Footprints In The Sea 3 and 4

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Footprints In The Sea – Chapters 3 & 4

By Frances Penwiddy

Copyright © Frances Penwiddy 2015

Footprints in the sea is a work of fiction and any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.

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

Shipwrecked on an island in the South Pacific region known as the Desert and more than one thousand miles from the nearest known inhabited land and located between New Zealand and South America, Charlie Broughton explores what he thinks is a deserted ship to find that there is one other survivor, Will Devonshire.
They work together to secure the ship and plan their rescue but things happen to Charlie, things that frighten him and he begins to question who he is…
I suggest you read these in chapter order so if you haven’t read Chapters 1 and 2, please do so’

Chapter 3

I did stick my head into the radio room and there were machines in there working but no live screens, next door was the chart room and things in there seem to be okay. I tried a light switch and was bathed in red light and the switch next to it normal white. I left the bridge and went down to collect my shopping and then took everything into the saloon except the jeans and scrunchy which I took to my cabin. On the way back it occurred to me that neither of us had checked the other passenger cabins so I went next door and that was empty but there were signs of occupation so I went up to the first cabin but as I passed my door I noticed that the distance to the first cabin door was about twice the distance as the cabin I had just left. I found out why when I opened it, this wasn't a cabin, it was a suite. A sitting room beautifully furnished and a door in the partition bulkhead which revealed a bedroom with wall to wall built in wardrobes and finally a bathroom and shower. The suite appeared unoccupied so I thought I would ask Will if it would be okay if I moved in there, why not, we were hardly likely to be picking up state-room passengers on a South Pacific atoll.
The inboard cabins opposite were much as mine without the benefit of windows and they all had signs of occupation except the last which turned out to be a housekeeping room with cleaning materials, a pair of vacuum cleaners and racks of bedding. At least I wouldn't have to keep washing sheets if it got hotter and we started having sticky nights. Time was running out so I went back to my cabin, combed my hair into a ponytail, decided not to change my clothes until after I had prepared the meal and then went to work in the galley.

Whilst I was working I heard Will start another engine, the sound didn't come from inside the hull, he was doing something on deck, forward of the bridge. I thought I'd better go and see what he was up to, partly because I was curious and partly because he had probably forgotten to use a sun blocker. I went out onto the promenade deck and walked up to the front. He was down the other end, the bow, stooping over a small machine, some sort of winch I think. “Will, did you remember to use a sun blocker before going out on the deck?” I had to yell.
He turned, “What?”
I yelled again, “Sun blocker!”
He left the winch and started to walk towards the bridge, “I don't have any,” he shouted when he was midway.
“I'll get some, can you catch it if I drop it down from here I have things bubbling in the galley?”
“Sure, I'll come closer.”
I ran back to the saloon and took a bottle from the supplies I had left on the bar and ran out again. He was standing just below the promenade deck so I leaned over and dropped it. “Make sure you use it, it's not that hot at the moment but it can still burn your skin and I don't know how to cure melanoma.”
He shook the bottle and grinned up at me. “Right away Cap'n. You hair looks good, a pony tail suits you.”
“Biker or hippy?” I quipped.
“Turn sideways, let's see the profile.”
I did and he called up, “Hippy, definitely hippy, there's not an ounce of biker in you.”
I was a touch flustered so I changed the subject, “What are you doing with the machine?”
“It's a winch I am going to run a couple of mooring lines out to the reef and tie the ship up. I don't want it drifting off the reef in the middle of the night whilst we're asleep.”
“Can it do that?”
“If the wind or sea get up a bit it could and if the hull starts moving about it may be damaged by the reef, that stuff is pretty sharp in places. I might need your help for a short while soon.”
“Just whistle,” I replied remembering the classic lines from Casablanca, “You do know how to whistle?”
He grinned, “Pucker my lips.”
“That can also be used for kissing, just remember to blow,” and I went back to the galley, at least I had paid him back for calling me a hippy.

