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47: Having fun



When the air is full of laughter
And the beer’s been flowing free
And the wind is blowing harder
And there’s whitecaps on the sea
When the crew is getting jolly
And the boats are on a run
What else could sailors ask for?
—Yeah!
We’re gonna have some fun!


Crow loudly voicing his objectionsWhen METHUSELAH’s crew came out of ‘The Rascals’ there was a spanking breeze playing over the water beyond the shelter of the village. The sea was lathering into a whitecapped chop and the wind was piping up. Armand turned his face into it, feeling its strength, and thought,

     <It would be a terrific sail home. METHUSELAH would do a hop-skip-and-jump over this like a lamb in spring—but tows aren’t too great at tacking manoeuvres and I’m not looking for trouble. Lately it’s been looking for me.>

     He decided, feeling just a bit disappointed, that he’d better not use sail for the trip back to the bay.

     “We’d better make time with engine power,” he told them. “The wind’s a bit up and we have to get David’s boat back to the bay in one piece. A straight line between two points and all that.”

     Crew, well-primed with good lunch and accompanying mugs of ale, regarded each other with mischievous grins and then came up with a collection of agreements, mostly of the genre suggesting that three cheers might be in order.

     “What!” laughed the captain of the schooner, “Are you telling me you didn’t enjoy the sail in?”

     “It was great! You should do it again—some time when I’m not around,” enthused Howard, laughingly.

     “It was fantastic, and blisters look terrific on my hands,” added Rose, tongue -in-cheek.

     “It wasn’t exactly like single-handling TJUTELA,” offered David, “But I sure got a refresher course in crewing.”

     “I liked working like a galley slave,” added Shiro. “At least it was above decks and I had Harry to fall on when I tripped over him.”

     “Don’t listen to the scurvy dogs,” smiled Fitz. “That was a sail to remember. She went like a dream. We should take her out more often and shake the wrinkles out of her sails. She’s a real little blue-water ship.”

     “Spoken like a true seaman,” Armand applauded. “You’re now second in command. The rest of you wharf rats can get ready to fasten our tow astern.”

     “Not yet,” disagreed David. “I can’t take her back to the bay like that. They’ll all take one look and keel haul me before they sink her with me attached. Wait’ll I hose her off a bit so she looks like she ought to.”

     LEAF WINE woke up with a start when David turned the hose onto her decks. Getting jerked out of her afternoon nap by a blast of cold water was not quite what she’d had in mind for this sunny, windy afternoon. Treatment like this was totally unexpected. Erle the Wharfinger was not in the habit of doing such things.

     His efforts toward tidiness were more in the line of seeing to it that his fine drinking flagon was kept highly polished on the outside—as advertising—which helped to keep it well-oiled on its inner recesses.

     He believed that other people’s property was just that, and hands off, unless the property was getting to the point of being so grungy that it was giving his wharf a bad name, and then he’d reluctantly use the hose. The trespassings and predations of Gull and Crow on people’s floating investments didn’t fall into his itinerary of what a wharfinger was supposed to take care of, and David’s property, which was being stored at an out-of-the-way corner of the wharf, had not yet been considered an acute eyesore—at least in Erle’s opinion.

     He had been very pleased to meet again the owner of this piece of ancient equipment, not only because it had resulted in some oiling, but because what he considered to be a rubbishy if somewhat historic relic of floating history would finally depart from his precinct.

     The old commuter knew what opinions people had of her, and particularly the wharfinger’s. He’d told her so when he’d moved her and tied her up in a shallow, undesirable spot, usually reserved for non-payment lease holders whose property he was afraid might sink at any moment and pollute the waters around his venue. That sort of event was a definite no-no and he worked hard to prevent such things. He wanted to keep an eye on her from the bar to stop that from happening if he could, and the berth he’d put her in was shallow and closer to the shore if he had to beach her to stop the tendency which he knew old water craft inevitably possess—sinking.

     True, she wouldn’t be there to attract the attention of patrons, who sometimes paid in kind to hear her story, but he could think of other ways to fill up his mug without having LEAF WINE lolling in his sight giving him that elegantly tarnished, impudent look of ‘royalty fallen on hard times’ while he tried to enjoy a tankardful, even though her stay there was now being paid for by David Godwin. She reminded him too much of his own wild youth. He was just glad to be finally rid of her. He’d already lost enough money on her free berthage for months before he’d got her papers from the court to pay for it with her own person.

