Spinning on the ebb of the tidal trough
the whaler seemed in no hurry to get to anywhere fast. The wooden
hulled boat had seen better days and now no longer served aboard ocean
going ships as a lifeboat. In fact, right now she served nobody -
except the sea. Along her starboard side was a large red mark, the
result of a losing argument with a heavily burdened lugger. The rest
of her woodwork was pitted and scarred and she looked tired, very
tired. "Porky" Edwards saw her first.
"Did you see that, mate?"
Charlie Goodchild was busy cursing his tangled line."What?"
"Did you see the boat?"
"What bloody boat?"
Porky searched in vain for the vessel amid the white-crested rollers.
This wasn't a really angry sea but it was definitely disgruntled and,
as such, well able to hide a small craft from view. Charlie had freed
his line and made a moderately good cast just as the whaler came into
"Yeah, I see it."
Porky threw his fishing rod down and before Charlie could intervene he
lunged towards the briny.
"Come back, you galah." Charlie sighed and started to shed his boots
and clothing. By the time he was stripped down to his jocks he was
both swearing and shivering. The old esky by his feet held their
evening catch and Charlie swore again as he upended the fish in the
surf. He secured the esky's lid and with the buoyant box thrust in
front of him struck out after his old mate. The whaler was a good four
hundred metres off shore and, for what it was worth, Porky Edwards had
made it half way. Charlie reached him just as he began to really
drown. Porky was now very aware that denim jeans and gum boots were
decidedly down on the list in swimwear. He gratefully accepted the
flotation aid that Charlie thrust towards him.
Neil Benson had seen the two men struggling in the water as he drove
along the esplanade. He stopped the vehicle and reached for his mobile
"Emergency, what service please?"
"Er, ambulance. No, police. No, er..."
"Putting you through."
"Fire emergency - can I help you?"
"I didn't ask for the fire service."
"Listen, mate, this line is for emergencies only."
Neil Benson listened in disbelief to the disengaged tone. When he
finally got through his mental faculties were more strained and what's
more he'd now seen the boat.
"Police? Thank God. I'm ringing from Rosten Point - there's people in
the water here." The police operator was good at his job and made sure
he got all the relevant details. Neil Benson had warmed to his role as
mediator and rather embellished on the incident at hand. The police
report hit the air waves and the media picked up the message. A rescue
helicopter was dispatched to the scene.
Neil Benson stayed by his car, at the police operator's request. The
light had gone now and although he could make out the wash of the
waves the darkness hid the beach from view.
"What about the boat?"
"Stuff the boat," said Charlie. He picked up his fishing gear and
headed off towards the carpark. Porky caught up just as he kicked some
life into the motor.
"I still think we should tell somebody about the boat, mate."
"Get in the bloody car and shut the bloody hell up." Porky got in and
shut up. This silence lasted thirty seconds before he began again.
Charlie put the heater on full blast and the radio on loud.
"What's the go?"
Jeff Davies shouted a reply just as the chopper lifted off.
"We've got five people in the water off Rosten Point." Clive Starky
had been a journalist for sixteen years and part of the rescue crew
for three of them. He pulled on his buoyancy vest and checked the line
on the hoist. Satisfied, he sat back and waited. The call from Neil
Benson had come in twenty-three minutes earlier and it would be a
further sixteen before they arrived at the scene. The local press
followed the police to the esplanade and then down onto the shore.
There was no sign of either a boat or any person in trouble. They
heard the engine first and then saw the strobe light up. The rescue
chopper made five passes before they found the boat.
"Heh, what's that on the side?" The young policeman on the beach had
"On the side of the boat - it's red."
"Yes, I see it. Blood?"
"Do you think..?" asked the young constable. The reporter didn't reply
but turned and sprinted towards his vehicle.
Ten or so reporters sat in the small cafe busily consuming cups of hot
coffee while they spoke earnestly into their mobile phones. One
reporter was struggling to keep his marriage intact despite his wife's
lack of culinary skills.
"Listen, luv, I said I didn't want French toast again."
"What? I can't hear you", said his wife. He yelled into the receiver.
"Not the French toast again. It's wearing a bit bloody thin." The
noise in the cafe suddenly died and all eyes were on him."What?" he
said, but nobody was listening. They'd already heard his shouted words
- well most of them.
Bulletins of the hour told of horror and utter carnage at sea. A
French vessel, the toast of the fleet, had been sunk. A report by
rescue crews already searching the area for survivors told of large
fins cutting the water as the predators fell on their prey in a bloody
A maritime aircraft was in the air by five a.m. and the second by six.
News bulletins reported an abandoned lifeboat and what's more strong
evidence of foul play. The boat, it seemed, had been awash with blood.
From one newspaper came fears now that a mutinous group of seamen had
scuttled the ship in an effort to cover their heinous crimes.
At nine thirty that morning two blokes, very much the worse for wear,
forced down a cup of coffee.
"I think we drunk too much, Charlie."
"Shut up, Porky."
On the wharf, thirty miles to the east of Reston Point an ole' salt
grumbled about the vandals who had set his boat adrift. It was, by all
accounts, an old wooden hulled whaler. He never did see it again.
Good, golly - gosh.