I finished getting the meal ready bar cooking the steak and asparagus, which I would do when we were ready. Will hadn't whistled but I had heard him working around the ship, mainly up at the bow, the stern and now, he was out on the starboard promenade deck. I started to get our table ready and he popped his head through the door and whistled. “I need you to help with a lifeboat.”
“Are we sinking?”
“No, I need it to carry the mooring cables over to the reef. The davits are electrically operated, I'm going to swing the boat out and I'll need you to lower it once I'm on board.”
“Okay, but I haven't a clue how to operate the davits.”
“It's straight forward, I'll show you.”
I followed him out and he gave me instructions as he swung the boat out, it was straightforward and he showed me how to lower and lift the boat and switch from electric to manual and climbed on board, “Lower away.”
“Are you sure you won't need me?”
“I should be okay, I only need to motor round to the port side, hook up the mooring cables and then go over to the reef, it's only a few metres.”
“What about getting back?”
“I've lowered the boarding stairs and will tie the lifeboat to them when I get back. I tried to do it on this side but they are jammed so I'll have to fix them tomorrow and then we can go sailing anytime we get the urge.”
“You can get the urge all you like but I'm not going sailing in a lifeboat, that ocean is too big for me, I prefer sailing on this ship.”
“There's no sail.”
“I'll start one of the engines.”
He grinned, “Okay, lower away.”
“Are you going over to the island?”
“Not today, I'll do that tomorrow, I just want to get moored up this evening.”
“What will I do if you are injured, take the other boat?”
“I don't intend to get injured, I'm not doing anything dangerous except clamber about amongst some rocks.”
“Will, be serious, if you're hurt I'll need to get to you.”
“Sorry, you're right. If necessary use the other boat and if you can't start the engine, use the oars or, what's your swimming like?”
“I scuba dive when I get the time.”
“Do you, that's going to be useful but for the moment, if the sea is calm it's a short swim across, you may find it easier that way and if you need to bring a bag of dressings, tie them to a life-jacket and push or tow it. There's lockers along the deck with jackets in them.”
I pushed the lever forward and watched as he and the boat disappeared below the bulwarks and watched the cable and when it slackened I stopped it looked over and he was settled on the surface of the sea. “Leave the davits as they are in case I come back this way.”
I waved an acknowledgement and went back to the saloon. I finished laying the table and decided to have a shower and get changed, changed my mind, Will might need me and I wouldn't hear him if he called whilst I was in the shower so I made coffee and went out onto the promenade deck to see how he was getting on.

It was the first time I had stopped to take notice of the reef. The ships bow was as Will had described it wedged against the volcanic rock which at that point was about twice the height of a man and then as it curved in the direction of the stern it lost its height and in places it was obvious that waves broke over it. I couldn't see beyond the bows except for a green slope with trees growing on it, I must go up and study it through the bridge windows or better still the viewing bridge tomorrow. Movement caught my eye and when I looked back to the high rocks I could see Will, I didn't call out he might be distracted and could lose his footing if he looked up. He clambered down and got back into the lifeboat and motored back heading for the stern and disappeared, when I leaned over I could just see the steps he had mentioned and a few minutes after that he reappeared and headed back to the reef with the wire hawser which was the stern mooring. As he motored I could see the hawser in the water behind him and when he got to the reef, he clambered up the rocks pulling the wire behind him. He stopped at the top, looked around and finding a suitable rock, pushed the loop in the hawser over it, fiddled around for a minute or two, clambered down to the boat and returned to the ship.

