Footprints In The Sea 21 and 22

Footprints In The Sea – Chapters 21 and 22

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 the previous chapters, please do so..

Charlotte must leave her island and return to New Zealand with Pacific Wanderer.

21

“I was coming to find you,” Will greeted me as I approached the cave entrance.
“You wouldn’t have found me, I wandered off the beaten track a little way.”
“You do have a habit of disappearing. Where did you go this time?”
“The Land of Make-Believe.”
“Was it nice?”
“Beautiful, you make a wish and it comes true and there are fawns living there.”
He looked a little puzzled, “What was it you wished for?”
“I mustn’t tell you or we’ll be cursed by the Wicked Witch of the North and apart from that, you were a major part of my wish. Do you like venison.”
“Not very much, why?”
I didn’t answer I just threw my arms around him and stood on tip-toe and kissed him. “It’s okay if I make an order forbidding the killing of deer then?”
“It’s your island, you can make any orders you like. I’ll tell the people who should know about things like that; there is to be no killing of deer, will that suit.”
“Yes. Tell them that killing deer will make you and I die as well and also tell them that the deer on Charlotte Island are unique and as such, on the protected list.”
He was still puzzled but he nodded anyway. I’d tell him what happened to me one day but for now I was just happy knowing that I was me at last, it was real and I was going to stay like me for ever.
“I have some news. The captain of Aurora came ashore, he wanted to speak to us but when I told him you were over at the house he said he was in a bit of a rush to get round to speak to Orca and Penguin. Penguin is leaving for New Zealand the day after tomorrow to exchange some of the crew and scientific staff who are due for leave, refuel and give everybody two or three days ashore and will then return in a couple of weeks with a New Zealand Navy inshore patrol vessel and a couple of days after that, Aurora is leaving and the New Zealand authorities want them to escort Pacific Wanderer back for repairs, she’ll be in Auckland for about six weeks.”
“Oh, that was sudden.”
“The navy shipyard has had to cancel a refit on another ship and has a window available for Pacific Wanderer and wants the job done as soon as possible, I’ll explain the whys’ and wherefores later but they’ve asked if we can take extra passengers from Orca at the same time. I said yes because it will be a quid-pro-quo to set against the cost of the repairs. The reason they want us to carry the passengers is so that they can leave Orca here until we get back, and as Pacific Wanderer will need to keep some of the crew from Aurora to handle the ship and cater for the passengers it will mean Aurora will be sailing shorthanded and can’t cope with passengers as well.”
I was beginning to go cross-eyed with the details, “Tell me again this evening but it sounds okay. Why are they leaving Orca?”
“There’s some very valuable equipment being delivered to the weather station, wireless link and research laboratories and they will need a navy ship to remain and mount guard on the island and Orca is still officially on station for Antarctic duties for another three months.”
“What about here and the house and all the equipment that has been installed in the cave?”
“The Inshore vessel will be anchoring here but if it has to leave and go on patrol, then Orca will send people over.”
“I’ll have to see what Emma and Liz will be doing, I know Faye will be coming because she’s supposed to be on leave and is returning to the States before she comes here to live. I’ll have to ask David and Gwyneth what they are doing as well and we can help look after the passengers.”
“They’re all coming with us, Faye as planned and will fly on to the States from Auckland and Emma and Liz are both doing another tour here and are returning to New Zealand to arrange their own affairs and will probably go back to the UK for a couple of weeks so too are David and Gwyneth, so it fits in nicely.”
“Are you free to take me out to lunch?”
“Definitely, I can recommend Chez Pacific Wanderer unless you fancy alfresco in which case it’s a burger in a bun on the beach.”
“Let’s go back to Wanderer I have to go through the cargo and make a list of everything we want to keep, assuming we are going to be allowed to.”
Will slapped his forehead, “I forgot to tell you. The Aurora is sending a crew over the day after tomorrow to start unloading the cargo, they want Pacific Wanderer’s cargo holds empty when she’s dry-docked.”
