An Ocean Greybeard.
Here is the next part of my serial story from our Role Play group The Airship's Messdeck.
You can start from the beginning here.
Previously Max and his crew are trapped in a massive storm raging in the North Sea. They had been sent out to continue the testing of the Chirper after the engines in their old airship had failed. The Argo, an aged steam fishing trawler, is a sturdy ship but she continues to be battered by the merciless storm. Max has asked Iveta and Simpson to try and determine their location, fearful that they may be running out of sea room.
Enjoy Part V.
Keep your sightglass full. your firebox trimmed and your water iced.
by Kevin Jepson
*Max is sitting at the table in the cabin of the Argo. Iveta has her charts laid out. Miss BB is tinkering with her aetherwave gear trying to bring in some kind of signal. Everyone looks tired, dirty, coal blackened, and salt encrusted. The Argo is still swinging and bucking in the seas but there has been a change in the waves since sunset, still chaotic but there is now a much larger heave and surge to them.*
Hanging tightly to the edge of the table he peers at Iveta's charts. "Are you sure about this Lieutenant?"
"Yes Sir. As best I can work out we must be north of the Skagerrak and off the coast of Norway."
"Hmmm, that explains the change in the seas then, we are getting the big rollers from the Atlantic here. They been streaming East from Greenland with nothing but the Faeroes to get in their way. How close to the coast are we?"
"I haven't determined that yet Sir. We may be very close, hard to tell without a good sun or star sight."
Well done Lieutenant."
"Thank you Sir."
Max listens to the slight change in sound of the wind and seas roaring against the Argo's hull. "Well the storm seems to finally be letting us out of its grip and the sky should clear. Maybe we can finally make some headway West again."
Miss BB, looking very worn but no longer quite so green, says, "Ohhhh I have a signal, very faint... oh dear... lost it again. Wasn't admiralty codes though."
"Keep trying Lieutenant, will we be able to transmit again?"
"No I don't think so... Sir. Too much salt in the machine."
"If you pick up anything that can help Lt Baleva get a better fix on our position that would help."
"I will let her know if I do."
Max smiles. "Thank you, glad to see you are beginning to get yer sea legs lieutenant."
Miss BB smiles a thin tired smile. "I don't know why anyone would want sea legs, too wet and cold, I prefer my air legs."
"Ha, and that be true an all..."
*There is a sudden change in the motion of the Argo and all three grab the table to hold on, the bow is tossed upwards with a jerk. There is a sudden shout from both Mr Angus and Simpson at the wheel above, followed by the Argo almost lurching to a stop. The crash of something solid hitting the cabin is followed by the sound of breaking glass. A torrent of icy cold seawater floods down the ladder from the wheelhouse.*
*Scrambling from the table Max grabs the base of the ladder up to the wheelhouse, sea water is still pouring down, he can hear the sound of the wind and waves above him.*
Christ it's like the wheelhouse is gone...
Simpson shouts down from the wheelhouse "We lost the mast Sir. Mr Angus is down and the wheel is damaged Sir."
"Lt Baleva get below and check with the lads, make sure that hatchway ain't breached or we'll be swimming!"
"Aye aye Sir" and Iveta drops quickly down the ladder to the stokehold.
*Max sees Miss BB desperately clinging to the table, her aetherwave gear, wrenched from the table, is spread across the floor in pieces.*
"Oh, oh, sorry, sorry it came loose, oh my!"
"Follow me up to help in the wheelhouse!"
*Ms BB eyes the ladder still streaming with water nervously, her face is now white and she makes no move to release the table*
"Lieutenant!" Max snaps at Miss BB.
Then he says more calmly "Beulah, lets go and check Mr Angus and Phillip shall we, they will need our help."
"Oh, oh yes I'll come too"
*Max climbs the ladder, the wheelhouse in a shambles. The whole front of the wheelhouse is stove in. Simpson is struggling to hold the damaged wheel as best he can, Mr Angus is slumped against the wall of the wheelhouse. The wind and spray is blowing in as if they were on the open deck.*
Max quickly checks Mr Angus, the old seaman is stunned but still conscious and trying to stand up, Max puts a hand on his shoulder, "Here now you old salt you just sit tight for a bit, Lt Bueckert will help you."
Spitting out seawater Mr Angus says "Och we hit a greybeard that broke right in front of us, never saw it coming in the darkness. The mast broke at the deck, crane yard went right across the wheelhouse as it went."
Miss BB comes up the ladder her eyes wide at the mess. "Oh my... oh my!"
"Lieutenant look after Mr Angus!"
*Max reaches the wheel and grabs the unbroken part and then looks to check the compass heading. The compass has been smashed! Looking out into the spray for the mast he sees it lodged between the hatch and the rail. The foaming green seas are still washing across the deck with no sign of entering the hull.*
Thank the Lord it missed that hatch or we would be in Davey Jones' Locker already.
"You OK Simpson?"
"Aye Sir! Were a great block from the crane arm went right through us like a wrecking ball Sir."
Iveta comes up the ladder from the cabin "All's secure below Sir! Bit of leakage through the deck but the pumps are handling it."
"Good, take Simpson and one of the lads and try to lash that mast down so it can't come loose and punch a hole in us."
"Aye aye Sir!"
"Be careful... and no heroics!"
Simpson grins at Max. "Who, us?" and then turns to follow Iveta down the ladder.
*With the help of Miss BB Mr Angus gets to his feet and grabs the wheel.*
"Lt Bueckert, go and assist the Navigator and Simpson if you can, but don't go on deck unless you have to, understood?"
"Yes Sir." and she carefully heads down the ladder.
*The seas continue to break across the deck but the wind has definitely slackened and Max catches glimpses of stars through the scudding clouds. While he and Mr Angus struggle to keep the Argo's head firmly aimed into the wind, Simpson and Iveta, carefully tied to the rail, begin to get lines across the bulk of the mast where it is wedged tight against the rail.*
Christ! It's like you never left the surface navy at all, we belong in the air not on the sea!
*After a half hour in the churning icy water, Iveta and Simpson finally get the broken mast lashed down and start to head back towards the cabin.*
They both stop, staring aft, pointing and waving Simpson shouts, "Breakers astern!"