At breakfast the next morning I asked, “Will it be okay if I move cabins?”
“Is there something wrong with yours?
“No but yesterday I discovered the cabin next door, the first one outboard as you go into the passageway and it’s larger, has a nice sitting room and a bath as well as shower.”
“Why ask me, I don't mind and anyway it's not my decision. If I am right, we can live on here wherever we please, the law will be on our side.”
“Okay, if you won't mind, I'll do that, it will only take an hour. What about you, will you move into the one on your side?”
“There isn't one on the starboard side, just eight standard but comfortable cabins, mine is inboard, last on the right and has a window overlooking the stern section of the promenade deck. I shared a cabin most of the time in the crew quarters because I wanted to get to know the crew and ask questions about the various machinery installations so it was more convenient and I was given permission to enter the holds and engine rooms, that's how I was left behind, they forgot I was down there.”
“Have, you checked the other cabins?”
“No, no reason to.”
“Will, there may be other passengers in there, injured or unconscious, I'll check them straight away, I won't go into yours though.”
“You can if you need to but it's pretty untidy, the steward never cleaned it yesterday.”
I laughed, “I'll do it after I've checked the others, want me to look for clothes in your size when I check the other cabins?”
“No need, there's loads of stuff that will fit in the cargo holds which reminds me, I checked for stuff for you and could only find a couple of pairs of slacks and they are quality, dry-clean only.”
“I stood up so he could see the lilac jeans, “You'd better get used to me wearing things like this then.”
He nodded and smiled, “Dark green suits you.”
“What time are you going over to the island?”
“Late morning, I need to get the boarding stairs on the starboard side sorted out and there's one or two other jobs, how about twelve?”
“That's fine, I'll make up a picnic and then we can go exploring, I'll need a convenience store for milk.”
“I'll help with the shopping,” he got up, “I'd better get started or we won't have time for the picnic,” he gave me a long look and added, “Don't worry about colours, Charlie, I mean it when I say it doesn't matter what you wear, just be comfortable and remember to deduct the cost from your share of the salvage reward unless you have a birthday and then I'll treat you.”
“I'll do the same for you, I found a few pairs of binoculars on the bridge and you can have one of those.”
I heard him chuckling as he made his way downstairs and I went to check the starboard cabins in case there was an injured survivor in one of them. There wasn't, the deck cabins had two or three women amongst the occupants who had slacks and tops that might fit, one had been occupied by a single man and the fourth by a couple but the woman was taller than me and well overweight. On the inboard side I found one more wardrobe that had clothes that might fit me and pulled a white dress out. It was front buttoned and the skirt was generous so I went to the mirror and held it in front of me and suddenly realised what I was doing, spun round and hurriedly replaced it and left the cabin in a state of confusion, what was happening to me? What I had just done was more than looking for female tops and slacks that might fit, I had held a dress in front of myself and admired it in the mirror.

The remaining two cabins I just looked into, both had been occupied by couples but I was scared of opening the wardrobes and just checked to see there were no corpses or injured passengers. I got to Will's cabin and he hadn't exaggerated, it was a mess. I took his soiled clothing off the bed and floor where he had left them, straightened up the bed changed my mind and stripped it, grabbed the clothing and took It straight down to the utility room, then went to the port side and down to the housekeeping room and picked up a set of bed linen and returned to Will's cabin and made up his bed. There were a few bits of fluff on the carpet but that would have to wait, I needed to sort out the picnic so I went back to the galley.
The first thing I did was to check the bread but it was too stale for sandwiches, a pity really it looked home baked and then I remembered a trick Auntie Mo had shown me, something she had learned from her mother who had lived through World War II and food rationing when nothing was thrown away. I took two loaves sprinkled them with water and placed them in a covered baking try and put them in the oven on a low heat, spent fifteen minutes hunting and finally found something to use to put everything in and loaded it with cutlery and mugs and plates, added some serviettes and then leaned against a work bench whilst I thought of what we could have to eat apart from resuscitated bread. I opened the large fridge and took out what hadn't been eaten of the steak, added some ham and placed four eggs in a saucepan, found some canned peaches, strawberries and cream and put them into my make-do picnic hamper and filled an empty water container and stopped to have another think. Salt, pepper and a tin opener went in, the eggs were done, all I needed to do was slice the ham, steak and bread and that was it – no it wasn't, a jar of instant coffee was followed by lemonade and white wine, some crisps, a box of chocolates and that was it, we were only going for the afternoon and would be back here for an evening meal. I placed a table cloth on top of everything and checked the bread, the trick had worked it was warm soft and ready to trot so I left it to cool and went down to the shop, took some insect repellent two pairs of sunglasses and placed them with everything else and ran up to the bridge, grabbed the captain's binoculars, went through the drawers until I found a couple of large torches, stole them and down I went.