“Oh, what about our stuff in the cabins?”
“Leave what you don’t need in the house and take everything else for our stay in New Zealand. You will need twenty empty suitcases.”
“What for?”
“You’re going shopping with the girls aren’t you?”

I started shopping after lunch. Will went off to the cave and I went down to the holds and remembering the monsoon, wreck and how I had got here in the first place, I told PO Victor where I was and not to sink the ship until I had been warned. Being marooned is a fun thing the first time but thereafter it can be a bit of a chore.
The first hold was going to be easiest, here there were boxes of jewellery, roles of silk, home ornaments, watches and small electronic gadgets, all goods that were generally small, valuable or delicate. The easiest way to store them was to crate everything for moving up to the cave. I moved on to the clothing much of which was in cartons and still standing on the original pallets and as I walked down the rows I decided it would be best left as it was until I returned from New Zealand. The problem I had was my lack of knowledge on storing goods or how best to move things around within the confines of a ship’s hold but when I moved onto the third hold the island’s magic worked for me and turning at the sound of footsteps I saw a leading seaman and four ratings marching towards me, “Afternoon, Commander,” said the leading seaman saluting smartly, “Leading Seaman Peterson and this lot,” he waved is hand at the others, “This ‘ere is Stoker whose from Aurora’s engine room so ‘is name fits and the others are general duties bods. We’ve been sent over from Aurora to get the cargo ready for moving up to the cave.”
“You are my saviours,” I replied and meant it, they at least would know what they were doing. “I’ve spent some time down here but don’t really know what we are carrying other than the clothing.” I held out the sheets of cargo manifest, “Everything is listed here and the hold number but there’s no indication on how it’s packed.”
Peterson scanned down the lists and kept nodding which I took to be a good sign and when he finished he nodded a final time, “Piece of cake, most of it will still be on the original pallets so won’t need packing, it will be fork lifted up to the cave and when it’s stored we’ll cover the lot with tarpaulins. Where’s the clobber, we’ll need to put that where its airy and dry?”
“Over there, most of it in cartons except a few racks but they are fixed to pallets and over there,” I pointed to where I had found the diving equipment, there’s diving equipment and I’m afraid I opened a few of the crates and took a few pieces.”
“No problem,” he turned to look at the opposite side, “The guns and ammo are all in number four hold stab’d, did you open any of them?
“Guns! I didn’t know we were carrying guns, Pacific Wanderer wasn’t a gun runner was she?”
He laughed, “No just stuff the islanders needed, most of it for hunting but there’s three general purpose machine guns which I’ve been told to leave cos they are being fitted to the ship.”
“You can throw them over the side for all I care, I don’t like guns.”
“Don’t you worry about ‘em, Mr. Devonshire knows about it,” he studied the manifest again, the valuable stuff is in number one port and opposite is drugs and shop stuff and some beer and spirits, we’ll store them somewhere safe in the cave. That’s about it, when we’ve got everything up at the cave we’re going to mark the crates and cartons wiv coloured stickers so you’ll know what’s in ‘em.”
“Are you moving it on your own!”
“Gawd no, we’re just here to pack anything that’s bin opened and do the stock in the shop. The heavy mob will shift it up to the cave day after tomorrow once your PO cook has separated the stuff he’ll need for the trip to New Zealand.”
“Well if you need anything lifted up onto the deck, I know how to work the boom so call me, until then I think I can make myself more useful by getting out of your way. Have you had your lunch?”
“Yes thank you, Marm.”
“I’ll make sure you get tea then and if you need me, I’ll be in the shop, pursers office or my cabin, the PO cook will know where to find me.”
“Okay Marm, the tea will be appreciated.”
“You’re the girl who went into the sea after the bloke what was drowning, ain’t yer?” asked one of the ratings.
“The girl yer referring to just ‘appens to be a Commander in the RNVR, Arkly and you’ll address ‘er as such.”
“No please, Miss Broughton is fine or if there’s no officers about you can call me Charlotte, I’m only an officer for the time being.”
