Footprints in the Sea Volume 3
Chapter 49 and 50
The Enchanted Island
Copyright©Frances Penwiddy 2015
The characters in this novel are fictitious and any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
Footprints in the Sea is not suitable reading material for minors.
The Chapter numbers of Vol 3 continue from where Volume 2 ended. If you have not read Volumes 1 and 2, it is recommended that you do so before starting Volume 3.
Footprints in the Sea Volume 3
It took ten minutes to repair my makeup whilst Mark fussed around and once he was satisfied that I was able to stand unaided he allowed me to return to the saloon. “You’ve been crying,” said Auntie Kate as I sat down to drink my coffee.
“I had an emotional moment, most sailors experience it when they put to sea after a long stay ashore.”
Ted chuckled, “Soldiers are the same but in reverse, they cry when their leave ends and they have to go back to camp.”
“You were never in the army,” said Aunty Katie, "You were too young for Korea and too old for the Falklands."
“My father was in the army in the Second World War and he used to cry. So did Mum but she was crying with relief.”
Changing the topic I asked, “Are you being looked after? I’m sorry I’ve had to neglect you but I had to see people on board.”
“Don’t you worry about us,” Auntie Kate replied, “Garry has been very good and we’re well looked after and the cabin is lovely and we can see the sea from our window.”
“You look very smart and important in your uniform,” said Penny, “I think I might join. Why don’t you wear some smart high heels and stockings instead of woolly tights and low heel shoes, that’s the only bit that spoils the look.”
“It’s against regulations and I have to set an example, I’m even wearing the scratchy bloomers in case I fall down the stairs and expose my legs.”
“Passion killers the lads called them during the war,” Ted informed us, “But that didn’t stop them.”
“You just hush up,” Auntie Kate glared at him, “There’s young people at the table and we’ll have none of your lurid tales of what your father was up to during the war. It’s your call as well.”
Uncle Ted glanced down at his cards, “It’s a misdeal and the cards are sticky,” he looked up, “We need a new pack,” and she just grinned.
I finished my coffee and got up, “I’ll have a quick word with the girls and then it will be time for lunch.” I started to walk away and stopped, “I’m going round the ship after lunch to look at the changes, do any of you want to come?”
“We will,” said Morris, “Penny and I. What about you, Ted?”
“Yes, why not, you coming, Kate?”
“No, I’ll get my recipe book and go and have a natter with Victor the chef.”
I smiled, I knew she’d say that. “You okay with finding your way around on your own?”
“I’ll ask Garry if I need help, you go off and explore.”
I went over to the girls where their game was still in progress and as soon as I neared the table they slapped their down cards onto the table and kept their hands on them. “You said you were joining us?” Emma said.
“Not worth it now, lunch will be ready in less than an hour. Where are your blokes, I haven’t seen them since we came on board.”
“Out on the deck somewhere, probably getting in everyone’s way.” Liz was grinning, “They tried to go below to see the engine room and holds but some huge officer chased them away and said civilians weren’t allowed down there.”
“That will be the chief engineer I suspect but it can be a dangerous place and everything seems to be covered in grease and it gets on your clothes. Will and I are going to take a look in the holds after lunch if you want to come.”
“Not me,” said Faye. “The holds are below the sea level and I prefer to stay in the bit of the ship that floats on top of the water.”
“You’re a geologist, I would have thought you would be interested in the tectonic activity in this area.”
“I am but my interest lies in instruments and movement charts. I don’t want to experience tectonic collisions first hand. It’s bad enough living in California and on land without experimenting with the living experience under the sea. At best it could be described as a volcanic experience.”
“Like watching me dancing.”
“When are we having a ship’s party like we did before,” asked Emma.
“With a bit of luck, the evening after tomorrow after we’ve met Aurora if we have any energy left.”
“Why shouldn’t we?”
“We also have to have a lifeboat drill and then Faye and I will be introduced to the new guns and missiles whilst you two have to spend the day in the galley with Victor and Auntie Kate learning tactics for keeping the crew fed whilst they are standing at the guns.”