     “Okay,” he’d told her on this breezy afternoon of her rising fortune as he’d warped her along to where METHUSELAH could pick her up easily from an outside end of the wharves after David’s phone call telling him that they were on the way, “So you were gorgeous once, but admit it. You’re way past your prime. As for why he’d buy you—David’s a nice guy and deserves better, but there’s no accounting for taste. He’s got that lovely TJUTELA so I can’t imagine what use he has for you, and in spite of being assured that your hull is sound I have my doubts, so just waggle your old stern over here until you get gone—and try not to sink on him along the way. I’ve already had my commission for selling you so it’s none of my business. Good thing you didn’t plug up the bilge pump I’ve lent you, or you’d have hit the bottom for sure.”

     LEAF WINE gave him a scornful look and stuck her tongue out at him—which he didn’t see because he’d just jumped aboard another boat to pull her around the end of a finger. She’d heard enough insulting and derogatory remarks while attached to this wharf and she wanted nothing better than to ‘get gone’. She had no intention of sinking before she had another chance at being pampered and admired again which—she presumed—was now going to happen. The bilge pump had pumped without hindrance because her leaks around the stuffing box of the engine were too small to let in material which might clog it—just big enough to keep the pump busy.

     “Get gone yourself,” she told him as he’d tied her up. “I don’t need your questionable help anymore. I’ve got a new owner who knows quality when he sees it, and that’s myself.”

     “ ‘Bye old dear,” was Erle’s farewell. “Have fun. I’ll tell some other stories for my keep.”

     Left to her own devices, LEAF WINE leaned against the wharf, assisted by a push from Wind and Sea and rocked herself into a comfortable nap which included a nice dream about a fine boathouse like one she’d had before, to keep her safe and dry and free from the depredations of uncouth wingéd folk.

     She had just been carefully motored into it by her new owner when—WHAM!

     The stream of water this new owner had just aimed at her blasted her wide awake. She rolled water and detritus off her decks in streaming rivulets, looked around a little uncertainly, shocked and surprised, and found herself the centre of attention from quite a few people.

     <Couldn’t he have waited until I woke up?! I expected something better than this. I thought he liked me and understood I needed gentle and loving care. Well—maybe a shower’s not a bad idea.>

     Others were of the same opinion as they stood well back out of the way to avoid getting splattered by the flying débris.

     “Aren’t you afraid you’ll blow off her old topsides?” asked Howard, regarding the powerful blasting.

     “Yeah, maybe she’ll dissolve if you’re not careful,” was Harry’s facetious worry.

     “Maybe,” suggested Shiro, laughing, “The dirt is holding her together and she’ll disintegrate if you get down to the bottom of it all.”

     “Think she’d have been gone long ago if that was going to happen,” Armand observed wisely.

     “Do be careful,” cautioned Rose, “I’m looking forward to running her.”

     Stolidly ignoring the remarks, David finished the washing down while a lively exchange continued regarding the negative possibilities of this cleaning off process, then, recoiling the hose over the bracket he’d lifted it from, he turned to his watching audience and said,

     “There, the old girl looks a lot better now don’t you think?”

     Crow didn’t think so. Her messed up decks had been just to his liking. That was why he was now sitting on a piling a short distance away loudly voicing his objections to seeing his favourite dining spot getting hauled around and cleared off.

     Howard didn’t think so either.

Stream of water hits LEAF WINE     “Yeah,” he responded, “Now she looks like a hosed off old wreck.”

     “Yeah? Well come aboard and have a look below,” invited David. “She’s kind of cool in an antique sort of way.”

     METHUSELAH’s crew gathered alongside as Howard took him up on the invitation, followed him aboard and waited as David got out his keys and opened the companionway into the commuter. A dusty, musty, pungent smell of closed up disuse and fuel fumes assaulted himself and brother, and Howard backed off spluttering,

     “Phew! Smells like a sewer.”

     “Just needs some fresh air,” demurred David optimistically. “Just a bit of stale bilge water. I’ll soon have that cleaned up.”

     “Have fun,” was Howard’s ironic retort.

     “Not with you around,” returned LEAF WINE, but her comment was lost in the voices of the people who now got aboard her to have a look.

     “Everybody sit down and behave!” she ordered. “Just because I’m called a commuter doesn’t mean I’m a bus—one or two elegant persons at a time and, if you’re my new crew, you’re already fired. I’m used to class here.”