“As I ‘ears it, yer, half mermaid, that’s what the crew reckons anyway.”
“I’ll rustle up some tea,” I said, my reputation as a heroine, mermaid and Olympic swimmer were going to haunt me for years and it was embarrassing, so I left the hold before my legs turned into a fishes tail.

22

I was standing on the promenade deck, the aft section behind the passenger cabins looking out over the stern at the lengthening wake that led back to the entrance to the lagoon. There was morning mist covering parts of the island but the sea was soft and calm.
Will was still fast asleep in our cabin, dreaming of me I hoped. We had made love last night and though I had known that it would hurt when we started, I now knew that beyond the short period of pain there was ecstasy, the ultimate in human experiences. I had not been disappointed, it had been even better than my first venture a few nights ago. I had travelled a thousand times faster than light, far out into the cosmos, passing through galaxies, even bursting through burning stars but this time I had been conscious of Will’s presence with me, I could feel his kisses, his caresses and could hear his cries of joy, his calling my name. When we returned to earth my entire body was aware of his closeness, the places where our bodies touched and caressed each other as we moved and in those quiet moments I asked him what he would do or think of me if we discovered that I could not have my final adjustment and must give up the idea of sexual reassignment surgery. He had remained quiet for a while and then, softly stroking my face and looking straight into my eyes he had answered with a question of his own.
“How would you feel if I told you that I had an illness that would make me impotent or that I would no longer be able to work because I had osteoarthritis or there was something wrong with my spine?”
“I would cry, I would curse the gods, I would…I don’t know what I would do, I do know I would be terribly hurt, terribly upset.”
“Why.”
“Because you would be so unhappy and you would think so badly of yourself.”
“And if I told you that I knew I could cope with it and wouldn’t be too upset and could adjust, what then.”
I snuggled closer and kissed his lips gently, “I would be okay, as long as you were still going to be the Will I love, then yes, I would be okay.”
“And you would continue to love me and help me overcome my disappointments?”
“Of course I would, you’d still be Will, things like that can’t change you, you would still be the man I love and want.”
“You’ve answered your own question, if for any reason you can’t go ahead, even if it’s because the operation scares you so much you find you can’t do it, I will still love you. It wouldn’t change, my feelings for you; as far as I was concerned, you would be Charlotte, Charlotte on the ship, Charlotte who shrugged when told she was marooned, Charlotte who put a skirt on when she couldn’t find trousers that would fit and the Charlotte who danced and made every man in a room turn to watch and cheer her on. But above all, the Charlotte who is my world and without whom my life would have little purpose. My only concern would be that you continue to experience pain when we begin to make love.”
“That’s only at the beginning and it goes away and I’ve learned how to neutralise it to some extent.”
Thinking now about what he had said and more importantly, the way he had said it, with so much conviction and love in the words made my eyes water and when I returned my attention to the island, the sun peeked over the horizon and the remaining mist turned gold and I started to cry, I wanted to turn Pacific Wanderer back, return to the island and never leave it again, I was home sick. I was about to go back inside and snuggle up in bed with Will again when the door opened and Phillips appeared, “PO Victor and Gwyneth Evans sent me to find you…oh, you’re crying!” He came over pulling a handkerchief out and offering it to me, “Is there something wrong, are you ill?”
I shook my head, “Just a little homesick, I’ll ask Mark for a happy pill.”
“I’ll go and see him once I have you safely in the saloon with Mrs. Evans, she’ll know what to do.”
The tears stopped, I had to laugh, poor Gwyneth being a doctor’s wife meant she was going to have all sorts of strange ailments brought to her, crying women, sick puppy dogs, sailors who were missing their girlfriends. “You’re right, Gwyneth will know what to do, don’t bother Mark, he needs to concentrate on women who like swimming in Arctic waters.”
We went back inside and started along the passage, “Do you have anybody in New Zealand you get homesick for?”
“It’s the other way round for me. Sometimes I get homesick for Aurora when I’m in New Zealand.”
