Lost at Sea Part I

Friday, November 4, 2016 0 comments

A New Adventure

Here is the second of three serial tales from our Role Playing Group "The Airship's Messdeck".

The story is presented here pretty much as it appeared in our role play.

Note that Max (me) tends to talk to himself in text without quotes, which is useful in the role play as a way to give out some more info.  Sections that begin and end with an '*' are descriptive.  I'll try to clarify history and details from previous role play as footnotes when necessary.

A special thanks to my fellow shipmates and partners in adventure:
Jayne Barnard
Stewart MacPhee
Monica Willard
Andrew Nadon
Karen Seimens
Jossana Justine
Christie Vanderloh
Sandor Sanchez
Thank you for your wit, your sense of fun, and your willingness to help create this wonderful world.

I hope you enjoy it.

Keep your sightglass full your firebox trimmed and your water iced
KJ
 

Lost at Sea
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part I
  by Kevin Jepson

In my previous serial story from our Role Playing Group "The Airship's Messdeck", Chief Engineer Lt Cmdr(E) Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe, aka Max, was ordered to take an old airship, HMAS Doris, up to the Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow.

They were sent north by the Experimental Airship Division of the Admiralty, the EAD, to test a new machine called the Chirper, a kind of mechanical sonar.

With him were several members of the HMAS Velvet Brush's crew; Two members of his Black Gang, John Watkins and Philip Simpson (who invented the Chirper), the Navigator Lt Iveta Baleva, the communications officer Lt Beulah Bueckert, aka Miss BB, and two of the Marine contingent, Sgt Kade Fraser and Cpl Ellis Cooke.

For several months after their arrival in the dead of winter, they flew back and forth over the shallow waters of Scapa Flow testing the device. The continuous flying was eventually too much for the old engine of the Doris and it quit working. Max and part of his crew are then sent out on an old fishing trawler to continue the testing out in the middle of the stormy North Sea.

Now after several days of steaming the weather is starting to get bad...

The Argo (1)
 *Max is standing on the bridge of an old fishing trawler with the grandiose name of the "Argo". The owner and Skipper of the Argo, a Mr Angus, no surname Angus sufficing for both apparently, is struggling to keep the Argo on her heading in the choppy waves of the North Sea a hundred miles East of Scapa Flow. The trawler is bucking and swinging in all directions as it pounds northward into the waves.*


*During the last hour the sky has turned a steely grey with small dark clouds scudding across the veiled Sun from West to East. The seas are still mostly coming from the West but there is starting to be a slow heaving, a ground swell, rolling in from the North. Remnants of great Atlantic rollers that have pounded the West coast of Scotland and have curved around into the North Sea as they pass.*

"I'm not liken the look o' that sky laddy, not liken it at all!"

Max, watching the sky and the sea through the spray soaked window in the little bridge, nods, "Aye Mr Angus, there's trouble brewing out there right enough. Give us another half an hour on this heading and we'll see about turning back eh?"

"Och Aye, it's always another half an hour with ye Navy sorts!"

*Mr Angus' accent is so strong it sounds like "af an 'oour" and though the words are cross Max knows that the old fisherman is mostly concerned for his ship and his livelihood, not to mention the lives of his two sons struggling to keep the Argo's boiler fed with coal below their feet. Two days ago after their last flight, the old engine on the Doris had finally succumbed to all the starting and stopping. The EAD boffins had requested that the Chirper be loaded onto the Argo and be sent to sea for further testing while the Doris was repaired. Max had left Watkins and the two marines ashore to work on the engine and once everything was moved to the Argo, they had steamed out into the North Sea.*

To a spot in the middle of bloody nowhere, with no idea what was beneath us either, and now we have weather to contend with. Never a dull moment in the old Andrew, Max me lad.

