He’d set sail early the same morning. Cleared the harbour entrance about 0330, left the green on the starboard side. It was chilly, he was alone, many time he’d done this run, knew it like the back of his hand.
The next harbour was about 8 or 9 hours strictly sailing, the wind favable, he’d already cut the engine. His wife would be waiting for him, she would be off work and waiting for him at the harbour dinner. The early morning fog lingered in patches that seemed to be getting thicker.
By 0415 it was a compass course and proper seamanship called for that head sail doused. Setting the pilot the Cap’n went forward and dropped the jib.
The fog thicken and the wind diminished to zephyrs. Hearing voices and cry’s for help, now ghosting quietly seeing wreckage about in the predawn light. There ahead a woman and child clung to a round throwable.
Dropping the main into jacks waiting arms, gave the Cap’n a good feeling as he’d only added the lazy-jacks the month before. Gather the mother and child, shivering cold, putting them below, with towels, blankets, and the cabin heater going, our skipper went back on deck.
Getting lighter he didn’t like what he saw. Nor did he like the fact his radio decided to quit. Up ahead a man and a boy, wearing the old Mae-west type of PFD’s. He was surprised to see someone actually using them, and here were two. The boy had a bleeding gash above his right eye, he was only a little aware of his circumstances. Cold and shivering, both needed to get aboard and below. The little guy came first, the woman from below was up on deck to help the little one aboard. “John” she called and the little one smiled as he recognized the women. “My son, your alive!”
The man was having a hard go of it, climbing the boarding ladder now hung over the side. Robert, the owner of this rescue vessel, quickly put a sling overboard and was able to guide the older gentleman into it.
Using the boom to help hoist the old fellow up, he was able to use the ladder with the hoists help.
Helping the older man below, the woman upon seeing the new mwmber of the crew, exclaimed, “Dad! And stood to greet him.
The fog now thinning with the rising sun, wreckage everywhere but not a sign of anybody else. Where there should be islands, a passage well marked, now nothing. There was a ground swell running of about six to eight feet. There should be no ground swell the Captain thought to himself. He’d been raised here, sailed this channel amongst these island for thirty five years. And now, no islands, it’s as if we are off the coast of New Found-land.
The breeze now nil, Robert went below and keeping watch in the companion way, was able to put a pot of coffee on while keeping an eye on the outside.
The woman’s father had changed into some of Roberts clothes, the children warped up in their own blankets, there’re clothes were now hung on lines tied around the cabin heater.
The older gentleman introduced himself, Bob Mitchell, sailed many years before, said he could handle the ships stove and get some hot food going with the Captain’s permission. Permission granted, Mr. Mitchell got right to the task at hand.
Robert was still perplexed as could be. Radio not working, no land insight, bits and pieces of float-some, but nothing recognizable. The sun now past the horizon a goodly distance, a course was set due west.
A hot steaming plate of potatoes, bacon, eggs, a mug of coffee passed up by the new crew Bob. Robert sat down in the cockpit to eat his morning meal, as good as it was, he was just as sure potatoes, eggs and bacon were not on his shopping list the night before he left.
John’s cut above the eye was taken care of by his mother. She had found the first aid kit and did what she had to do. Her daughter was sound asleep in the forward v-berth.
Bob Mitchell soon came up into the cockpit, sat opposite Robert. Started right in about the nights problems. The pea soup fog, no moon, the clanging of the ships bell, then out of the darkness the bow of a tramp steamer, the cries, screams, splintering of wood, the sounds of silence growing as the ship went off into the fog. The horribleness of it all. Thought we would soon all be dead.
Marrissia, was the name across the stern, that much Bob Mitchell remembered. Off in the distance a power boat was approaching, getting closer Robert didn’t recognize the craft. It beelined straight for them. It pulled up along side, explaining them to be off the Marrissia. Had been looking all morning for survivors.
Soon enough the two youngsters were put aboard, Helen, their mother, gathered up their wet clothes and hers, promising to return the blankets as quickly as possible. Bob Mitchell did not go below to gather his stuff, stepping aboard the power skiff, shook hands with Robert and shoved off. Away they went.
The sun was no longer shinning, the fog was once again thickening up. Soon the engine of the skiff could no longer be heard. The wind picked up just enough to fill the main, giving them a few knots.
Marker 18 just off the starboard bow told Robert just where he was. The ground swell was no more and the debris filled water was now just cold and clear. The entrance just ahead, shortly he saw his wife ahead on the dock waving.
She grabbed the dock-lines, and securing them, then went aboard. While Robert set things right above deck his wife Patsy went below. “Robert, what are these wet clothes, did you go overboard?”
“No, hon! I’ve gat a story to tell.”
As he explained Patsy went through the pockets of the clothes, finding a wallet. Drivers license, some money, some wet photos.
“Robert, these bills are all from the early twenties, this drivers license is as old as can be. It says that Bob Mitchell was born in 1860. What happened to you out there, Robert?”
Michael j beebe