     That quality didn’t seem to be around at the moment as her interior was poked and prodded and investigated, and comments about tossing out her smelly old cushions, getting rid of the tatty curtains, scrubbing, polishing and replacing were being thrown at the new owner who stood back in the cockpit and tried not to listen.

     He knew very well there was a lot of work to be done but—when he’d first seen her he’d suddenly been overtaken by an urge for speed, instead of the quiet, one-on-one sails he usually had with TJUTELA—not that he intended to abandon that lovely lady—just a little flirtation with something fast on the side.

     He seemed to have forgotten for the moment the fast ladies he’d come up against before and, in true gambler fashion, was willing to take just another chance. She was an older woman—and a very intriguing one. He’d been completely mesmerised and captivated at first glance. He hadn’t been able to resist this still elegant, once-upon-a-time siren, whose beauty had been hidden by the unkindness of time and circumstance.

     Besides—she was family, he told himself, and he was obliged to rescue this relative in distress. He’d told Gram about her and she was looking forward to seeing the boat again—wonderful memories, she’d said. For him it was an altogether delightful restoration project and he was going to enjoy it no matter who said what.

     Howard and Harry were now poking around the engine compartment and were joined by Fitz and Shiro.

     “Doesn’t look too bad,” said Harry.

     “Looks like a nightmare to me,” disagreed Howard.

     “Just wait until the Wolfgang Amadeus of the mechanical world gets around to laying the genius of his hands on this engine and I’ll take you for a spin,” offered the new owner.

     “I’m too fond of living,” his brother told him. “We’ll be lucky if this thing gets back to the Bay, never mind the mainland.”

     “Let’s have a bit more enthusiasm,” laughed David. “She’s a gorgeous piece of coast history.”

     Rose and Armand lingered in the saloon and admired the woodwork there, then she left the doctor who was fingering an ornate locker door and went forward to the bow steering station.

     “This is fantastic David!” she called. “Come have a look.”

     He’d already had a look when he’d bought her, but he went to lean over Rose’s shoulder as she brushed water off the cushion, dried her hands down the sides of her jeans and then put herself in the seat of power, saying,

     “It’s a perfectly clear view of everything from here. This really will be a blast.” Then, putting her hands on the steering wheel, she couldn’t resist adding, “Brrrrrooom baroooom, VROOOOOOM! Here we go!”

     “Kids come in all sizes and shapes,” he laughed. “That’s exactly what I felt like when I saw her.”

     “I guess it’ll take awhile to get her into shape will it?” she asked with obvious interest in the outcome.

     “Well, some, but—come take another look at the saloon and start telling me what kind of cushions and curtains and what colour and material and all that, because you’re the one who’s going to use her a lot and—also look after her when I’m not around trying to grab a spin.”

     “Have no fears about that—I’ll pay my dues,” she agreed, “This is going to be fun!”

     <This one actually sounds like she means it,> thought LEAF WINE, starting to get excited too.

     “She must have been very fine in her heyday,” Armand told them as the two went back inside. “The workmanship and detailing is beautiful and it looks like no one has ever messed around with her too much, as happens to so many other great old boats. I’ve seen some so-called restorations which were just disastrous. She perhaps is rather delicate like all fine old things, but my prognosis is that with care and the proper treatment I think she can be made whole again.”

     “What do you mean?! How dare you insult me. I am whole. Delicate indeed! Who do you think you are anyway? A doctor?”

     The doctor was busy running his hand over a still shiny piece of varnished exotic wood and was so absorbed in what he was doing that he didn’t hear.

     “I think, traditional would be nice,” Rose told David at last, as they stood looking at the interior, “Like she was when your great-grandfather owned her, all suave and gracious.”

     <And I’m gong to see a lot of her? Great! I like her.>

     “Oh?”

     The sound of it expressed surprise and Rose turned enquiringly.

     “Am I out of line here?”

     “Uh—no—not exactly, but—I had thought, maybe—sort of Shalisa,” he hesitated, then continued, “You know—like BRIGHT LEAF. When I see him sitting on the beach he sort of just blends into everything like he belongs—somehow just right, and since this old girl is going to be Shalisa I thought maybe she needs to take on the colours of her new home. She’s not going to be city anymore. She has the right to a wonderful country retirement.”

     The smile which lit up Rose’s face let him know he’d made the right decision.