By the time Will came back to the saloon I had everything ready including a pair of floppy sun hats.
“Thanks for doing my cabin, it looks really clean and tidy now.”
“I didn't do anything much, just changed the bedding and picked up the clothes from the floor, I'll wash them when we get back and run a vacuum over the carpet.”
“Charlie, I'll do that.”
“You don't know how. You think the floor is a wardrobe and soiled clothes hamper and do you know how to operate a vacuum cleaner? Here hang these round your neck,” and I handed him the captain's binoculars, grabbed my shoulder bag and another pair of binoculars and grasped one of the handles of the picnic box. I let go, picked up the sunglasses and sun hats gave him his glasses and plonked the sun hat on his head and stood back to look. If you tear those jeans a bit, you'll look like Robinson Crusoe.”
He led the way and with more than a touch of trepidation I managed the boarding stairs. At the bottom, he took my half of the hamper and just managed to get into the boat and put it down before reaching out to help me in. “Your eyes are alive, almost sparkling,” he said walking to the stern to start the engine and take the tiller.
“I was beginning to get cabin fever despite having so much to do. Having the green of the island so close made it worse. Where should I sit?”
“Anywhere you like, you won't unbalance a boat this size, it's designed to carry up to twenty people,” undo that mooring line first I'll get this one and we can be away.
I did as he asked and then climbed up onto a seat, “I'll stand on this bow locker, there's a better view from here.”
He started the engine and the boat began to move backwards until the bow was clear of the platform and then he put it into forward gear and we moved slowly around the stern and as I looked, the whole panorama of the lagoon and island slowly unfolded. “It's beautiful,” I said, “Just look at those beaches.” I looked down, “I can see the bottom, it's sandy.”
He looked over, “About three or four fathoms.”
“How deep is that?”
“Between eighteen and twenty four feet.”
“It's deeper than that, the water is crystal clear, I think it's about thirty feet but I can still see the odd rocks and areas of seaweed. Look, there are fish close to the rock just below us.” I looked up to the island, “It's so beautiful, it's like one of those pictures of Caribbean islands, there's even palm trees.”
“Will stood and lifted the binoculars to his eyes, fiddled with the focus and studied them for a few seconds, “Coconuts.” He swept the glasses down the beach to the far end where there was another part of the reef, “There's a river mouth down there, a small river, if you look it’s where the bushes grow out past the trees, about half way along. I'll head over there it will give me something to moor the boat to.
When we got to the river mouth, Will edged towards it very slowly, “Can you see the bottom now?”
“Yes just, it's a bit cloudier here and shallower.”
He moved the tiller so that the boat headed towards the beach a few yards away from the river. “Aren't you going up the river, it's wide enough?”
“It's not the width I'm worried about it's the depth and the type of bottom. We'll moor to one side and I'll have a look. You okay to go over the side when I get in?”
“No, I'll take the boat in until it touches bottom.”
“No problem.”
Shortly after I felt the bows touch and the boat forced its way a few feet and then stopped. I grabbed the mooring rope and went over the side into water a little above the knee and waded the short distance to the shore. “What now, there's nothing to tie it to.”
Will pointed towards the river, just up there, there's some sort of stump sticking out, try that.”
I walked off dragging the rope behind me and when I got to the stump which appeared to be the remains of a large shrub or small tree I took hold and tried to move it but it was solid so I tied the rope around it and went back. “It's strong enough as long as it doesn't blow a monsoon.”
Will waved jumped over the bulwark and I thought he was coming to join me but he leaned against the boat and started pushing it. As soon as he had moved it a metre he climbed back on board and started the engine and reversed off the beach with the rope paying out and for a moment I thought he was going to go back to the ship and maroon me but he went into forward gear and moved the boat closer to the river and turned towards the beach and this time, as the bow run up onto the beach he stopped the engine and jumped over the side again. “That should do it,” he said wading up to me.”