“That’s not unusual, a lot of sailors miss their ships when they’re ashore. The ship becomes their home.”
“Doubly so for me, my true love lives on the ship as well.”
“Here on Aurora, are you gay and have a boyfriend on board? You shouldn’t have told me, I might let something slip and give you away.”
“That doesn’t matter these days, gay people are allowed to serve in the armed forces but living on the same ship as a boyfriend is worse than being separated by miles.
“That’s awful, so near and yet so far, I wouldn’t like that, no, definitely not.”
“We get used to it and we’re both finishing our service soon. When you think about it, we’re better off than the straight blokes, they aren’t even allowed to bring their wives and girlfriends on board.”
“I suppose so but having the one you love so close and not being able to cuddle up when you want to, that would kill me. I’d ask to transfer to another ship and we could meet at weekends or whenever we get into a port.”
He smiled, “That doesn’t work either because you can be sure that if I was in Auckland, my other half would be in Hong Kong. No we are okay with it particularly as we’ll be able to set up home later this year and be together all the time.”
“Who is it, somebody I know?”
“Oh you know him well enough but I’m not telling.”
“You can’t do that, it’s cruel, come on tell me or I’ll remind you I’m a commander and you have to do as your told.”
“Oh dear, are you saying you’d have me keel-hauled?”
“Yes, now tell me.”
“I think you know, if you don’t at present you’ll work it out quick enough now that you know I have a boyfriend on board.”
“Wait a minute whilst I check on Will,” I opened the door quietly and crept into the bedroom and he was fast asleep so I crept rapidly back and closed the door. “Still asleep so tell me or else.”
He smiled, “It’s Mark, who else could it be, you must have noticed we’re together a lot.”
“Mark! You and Mark! I can’t have that, my personal steward and my fashion consultant having an affair under my own eyes, that’s a disgrace, whose going to look after me!”
“We’ve done all right so far but if you like, I’ll ask the captain to relieve us and you can have Victor and Sub Lieutenant Andrews.”
“That’s just as bad, my cook and dancing partner, God knows how that would turn out.”
We went into the saloon and Gwyneth was already seated, “I’ll have the same as Gwyneth,” I whispered “And the next time we’re moored at the island, I’ll fix it so you can stay at the house together if you like.”
“Bad for discipline if we’re caught but Mark wants to speak to you about the island anyway.”
He went into the galley and I joined Gwyneth, “What was all the whispering about, you’re not arranging to have Will’s food spiked with oysters are you?”
“No, it’s more serious than that and to prove the point, he’s forgotten to get me a coffee, I’ll be right back. I started to get up when he appeared and went straight over to the percolator, fixed my coffee and brought it over, “Victor sends his regrets but today will see an end to fresh eggs until me make Auckland.”
“My life has become a disaster, Gwyneth, I should have stayed on the island at least there would have been seagull eggs.”
She waited until we were alone again and then repeated her question, “Well, what about the whispering and your eyes are red, have you been crying?”
“Yes, I was standing at the stern watching my island disappear into the mist and I suddenly became homesick and wanted to go back and started blubbering and Phillips appeared, gave me his hanky and then dropped his bombshell, he’s in love with Mark and I think they want to set up home together. Gwyneth what am I to do, first I lose my island and then I discover my personal steward and my fashion consultant want to run away and get married and forget all about me.”
“Are you saying you didn’t know about Garry and Mark?”
I started to refill my coffee cup and paused, “Is that his name, Garry, I didn’t even know that.”
“You’ll have to dye your hair blonde at this rate. The man you are marrying is called Will, William Devonshire.”
I stroked my engagement ring, “I won’t ever forget that. In another six weeks he will be the longest attachment I have had with another person outside of my family.” I looked around the saloon, “It’s very empty and makes me feel as if we’re on a ghost ship.”
“Short-handed, the crew come in for meals two or three at a time.”
“Of course I hadn’t thought of that. What will they do tonight, work double watches?”
“Carry on as they are now, they are going to be pretty tired when we get to New Zealand.”