     “Thank you David. I just thought—she’s yours and maybe you’d like her to carry on in the old tradition of ragtime and jazz—and rum-running.”

     “You like my idea?” he asked, pleased, “Hey—it will be traditional, farther back than just mine—and think ‘ours’. She’s going to tell those outsider robbers who are trying to invade the peninsula not to get cosy on our beaches. She’s going to be a member of the bay pirate crew and all the other Shalisa there. I’ll bet she’ll get used for all kinds of other things too.”

     Rose noted the word ‘ours’ when he spoke of the beaches and she liked the inference. It made her think he felt just as much at home at the Bay as everyone else now there did.

     “Right about now I can think of lots—and we can brighten her up inside with the wonderful natural colours from around the bay. What do you think?”

We can brighten her up inside with the wonderful natural colours     “How about what I think?” asked LEAF WINE. “Huh! Nobody pays any attention to me. I want my mahogany hull revarnished in a deep cordovan maroon. I want a boot top in white, and a dark green bottom and a slim racing stripe below my rubbing strakes. I want some warm, creamy, off-white on my coachroof and inner ceilings, and I don’t want any tacky curtains and cushions with patterns on to match along with somebody’s pyjamas, the way some idiot did to me once. I want varnish and polished brass. Are you listening?!

     Perhaps she did get through, because Rose then suggested,

     “Maybe we could have a combination of both ancient and more recent traditions. We can blend the two—all that nice wood revarnished and the brass polished—and then some colours from flowers and green spring, with autumn as a base for it all.”

     “That would be very much in keeping with her,” agreed Armand.

     Howard now left the engine to Harry, Fitz and Shiro, made his way past the three in the cabin who were busy with their ideas, and came to the forward steering station where he too sat down at the wheel, laid his hands on it—and suddenly felt, just as Rose had, what running this once fast, sleek boat would be like.

     <Hey! It is kinda cool. Wonder if it’ll ever go again.>

     “Of course I will, you young idiot. Don’t you have any imagination at all?”

     This time the irresistible, ever present thrall of a femme fatale of whatever age had got hold of Howard.

     <David said she was supposed to be fast way back when. Maybe I should get Dad to buy a fast little boat—tell him he needs to keep up with what’s going on in the world. That slow, fat slug he’s got is passé. Happy hours and cocktails and business meetings hanging on an anchor close in to the city? How about somewhere up along the coast for lunch or dinner at some cosy out-of-the-way little restaurant up some interesting inlet? Maybe I can con David into letting me use this sometimes—if he ever gets it going.>

     “I thought I told you—” bridled LEAF WINE. “So take your insensitive hands off me if you don’t believe I can run again. I need someone who has trust and respect to hold me, not a snide gigolo like you.”

- - -

As she was brought astern of METHUSELAH to be readied for towing, that sturdy old vessel gave her a surprised glance and then did a better take.

     “She actually looks something like a boat now, instead of a garbage dump. Maybe a bit of old class there.”

     “Do I have to get dragged around by this old tramp freighter? Stop staring at me—it’s rude—and you’ve been rude enough already.”

     “Listen, old has-been, I’m your ticket out of here so you’d better just shut up and come along quietly.”

     “Look who’s talking about old! I’ll come along, but not to please you—and if I’m quiet it’s only because my engine isn’t operating or I’d make a noise all right.”

     With a towline firmly around the commuter’s bow bollard David got aboard and went to the command bridge, felt the wind in his face just as Armand had, looked out across the chop on the water, then turned and asked,

     “Coming Howard?”

     That young man, who had been hoping for just this but was ready to turn away with the rest, made for the commuter.

     “Guess I’m obliged to see that David doesn’t fall overboard and drown himself,” he told the others with a grin as he got aboard.

     Secretly though, he was intrigued by the old boat and wanted to get his hands on the steering again.

     “Don’t concern yourself,” laughed Armand, “He has proven himself to be disaster proof. Everybody aboard, and let us have a fine voyage home.”

     Armand eased METHUSELAH away from the wharf and off they went for the bay with as much laughter and excitement as the sail out from it had engendered. Sea and Wind were busy, but schooner and commuter didn’t seem to mind and the boat in tow was held steady against their dual thrust on her port side, David at the helm and Howard watching enviously.

     The two brothers stood on the command bridge, wind hitting their faces, as LEAF WINE’s hull got slapped by the chop and David got a feeling of what Great Grandfather Leofwine must have experienced at the controls of this boat, but at a much slower pace and with no power.

