” ‘The Mystery of the Solar Wind’ is a heart-warming, sometimes breath-stopping tale of murder, flight and friendship. The Solar Wind’s crew is more than a motley one. They are a bickering, eccentric clan full of shenanigans and loyal to the death… which might just be around the corner.” (Review by “Your Family”, Caxton magazines)
This is a snippet from a storm.
Everyone was accounted for. Nobody had gone overboard. Radomir Lascek punched the submerging sequence into the console and watched the rigging through the lashing rain. The sails closed; the rigging started folding up. But then it got stuck. Radomir Lascek peered out into the storm, trying to fathom what was going on. The problem seemed to be the Crow’s Nest. It wasn’t collapsing the way it should. The Captain stared at it, worried. This was no good! Without the Crow’s Nest flattening out and the rigging folding against the deck, the masts could not be secured down. And he couldn’t submerge the Solar Wind without the rigging secured. The sea would annihilate it!
Merry hells! He’d have to send someone out there, into that hurricane from Hades, to sort it out!
“Federi and Schatz,” he called into the intercom. “Need you back on deck to fix up the Crow’s Nest! And be careful, men!”
Rhine Gold beckoned to the gypsy and led the way up to the bridge, out into the torrential weather and down the steps. Slippery stuff; but he was wearing his heavy sea boots that he had procured in Hamburg before setting out. They were really good stuff. They were specially designed for extra grip on compounding decks in heavy weather. In the North Sea they had already given him good service in a few of those icy storms. He wondered if Hawaii would have any of those boots – he’d like to get some for Ronan, too.
He shook his golden curls out of his face, splattering like a wet dog, and peered up into the rigging with its half-closed booms, hanging onto a line. The sky was grey with dusk now, darkening the clouds further. The white Crow’s Nest contrasted starkly. Yes, that thing was indeed stuck. They’d get to that in a second!
He forged his way forward along the handhold lines, ignoring the water that gushed around his boots. He was a born and bred Hamburger! Bit of sea didn’t frighten him! He dashed a glance over his shoulder to see if Federi was following, wondering how the scrawny man stood up to the job in times like these. And yet Federi was one of the toughest sailors on the ship. Rhine Gold supposed that he compensated for his physical shortages with sheer willpower.
“Lifeline!” barked the Romany. Rhine Gold grinned and tied a lifeline around his middle. Almost he’d forgotten! Pirates or no, he’d make Captain proud of him! He started up into the rigging of the foremast.
Radomir Lascek watched from the bridge. He also hoped that Federi would handle the situation, if young Rhine Gold got into trouble.
The two unequal sailors, the tall and the tough, climbed into the rigging, securing extra knots like mountaineers as they went. Federi stared at the gigantic waves boiling towards and around them and grinned. There were moments when they hung almost below the waves; only to get whipped back upright the next second. The rigging with its slight elasticity! He’d never get used to this! In all his years on the Solar Wind he hadn’t yet. It terrified him anew every time. And yet there was a streak in him that loved the very fear of it, every second.
“DAY-O, Da-aaa-ayo!“ he bellowed. Singing lessons? He thought he’d like some! For added volume.
Rhine Gold heard the gypsy’s voice and glanced down.
Suddenly his life paused. There was an enormous wave moving across the deck, nearly the height of the bridge; it passed what looked like inches underneath Federi. The ship tilted as the wave moved on. The rigging rose up towards the darkening skies. The deck cleared of water – and the descent began. They went down with the rigging in an arc, towards that gaping void of black water – and another monster thundering towards them, reaching for them…
“Three BANANA,” Federi yelled delightedly, nearly level with him now. “How’re you holding up, mate? Come on, not far now!”
Rhine Gold stared at the unlikely man with the drenched purple scarf around his tatty black tangles. He wanted to give an answer, but his jaw was clenched and wouldn’t release. Ditto his hands. They hung at fourty-five degrees for a moment, then the rigging rode up again. He could feel his whole body beginning to shake, but he couldn’t unclasp a hand from those ropes.
“Come on, old buddy,” yelled Federi. “Got to do this! We’ll finish it and go back below deck!”
Rhine Gold managed to get his jaws unlocked, but what came out had him cringe with fear and embarrassment.
“I’m going to die!”
“You’re not!” came a shout from below. Ronan was right underneath him. “Come, man. Ronan Donegal’s here. You saved my life just now. I won’t let a friend like you drown!” Ronan was beside him now.
“Donegal!” shouted Federi. “Thank the Stars! What?”
“Captain’s orders,” said Ronan, grinning. “Yow-wee! Roller coaster’s an understatement!”
“Federi!” Jon Marsden was right behind him. “Good to see you, mate! Donegal, Schatz – below deck! Federi and I will sort the Crow’s Nest!”
Federi climbed higher, nearly floating with relief. That had been a nasty moment there! For a second he had wondered how he was going to get Schatz back down to the deck! But if Ronan could stabilize Rhine Gold… He glanced down at the two young men. If Ronan hadn’t managed by the time he and Jon were done with the Crow’s Nest, they’d pick up that blond pussycat by his ears and his toes and carry him back below the deck! He turned his attention to the Crow’s Nest.
It was a hinge. A single, forsaken little hinge that had been installed the wrong way! Federi hooked his elbow around a rope the way he had forbidden Donegal to do earlier, took out his pocket knife and started loosening screws. Jon Marsden was there beside him, securing three more lifelines before releasing the rigging altogether and helping with his small toolkit that he had brought up here for the job. The gale lashed around their ears, the surf crashed over the deck, the ship pitched and rolled, tossed about like a ball by the waves. Not losing the little screws was the trickiest part of the whole job.
Federi was bored with the banana boat song by now. Jon Marsden ground his teeth. He knew what was next.
“Ma-haaaa-la -!!” bellowed Federi, delighted. He grinned and listened. Ronan feared that the mast might break. “Blast, it doesn’t work! It never works on this ship! Should have heard them on Captain Ali’s ship!”
“We did hear them,” growled Marsden. The national hymn of Southern Free. Federi did the same little act every time!
The Solar Wind pitched forward steeply. Ronan’s fears for the mast and rigging were shared by the Captain. He watched from the bridge and wondered if he ought to abandon the steering to Dr Jake and go out there to help them. But nobody could hold the Solar Wind as steady as he could in such a situation. He would not be doing them a favour.
It took Ronan longer to get Rhine Gold down from the rigging than it took Federi and Marsden to sort out the problem with the Crow’s Nest. The two young sailors arrived on the bridge only moments before the salted men. The Solar Wind sealed. The Crow’s Nest and rigging folded up neatly now, the hooks secured it to the deck. The four mavericks watched from the bridge with the Captain. Another huge wave rolled across the deck and foamed right past the bridge. Ronan grabbed onto something in fear. The water rose, and rose…
“We’re submerging,” Federi pointed out. Ronan breathed again.
As the ship dropped well below the surface, the wild thrashing and churning calmed down into steadier rocking. Radomir Lascek wasn’t content until they were deep enough that the ship was a lot steadier. Then he released the console, turned and grinned at his men.
For more “hey-ho-ho” download “Donegal Trouble“.