“When are we coming back to New Zealand to pick up Undine?” asked Liz, “I enjoyed that trip.”
“I’m not sure when we’ll be able, it depends on us getting back to pick her up unless the Science people or Navy can find somebody to fetch her or, some of the other people I know in England arrive for the wedding but we’ll be able to arrange something, I want her here before the wedding.”
“Who’s coming over?”
“Well there’s Big Joe and Sarah, Mike and Josephine most probably and Leah and Giles from the hospital who may be staying for a month to look at the possibility of starting a farm and there’s one or two others from the village who may be coming.”
“Where will they be staying, on Pacific Wanderer?”
“That depends on whether Wanderer will be free, don’t forget she’s leased to the navy now. There’s our new house which can put up a few and Geoff Roman has said there are a few of those portacabins spare that can be ready in time so we should be okay. If we have to I’m sure Will and Geoff Roman can fix up the cave as well.”
Two hours later we were down in the engine room. Martin and the Chief were showing the girls and boys the wonders of the engines, auxiliary engines, fuse boxes and control stations whilst Will and I had told Martin we’d meet them in the hold and gone wandering off on our own. We went through the entrance to the workshops and I turned into the carpenters section and walked a few paces and stopped at the main bench and gripped it tightly and leaned against it. I felt Will’s hand take hold of my arm, “You okay?” I nodded, let go of the bench and turned into him, “Do you remember the last time we were here?”
He smiled gently, “Yes, clearly, you were wearing tan slacks and a white shirt and I had just told you we were shipwrecked and marooned on an atoll but all you wanted was a cup of coffee.”
“I remember and you must have drugged it cos look what happened afterwards.”
“Don’t blame me, it was happening before you came in here, mind you I do admit I encouraged it a bit.”
“Didn’t you just. Look up there leaning against the bulkhead, do you recognise that?” I took his hand and we walked towards it.
“It’s just timber.”
“Not just any timber, Will, it’s special timber and over there, do you recognise them?”
“Couple of pieces of grating and a collision mat. What’s so special it’s stuff probably left by the dockyard people?”
“And that trolley in the corner?”
He looked puzzled and walked a little closer and then he turned with a grin on his face, “You’ve got good eyes, Charlie, it’s the stuff we used to cover the hole in the ships side when we were on the reef.”
“And the trolley we used to carry it up to number four hold. We have to keep it as a souvenir of our first meeting, I still have the lilac jeans and the sun hat and the bottle of suntan lotion I threw to you from the bridge.”
“And the old radio, I am taking it to the island, I thought you’d want to keep it.”
“Definitely and the copy of ‘I The Jury’ is still in the radio shack.”
He came back to me and took me in his arms, “You’re an old romantic at heart.”
“I still have the binoculars and the circuit tester you used when you got the generator working. Come on let’s get up to number four hold before I start crying, I’m being hit by too many emotional moments today.”
We left the carpenter’s shop and went through to the holds and immediately I was struck by how crowded it was. Number one hold where we had previously kept the valuable small goods and more delicate cargo was filled on both sides with barely enough room down the centre aisle to allow a hand controlled forklift trolley to pass. “What are we carrying, the place looks like an overstuffed warehouse?”
“There’s all the furniture, bedding and equipment we need and the goods David and Gwyneth brought out from England and the new things they bought in Wellington and the things the girls have brought with them ready for when they have their houses finished. Further along there is scientific equipment, furniture and general goods for the scientific labs on the south side of the island plus more domestic and industrial sized solar panels, two more large electricity generators, building materials including a good few tons of cement, ballast and a load of timber. There’s bricks, building blocks and roofing tiles and on top of that we’ve lost the space in number four hold.”
“What happened to that, is it still likely to flood?”
“Not a chance but there’s the hydraulic lift for the modified multi role missile launcher…”
I nearly choked on that, “Multi role missiles, have they changed Wanderer into a battleship or something!”