“I’ll speak to Andy, I can spell the radio operator when he needs some sleep and we could both do a watch in the galley and give them a chance to have a decent rest and Will can work the engines and David can take over from Mark, we’ll have to see what the other passengers can do, we might be able to raise a scratch watch between us, we only have to follow Aurora.”
Phillips came back, “Is there anything else you need, I have to go up to the bridge and spell the helmsman.”
“We were just speaking about that, I’ll come with you, I can give the wireless operator a break.” I stood up and looked down at my skirt, “Do you think this will be okay, Gwyneth, this skirt on the bridge when I’m on duty?”
“Jeans would have been better I suppose, how many layers is the petticoat?”
“Two.”
“It would be better if you took that off in case you have an emergency and have to rush about, you’ll get tangled up in a sea of tulle.”
I grinned, “Garry, turn your back I’m going to undress,” and as soon as he did, I lifted the skirt and slid the petticoat down, bundled it up and handed it to Gwyneth, “Here you look after it for me until I come off duty.”
“I’ll leave it in your cabin as soon as Will is up and about, do you want me to fetch your swimming costume in case there’s a man-overboard emergency.”
I grinned, “Don’t say things like that.” I gave Garry a push, “Come on leading seaman, let’s sashay up to the bridge.”

Martin was on the bridge when we walked in, “What are you doing here, Martin, you’re supposed to be on Aurora aren’t you, are you are planning a dance?”
He spun round and his face flushed, “Commander Broughton on the bridge, Captain.”
Andy Bryant turned from the window where he had been studying the sea ahead and took the binoculars from around his neck, “Thank you sub, carry on and relieve the helmsman, Phillips. Good Morning Charlotte this is a pleasure have you come to relieve me?”
“Well no not really, I thought you could use me to relieve the radio operator so he could have a break but if you want, I can relieve you instead.”
He smiled, “Thank you but I’m fine for a while but I think the radio operator might appreciate a chance to have breakfast, he’s been on for a few hours but I’ll have to get permission from Aurora.”
“I don’t want to be a bother, I just want to help if you’re short-handed.”
Andy smiled, “I know. Sub, get on to Aurora and ask permission for Commander Broughton to relieve the radio operator for an hour or two. Respectfully remind the skipper that Commander Broughton is RNVR has radio experience and is familiar with our equipment.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” and Martin gave me an uncertain look to ensure he wasn’t being made the victim of a practical joke and went into the radio shack.
“He’s on top of the world at the moment, we shifted him here because he’s a good navigator and can act as pilot as well as second in command,” explained Andy, “It’s a chance for him to get some experience, he’s sitting his lieutenant’s exam when we get back to Auckland.”
“He’s a nice lad, just needs a little self-confidence and he could command Pacific Wanderer soon.”
“You thinking of poaching him?”
“I might try, he’s a good dancer so his social skills would be suitable as my Flag Lieutenant.”
Martin came back, “Captain Fellows said fine as long as you are remaining on the bridge during her watch.”
“Okay, sub. Commander Broughton, please relieve the radio operator for two hours, log on and acknowledge the Captain of Aurora’s last order.” He turned to Martin who was looking at us open mouthed, “Sub, are we still on course?”
“Eh, oh, no, sir, I mean yes,” and he rushed over to the helm, checked the compass and revs and came back, “Revs for ten knots, course 282, sir.”
Andy winked at me, “Got a book to read, Charlotte, everything is quiet and you’ll get bored. I’m afraid the choice in the radio shack is pulp fiction or the Admiralty Guide to Mariners.”
“I’ve brought my knitting,” and as I went to the radio shack I heard Garry on the helm snigger, “Watch yer helm, damn yer eyes,” I snarled.
The equipment seemed much the same, there were new headsets and a few more things stuck to the walls so it felt like a homecoming rather than a watch. The operator wasn’t the man who I had met when they came to make repairs but I vaguely recognised him, “I’ve come to give you a break is everything working?”
