MoboReader > Literature > The Adventure Club Afloat


The Adventure Club Afloat By Ralph Henry Barbour Characters: 11395

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Steve's hand flew to the clutch as the rest joined Phil at the side of the boat, and, in the grey silence that ensued, strained their ears.

"You're right," said Neil, after an instant. "There's surf there, or I'm a Dutchman. And it isn't far away."

Steve, who had handed the wheel to Joe, nodded. "It's surf, all right," he agreed, "but it hasn't any business there. What are you going to do when you can't depend on the chart? Well, the only thing for us to try is another direction." He swung the wheel well to port and slid the clutch in gently and, with the engine throttled down, the Adventurer nosed forward once more. "Phil, beat it out to the bow and keep your ears open, will you? Watch that deck, though; it's slippery." An anxious silence held for several minutes. Then Phil's voice came from the fog-hidden bow:

"Surf dead ahead, Steve!" he called.

"Can you see anything?" shouted Steve as he again disengaged.

"No, but I can hear the waves breaking."

They all could now that the propeller had stopped churning. Steve gazed dazedly from fog to compass and from compass to chart, and finally shook his head helplessly.

"It's too much for me, fellows," he said. "I'm going back as straight as I know how, or-" He stopped. "Hang it, there can't be land on all sides!" He pulled the bow still further to port and again started. "Keep your ears open, Phil," he called. "I'll run her as slow as she'll go. If you hear the surf plainer, shout."

The Adventurer went on again. After a moment Han, leaning outboard over the deck rail, said: "It's not so loud, Steve. I think we're going away from it slowly."

"Or else running parallel," suggested Perry. "Anyhow, it isn't any nearer."

Another minute or two passed, with all hands listening intently. Then Phil sounded another warning. "Hold up, Steve! I may be crazy, but I'll swear there's surf dead ahead again!"

Steve motioned to Joe and, yielding the wheel after throwing out the clutch again, swung around a stanchion and crept cautiously along the roof of the main cabin and galley until he reached Phil's side. Then, dropping to his knees and steadying himself by the flag-pole, he listened. Quite plainly and, as it seemed, from alarmingly nearby, came the gentle swish-swash of tiny waves breaking on a beach. In the fog it was difficult to tell whether the sound came from directly ahead or from starboard. At all events, when Steve turned his head to port the sound was certainly at his right or behind him.

"I'll try it again," he said. "You stay here, Phil." He climbed back to the bridge deck. "Perry, are you working that fog-horn?" he demanded. "If you aren't, get busy with it!" Once more the cruiser picked up and stole forward, her nose slowly swinging around to port. Steve had given up watching the compass now. All he wanted to do was find clear water. The swish of surf died away by degrees as the Adventurer edged cautiously along and, after five minutes, Steve gave a sigh of relief. "I guess we're all right now," he muttered to Joe, "but I'm going to keep her just moving. We might anchor, I suppose, but it's dollars to doughnuts we'd have to spend the night here; wherever here is," he added, scowling resentfully at the chart. "Look here, Joe." He reached forward and laid a finger on the map. "Here's where we were, or where we ought to have been, when we heard the surf first. According to this we were a good mile from the shore and the only shoal is that one and it's marked six feet at mean low water. There's a black-and-red spar buoy there, as you see, but we haven't sighted it. Now, what I want to know is how the dickens we could have got a mile off our course to starboard. Also, if we are off our course, where are we? Unless we've slipped over the beach and got into that pond down there-"

"Steve! Back up! We're running on the rocks!"

It was the frenzied voice of Phil in the bow. Steve thrust Joe aside and seizing the clutch put it quickly into neutral.

"Bring the boat-hook here!" shouted Phil. "Reverse, Steve! Hard!"

But Steve had already slammed the clutch into reverse and pulled down the throttle. A mighty thrashing and foaming sounded astern and the Adventurer trembled, hesitated and began to churn her way backward. Perry, boat-hook in hand, was sliding and stumbling along the wet deck. He reached the bow just in time to see the menacing face of a high stone jetty disappear again into the mist. Phil, clinging to the flag-pole, was sprawled on the deck with his legs stretched out to fend the boat off.

"Just in time!" he muttered, pulling himself back to safety. "Did you see it, Perry!"

"Did I see it? I almost fell overboard! That's enough, Steve!"

The Adventurer stopped going astern and Steve called anxiously from the wheel. "What was it, Phil?" he questioned.

"A breakwater about ten feet high! We almost hit it!"

