At half past two the engines were shut down again to allow them to cool.   The hands were stood down.   There was no sign of the Skipper.   By three o’clock the First Lieutenant was looking really worried.   He was the one who would get it in the neck if we failed to arrive before the civilian dockside riggers at the base finished work for the day.

At quarter past three we looked up towards the top of the stone pier, and there, in the distance we could discern a group of people making their way slowly towards us.   The tide had dropped considerably since our arrival and the top of the pier was now at least twenty feet above the deck of the boat, so it was difficult to make out who was in the group advancing along the pier above us.

The First Lieutenant called the hands to ‘harbour stations’ and ordered the engines to be started once more.   At this point the group on the pier had arrived at the start of a set of stairs set into the side of the pier.   They started gingerly down the slippery steps and I could see at last why they were moving so slowly and carefully. They were carrying something between them.

“Single up!” ordered the First Lieutenant and several ropes came snaking back to the fore and after decks.   I checked that all was well aft and then made my way to the bridge.   The group on the steps had almost reached the level of the boat and I saw that what they were carrying was a body.   The body was that of our Skipper!   His limbs were loose and flopping about.   He had a stupid-looking lopsided grin on his face and he seemed to be muttering something to his companions.   He had obviously enjoyed a very good  ”lunch” and was now as drunk as a lord.

This is another extract from one of my books, this time, from “Nine Stories of the Sea”  Among the nine stories you will find some very amusing stories  such as this one, and then the more serious stories about the dangers of the sea and the emotional and difficult effects this sometimes has on the men who sail them.

Anthony Holt

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