“Perfectly, Commander.” He got up and let me sit and then pointed at the tuning, “That’s the normal military frequency we’re on at the moment, and if it’s changed Aurora will send the new one. I listen into channel sixteen for five minutes every half hour and if you need to change to VHF it’s the same as before but the set has been upgraded and you have a longer range, other than that, I’m told you’ve operated this stuff before so I assume you’re happy with it.”
“Yes, it looks fine and familiar, go and have breakfast and if we go to war, I’ll send somebody to get you.”
He grinned, “If we go to war the nine millimetre is on the hook, it’s loaded but closed on an empty breach with the safety catch on so don’t forget to cock and load before letting fly at the boarders.”
“I’m not touching it, I’ll leave it to somebody else.”
“Okay, Sub Lieutenant Andrews is a good shot. Aurora knows a new operator will be signing on so all you have to do is raise her and let them know.”
“Fine, listen if you need more than a couple of hours let the captain know I’m okay with the extra time.”
“Thanks, Marm.”
As soon as he had gone I placed the headphones on, searched for the transmit button was about to panic and call him back when I realised it was now hanging from the headset. I clicked; “Pacific Wanderer for Aurora, over.”
There was a longer than normal pause and then a voice came back, “Aurora, is that you Charlie?”
“It is but I’m in the navy now and take things seriously.”
“You weren’t so bad as a civvy. It’s nice to hear you again, I’ve logged you on, there’s nothing to report other than we will be changing course soon but the captain will warn you first.”
“Roger, Aurora. Look I’m checking the log and there’s an entry for thirty minutes ago of a signal too faint to read, are we still listening for it?”
“With half an ear, it was probably an Australian or American patrol ship or plane. There’s probs with the ionosphere and sun spots so long distance reception is a bit erratic. If they want us, they will call again shortly, just listen out and if you hear anything before I do, let the captain know, kay?”
“Roger, I’ll start my knitting then, Pacific Wanderer, out.”
I sat back and puzzled over the mysterious message. Pacific Wanderer’s radio equipment was not state of art and looked as if it had been second hand when it was fitted because though the dials and important stuff were labelled in English, the less important labels on the side and back were in Chinese but Aurora would be equipped with the latest telecommunication equipment. I understood a little about wireless technology and appreciated that the Sun’s activity and radiation did disrupt radio signals often enough so Aurora’s explanation accounted for why the signal had been faint but it still worried me. I pulled the log over and read the entry again, the operator had entered the bearing as forty five degrees, close to north-east but had added ‘not confirmed’ after the entry. I shrugged; as Aurora had said, if they wanted us they would try again or use a different system to contact us but for some reason it niggled me.
I turned to channel sixteen and listened for five minutes but there was nothing so I tuned to the military band, switched over to the loudspeakers and scooted over to the computer and went on-line to my mail box, got it up but before I had a chance to open it, the page flickered then steadied and then shut down and the apology message came up, ‘Sorry we have lost you. Please retry.’ I did but got the same result and returned to the wireless, the internet was also having problems so I reached for a paperback, Andy was right, the book was ‘I the Jury’, I had read that when I was about twelve years old when it was the thing for twelve year olds to read educational literature like ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and ‘I the Jury’ I opened the book and began to read Mike Hammer’s account of the hunt for his friend’s killer and suddenly found I was enjoying it and regretted I had never bothered to go and see the film.
I had got to half way through chapter two when the radio blurted out “Aurora…” I grabbed the head set and listened for Aurora’s response but there was none and I was about to switch to VHF and call them when the radio let out a noise like ducks quacking but under it I heard; “Sea going motor cruiser bearing…” and went quiet again and I was sure I recognised the voice. I read off the bearing it was forty three and looking at the wall map behind the set I noted that the bearing was close enough to indicate the signal was coming from Hawaii or something that was on a bearing between us and the American base. I called Aurora on the VHF; “Pacific Wanderer for Aurora, did you receive the signal calling for you, over?”
“Negative, Charlie, nothing heard here, over.”