Will shook his head and laughed, “Not yet but there’s a missile launcher that can be raised to the deck if ever there’s a need and a locker with space for four missiles and there is also a lot of equipment for the diving operations that Wanderer may have to support. The deck reinforcing struts and support pillars for the helicopter also lost us some space…”
I stopped dead, “Will are you pulling my leg?”
“No, it was a condition the navy required because Wanderer will be carrying very valuable cargo from time to time and apart from general work as an inter-island cargo vessel she would also have need to go on South Pacific scientific exploration trips with the research people and there will be occasions when she may be the only armed vessel in company and have a need to defend herself and any other research vessels. We agreed to that in exchange for having her repaired and upgraded.”
“But all these extra things, missile launchers, helicopter pads…Where is the helicopter pad?”
Over numbers two and three holds, that’s why the hatch covers were strengthened.”
“What happens when we want to unload?”
“Same as now, the hatches still slide back and the helicopter pad is only designed for a lightweight, not one of the twin engine jobs. Two or four passengers or a small amount of urgent supplies between the island and wherever Wanderer is located.”
“What about the mast and boom for unloading? That’s going to get in the way.”
“Tracks have been extended and it can be moved back closer to the bridge or forward closer to the bow leaving the area above two and three holds clear.”
I shook my head, “I didn’t notice it had been moved back when I came aboard.”
“You didn’t notice the twin machine gun mounting on the old sauna deck either. Ask Martin to show you that.”
“I bloody well will.”
We had reached number four hold now and I stared at the missile launcher. “There’s not much cover for the men firing it.”
“It only needs shields to protect the launcher. It’s aimed and fired from the bridge, the whole thing is computer and radar controlled.”
“I’ll get Martin to show me that as well, I didn’t even notice that on the bridge, where is it?”
Will shook his head, “Martin will show you where it is. It’s on the opposite side to the radio shack where the flag locker used to be but you can forget any ideas about firing it. In fact you’ll make everybody nervous if you even go near it with your reputation.”
I grinned, “I’ll lean against it when I want to ask for something they might refuse and put my hands on the buttons or switches.”
“Come on, we’d better get back to the others before Martin wonders what we’re up to.”
“There’s something you forgotten.”
“You’ve kissed me in most of the places on the ship but never below the water-line.”
“Is that meant to be a double entendre?” He pulled me in close and really kissed me, one of those oh so romantic kisses that often lead to one of those oh so exciting kisses and it was me that broke away, after all I was in uniform and had a position to uphold, “Come on, we’ll do as you suggest and get back to the others.”
“Just when it’s getting so interesting.”
“Precisely because it was getting so interesting I was beginning to wonder if there was a mattress amongst the cargo down here.”
“There’s the collision mat in the carpenters workshop.”
I shuddered, “It was stuck up against the hole for so long it will be full of barnacles, limpets and rotting seaweed.” I grabbed his hand, let go and opened by navy issue shoulder bag, opened my compact and checked my makeup, slipped it back into the bag and took his hand again and pulled, “Come on.”
When we got back to the engine room the others were just about finished with the engines, “Would you like to see the holds?” asked Martin without enthusiasm.
“Are the racks of clothes still in there?”
“No, they were stored in the cave on the island,” I answered for him.
“No point then is there, I don’t want to go into some spooky hold and look at a load of packing cases.”
“There’s more than that in there. Martin, you’ve been keeping secrets from me, you never said anything about a missile launcher.”
“Missile launcher?” said Faye, her eyes lighting up.
“And a twin machine gun mounting up in our action stations position.”
Martin tried to ignore me and hurried everybody over to the lift, “You’ll have to ask the captain about them,” he said and stood aside to usher us in.
“I’m prepared to negotiate,” I whispered as I went past him. “If you promise to let me have a go on a sterling sub machine gun the next time we have firearms practice, I won’t fiddle about with the missile thing when you’re not looking.”
“Don’t dare touch it and anyway its only loaded when we go to action stations but if you fiddle with it, you could blow the bows off the ship and if we are at top speed, we’d dive faster than a submarine.”
“You’ll give me a go on a sterling then?”
“I’ll ask the captain.”