*Max turns and climbs down the ladder leading into the cabin below the bridge which serves as the trawler's messdeck. Sitting at a table are Iveta, with her charts and navigation tools, and Miss B.B. with her aetherwave kit carefully lashed to the table. Miss B.B. looks terrible, her face is grey and slightly green like the pounding seas outside. She is clutching a bucket under one arm, though she has had nothing to throw up for the last day. Her eyes are tightly closed, as if not seeing the room in its abominable apparent stillness would help to quell her seasickness. Iveta, on the other hand, is calmly tracking the trawlers course seemingly unperturbed by the increasing violence of the little ship's motion.*

Max looks over Iveta's chart, noting the accurate blocks and squares of their course back and forth over a nondescript chunk of the North Sea.

"How much of our pattern have we completed Lieutenant?"

Iveta looks at the last marks on the chart, "About 60% or so Sir, we should be making our turn back East in about a half hour."

"Well done, we may have to quit and make a run back to Scapa at that point. Make sure you have as good a fix as possible on the last position on the pattern. If we get back we can start over where we left off."

"Aye aye Sir, I need to do a cross check on the speed Sir, the mechanical log may be slow."

"Aye, well be careful on deck Lieutenant, the seas are starting to come aboard."

Iveta gives Max a smile "Aye Sir, always Sir!"

*As Max heads over to the next ladder that leads below to the engine room, he notices Miss B.B., her eyes still clamped shut, writing rows of letters on the note pad beside her. A message coming through her headphones, she is transcribing it as fast as it arrives. As Max passes he gives her shoulder a light squeeze to encourage her and then carries on down the ladder.*

*Max drops down the ladder deep into the stoke hold of the trawler. Here below the waterline the motion is a bit less severe. Amid the steam and coal dust, the captain's two sons struggle to keep the trawler's steam plant working. Since the hatches were dogged shut hours ago the temperature has climbed and they are now working stripped to the waist caked in sweat and coal dust. They give Max a cheery wave as he passes the engine and the rumbling boiler to the access hatch that opens into, what was until recently, the fish hold. As Max steps over the threshold through the watertight door he almost gags on the stench of the hold's previous occupants. In the middle of the hold the Chirper sits firmly bolted to the bottom of the Argo. Simpson crouches beside it lashed to a stanchion recording readings from the dials and making sure the delicate gears and clockwork are still functioning.*

The waves pound against the hull making it sound like they are inside a giant drum. Max has to shout to be heard. "Oi! Simpson, how are you making out?"

"Pretty good Sir. Getting a bit rough, she seems to be labouring a bit, is it getting wild up top?"

"You could say that! We be heading for shore in a half hour or so I'm thinking."

*The trawler gives a great lurch to port then rises and drops with a boom, Max is knocked off his feet landing hard on the deck in a slop of fish oil and sea water. Grabbing the same stanchion that Simpson is lashed to, he climbs back to his feet with a rueful grin*

"Ha, thought I'd left all this behind me years ago!"

"Aye Sir, even that storm in the Baltic last year weren't this rough."

"No but those buggers in the cruiser were in it though!(2) Prepare to secure the Chirper when we change course and come up for a tot."

Simpson grins, "Aye aye Sir!" and turns back to his complicated mass of gears, springs and dials.

*Choosing his timing carefully Max scrambles across to the doorway into the stoke hold, the hot blast of steam and the smell of hot oil a welcome relief from the stench in the fish hold. He moves cautiously through the engine room, careful not to be thrown against the hot boiler or into the spinning crankshaft of the labouring engine. The motion of the trawler is getting more violent and erratic. Climbing the ladder he stops part way to rest his aching bad leg. A sudden wild corkscrew nearly throws him off.*

Christ! All hell must be breaking loose up there!

Part II is here.
========================================
(1)A photo of the Picton Castle, actually taken at Scapa Flow in WWII, when she was being used as a minesweeper working with the Royal Navy.

(2) The HMAS Velvet Brush had been sent into the Baltic the year before to find a Royal Navy surface ship that had supposedly been forced into Russian waters. They found the cruiser battling the storm outside Russian territory thus avoiding a nasty diplomatic incident.

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