     After the two boats had straightened out and they were well on their way, Howard, unable to restrain himself any longer, asked,

     “How about letting me keep her steady from the forward station?”

     “Have at,” agreed David, happy that his brother actually wanted to participate, and the two went through to the bow of the commuter.

     “What the hell did you buy this for anyway?” enquired the younger man curiously, as he settled himself in the seat. “I know you like old wooden boats but—this is a bit much isn’t it?”

     “This, Little Brother, is a piece of our family history.”

     “Like what?

     “It belonged to our great-grandfather.”

     “Oh sure. You got conned with that line?”

     “Not a line. Had it from the wharfinger who apparently knows every bit of history this coast has ever seen. I verified it. There are people still alive who owned this boat. You ever had a look at Gram’s photo album? No? Well there she sits as pretty as anything. LEAF WINE—Leofwine, my mispronounced second name, handed down from Great-Gramp to Gramp and from Gramp to Dad and from Dad to me.”

     Howard looked at his brother and came to the conclusion,

     “You’re not joking right now are you. So how come you didn’t wind up with the boat as well as the name?”

     “It got sold with Great Grampy’s estate. I never saw it in person before I went to the pub last fall and there it was at the wharf. I’m really into sailboats, but I used to look at that photo in Gram’s album when I was a kid and think ‘what fun it must have been tearing around out there in that thing’. Just try to picture it all shiny-new and just launched, skimming along the coast waves—Gram as a young girl going to town with her father and mother. The guys used to use them for getting to their offices from their country places, with all the comforts of home along, and then it turned into a contest to see who was fastest. She used to do thirty-five miles an hour flat out.”

     “Thir—oh yeah—bull! Not this thing—and that’s not so fast.”

     “No bull and it may not sound like much now, but back then it was. When you were using a boat for rum-running it had better be fast, and it was faster than the cops and others its size.”

     “Rum-running?” queried Howard, puzzled by the term and not too up on local and international history.

     “Yeah. Great Grampy was a smuggler who ran illicit liquor across the border when prohibition was in full tilt down there.”

     “Is that how the family made money?” asked Howard, shocked concern in his voice.

     “No. Apparently he and a friend did it just for the hell of it. Their idea of fun.”

     “Fun?! Sounds like the kind of fun you’re always getting yourself into. You’re telling me our family’s a bunch of crooks?” accused Howard.

     “No,” corrected David, “Just hell-raisers—like yourself—except your imagination seems to be limited to snorting it up and girling and such.”

     “Yeah? Well at least I never got thrown in jail.”

     “Thanks to my timely arrival on a few occasions,” his brother reminded him with a grin. “Just continue on the path you’re travelling and I’m willing to bet on it—and I know the odds.”

     “Quit throwing in your little sermons every chance you get,” complained Howard. “I’m getting tired of hearing ’em.”

     “Okay, but I had Gram and Li to kick me in the butt when I got too smart, so I thought maybe I should pass on their good work.”

     “They didn’t manage to keep the cops off you though, did they,” came the reminder.

     “Well, that was because a misguided youth rather like yourself got into a snit and decided to get revenge because I chewed him out once,” was the explanation.

     “So stop chewing and people won’t want to get back at you,” retorted Howard, all too aware that he had been guilty of doing just what his brother had mentioned.

     “Now where would the world be if we who’ve learned our lessons don’t try to help those who haven’t?”

     “Probably just where it is right now because nobody listens anyway.”

     “Exactly. Want to try listening for a change?”

A Sogger lurking...     Wind, Sea and a sogger got together at that point and decided to come up with a lesson of their own. The skipper who doesn’t keep a sharp watch is liable to get no end of trouble, particularly if his helmsman is inexperienced and not too careful and his boat has no means of its own for propulsion.

     “Hey—watch it How—there’s a sogg—”

     The warning came too late. Howard tried to steer clear but, the boat not being under power, there was no way to dodge it. The sogger caught LEAF WINE on the port side with a loud thump.

     “Ouch! Who invited you to join the party?!” she complained. “Dirty old sneak! That hurt!”

     “Geeze!” exclaimed David as the big chunk of soggy wood slid alongside and disappeared aft, “That was a bad one. Hold her steady-on Howie, while I check her out back there.”

     Howard heard a bit of scrabbling around from the cabin until,

     “Damn! She’s sprung a leak!