“He’ll say no if he has any sense,” said Faye’s fiancé, Howard, “Especially in Faye’s case, she’d sink the ship whilst she was shooting to miss the enemy.”
“You just watch it,” she retorted, “We shot the helicopter down with parachute flares and we did it without aiming properly.”
“That’s probably why we succeeded,” I pointed out. “If we’d taken time to aim properly we would probably have shot Wanderer’s funnel off. I noticed it was leaning over a bit when I came on board.”
“It’s a new funnel,” protested Martin, “It’s raked because the upgrade on the engines needed it. If it hadn’t been done the ship would have been covered in poisonous fumes.”
“How fast will she go now?”
“We haven’t given her a full speed trial but the captain thinks about eighteen.”
“Is that knots or miles per hour?”
“We could have a race against Aurora.”
“No chance, Aurora can do better than eighteen knots.”
“Probably got bigger propellers than us,” I explained to Faye.
“And more of them,” Martin said with a smug grin.
“There are rules I understand, Captain Wellington that discourage officers and other ranks from socialising together?”
Byron smiled, “There are indeed, Miss Broughton. Do I suspect that if I give the wrong answer to your next request, your threat to play solitaire on Pacific Wanderer’s missile control system made to Lieutenant Andrews earlier today might become fact.”
“Captain, how could you possibly believe I would use such tactics. No this is a serious request.”
“I have been told, no warned, that to ignore your requests, be they serious or not, might lead to complications.”
“Who told you that?”
“I can’t say for fear of committing an offence under the Official Secrets Acts.”
“Harry Fellows was it. No I am asking you because there is something I want to do when we get back home to the island. I would like to throw a big party, probably a beach barbeque for the officers, petty officers and crews of both Pacific Wanderer and Aurora but I would like everybody to be there.”
“It would be difficult with everybody there at the same time. There’s something close to two hundred and fifty men and women.”
“There are women on board Aurora?”
“Two officers, two petty officers and four ratings.”
“I’ve never met them!”
“There were only two the last time you were here, the second engineer and a sub in the fighting division.”
“Well, they’ll have to come, we’re short of women for dancing partners.”
“Let me speak to Andy Bryant when we rendezvous with Aurora but if it could be arranged so that a third of the crews were to attend over three barbeques there are occasions when rank protocols can be suspended after giving everybody a warning about their behaviour.”
“You order them to misbehave!”
He smiled, “Men or women on defaulters wouldn’t be allowed to attend but I’m sure something can be worked out. You and Will are the heads of state and if you made an official request to Wellington, that would have to be taken note of.”
“Thank you. Can you dance?”
“After the party you’ll be an expert. And will it be okay if I start wearing civvies tomorrow and pretend I’m the head of state of an important nation rather than a senior officer on a ship who nobody takes any notice of.”
“That’ll be the day.”
“I haven’t met the new sub yet. When are you or Martin going to introduce me?”
“Tomorrow would be best, it will give him a better chance to get the feel of the ship and being left in charge as watch officer before we meet Aurora and he comes under the scrutiny of Andy Bryant.”
“Will he be okay if he’s left on his own?”
“My cabin is just a dozen or so paces from the bridge and he’ll be under strict instructions to call me if even the slightest thing happens. I’ve arranged for an experienced petty officer to take the helm and the remainder of the watch are all men I can trust.”
I nodded and thought for a moment, “You’re short of a relief wireless operator as well unless you take somebody off other duties, don’t forget I know a bit about it and don’t mind helping when I can, in fact I enjoy it.”
“That is a bit of a problem,” he was looking at me now, his eyes a deep green, he was taking me seriously. “I might ask you to do that, Charlotte, if only to give my operator a chance to have a break.”
“You should have asked me earlier, he’s been on the set since we left Wellington.”
“Not quite, both Martin and Tamati have given him breaks and so has one of the petty officer yeomen.”
“It isn’t good though is it, no chance to have a good rest and sleep.”
“Tomorrow, after we’ve met Aurora and are settled on course and at cruising stations, it would be handy if you could do four or five hours but what about your guests?”