“Shouldn't we pull it up a bit further?”
He shook his head, “I think the tide is going out and will leave the boat high and dry. If I leave it just touching the beach and a few metres of slack rope it should float out with the tide and when we want it, we can pull it in. If we don't do that and the boat is left high and dry we'll never push it back into the sea its heavy and we’ll have to wait for the tide to come in.”
“What about the picnic hamper?”
“We'll fetch that when we find a nice shady spot to have our picnic.”
I turned and looked along the tree-line, “There’s so many nice places, I can’t make up my mind.”
“Beside the river?”
I nodded, “Yes but what about mosquitoes and stuff like that?”
“There’s nothing bothering us at the moment and we’re close enough for mosquitoes to find us but I’ll bring the net in the lifeboat just in case.”
“Right, let’s do it I’m starving after all that swimming.”
“When you ordered me to swim to the beach with the mooring rope.”
He was still laughing when we got back with the hamper and we walked through the scrub until we found a nice flat piece of grass and laid out our picnic.
“Don’t fall in the river, you’ll be washed out to sea, you can’t weight much more than a twig.”
“I’ll swim to the bottom, pick up a rock to use as ballast and walk back underwater, I can scuba dive remember.”
“Charlie, how much do you weigh?”
I felt a blush coming on, “Not enough, well below average, I’m light framed. I was going to take up weight lifting a couple of years ago and I even have weeks when I eat starchy foods to try and gain weight but all I ever manage is three or four pounds and when I return to a normal diet I lose it again in a couple of weeks. I was working on a programming job once and the girl I was working with told me she was heavier than me and she was about an inch shorter. A friend told me that if I was ever in an aircraft that was crashing I could use a cushion cover as a parachute. Most of the time it doesn’t worry me but sometimes it hurts a little when I see taller, more muscled, heavier men.” I stopped blabbering and looked at him, “I’ve been to see a couple of doctors and all they said was that I was fit, healthy and to stop trying to be who I am not and Auntie Mo said there were a lot of men skinnier than me, shorter and not nearly as intelligent. I was born this way and to thank God for my brain and work with my assets.”
“They forgot to tell you that you have a lot of courage as well.”
“Courage! Me?”
“You woke up and discovered the ship you were on had been wrecked on a desert island and had been abandoned and you didn’t freak out. You went investigating and if you hadn’t found me, you would have sorted things out for yourself. I’ve been watching you, you’re one of those people who can stay calm when others panic. When I first discovered what had happened, I was scared, really scared.”
“You started repairing the hole in the bow though.”
“I had no choice that was a survival instinct, fix the hole or go down with the ship, in your case you started thinking things through.”
“No I didn’t, I was worried and went looking for coffee and heard you banging and followed the sounds.”
“And didn’t think twice about going down into the bowels of a deserted ship and when I told you what had happened and that the ship had been holed, you didn’t turn a hair, just complained at the lack of coffee.”
Of course I did, I need two cups in the morning before I can start functioning, I’m a caffeine addict.”
“And since then, you’ve been busy sorting things out, planning ahead…”
“What planning, I haven’t planned anything, you’ve been doing that.”
“You’ve sorted out the food, you’ve found clothing in case we’re here a long time, you’ve checked the bridge and shop, found first aid stuff, sun-blocker and insect repellent and you’re going to try and organise the radio, sat-nav and internet so we can call for assistance and I’ll tell you this, Charlie, if we had an argument about whether to stay here and wait for rescue or get in a lifeboat and go and look for it, I would surrender to your choice.”
“I don’t think a lifeboat is a good choice, if we are going to look for help we would be better off trying to get the ship off the reef and working out a way to drive it with just the two of us.”
Will sat back and grinned, “See what I mean, you’re still planning and not unduly worried about what might happen to us.”
“Ignorance is bliss.”