     “Thought she was always leaking,” was the remark from the forward station.

     “I don’t like this. Let’s see—how far are we from the bay?”

     “Don’t ask me,” returned Howard glibly, “I don’t live around here.”

     “Right—thanks a lot. If it keeps up at this rate I’m going to have to start bailing.”

     “Hop to it,” came the unsympathetic reply.

     David regarded the shoreline, figured there was not too far a distance left before they reached the Gap, headed for the stern locker and had a go at the old bilge pump. It didn’t work. Along with a lot of other equipment aboard, it had retired years before and was now on permanent holidays.

     “Damn! Should have checked it out before we left the wharf.”

     “Should have left it at the wharf,” returned Howard. “At least it had an electric pump there.”

     David held his tongue, started a quick search for something which would hold water, grabbed an old rusty bucket from the back locker and began bailing the water which was beginning to accumulate over the floorboards. He soon found that his efforts, though mighty, were not keeping up with the efforts of Sea, who was out there laughing and pushing in with the help of Wind and the forward momentum of METHUSELAH who was making good time with his tow.

     “Okay! Signal Armand to cut back on the power,” ordered David, “We’re taking in too much water at this rate.”

     Howard stood up in the steering station and started waving at METHUSELAH. Harry, being the first one to see him, grinned broadly and waved back.

     “Think he got it,” Howard informed David.

     That man was too busy bailing to reply, but as the water still came in at the same rate and the boat went forward at the same speed, David called,

     “Signal them again. They didn’t understand.”

     This time Howard stood up and yelled as well as waved but the distance and the sound of the schooner’s engine muffled the sound. He tried visible motion again, but being unfamiliar with the hand signals needed for the occasion, he improvised a few of his own, which definitely weren’t understood.

     Armand, a bit surprised, cranked up the engine.

     Bailer was being outdone nicely by Sea, who was laughing louder as he sneaked in the slender opening made by the sprung seam.

     “What the hell is going on?!” roared the beleaguered skipper, getting a little breathless from his efforts. “Get in here How and help me out.”

     “Who’s gonna steer?”

     “Nobody if this bloody thing sinks!”

     “Sinks?!

     That certainly got rid of Howard’s nonchalant attitude. He left the wheel and went back into the cabin to find water slupping around his ankles.

     “Holy damned shmit!” he exclaimed, shocked.

     “Here take this and bail like your life depends on it. It does.”

     “We’d better abandon ship,” suggested Howard anxiously.

     If David heard he didn’t give any sign of it. He thrust the bucket at his brother, went out, got on top of the coach roof, knees bent, feet wide apart for balance and yelled,

     “Armand! Cut it back!”, and accompanied the words with a back and forth motion of his fist and then a slicing motion across his throat.

     Armand got it. He slowed immediately. As the sound of the motor lessened he called back,

     “What’s up?”

     “We’re taking on water and the pump is a bummer. Got a portable spare? Mine’s a bucket.”

We're taking on water!     If David needed any proof of the old saying about the best bailer being a desperate man on the business end of a bucket, it was being illustrated supremely by Howard, who was heaving water overboard like mad, making the hypothetical situation very clear.

     “Hold on. We’ll get alongside.”

     Turning to the now very interested passengers aboard the schooner Armand told them,

     “Okay, when I start coming astern, gather in the towline—we come alongside, our starboard to their port. It will give them a bit of lee from the wind and sea when we raft up. They need a pump. Fitz, there’s one in the port stern locker. Get it out and hoist it over to them. He’s reduced to bucketting it—and it would seem they only have one of those. Somebody get the fenders out of there too and hoist them over.”

     Shiro, Harry and Rose made a scramble and got in each other’s way while trying to obey orders.

     “Oiyyou lot—Shiro, the tow line, Rose the fenders, Harry stand by to throw them a line—in the locker beside you.”

     A semblance of reasonable effort ensued as Fitz carried the pump to the railing, Shiro collected tow, Rose hauled out fenders and fastened them starboard and Harry, looking at the orderly pile of hanked lines, held up a couple and asked,

     “Which one?”

     “Right hand,” replied Armand, “Uncoil it and throw him an end.”

     As commuter and schooner met he manoeuvred close to the boat in distress and told Harry,

     “Toss them the line now.”

     Harry flung the hank at the commuter, the larger quantity of the line making a ‘plunk’ as it hit LEAF WINE’s coachroof.