“I’ll leave Auntie Kate in charge and she can put the girls to work in the galley. She even outranks me and is used to the girls. And if you want, I’ll ask Will to get their boyfriends and fiancés scrubbing the decks or cleaning the lifeboats. By the way, who is Tamati?”
“The new sub. Didn’t you know?”
I shook my head, “Martin calls him sub and nobody else has mentioned him by name. The only time I’ve seen him was in passing and he’s saluted twice and smiled once and that was when he didn’t have his hat on.”
“I’ll make an introduction tomorrow as I promised.”
We lay in bed, our faces inches away from each other just talking. “I feel as if we are on honeymoon before the wedding has been held.” His arm was resting on my waist, his hand slowly caressing my back and it was such a comfortable feeling. Safe, warm, in love and being loved and the gentle movement of the ship as she rose to a slow wave and then dipped to allow it the freedom to pass gently under the keel, felt as if the sea was agreeing with me and rocking us gently into the wonderful feeling of peace I felt. I ran my fingers down his cheek feeling the days growth of stubble and then along the line of his lips and he kissed the tips.
“We’ve built a beautiful house on a lovely island and soon we’ll be sharing it and the island with family and friends, we don’t need a honeymoon, all we need is what we have already,” he said softly.
“Don’t forget the children, lots of children.”
“Yes and the children, the trips to the sun and moon, the stars and billions of galaxies.”
“At the moment I have a wonderful feeling of being wrapped in a soft, warm blanket.”
“Blankets,” Will corrected, “Yours, mine and soon the childrens blankets. We’ll have enough to cover the whole house.”
I nodded and closed my eyes and went to sleep, the day had been long and tiring and filled with unforgettable moments of joy and this was a beautiful ending.
“Aurora fine on the stab’d bow, sir.”
“Very good,” and Byron raised his glasses to his eyes and I borrowed a pair and did the same, “Who’s that on the bridge wing?”
“Aurora’s new first Lieutenant, Chris Venables,” he turned to the yeoman, “Make ready to dip the ensign.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Do you want me to go on deck and curtsy,” I asked with a grin on my face.
“It’s a thought. The Blue Ensign should dip to the white and if Aurora dips her ensign it will be as much a salute to your rank as an acknowledgement of ours to them.”
“I’m tempted but this skirt isn’t made for curtsies so I’ll go and wave to them.” I went out onto the port wing bridge as soon as we were close and as Pacific Wanderer turned to run parallel to Aurora I heard Byron give the signal to dip and I waited for a few seconds and waved. I heard the men on deck start cheering until a petty officer called them to order and then the ensign dipped, the siren sounded and flags ran up her mast. I went to the entrance of the bridge and grinned at Byron, “They’re my pen pals, what do the flags mean?”
“Welcome Home Charlie Mermaid, sir.”
“Do you have a reply Commander Broughton?”
I turned to look back at Aurora and waved again, “Will you send thank you, see you at the beach BBQ.”
There were more cheers and then Pacific Wanderer slowed and fell back to allow Aurora to take the lead and we set sail for home.
I went into the bridge and everything was blurred, I was getting emotional again. If this continued I would have to go and see David because I had a nasty feeling that when we arrived back at the island, I was going to spend the first week just crying and if Will wrapped me in his arms I would dissolve completely. “I walked past Byron and smiled a little weakly, “I’ll be back shortly and relieve Sparks on the radio but I need a moment to compose myself, sorry.”
“Nothing to apologise for Charlotte, take all the time you need.”
I went down to the saloon to find everybody lounging about drinking coffee and eating doughnuts, that cheered me up and I sat down, “Where’s mine, I need something for medicinal purposes.”
“Gareth heard you coming down the stairs and has gone to get you something,” answered Emma
“Why have you been crying?” asked Penny.
“I had an emotional moment when we joined Aurora, I was surprised you lot weren’t up there to greet them.”
“We were,” said Faye, “We were out on the promenade deck and waving like mad. It was us they were cheering, not you.”
“It must have been,” said Liz. “Every time you, Pacific Wanderer and Aurora are in close proximity something disastrous happens, people fall into the sea, pirates attack us, ships get shot up or aircraft fall out of the sky.”