Chapter 4

There must be something in the island air because the food had more taste, the water sweeter, we weren’t bothered by mosquitoes and enjoyed ourselves. I drank lemonade and Will had a bottle of beer and then we packed up and started our exploration trip. Will led the way and we followed the river which began with a gentle slope upwards but after about a half mile there was a steep climb for about ten metres and the river was running over rapids. Above this there was a pool fed at the top end by a small water fall. It was tempting to take my clothes off and jump in but we had exploring to do so I left that for another day.

We continued up the river where the trees and bushes were much thicker and we found we were having to force our way through it or make small detours. It was more difficult for Will, he was having to find the way, all I did was follow him but I was a little out of breath and stopped and turned round to admire the view but there wasn’t one, the trees were in the way and as I was about to go after Will I spotted a cave through a gap in the undergrowth. It was off to our left and only about twenty metres away, “Will,” I pointed and he turned and look in that direction.
“What is it?”
“A cave, quite a large one but it’s hidden by these trees and bushes, it’s about twenty metres to your left.” He looked again, shook his head and tried to move in that direction but was prevented by the bushes. He moved back towards me found a way through and disappeared from sight into the undergrowth. I followed his example and moved towards the cave and after only ten metres the shrubbery opened to reveal a large grassy area with three or four trees and a gentle slope up to the cave mouth. There was a deal of rustling and Will appeared a few metres further up and I walked up to him, searching in my shoulder bag for a torch. “Are we going in?” I asked handing him the torch.
“Why not, there may be a dragon in there but if we shout boo together it will run off.”
“It’s not dragons I’m worried about its tarantulas, snakes or mountain lions.”
“Spiders and snakes I’ll stamp on and mountain lions are feline so I’ll bark like a mastiff.”
“Okay St. George, lead on.”
We went about six metres into the cave and stopped. Will shone the torch down its length and we could just make out the end. “It must go under the hill for about twenty five metres,” I said.
“Possibly more, that far wall may just be a bend, it’s difficult to tell at this distance. He shone the torch up to the ceiling, “Look here, this section close to the door is about four metres high but just above where we are standing it curves upwards and seems to be following the slope of the hill and the rock looks like sandstone.” He swung the torch to the left, “And that is granite and above it layers of limestone and sandstone.”
“Isn’t that a bit odd for an old volcano, I thought it would have been basalt or something like that?”
“Unless this was once and undersea mountain and was pushed up by tectonic pressure and the volcano when it first started blew out of the side of the mountain through a fissure. There are hot springs and volcanoes all over the world like that. The hill is about 200 metres high and out on the northern side of the lagoon, the depth is over a hundred fathoms, that’s where the ship came in and then drifted to the left and went up on the reef. If she had carried on we would have run aground on the beach.”
“How do you know the depth of the sea and the height of the hill?”
“Observation,” he said it with a smile on his face, “I looked into the chart room and the island’s position is marked but unnamed and the only references are the depth just outside the reef entrance and the height plus advice that fresh water was available and it is about three miles by two and a half. It has never been mapped or surveyed just the advice that if a vessel needed fresh water which they often did in the days of sail, then this island was worth a look. It’s an old chart and the island and its details have been pencilled in after the chart was printed.”
“What about pirates, do you think we might find buried treasure here?”
“Could be,” he was still smiling, “There might also be the rotting corpse of somebody they marooned on here. Yell like mad if you see any footprints in the sand.”
“Change the subject before you put a hex on us.”
“Come on, we can't explore any further, we'll need a whole day if we want a good look and it’s getting late, we'll cut across the hill a bit further and then make our way down to the beach. There is one good thing about the cave, if the weather does get nasty, we can leave the ship and come up here to sit it out.
We walked down the grassy slope angling off to the right and the undergrowth thinned out and I spotted a gap and headed towards it, “Is it a path? It looks a little out of place, a gap like this amongst the undergrowth.”
Will studied it and looked at the ground, “It looks like an animal track,” he stooped and studied some small depressions in the earth, “Feral pigs, boars and perhaps small deer. He straightened and studied the undergrowth, “There look, something has been eating the lower leaves on some of the bushes and that tree is missing some of its bark. Deer eat tree bark I think. He walked over and took a closer look. “It certainly looks like animal activity, there are places where the bark looks as if it was torn off rather than just fell. At least we have a chance of finding fresh meat when our supplies run out.”
“You wouldn’t kill a deer would you?”
He gave me a gentle smile, “Charlie, if we are stuck here for a long time, I might have to or we’ll starve or become ill because we aren’t getting the right vitamins.”
I was silent for a while and he stood watching me, “We will have to if we’re to survive.”
I shook my head, “No, Will, I’m a total coward. I can buy and cook meat but to see a living animal, a deer or pig, no I couldn’t do it.”
He walked over to me and placed his hand on my shoulder, “You won’t have to, I’ll do it if it becomes necessary.”
“But only if it becomes necessary.”
“A last resort, I promise. What about fish?”
“I could catch them but I don’t think I could kill one except shell fish or crabs, you don't have to cut their throats or shoot them.”
“That’s settled then, a fair distribution of labour, you cook the food, I’ll catch it.”

