“I’ve been watching the Captain,” whispered Miller to Peterson.
“I don’t think he’s had any sleep.”
“Of course he has, no one can go without sleep this long.”
“All he does is sit there holding onto that rudder.”
“So what? Leave me alone.”
“Land sir, land,” yelled First Officer Vandel, as he pointed to the Southern horizon.
Captain Harrington stood up in the boat and looked through his binoculars towards the dark shape on the horizon that Mr. Vandel had spotted.
“It’s an island alright.”
“Man the oars, Mr. Vandel take the rudder.”
“I can row, Captain.”
“Good, you and Peterson take the oars, Miller and I will relieve you.”
For about one and one-half hours the men switched back and forth manning the oars, struggling against the ocean’s waves. Captain Harrington once again stood up and looked towards the distant island.
“It’s no use men, we’re no closer than when we started, we’re caught in the current.”
All four men were exhausted from the attempt, what little sweat they had left dripped from their bodies, as they sat dejected from their attempt. Captain Harrington gave the men two extra rations of water and survival biscuits.
“Here, see if Scot will take his.”
“Why are you giving him some? He didn’t do any rowing,” complained Peterson.
“Everyman on my boat gets the same, whether he can work or not! Take it, and give it to him.”
Captain Harrington quietly took only half the rations he had given the men, he had secretly been taking only half of his rations, since the torpedoing of the Lady Eva.
“Put your shirt back on Miller, and find something to cover your head,” ordered Captain Harrington.
“It’s hot sir, I’m suffocating.”
“Put your shirt on sailor!” barked Mr. Vandel. “This sun will fry your brain and you’ll go mad.”
The excitement of seeing land quickly wore off and the day passed slowly under the blazing sun. All the men laid in the bottom of the boat, trying to get some relief and sleep, only Captain Harrington remained awake guiding the boat’s rudder towards an unknown point on the horizon. The waves were becoming much higher now and the sea spray would douse the men, coating their skin with a thin layer of salt as it dried. Mr. Vandel kept Scot’s arm covered at all times, partially wrapping it in some of the discarded waterproof ration containers, but it did little good, the sea water soaked though the bandages, making Scot’s burnt arm more and more swollen. The blistering sun finally set and with the night came a merciful relief from the heat. The night time air was cool and refreshing at first, but through the night it became colder and colder, lighting flashes could be seen on the northern horizon. The storm soon reached the tiny craft making the ocean’s waves greater and greater, tossing the small craft up and down against the swells. Captain Harrington struggled to steer the craft but as the storm intensified he could no longer steer the small craft and let the rudder go. The boat would be left to the mercy of the ocean as the storm passed near by.
“Secure the gear, and hang on men, we’re in for a blow,” yelled Captain Harrington.
Angry swells reached heights of 18 feet or more, crashing into the small craft, it always seemed that the ocean would flip the boat and everyone would be cast into the black torrent. The men bailed the water out as best they could with their hands and whatever else they could find, the tiny boat soon became half full of water, but it would not sink. The added weight began to act as ballast and helped to steady the craft in the raging storm. The storm lasted through most of the night with a steady driving cold rain soaking everything, thunder crashed among the clouds and lightning flashed as if the world was about to end, the main storm passed to the north and the small craft was lucky to only have crossed through its outer edge. The men were exhausted and slept until the morning sun had reached overhead, even Captain Harrington was curled up near the stern seat. A crashing and loud banging awoke the men as they began to stir in the flooded boat, something was wrong, these were not the sounds that they had become used to, not the sounds of waves against the hull. Captain Harrington stood up and looked all around the craft, the lifeboat was wedged onto a small corral reef, with a small island’s lagoon to the east. The storm had blown the small craft miles from where they had been and deposited them near a chain of Palm tree covered small islands.
“Get up men,” said Captain Harrington. “Bail this water out, so we can make it over the reef.”
Captain Harrington scanned the island with its palm trees and jungle growth looking for any movement. It only took the men about 20 minutes to bail out most of the sea water, as a new wave struck the boat it was lifted over the coral reef and floated into the lagoon.
“Man the oars men but be quite about it.”
Captain Harrington guided the lifeboat towards a small broken portion of beach where the ocean water had eroded the sand and had nearly reached the jungle foliage.
“Everybody out, pull men.”
The men pulled the lifeboat as far as they could, then carefully carried Scot into the bushes.
“Gather some palm leaves and bushes to cover the boat,” ordered Mr. Vandel.
The men did as they were told and soon the boat resembled nothing more than a jumbled pile of branches that had been left there by a passing storm.
“Mr. Vandel, have the men smooth out the sand to remove any sign that we have been here. Then search for a place we can hide, this island may be occupied by the Japanese.”
“Yes sir, you heard the Captain, get busy.”
“Still hanging on sir.”
“Lets have a look at that arm.”
“Smells bad,” Captain Harrington said as he carefully removed the bandages from Scot’s arm and examined the burns. “Gather some coconuts.”
“Here you are sir.”
“Good, now break them open and grind up the pulp, then spread it over the burnt areas, carefully. Then wrap his arm again with some fresh bandages.”
“We’re almost out of bandages sir.”
“Use what you have to, I’m going to have a look around. Miller come with me.”
To be continued...