Lost at Sea Part VII

Friday, August 4, 2017

Drifting astern...

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 shipmates from the HMAS Velvet Brush, are struggling to keep the aged steam trawler Argo from being driven against the iron bound coast of Norway, following one of the greatest storms ever recorded.  The ship has been damaged and even though the storm is finally releasing them from its grip the swell is driving them relentlessly astern towards the breakers.

Enjoy Part VII.

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




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

   *Another hour and a very welcome mug of Miss BB's hot tea later, sans medicine unfortunately, and the sky has become lighter. There is a definite horizon now.
   
    *For Max, the view out the shattered front of the Argo's pilot house is anything but encouraging however. As the light grows the long serried ranks of rollers can be seen looming up in front of the Argo. Their crests blowing spray and cascading in foam down their steepening fronts.*

   Grimly holding the broken wheel, he mutters to himself, "Like being in front of a bloody cavalry charge that is! Still as long as we can hold our position we may be able to get off this shore now that the wind is dropping."

    *The wind has indeed begun to drop away and the brightening sky shows spreading dark blue spaces with only the brightest stars still shining to the West. Now that the wind is no longer screaming, Max can feel the steady thump of the Argo's engine beneath him and hear the terrifying bass notes of the surf astern.*

    *It is a struggle to keep the Argo's bow pointed directly into the waves. For a while, after the mast had collapsed, it had actually been easier as freed of the resistance up forward the wind had helped to keep the Argo pointed correctly. Now it takes both Max and Mr Angus to hold her as she exhibits a frightening tendency to turn broadside to as she charges down the wave fronts into the troughs. Even a moments carelessness would cause them to broach and roll broadside to the waves. They would be swept helpless into the breakers as the Argo's engine would not be powerful enough to correct their course against the surf in time.*

    Mr Angus, stolidly guiding his labouring ship, along with Max at the wheel, suddenly lifts his head, like a hunting hound who smells the stag on the wind.

    "Something's wrong with the engine!"

    Max listens carefully to the steady thumping. "Maybe running a little slower but..."

    "No Laddy, I know my ship like I know me own hands and I tell ye something is amiss"

    *There is definite change in the engine vibrations now, a subtle slowing without the engine actually seeming to slow down. *

    Iveta scrambles up the ladder from the cabin. "We are loosing ground Sir! Last quarter of an hour we have definitely gotten closer to the line of breakers."

    "Blast! How long before we are in them? Can you tell how fast we are moving astern Lieutenant?"

    "Hard to tell Sir. The shoreline is still in shadow but the ground rises sharply beyond, I would say at our current rate maybe an hour at most."

    "That low patch in the surf, can you tell what is beyond it?"

    "Not really Sir, the shoreline seems to swing away to the east at that point. There is a slight north set to the tide though, so we are moving towards it."

    "Right, see if you can get a better idea what's beyond that patch and try to estimate if we will be abreast of it before we are in the breakers."

    "Aye aye Sir!" Iveta drops down the ladder.

    "And what bloody Navy foolishness are ye planning now Laddy?"

    Max gives a grim smile. "I'm not sure yet Mr Angus, depends on what the Navigator can tell us."

    *The engine vibration is harder now, a slight knocking can be felt through the deck.*

    Simpson scrambles up the ladder drenched in sweat and covered in grease and coal dust. "Sir! The sea water has gotten into the oil and the bearings are overheating. I tried to rig up a secondary oil supply but the bearings are mostly shot. We're going to steadily loose power until they seize."

    Max shakes his head. "God Dammit! Somebody really doesn't want us to get back to Scapa! How long?"

    "Half an hour maybe three quarters, she's working damn hard, something could let go as the vibration gets worse and that would be that."

    Mr Angus swears loudly then shakes his head sadly. "She's done well to keep going this long, we should have been retired years ago."

    "Well she hasn't quit fighting yet, and as long as she keeps swimming we don't have to! Simpson get below and have the boys stoke the boiler as best they can to be able to run unattended for an hour or so then get them up out of the stoke hold."

    "Aye aye Sir!"

    "Lieutenant Bueckert!"

  Miss B.B. climbs up the ladder clutching a teapot in her hand. "Yes Sir?"

 "Get the Navigator and come back quick as you can."

 "Ok...er.. Aye Sir"

  "Mr Angus I'm afraid we are going to have to put your fine ship ashore. Without power we'll be on the rocks anyway, least ways we can maybe choose where while we have some control."

    The old fisherman, now grey like the seas boiling around his struggling ship, simply nods and grimly continues to keep her head aimed squarely into the waves.

   *Iveta and Miss B.B clamber up into the wheelhouse*

   Iveta says,"Sir, at our current speed we will be abreast of the smoother patch just before we hit the surf line. It is not a lot smoother though."

   "Our engine power is failing so we will likely loose ground faster. Any idea what the smoother patch is?"

   "Looks like a pinnacle of rocks out front of the shore, at this state of the tide they are awash but I bet they aren't when it is low. Looks like there is a gap in them, though it isn't very wide. The shore beyond is a ways back, could be a bay."

   Mr Angus says "We can't turn and run into that spot. We would be rolled over before we could get around."

   "Then maybe can get there before we loose our engine. As we surf down these waves see if we can angle a bit to the north and maybe gain on that patch. Let's make use of what engine power we have left and back down onto it. We won't have much control but it's better than none at all!"

    "Aye true enough."

*Max follows Mr Angus' lead at the damaged wheel as, gritting his teeth, the old fisherman begins to carefully angle the old Argo to the north slightly as she slides down the back of each passing swell.  The rumble of the surf astern is louder and the knocking from the engine beneath their feet is like the ticking of some demonic clock.*

Part VIII is here.

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