The Great Banks - September Short Stories
ATTENTION: LONG-SHORE CREW LEAVING TINLOU HARBOUR
BOARDING FOR PENELOPE AT WEEKS END
Now hiring able hands for eight day long-shore runs
$150 upon departure day [supply space will be limited]
$500 upon return
Chance to remain on crew for future trips
Ask for Bernie at the Dock Shop
Alex sat in his berth idly reading the few pieces of paper he had brought with him on his first sea voyage. Sitting in a stool at the foot of his temporary home was the ships cook, doctor, and record keeper. His name was Alfred Diminov.
Fred- as he preferred to be called- had the look of a hardened sailor. He had been aboard the fishing vessel for just over three years, prior to taking the position offered by the captain- a child hood friend of Fred’s- the doctor had served in her majesty’s navy. Mostly on supply runner ships, many stories of running covert supplies could be told around a bottle of rum.
These days the jack of all trades man stuck to his one ship, helping prepare meals, see to any minor wounds or nutritional deficiencies, and registering the crew for the Captains log.
“Alright, Alex, where did you say you were coming from?” Fred licked the tip of his pencil and readied his hand over the log.
“Central state, before that I was working for a logging company out of Nightford.” He stopped sifting through the papers and held out a card for Alfred to read. “Here’s my working papers, I knew they were tucked away somewhere.”
“Huh, very good..” he copied a few bits of information, reached for a mug of brandy that was resting next to him, and then looked up at Alex. “You know, most folks coming aboard just send a couple of bucks my way and I don’t bother with the paperwork business.”
“I bet.” Alex accepted his standard issue working papers and smiled “Probably makes reporting accidents easier.”
“Well I suppose it does.” The doctor returned back to his log “Still though, it’s nice to have a good registrar for when reporting to the docks quartermaster. Now, what did you say you worked at before here?”
“I was a farm hand for a Dairy farmer, helped oversee about twelve cows, the family sold five and said they had no need for the extra help.” Slipping the papers back into his travel bag Alex related his recent adventure. “I could have stayed around a while longer, but work was starting to get scarce. They saw me off on good terms, and that brought me to the flyer I saw in the Tinlou pub and figured why not give it a try.”
“Well, we needed the hands, lost a whole bunch of people lately to those ferry’s and trans-Atlantic cruisers. They offer one hell of a wage for not having to spend a night smelling of fish guts.” Fred gulped down the last of his brandy with a grimace and wiped his chin. “But if you like the work here, we’ll take care of ya, always good to know that some permanent hands are living in the Tin’ port.”
Rising from the bunk Fred bid the new crewman good day and made his way to the top deck. The boat, while not a large fishing craft, was currently alive with activity. Once he reached the bow of the ship he dug his hand into the blue long-coat and grasped for his cigar case.
Alex was the last of the new comers that needed to be recorded, and with their departure time fast approaching Alfred decided now was the best time to observe the sunrise. The captain’s log safely tucked under his arm, all information recorded for the Quartermaster-and tax collectors.
Departure from the harbour was an uneventful affair. The dock officer did their usual inspection, looked over Fred’s notes and then approved their passage. Within an hour the bustling port was a distant obstacle in their spy-glass.
They lucked out with the wind and weather for the first two days, which brought them to the Banks where they could run their traps and ease off on the sails. Depending on the season the Penelope’s storage hulls could be outfitted for shellfish, ocean salmon, and sometimes small whaling expeditions.
Currently, the payload was to be a rare summer crab, given the water temperature and algae present this year, it was expected to be prosperous for anyone that could lay trapping claims.
The Penelope met with two ships that were also harvesting the banks. The Lion’s Keep arrived within hours after they had, provided them with an updated weather forecast. It turned out that a storm was to hit Tinlou by evening, bringing gale force winds and rain.
This was a good omen. It meant there would be little competition between the two ships that had just landed. The storm would take a day or two to blow over, and by that time both ships would have crabs a plenty.
On the third day from port they met with large whaling vessel. The Gwyndolin’s captain chose to remain aboard his boat and let some crewmen row out to meet with the Penelope. They traded news of the storm, and some supplies for oil & other goods.
The great boat left them. Alex, the new Penelope crewman had asked of the weather on the open seas. Some of the saltier fisherman elaborated a little on their stories, but they spoke of strange weather coming in from the North East.