     The skipper in distress grabbed the line and looked around for somewhere to fasten it aboard his own boat. The only holds offered were the handrail on the coachroof and the small cleat amidships. He eyed them doubtfully, chose midships and snaked the line around the cleat, grabbed the pump Fitz hoisted over the side and headed for the stern.

     “Fasterfaster!” urged LEAF WINE.

     David didn’t need any prompting. He set the pump up and worked it with dedicated intensity.

     A gap opened between commuter and schooner.

     Armand, puzzled, looked over the side and discovered that while one end of the line Harry had flung at the floundering boat was fastened firmly to the commuter’s cleat, the other was floating free in the water.

     “Fagh!” he exploded with a laugh of exasperation, “You’re supposed to fasten the bloody end of the thing to the rail. David, throw us the line.

     Busy with the pump, David looked up to find his boat drifting away from Armand’s.

     “What the hell—!”

     He left the pump, scrambled carefully along the narrow deck and hauled in the dripping line.

     “Closer! I can’t get you.

     METHUSELAH tried to sidle up to LEAF WINE but the wash of the bigger boat pushed her away.

     Shiro and Fitz had the same idea at the same time. They both grabbed the towline and hauled, bringing the commuter close in by her bow. David gave a tremendous heave and Rose caught the end of the line, fastening it with a landlubber’s knot three times over.

     It held.

     Back went the pumper to his task. Glancing up from his work, he saw they were fast approaching the Gap.

     “You’re gonna hafta get us astern again to get through the Gap,” he called breathlessly. “Maybe we can fill the cabin with fenders—just in case—and it’ll keep her afloat until we get through the Gap so we can beach her. Got any spare scotchmen? “

     Ever obliging, Harry started for the rail.

     “Not you!” shouted Armand. “You’ll sink the poor thing for sure. Those big fat red things in the locker there. Pitch ’em to him and any smaller ones too—and the spare lifejackets.”

     Howard was hit on the head with a big red one. One of the same size ricochetted off David, he and it almost going overboard as he made a grab for it. Others of a more successful aim were kicked into the cabin and the cabin doors were closed on them. Meanwhile Sea had been advancing as the pumping decreased.

     “Faster!” urged Howard, working like a machine.

     “Save your breath” advised David, working like a faster one. “We may need it for swimming.”

     “How about right now?”

     “I stay with my ship until it goes under.”

     “Well who said I had to?”

     “Nobody—jump off if you want to—rats do that.”

     Howard saved his breath and bucketted. Gap came on. Some of the towline was paid out to send the commuter astern of the schooner. Armand, making a face of concentration, slowed to a crawl. He had not intended to go through at low tide but now he had no choice unless he wanted to see his tow sink outside the bay.

     He hit the Gap, heading METHUSELAH for the centre of the narrow entrance.

     “Somebody on the bow to guide us in,” he ordered.

     Fitz, Shiro and Rose ran.

     Guardian of the Gap, seeing this procession approaching, heard her rocks gauging their chances as they discussed it with Wind and Sea. She weighed pros and cons, saw a strange craft behind the schooner and decided to remain neutral.

     Rocks crouched, waiting. Boats came on.

     Fitz—“Port five degrees!”

     Shiro—<He’s going to hit bottom!>

     Harry—“Hey, we’re home safe!”

     Armand—<Merde! The commuter’s being blown over to the shoals.>

     Fitz—“Steady and straight on!”

     LEAF WINE—“Do something! Can’t you see I’m about to founder and drown?!”

     METHUSELAH—“You think you got troubles? I’m about to wreck my keel because of you.”

     David and Howard—Puff, puff, gulp, gasp—censored.

     There was a slight scraping sound. It electrified everybody, including the two aboard the commuter. They paused in their efforts, staring at the schooner, horrified, each weighing in his head which way to jump.

     Rose—<Guardian of the Gap—we ask of you—please—give us safe entry.>

     Armand took a chance.

     He gunned his engine, and bullied the schooner through, scraping bottom. The drifting commuter was suddenly jerked into direction and, being of shallow draft, she cleared over the danger which had almost snagged the schooner.

     Rocks were very disappointed. Two boats at one time and both got away. They sulked.