We walked on and quickly the bushes on the seaward side disappeared leaving only the palm trees and about four metres below us was the beach with a panoramic view of the lagoon and it was probably the most beautiful scene I had ever seen, straight out of a postcard or holiday brochure. Some of the palm trees leaned outwards giving shade on a sandy beach that didn’t look as if a human had ever set foot on it. I continued walking and was looking towards the reef where our ship was aground. Will was right about the volcano being separate from the island because after the bows of the ship it curved inwards and I looked at the other side of the lagoon and though I could only just make it out, it too curved towards us until it went out of sight where the higher ground and trees beyond the river concealed it. So engrossed with the lagoon was I that I bumped into Will who had stopped and was looking out over a clearing with soft grass and a single oak tree just like the one we had left but whereas before there had been a steep slope and a cave, here the slope was gentle for about twenty metres before levelling and there was no cave, “When you’ve quite finished trying to push me over the cliff, you might like to come with me over to the oak.”
“Sorry,” I replied looking down to the beach, “I wasn’t looking where I was going and anyway it’s only about a three meter drop onto earth and soft sand. What’s so special about the oak tree?”
“The ground under it has been disturbed and it is probably pigs that have done it, they love acorns.”
“Will, if it is pigs and not wild boars, where did they come from, they are domesticated animals.”
“Yes, I was thinking the same. They may be survivors from a ship wreck in the past, belong to people who have settled here or,” he shrugged, “Who knows. If there are people here I haven’t seen any evidence of them, the cave has not been used as a dwelling or there would have been signs and there are no signs of habitation here and,” he shrugged again, “Who knows they are hardy creatures, there’s loads of reasons for their presence.”
“Well if I was living here, it’s a place I would pick to build a house, it’s a beautiful setting with a cave close by if we had to shelter from bad weather, yes, I’d want to live here.”
“You'd make a terrific estate agent, Charlie, I feel like putting in an offer. Come on let's walk a bit further up.”
When we got up to where the slope levelled off Will pointed, “Look, unless I'm mistaken, that is the remains of a house of some sort.” I studied it as we walked, “It's a chimney and the lower part of stone walls, it's falling down in places.” When we got there it was easy to spot door pillars and long logs much of which had been stacked neatly outside the remains of the walls and was overgrown. Whilst Will walked in, I walked round the outside and even found the remains of crude window frames and when I got to where the chimney was, a first look seemed to indicate that it was still intact and the fireplace itself looked large enough to have once had ovens either side of the fire. There was evidence that a wall had stood at either side of the fireplace and when I went behind I saw piles of stones, again overgrown and beside this cooking pots. I picked up a frying pan and called out, “Will this is cast iron, it would cost a fortune these days and last for about ever and there's a large cooking pot and a cauldron.” He came over, “This must have been the kitchen and that side the bedroom.”
“It's old though, look at the way vegetation has set roots inside and the logs and stones are overgrown. I wonder what happened to the people or why it was being rebuilt.”
“What makes you think it was being rebuilt.”
“A lot of effort has gone into reclaiming the logs and building stones and these pots were neatly stacked.”
He nodded and walked around inspecting things, “Whatever happened, it was a long time ago, these window frames have rotted and some of the structural timbers look as if they have insect damage.”
“Or termites, perhaps both.”
We explored for a little longer and found the remains of a timber framed bed and a table and chairs. “We had better make a move back to the boat, I'll take the cooking pots if you can bring the frying pan and I'll clean them up and check them over in the machine shop.”
“We have plenty of stuff in the ship?”
“Not this quality we don't and if you want to live in that house after I've had a closer look and see if it can be rebuilt, then you'll need stuff like this for cooking over a fire.”
I suddenly felt my heart jump, “Do you mean it?”
“Well yes providing I can rebuild it and there's a possibility we aren't going to be rescued for a while. We'll eventually get fed up with living on the ship and I'm not sure the ship would survive another storm.”

I felt guilty as we made our way back to the boat. First I felt like a thief for stealing the iron pots and pans and then I felt guilty about leaving our footprints in the sand and spoiling its undisturbed look. When we were level with the boat Will held out the pots, “Can you carry these as far as the boat whilst I go to the river and get the picnic stuff.”
“You'll not be able to carry it back here on your own, it's heavy.”
“I'll drag it if I can't carry it.”
I took the cooking pots off him, they were heavy and I was only just able to carry them with the frying pan and yet Will had carried them as if they were made from paper. “Just a minute, if you empty the water container, that will make it lighter and the lemonade and beer you can wedge between some rocks in the river to keep them cool. Nobody is going to steal them. Leave the plates and mugs, there's loads on the ship and we are coming back here.”