“People get rescued as well,” I offered.
“Only so you can try to get them killed later on.”
“Well there’s nothing else that can go wrong is there?” said Gwyneth, “So leave her alone.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” said Faye, “One of us could get knocked up.”
“What does that mean?” asked Penny.
“Bun in the oven,” offered Emma.
“Up the duff,” added Liz.
“Great with child,” added Gwyneth. “Why don’t you open a book and have a tenner each in the pot, winner takes all for the first one of you to get pregnant?”
“Not me,” I sighed, “I can’t get pregnant.”
“You can adopt one, we’ll count that as long as it’s a babe in arms just so you have to go through all the nappy changing torture. We will accept a weaned baby as well cos they can still sick-up all over your best dress ten minutes before you're going out somewhere posh.”
“Not me,” I shook my head, “I have Penny and Auntie Kate to handle that side of things.”
“I’ll help you as well,” offered Gwyneth, “Because if I got pregnant now, David would divorce me for sabotaging his retirement.”
“Does that mean I can adopt one as well?” asked Penny.
“No,” we chorused, “You’re not engaged yet.”
Gareth arrived, placed a cup of coffee in front of me and a plate with three gingerbread men on it, still hot from the oven and complete with raisin eyes, a cherry nose and a smiley cream mouth. “Auntie Kate is showing Victor how to cook these and this is his first attempt. They’re very nice, I’ve tried one and Auntie Kate said they were just the way you like them.”
“What about us!” demanded Liz.
“You had cream doughnuts but Victor is cooking a whole batch later so you’ll have to be patient.”
I glanced at the clock it was fifteen minutes to twelve, “I’ll have to go back to the bridge, I promised Byron I would relieve the radio operator for a while, he’s been working almost non-stop since we left Wellington, I’ll see you at dinner.” I picked up one of the ginger bread men, “You can draw lots for those two or share them,” and went off to report for duty.
“If you’re sure you feel comfortable about it Charlotte,”
“I’m fine, Byron, really, I was just a bit touched by the way Aurora’s crew were cheering and the welcome home message and wanted a few minutes to compose myself.”
“Okay but let me know if you want somebody to take over.” He looked at the ginger bread man, “Where did you get that, have you a private stash hidden in your suite?”
“No Victor Evans cooked it for me, he’s doing a batch for the men, don’t worry, he’s not neglecting his duties, Auntie Kate is helping him.”
“Takes me back to my childhood,” he said smiling looking at mine.
“You can have half of this if you’re hungry.”
“Thank you but I’ll wait.”
“You’ll have to be good and for heaven’s sake don’t go into the galley and start inspecting things or Auntie Kate won’t let you have one. How long do you need me on the radio, I can do the full watch if you want and the first dog?”
“No, that’s too long, officially you’re a passenger and not on a watch bill.”
“I’ll do it, don’t worry. If anything happens Sparks can come back.”
“Go ahead then and tell him to report to me after he’s handed over.”
I went into the radio shack and the sparks briefed me, warned the Aurora operator that a new voice was taking over, eyed my ginger bread man, licked his lips and with a nod went off to his break.
As soon as I sat down and put the earphones on Aurora came on; “Aurora for Pacific Wanderer, hullo Charlie, do you copy, over?”
“How do you know it’s me and I’m not Charlie, this is Her Majesty’s Royal New Zealand Navy Fleet Auxiliary, Pacific Wanderer and I’m Commander Charlotte Broughton, er, still local unpaid, over.”
“Aurora for HMRNZNFA Pacific Wanderer, who else could it be, we saw you wave and it’s nice to hear your voice on air again.”
Pacific Wanderer for Aurora, “And nice to hear yours again. I’ve been crying because I was getting home sick for the island and you lot but we must use correct radio procedure now, cos Pacific Wanderer has a pennant number.”
“Yea, I noticed it but didn’t get a good look, what is it, over?”
“Charlie Mermaid for RNZS Aurora, I told you, use correct procedure. It’s CM 11839, over.”
