfly the search area. All call signs have been informed that the lifeboat search area is at Mayday status but you are Pan-Pan, over.”
“Maritime Five, I shall inform the other passenger he has been put to one side, he will be hurt but I can cope, we have plenty of beer on board, over.”
“Pacific Wanderer, if you are currently under British command, use the cat if you have to. One last thing, can you supply the names of the passengers still on board Pacific Wanderer, over.”
I gave them my name and Will’s and signed off, “Do you understand all that?” I asked Will.
“We don’t have a cat, do you want me to make one up out of bits of old string?”
I stretched, “Nope, let’s go and sit in the saloon and have a drink.” I turned the call alarm on and stepped back and looked at the satellite and sat-nav link, “I’m feeling pretty tired, what time is it?”
Will looked at his watch, “10.20 pm.”
I walked through the bridge and hurried down to the saloon with Will behind me. “I think I should leave the sat-nav until morning, I’m tired and I might do damage that we can’t repair.”
“That’s fine, we have the radio working and they know our precise location, the sat-nav can comfortably wait. Have a drink and go to bed.”
I shook my head, “No, I can’t do that, I’m going to let them know and then bunk down in the radio room with the wireless set alarm on. They might locate the lifeboats during the night and I need you to kip on the bridge in case I sleep through the alarm, do you mind?”
“Of course not, it’s nearer to the bar than my cabin. What do you want to have?”
“A small G&T with loads of tonic and if I ask for a second, don’t let me have one or I will definitely sleep through the alarm.”
“I believe you, you slept through a force nine Sunday night.”
“Will what’s the range of our radar?”
“VHF about eight miles, long distance about sixty in good conditions.”
“Would it pick up the lifeboats?”
“If they were close but beyond line of sight, one on its own, I think it doubtful but if they weren’t separated by the storm, we might get them if they had the sense to tie themselves together.”
“Let’s give it a go when we go back to the bridge.”
“It’s a good idea to switch to long distance anyway, if help gets close and their radar is cluttered by the island, they can home in on our signal.”
I finished my drink and got up, “I must have a shower and change these clothes, can you listen out to the radio for twenty minutes, the transmit button is on the microphone stem.”
He uncapped another beer and came with me to the door, “Take all the time you need, if it’s an emergency I can’t handle, I’ll come and get you.”
Half an hour later I walked back into the radio room and nearly tripped over a thin mattress with a pair of pillows and a sleeping bag on it, “Where did you find them?” I asked
“Cupboard on the bridge, there’s another for me.”
“Are you saying the watch keepers used to take naps?”
“Probably took turns, it’s about par for a crew that can abandon ship without first making a roll call. You okay now whilst I take a shower?”
“Yes, fine, I’ll tell them I’m going to listening watch only and set the alarm whilst we get some sleep and I’ll make contact at six. If you want a snack, there’s some bits and pieces left over from dinner in the fridge and it doesn’t matter if you get drunk and come back singing, I’ll not hear it once I bury myself in the sleeping bag.”

I awoke at five forty-five, it seems I have unconsciously downloaded an alarm system into my brain since starting the radio, well I hope that’s the reason I awoke fifteen minutes early because if it’s some sort of precognition and I remain Charlotte, I might gain the reputation of being the Wicked Witch of the South. I padded down to the saloon and loaded the percolator and went to the fridge to fetch the milk but of course there wasn’t any. I suppose I could have used one of the three long-life bottles or dried milk but that just isn’t recommended for the first coffee of the day.
I took a tray with two mugs of black coffee, already feeling grumpy and left one within reach of Will who was just stirring and went back to the radio room. I was half way through the coffee when Will poked his head around the door, “Do I have time to shower?”
“Yes, I’ll do the first half hour, there won’t be anything going on yet.”
He went off and I turned the radio on and gave it a minute and dead on six I started; “Pan – Pan – Pan, this is Pacific Wanderer for RNZN Aurora or RNZAF Maritime Five, do you copy?”
“Pacific Wanderer, this is Aurora, good morning Charlie. The airforce won’t be out of their beds yet, over.”
“Aurora, make them do time on a carrier, any news before I upgrade myself to a Mayday situation, over.”
“Something wrong?”
“No milk for my coffee.”
Aurora chuckled and then became serious, “Aurora for Pacific Wanderer, there is no contact yet with the lifeboats and we are upgrading the search. We have a weather warning for you, can you receive, over?”
I reached for my notebook and acknowledged.
“Pacific Wanderer, there is a rapidly deepening depression in the Antarctic Ocean off Scott Point and heading north by north, north east and is likely to by-pass you by approximately three hundred and fifty miles. ETA your area is 0200 hrs. We will update you every hour but at present wind speeds over your location are expected to be gale force eight to storm ten. The same will apply to the search area for the lifeboats with wind speeds slackening from approximately 0500. For this reason, the search for the lifeboats is being treated as a most urgent Mayday. An American AWAC is expected your area at about midday today and will be in contact as soon as they eyeball you, over.”
“Aurora, wait one please.” I stopped to think but not for long and grabbed the internal phone and rang for Will. He answered quickly obviously not in or finished his shower, “Charlie?”
“Come up please Will, we have an Antarctic deepening depression threatening us, I have Aurora standing by.”
He arrived on the run and took seconds to read my notes, “We’ll have to try and get the ship off the reef and beach her, Charlie, it’s the safest position for us.”
“Can we do it?”
“I think so, I’ll have to take the stern anchor and a winch cable over to the reef directly astern and secure both and then if we put the engines astern and use the winches, we should pull her off. If the hull is damaged again or my repairs don’t hold I can beach her at slow ahead to prevent her from sinking. If we use both anchors and cables from the winches it should hold her. It will have to be done at high tide,” he looked at his watch, “Five hours, time enough for me to get it ready if you can handle the radio. Ask Aurora to confirm that high tide here is at twelve hundred.”
“Won’t the island protect us?”
“Some yes but the sea will be whipped up and breaking over the reef and churning up the lagoon quite a bit and if Pacific Wanderer starts moving about whilst she’s on the reef, it will rip the hull right out of her.”
I turned back to the radio, “Aurora, a message, do you copy, over?”
“Strength four, Pacific Wanderer, send you message, over.”
“We need confirmation of the time for the next hide tide our location, we are going to attempt to pull Pacific Wanderer off the reef and beach her on the island, over.”
There was a short pause and; “Pacific Wanderer, do you have clear space astern to give room for the ship?”
“Affirmative, Aurora. Clear for fifty meters beyond the stern and an arc of thirty degrees with sufficient depth. We will be mirroring the path of the ship prior to going aground. We also have sufficient space to manoeuvre for beaching on the island which has a sandy, shelving bottom. Information is from several trips between ship and island by lifeboat but we did not carry out an underwater survey, over.”
“Roger, Pacific Wanderer. Pity about the survey, there may be underwater obstructions you missed on the approach.”
“Aurora, we have scuba equipment and I am an instructor level sports diver, would you suggest I make a survey, over?”
“Pacific Wanderer. Charlie, you are a multi-talented asset, wait one whilst we consult.”
It wasn’t long before they came back on and gave me the go ahead. Will said it would take about an hour to get the anchor, winch and lifeboat ready which gave me enough time to get a good breakfast ready and prepare sandwiches for later, I suspected we wouldn’t have time whilst moving Pacific Wanderer to stop for a cooked meal. And then we went to work.

In Chapters 9 and 10 – Aurora arrives and an act of heroism.

Footprints In The Sea, Volume 1, the complete volume, is to be published on Amazon Kindle. There is a link to Amazon in the right hand column of this site.

[email protected]



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
92 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 23404 words long.