When I got to the boat the tide had gone out and the water was half way down its length. I dumped the pots in and put my shoulder to the stem post but I couldn't budge it, apart from the weight, the wet sand was sucking on the keel. I gave up trying and walked down the boats length until I was knee deep in the sea and I reckoned that the stern and propeller would be clear in which case I could use the engine to pull the boat free. I continue to the stern and now the water was above my waist so I took a deep breath and ducked under and ran my hands under the hull until I reached the propeller and I was lying on the sea bed trying to hold on with one hand to stop me floating to the top and feel around with the other. There was seven or eight centimetres under the prop so I surfaced and reached up to the top of the transom and managed to heave myself up and flopped into the boat. I pressed the starter and the engine turned once and fired so putting it into reverse I leaned over the transom and watched. The prop kicked up a lot of sand but seemed to be turning freely so I opened the throttle lever slowly and after a few seconds I felt the boat shudder, move backwards and stop. I gave it more throttle and reluctantly the boat began to slide off the sand and then suddenly speeded up so in a panic I pushed the lever closed and held my breath but the boat slowed, the stern swung slightly and then steadied and I could feel that it was free so I reversed a bit more and switched off the engine, jumped out and waded up to the bow which was just about free. Will appeared carrying the picnic box on one shoulder and holding something round in his free hand. “You got it free on your own?” he asked unnecessarily.
“No, I asked a passing destroyer to give me a tow.”
He laughed, “I asked for that, here catch,” and he threw the round thing to me, it was a coconut.
“I didn't know they fruited in the spring.”
“They fruit all year round. When you open it, don't throw the green outer husk away, we can make mats for the cottage with it.” He looked at me, “You're soaking wet?”
“I had to fully submerge at the stern to make sure the prop was free before I started the engine.”
“I thought scuba divers wore wet suits.”
“This is a wet suit now. Do you want me to go back and untie the mooring rope?”
“No need, I was going to do it whilst I was up there but we'll be back tomorrow and will need it again. I'll check the river mouth, the water isn't as shallow there and may be deep enough at low tide for a better mooring, there might be a place down the other end as well, we'll have a look tomorrow.”
“If we leave the mooring rope how will we tie up to the ship?”
“There's the stern rope.”

We unloaded the lifeboat onto the landing platform and will ran up the first section and went into the engine room and a few minutes later a wide door opened in the side of the ship and a heavy net descended, “Put everything in there and I'll winch it up.”
I watched as the pots and pans disappeared into the side of the ship and was tempted to ask him to winch it down and give me a lift but thought better of it and ran up the stairs and followed him into the engine room, “I didn't know those doors were in the side of the ship.”
“They use them to load ships stores and then use the lift inside the ship to take them up to whichever deck they are needed. There's another on the starboard side.”
“Lift inside the ship?”
“Haven't you used it?”
“No, I didn't know there was one.”
“It's on the port side and goes to every level including the viewing bridge. It's big enough to hold ten people but it's real purpose is for moving stores about. You passed the door as you entered the passage way and in the saloon the lift doors are next to the galley.”
“And I've been running up and down stairs carrying stuff about.”
He grinned, “Keep you fit and slim.”
“I don't need slim, invent an exercise that helps me to get fat.” I picked up the pots, “I'll take these with me, what button do I press for the saloon?”
“Four but hang on and I'll come with you and bring the rest of the stuff.”
“On the way up he explained the lift, “One is the engine room and you'll need to punch in 1805 to open the doors for decks 1, 2, 3 and 6 because they are no-passenger areas. Deck 1 is here, the engine room, 2 is main stores, 3 is crew quarters, 4 the shop and purser deck, 5 is passengers and the saloon, 6 is the bridge and 7 the viewing bridge.”
“Why use 1805.”
He tut-tutted, “Dear me, you should be ashamed, it's the date of the Battle of Trafalgar.”
“Will you change it to 1989, I might not remember Trafalgar.”
“I don't know how to change it and what's so special about 1989, I can't remember any famous battles that recent?”
“The year I was born that's how I know I'll remember it and its lamb cutlets for dinner. I'll have to change these jeans before I do anything, I'm squelching when I walk. I'm also having a shower in case we come across any elephants tomorrow.”
“What? What have elephants got to do with taking showers?”
“My skin will have sea salt on it from having to duck under the lifeboat and elephants like salt and if one comes up to lick my skin, it might tread on me.”
“Yes of course, I would never have thought of that. Well if one does try, capture it and we can use it to haul logs and carry our stuff up to the cave.”

Chapters 5 and 6, a third passenger reveals herself.

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