I pointed at my youngest granddaughter, “Go fetch my pipe girl and I’ll tell ye all a story of the sea.” Her eyes got wide and her cheeks dimpled. She sprang to her feet and scampered into the house, the curls on her head bouncing like springs as she ran.
I sipped my coffee and hummed an old shanty, more to entertain the kids than anything else. When my pipe returned I took my time packing it while I surveyed my audience. Six grandchildren seated in a semicircle on the floor around my chair, all watching me with high expectations. They seemed to enjoy hearing my sea stories as much as I enjoyed telling them. At least, that’s the way it appeared.
“Let’s see,” I began, ”I believe it was back in ’71 or ’72 when I made the worst mistake any sea cap’n could ever make.”
“What happened, Captain Grandpa?” one of the kids asked and he was hushed by the others.
“Don’t interrupt him” they warned.
“It’s OK” I said. “I ran me ship up on a reef, I did. Stove in the hull pretty bad too.” The intensity level of my audience rose immediately, as signaled by the collective intake of breath that reached my ears.
“Me and me crew were making a course of about 020 in the China Sea, just above the coast of Brunei when a typhoon blew in. I gave the order to furl the workin’ sails and we were riding out the storm pretty well when the Lookout sounded from the crows nest, ‘Ship, ahoy off the port bow’. I grabbed me glass to look and felt the ice form in me veins. T’was the Flyin’ Dutchman and no other. I knew we had to make land if we were to have a chance of survivin’. Ye see, the Flying Dutchman is a ghost ship and legend says that the Dutchman can never make port – is doomed to sail the high seas forever, I reckoned that if we could make land we would be safe. But, just seein’ her is a portent of doom, as any sailor knows.”
“We unfurled the storm sails and pulled the rudder hard to starboard, swung due south. We were makin’ good head and runnin’ from the Dutchman. We ran this way for haf-a-day but the Flying Dutchman was still nippin’ at our heels. The sun was goin down off the starboard beam and night was fallin when it happened. We were just off the coast of Brunei and I thought we were gonna make it. We were that close. But, I forgot about Pelong Rocks. Normally there is a beacon there but I ne’er saw it. The typhoon may have blown out the light.”
“I steered her right up on the coral, stove in the bow and we commenced to taking on water. The wind and the tide didn’t help. They kept pushing us further onto the rocks, doin’ more and more damage to the hull. I lost about half of the crew in those first few seconds of the grounding. Meanwhile the Dutchman was still comin’. Comin’ for me and my crew.”
“The ghostly crew of the Dutchman were tossing boarding lines over to me ship. I drew my cutlass and prepared to face them when I was swept overboard by a rogue wave from astern. I was pushed into the rocks and battered mercilessly by the sea. From the water, I heard the screams of what was left of me crew onboard, left to face horrors that I could only imagine.”
I sat back and looked at the kids. They were all wide eyed and leaning forward, hanging on my every word. I tamped the tobacco into my pipe with my thumb and reached for a blue tipped match.
“What happened then, Cap’n Grandpa?” one of the curly haired urchins whispered.
“What happened then? Ye ask. Well, I died didn’t I? Crushed on the rocks and cut to ribbons by the sharp coral. I was fish food, just like the rest of me crew. If I could do it all again I’d turn into the channel, not into the rocks.”
“Awwww Grandpa” they chorused.
I grinned and lit my pipe.
My name is tnkerr and I approve this story!
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