     Guardian of the Gap laughed a little guiltily, and forgave herself for interfering. After all, Rose Hold, Shalisa Leader, had petitioned her. Guardian knew her place was to protect against others, not to manhandle those who belonged. She told her rocks there would be another time—maybe when someone got careless and deserved it. Meanwhile they could take their frustration out on the soggers which would be arriving shortly when Tide turned into Bay.

     Armand headed METHUSELAH for the wharf where the bay residents, eagerly expecting the arrival of the ‘new’ boat, had seen them coming and were gathering on the old wharf—Bettina, Tashakawa, Dancing Water, six excited children, and two dogs who were jumping up and down, delighted to see their Friend, all totally unaware of the crisis which was in progress.

     As the schooner came alongside, Armand called to his crew who were jumping on to the wharf,

     “Haul the commuter in and we’ll keep her afloat until Harry can get his runabout and take her ashore. We’ll beach her as best we can and see if we can plug her up before the next tide hits the bay—at least enough to float her higher so we can work on her.”

     From the cockpit of LEAF WINE came the plea,

     “Could somebody please come aboard and take over to give us a breather? We’re both about to collapse here.”

     As the two brothers climbed out onto the wharf to be replaced by Shiro and Fitz, David turned to Howard and told him with a grin,

     “Well there goes one of my pet theories—you’re not a rat—they have enough sense to abandon a sinking ship.”

     “Guess you fit into that category too then—you didn’t jump overboard either.”

     The two looked at each other, breathing hard and, laughing with relief, both sat down on the wharf and gave each other friendly buffets on the shoulders with their fists, as David suggested,

     “If this keeps up maybe we can get rid of a few more wrong ideas we’ve been harbouring for too long.”

     “Think you should have kidnapped me to the bay long ago,” speculated Howard. “This is fun.”

     “Fun?! You have a warped and misplaced sense of humour—I damned near lost my boat and I’ve got another bloody headache again—geeze!

     “So why are you laughing?”

     “It’s laugh or cry man—and if we have much more fun like we’ve been getting since we left home I may even learn how to cry.”

- - -

LEAF WINE settled carefully on the beach

LEAF WINE settled carefully on the warm sandy beach assessing her surroundings, and came to an astounding revelation.

     <Why, it’s the bay I used to hide in when I and my two pirates were young and used to play at being rum-runners! That was a long time ago, and I was so busy staying afloat this trip I really didn’t look where we were going. This is delightful. Wonder if the two who brought me here are as daring as my first well-loved owners. Haven’t had much fun like that since. Mostly family picnics until the next family head committed heresy and let me go so he could buy a crass, tinselly floozy who cost a lot of money. At least I got looked after for a long time after that until I got estated again. The jerks who got hold of me then roared me around being rowdy until my engine gave out and they were too stupid to know how to fix it. Impossible they said. Idiots! No-brains!

     <Then there was that barn they stuffed me into and forgot about me for years. That was awful, but when they turned the chickens in to roost and I got all covered with feathers and droppings—that was the worst—until some bottom-feeder speculator thought he’d take me on and make a lot of money. Hah! Fooled him. Everybody said I was so dowdy and outdated they wouldn’t have anything to do with me. Too expensive to repair they said. Worn out. Derelict. Worthless.

     <What did they know—bunch of landlubbers. I’m good for another seventy-five years. Got a bit wet inside this time, but I’m sure they can clean me up. Actually, it got rid of that smell they complained about when they came in. Maybe if that sleazy speculator had done that in the first place I wouldn’t be in this condition now. He had the nerve to haul me to an out-of-the-way public wharf and abandon me because he was too cheap to keep a pump aboard and pay moorage. Somebody said he was always doing that with—derelicts—he couldn’t sell. Well fooh on you Jack! You always said you only needed one buyer—and I found him—for a bargain price too. This is certainly better than being stuck in that backwater like a charity case—and that wretchy old Crow can go find another anvil to crack his clams on. Maybe I’ll get treated with the respect I deserve now. Great prospects!>

     LEAF WINE relaxed and closed her eyes, deciding she needed a well-deserved nap after all that stress and excitement. Shalisa Creek Bay seemed to offer a much better future than she’d visualised before.

     The nap didn’t materialise. She was suddenly surrounded by a crew of young people climbing all over her, laughing and shouting and—saying nice things about her!

     The idea of sleep vanished.

     <That’s more like it! People who appreciate me. This Uncle Twimby fellow they keep talking about sounds like he might be okay. Happy times! Three cheers! >

     She smiled at the youngsters and joined in the fun.