“Aurora being correct for Pacific Wanderer; CM as in Charlie Mermaid but what do the numbers mean, there are usually only two or three?”
“Our latitude and longitude of the spot where Will and I were shipwrecked, over,” I heard his chuckle and then, “They’ve made you semi-official now, over?”
“Less of the semi, we have a missile launcher and I’m dying to have a go with it. I’m being watched all the time though and they’ve hidden the parachute flares. Is there anything to watch for, over?”
Aurora for Pacific Wanderer, nothing other than listening to 500 megahertz every half hour for five minutes and call us every hour on the hour if you can. There are no planned course alterations currently and we’ll reduce speed after sunset, over.”
“Pacific Wanderer for Aurora, there’s nothing much in the radio log either, it’s boring, I’ll think I’ll start my knitting, the wool is still here, over.”
“Thought you were reading I The Jury? Over.”
“Finished it and forgot to bring a new book from the saloon. There might be a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover down there or a Dean Koontz horror story. No better not read Dean Koontz whilst I’m on the radio, I might get scared and forget where I am and send out another M-day message, Pacific Wanderer out.” I heard him chuckle again as I flicked the switch.
As it turned out, I forgot the knitting and started thinking about the things Will and I would have to do when we got back to the island and the thinking led me to making a few pages of notes.
I suddenly started feeling uncomfortable and when I looked at the clock I realised I had been thinking and writing for nearly four hours and apart from the odd routine message and three cups of coffee I had ignored everything else and I needed to pee. I stuck my head out of the shack and spotted a yeoman, “Do you know how to operate this radio set?”
“Very basic stuff, Miss Broughton. Send and receive, remember to say over or out but as for changing frequencies,” he shook his head.
“That’s enough, I need to go to the loo, I’ll only be five minutes and I’ll warn Aurora you can send and receive only.
Once he was seated with the earphones on, I left him, found Martin still playing with his missile control toy and whispered, “Martin, keep your ears open I must go to the loo and the yeoman only knows the basics,” and fled out to the toilets on the bridge deck before he had a chance to answer.
If long distance peeing ever became an Olympic sport, I would definitely qualify and I took a minute or two to touch up my eyes and lips and daydreamed of standing on the rostrum and receiving my peeing gold medal. On the way back I met Will, “Are you taking over on the bridge?”
“No, I’ve just done a shift in the engine room.”
“It’s not a shift on a ship, it’s a watch.”
“I know that, I’m just saving the watches for when I want to watch you.”
“That’s okay then. Shall we have a romantic walk around Pacific Wanderer’s decks at sunset?”
“Yes, that would be nice and I’ve found a nice quiet spot where we can be alone for a while.”
“The stern promenade deck behind the passengers cabins. Everybody seems to prefer the side decks or up on the viewing bridge. We are heading southeast so we’ll be able to watch the sun set from the stab’d corner.”
We turned onto the bridge and Byron was there, “Sorry I had to pop out to answer the call of nature but there’s a yeoman on the radio.”
“Martin told me. Are you sure you want to go on and do the first dog?”
“Yes, I’ll still have time to get ready for dinner and I have a date later this evening.”
I gave Will’s hand a squeeze and started for the radio shack. “Will, I’ve made a load of notes whilst I was on the radio,” I told him as I left, “It’s stuff about the island so if you want to read it, I have it in the radio shack and Auntie Kate and Victor have cooked a whole load of ginger bread men but don’t have too many or you’ll spoil your appetite.”
I took over from the yeoman and called up Aurora and told them I was back and was answered by a new voice, “Where’s the other operator” I asked after the formalities were complete. “Has he thrown himself overboard out of boredom?”
“No, it’s because he thinks you’ve gone off him so he went to the mess for his dinner. There’s nothing happening not even on the emergency frequencies, but we’re used to that. We haven’t even picked up a stray blip on radar to go and investigate.”
“Ask Captain Bryant to change course for Panama and we can slip through to the Atlantic and see what’s happening over there.”
“We can’t do that, nobody on board knows their way around on that side.”