“The bearing puts it on a line for Hawaii and I think I recognised the voice, I also received ‘Sea going motor cruiser,’ I’m sure the voice is the operator on the American AWAC Papa Alpha Two, over.”
“Pacific Wanderer, wait one.”
I took off the headset and went to the door of the radio shack and called Andy, “Captain, I think you need to hear this, do you want me to put it on your speakers?” I didn’t have time to hear his response because Aurora started speaking and I shot back to the set and listened, “AWAC Papa Alpha Two, do you copy over?” There was a long pause with no reply but I could hear the ducks quacking for a second or two and then, “Papa Alpha Two, this is RNZS Aurora, I say again, do you copy?” There was another pause and more ducks until Aurora called me, “Pacific Wanderer we can’t raise them, how about you, over?”
“No voice but I did hear a noise like ducks quacking, over.”
“Pacific Wanderer, wait one.”
Andy came in, “Leave it on the loudspeakers in here as well, Charlotte, I’ll send for our sparks.”
“Leave it a moment, Andy it may just be routine and the signal is lousy, we might need him daisy fresh later.”
“Right but I’ll stay here,” and he went to the door, “Martin, you have the bridge, I’ll be in here.”
I heard Aurora calling the AWAC again and then they came back to me, “Pacific Wanderer, nothing heard, can you try?”
I looked at Andy and he nodded, “Try it, the radio is playing tricks.”
I pressed the transmit button; “AWAC Papa Alpha Two, this is Pacific Wanderer in company with Aurora, I received one or two words of your last transmissions, do you copy, over?”
“I heard the ducks again and then, “Charlie…quack, quack…you…strength two…” and then nothing. I looked up at Andy, “It’s them alright, they recognised my voice,” and then I pressed the button again, “Papa Alpha Two, this is Pacific Wanderer and can confirm ‘Charlie’ but you are strength one and breaking. Please try to send your original message, I will relay to Aurora, over.”
I looked up at Andy again, “Do you want me to hand over?”
He shook his head, “No, they recognised your voice and it helps, but I’ll put sparks on standby,” and he took the phone off the wall and pressed the buttons, “PO, this is the captain, is Pemberton still in the saloon? Good, tell him to be on standby to return to the bridge when he’s finished his meal.”
He hung up as the radio went live again and it was loud and clear, “Papa Alpha Two for Pacific Wanderer. Charlie, we have an unidentified sea going cruiser heading in your direction and will cross your current course in three hours. They have not responded to our…quack, quack, quack.” I waited until the noise stopped and then sent, “Papa Alpha Two, say again all after 'not responded to our', over.” I glanced at Andy but he was busy writing and then the AWAC came back, “Papa Alpha Two for Pacific Wanderer, repeating all after not responding to our radio challenges. They are sailing blind with no radar switched on, we suspect suspicious activity, over.”
“Pacific Wanderer for Papa Alpha Two, I got that and am relaying to Aurora, wait listening, over.”
Andy was already speaking to Aurora on the VHF and then I heard her calling the AWAC but there was no response so I called them, Papa Alpha Two, Aurora is calling you, do you hear them, over?”
Papa Alpha Two, negative, Charlie.”
“Pacific Wanderer, that’s weird, we’re only a couple of hundred metres behind her.”
“Radio plays tricks like that. How well are you receiving us and can you relay their messages to us?”
“You are strength four and clear at present, wait one I have a message coming in from Aurora, over.”
Andy handed me a slip, “Send that for Aurora, please.”
“Papa Alpha Two, I have a request from Aurora, over.”
Papa Alpha Two, send, Charlie.”
“Do you have contact’s speed, course and estimated size or type, over?”
“Papa Alpha Two, speed twenty four knots, course two six oh and probably a seagoing private recreational cruiser about twenty meters in length, over.”
“Pacific Wanderer, Roger that, do you think they are heading in our direction to make contact with us, over?”
“Negative, Charlie, everything is switched off, they can’t see you. If they were innocent they would change their heading and try to return to Hawaii or the South American mainland to get their equipment checked. They are operating clandestinely and up to no good, possibly drug or arms running, over.”