They reported seeing weather start and stop, almost as if the sea had stopped moving. Then a rogue wave would creep up, bringing the storm with it.
By the fifth day the Penelope’s storage holds were marked at three-quarters. At this rate it was possible they would begin their return journey ahead of schedule.
Alfred had seen to a few incidents, generally it was someone that had been careless or slipped while working a knife or cleaning a trap. So far it was a lucky trip and no one had lost a finger.
That night they were expecting a minor rain storm to come through the banks. These shower bursts were a normal occurrence during the late summer months. The crew decided to lay anchor early all the same, and make sure the deck was locked down. It would be a shame to lose equipment this close to having a full cargo.
It turned out to be a good idea, late in the night, after most of the crew had managed to fall asleep through the storm, Alfred was cleaning the galley. He was almost done, and wanted to get food ready for the morning. Rain or shine, they planned on moving south to pull up old traps, and find better winds. It would mean an early day, and a long one if the storm hadn’t subsided.
He latched the cabinets and turned off the lantern. Meeting the whaler had worked in their favour. Originally they assumed lamp oil would be a rationed item for their trip, however now it provided good late night light, and heat.
A thud was heard from above deck. As all of the items had been secured and double checked, Alfred cursed hoping a sail’s rope hadn’t gotten lose. A sail in these winds could tear itself to shreds.
He put on his blue long coat and a rain slick. He supposed he couldn’t grumble, he was the one who had volunteered for the evening watch. It was likely that the captain was already up and seeing to it.
The wind wrenched the door out of his hand. Luckily he caught it before it could smash against the wall. Wind whipped at a chord that had held a trunk lashed to the deck.
Cautiously fairing the stormy deck Alfred tied the trunk back in place. It was mostly spare fishing and deck gear, but lose ends could cause damage to other areas of the ship.
After lashing the trunk back, Alfred observed the deck to see if anything else was out of place.
The storm was less intense now, it appeared they were either in the eye, or it was finally subsiding. Alfred looked around to see if any hint of the morning sun could be found. Or the evening moon for that matter.
A crash of lighting lit the sky. It showed that the rain had in fact stopped, and it was mainly water blowing from the ocean, or dripping from the boats rigging.
Another crack of lightning lit the boat and surrounding water, this time revealing something that caught Alfred’s vision.
The rain had indeed stopped, but water also seemed to have stopped moving. It almost held in place, not rising or falling, and quite curiously, the anchor line was being lifted into the air.
Gravity returned to the environment as another crash of wind and rain hit the Penelope the boat jerked to the anchor side, Alfred saw the rope go taught against the deck.
The storm lit the area with another electrifying crack, thunder filling Alfred’s ears.
He screamed and ran back to his own berth. Determined to try and hide from the storm.
He had seen something, he was sure of it. Something silhouetted in the night’s sky.
The Penelope by all definitions, limped, back into port one day after its expected eight day journey. Most of the crew members didn’t talk about what had happened. Many grumbled and tried to figure out who to ask about the remainder of their pay.
They talked of the captain going overboard during a storm near the end of their journey. The ship’s doctor had been on watch that night; however in retrospect they wished more people had been at the ready during the storm.
A few wondered if the doctor had been struck by lightning, or if a piece of debris had hit his head, but from that night on he told wild stories, and tried to sabotage their laborious trip home.
The storm itself had battered the ship to the point that the main sail had been lost to the ocean, along with a good deal of repair lumber that the Penelope stored above deck.
Alex had been the first to wake and find Alfred in a frenzied state. It appeared he was trying to hull oil from the cargo holds to light up the ship. That was when the crew jumped into action and kept an eye on him.
The captain’s log told a different story. It appeared that in one of his delusional attempts to break from his quarters, Alfred managed to steal back the captain’s log. He wrote tales of a great creature that shadowed over the banks, and the Penelope, it had held the captain in large tentacles. Sometimes he would become confused and call them pincers.
Included in the writing were sketches of a beast that loomed over a boat. The ocean it sat on was in the centre, monster on top, below the water line were creatures that appeared to have wings, and smaller appendages that matched the giant creature.
The cook had also written that he needed to light up the ocean, and the oil needed to be dumped over. He was never clear if this was to shed light, or to burn these creatures to ash.
The voyages recordings were firmly placed back in the hands of the Penelope’s newly appointed first crewman. The ships damages can be found listed along with reports of a slow windless journey home.