“That’s okay, I’ll take over and we can pay a courtesy call on the Falklands and have a bit of shore leave and a party.”
“I’ll ask him later.”
Will and I stood leaning our backs against the hatch cover of number four hold watching the broiling water at the stern of Aurora trailing back to Wanderer’s bows to be neatly cleaved and then broiled up again by Wanderer’s single screw. “I wonder if the screws kill many fish as they chop the water up,”
Will shook his head, “Not often, the krill just get stirred up a bit but the fish hear the ship coming long before it arrives and dive out of the way. As far as they are concerned, a ship is another predator like a whale or pod of dolphins and they won’t wait around to confirm it.”
But once Aurora has passed, Wanderer comes along in her wake and stirs things up again, doesn’t that catch them out.”
“It’s their environment down there and they have had plenty of experience of ships in company, they just go down and swim off as fast as the can and then come back to feed off the krill that’s been stirred up. There’s another advantage for them when feeding in a ships wake. Sharks don’t like bubbles and will shear away so they are that bit safer.”
“I never knew that.”
“Emma was telling me when I asked a similar question.”
We turned away and walked down the starboard rails towards the stern ready to watch the sunset. We were all alone, everybody else was lounging about in the saloon and the men were playing cards in the viewing bridge. “They’re a good bunch, Will said. “The way they’ve pitched in and made themselves busy doing jobs around the ship.”
“I know Auntie Kate has made her second home in the galley and she and Victor get on like houses on fire but what have the others been up to?”
“Ted has been chatting to one of the yeoman who is a gardening enthusiast when he’s at home and they’ve been making a list of flowers and vegetables that might grow on the island with Liz. Faye and Emma have been cleaning the cabins and passageways and the men have been polishing metalwork and helping to sort things out in the holds.” He paused to think, “Ah yes, I nearly forgot, David has been giving Mark a break in the sick-bay and Gwyneth has been helping Gareth and running about with coffees, tea and biscuits. I know Byron appreciates it and so do the crew, it’s giving them a chance to have a rest, working two watches on a ship this size and carrying passengers would have put quite a strain on them, so our guests are winning hearts and minds.”
“And flirting as well.”
“They take their example from you.”
“I don’t flirt with other men.”
“Yes you do but you do it wholesale and flirt with an entire ships company at the same time.”
We had reached the stern and walked into the centre and stood with our hands on the rails looking down at Wanderer’s wake and then up at the sun which still had a few minutes before it touched the horizon. “When we get back to the island, will you mind if I disappear for an hour once we are sorted out?”
“Going to walk around the island to make sure nobody has stolen bits whilst your back was turned.”
“No, I want to go up to the glade where I saw the fawn.”
I nodded, “And Artemis and Undine if they are there.”
“You really believe she visited you?”
“Yes, well probably yes, it was too strong a dream not to believe it and I told you months ago that the island is enchanted. The girls believe it as well and so does Gwyneth, something or somebody is looking after me, no looking after us, I do know that.”
“I don’t disbelieve you. I know than when I found myself shipwrecked and you appeared and the way things worked between us and started working right from the beginning I have to thank somebody for making it happen, for sending me a beautiful enchantress.”
“I enchanted you did I, cast a spell on you?”
“Yes and don’t ever uncast it.”
“Kiss me then, kiss me properly, there’s nobody watching and if you make it a really lovely kiss, I’ll swear never to uncast the spell.”
He did and then we turned towards the west and watched our only witness, Old Sol touch the horizon and send a gold and red stream of colour straight across the surface of the sea and we were bathed in it’s warm beauty. The Gods approve,” I whispered, “Even the Boss God in heaven.”
We kissed again and without saying anymore we went inside and walked along the passageway to our suite.
Footprints in the Sea Vol 3 is now published on Kindle Ebooks.
Vol 4 will follow in November.
All my work is now available via the link in the right hand column of the BC home page and the Big Closet earns a small commission on sales through that Link.
I will be posting one or two more chapters of Vol 3 here but I cannot publish the full volume because it contravenes the Kindle terms.
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