“Roger, Papa Alpha Two, wait listening, over.”
Andy was already relaying to Aurora and then listened and started to write. “Let them have this, Charlotte, you still okay on the set?”
“I’m fine, it’s better than the Mickey Spillane thriller I’m reading.” I turned back to the set, “Pacific Wanderer for Papa Alpha Two, Aurora sends her thanks, they are going to continue on the present course and speed and are speaking to Auckland, over.”
“You will be able to make an eyeball contact in a few hours, Pacific Wanderer, we will continue to watch them from a distance, over.”
“Am relaying that now.”
“We got your picture, Charlie, you’re certainly a good looking girl and there’s a member of the crew that fancies a dance with you some time, it’s the flight engineer and has even promised to clean under his finger nails.”
“Picture? What picture?”
“There was a chuckle, “The one of you jiving at the party, we already have it painted on the nose, we were going to rename the ship ‘Dancing Charlie’ but the skipper said no, he wanted the Sea Angel name kept.”
I turned to Andy, “How did they get a picture of me at the party?”
He turned away from me, no doubt to hide the guilt on his face, “They probably know somebody on the ship and they sent it.”
“It’s that bloody Faye, she’s a Yank and probably dating the whole crew, I’ll kill her when I get relieved from here.”
He chuckled, “You can’t you’re a Commander in the navy and it is your sworn duty to protect civilians.”
“I’m also the head of state of my island and Will told me I can make any rules I like. I’ll wait until she comes here to live then introduce the death penalty and have her eaten alive by tarantulas.”
“Don’t forget to video it and post it on You Tube.”
I was about to get out of the chair and stretch my back and legs when Aurora came on; “Aurora to Pacific Wanderer, confidential for Captain Bryant, over.”
I turned the bridge speakers off and gave the headset to Andy but he shook his head, “It always includes the radio operator unless specified, you take it.”
“Pacific Wanderer to Aurora, Captain listening, send your message.”
“Orders from Auckland, we are to detach and investigate the sighting north east of our position. Pacific Wanderer is to continue on present course and speed until the pre-arranged course alterations and then follow current sailing instructions, acknowledge, over”
I looked up at Andy and saw the disappointment on his face, “It’s because of me and the other civilians isn’t it?”
He nodded, “Luck of the drawer, at least I get to command Wanderer without being nannied by Aurora.”
Pacific Wanderer for Aurora, Captain acknowledges receipt, good luck, out.”
I turned to Andy, “What about their contact with the AWAC?”
“They’ll almost certainly be able to pick her up themselves soon and if not, Auckland will act as postman.”
“But you’d rather go with her?”
“Of course, there might be a bit of action especially if they’re running drugs. Standing orders require us to stop and search suspected drug smugglers and engage and sink them if necessary.”
I did stand up this time, “Can you listen whilst I get us some coffee?”
“Leave the coffee, Charlotte, I’ll get them to send some up.”
“Unless you don’t know how to work the radio, let me do it.”
“Why?”
“I need to stretch my legs and speak to Will.”
“I can operate the radio but no more than ten minutes, we might get instructions from Auckland.”
“I’ll send sparks up if you like.”
“No leave him, he’ll stay in the saloon until I stand him down. If I need him here he can be at the radio in two minutes.”
“Shan’t be long,” and I went out and crossing the bridge I stopped, “Martin, I have to go to my cabin and then I’m making fresh coffee, the captain is standing by the radio and sparks is in the saloon if he’s needed, I’ll be ten minutes,” I left him before he had a chance to answer but still found time to check the ships heading, looked at Gary still on the helm and say, “Watch yer heading, dam yer eyes,” and left.

In the next chapters; Are Charlie and Pacific Wanderer standing into danger!

Footprints in the Sea, Vol 2 - (Odysseus and Penelopeia) should now be published on Amazon Kindle but first you should finish reading Vol 1 which will be continued here.

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