"A breakwater!" Steve turned swiftly to the chart. "Then I know where we are at last! Look here, Joe!" He pointed. "We're cornered in here, see? Here's the shore on that side and the jetty dead ahead of us. How we got here I don't know, but here we are. If we can find the end of the jetty we're all right. Keep that horn going, Perry!"

"Why not drop an anchor where we are?" asked Joe.

"We could do that, of course, but here's the harbour right around the end of the jetty. Seems to me we might as well get in there, Joe."

"All right," agreed the other doubtfully, "but this feeling around in the dark is making me nervous. First thing we know we'll-um-we'll be running into the First National Bank or the Congregational Church or something! Still, if you think we can find our way, all right.

I'm game."

Steve eyed the compass thoughtfully and in silence for a moment. Then: "You still there, Phil?" he called.


"Keep your eyes and ears open. I'm going to try to run along the side of the jetty and find the harbour. If you see a red spar buoy, sing out. Sing out if you see anything at all. Everyone keep a watch. We're going to eat dinner in the harbour or know why!"

The cruiser moved slowly on once more, her nose turning sharply. Then she paused, went back and again moved forward, Steve turning the wheel slowly with his eyes on the compass. "Now watch on the starboard side, Phil!" he called.

"Which is that? My right?"

"Yes, you land-lubber! Hear anything?"

"N-no! I didn't hear anything before until we were almost on the breakwater. Sometimes I think I can hear-"

Phil's voice died away to silence.

"Hear what?" asked Steve.

"Well, water sort of lapping. It may be against our boat, though."

"Neil, you go forward, too, will you?" said Steve. Neil joined Phil and for some minutes the Adventurer stole quietly along through the grey void with little sound save the slow working of the engine below deck and the lazy thud of the propeller. It was so quiet that when Perry suddenly worked the fog-horn Han almost fell over the wet rail on which he was sitting. It was Ossie who broke the silence finally.

"Well, I guess we've got to eat, whether we run ashore or stay afloat. I'm going to put some potatoes on."

"All right," replied Steve quietly. "But if you feel a bump, put out your alcohol flame the first thing you do, Ossie."

"Sure, but you can bet I won't wait down there to see whether the potatoes are done!"

"How about it, you chaps?" asked Steve presently.

"Don't hear a thing," answered Phil.

"All right. I'm going to bring her around now. Yell the minute you see anything. You needn't worry. She's only crawling and I'll have her going astern before you can shout twice."

Very slowly Steve moved the wheel to starboard. In the stillness they could hear the gear creak under the deck. No warning came from the two lookouts and, after a moment, Steve again turned gingerly. For all the watchers could tell, the Adventurer never altered her course, but Steve, his gaze on the compass card, knew that she was headed now straight east. Now and then he peered questioningly forward, but his gaze was defeated by the fog. At intervals Perry sent a groaning wail from the fog-horn. Presently Steve heard the boys talking on the bow and in a moment Neil's voice hailed him:

"Surf off to starboard, Steve! Not very near, though."

The others listened, but there was just enough noise from the engine to drown the sound heard by the lookouts.

"Tell me if it gets louder," called Steve. "Still hear it?"

"Not so well," answered Phil. "I think we're going away from it."

"Waves against the end of the jetty," explained Steve. "I think we're all right now." He moved the wheel over slowly, spoke by spoke. "Keep your horn going, Perry. We're entering the harbour. Watch for buoys, fellows. Take it on this side, Joe."

Followed a dubious five minutes during which the only sounds that reached them from outside the boat were distant fog signals and, once, the unmistakable moo of a cow!

"Gee," murmured Perry, "that's the best thing I've heard all day! That means we really are in the harbour, doesn't it?"

"Might be a sea-cow," suggested Ossie, from the companion.

"Ready with the bow anchor!" called Steve.

Han scuttled forward into the mist. "All right, sir!" he announced in his best nautical manner.

Steve disengaged the clutch. There was a moment of silence aboard the Adventurer. Then: "Over with it, Han," directed Steve. There was a splash, followed by the rasping of the cable through the chock and then a cheerful whistle from the crew as he made fast. "About eighteen feet, Steve, I should say," he called.

"Sixteen," corrected the Captain gravely. Joe smiled.

"Mean it?" he asked.

Steve nodded and put a finger on the chart. "We're right here," he said. Then he covered the compass and drew down the lid of the chart box and stretched his arms luxuriously. "That's over with," he added, "and I'm glad of it! How about dinner, Ossie?"

"On the fire, Cap! Ready in five minutes."

"Then I'm going to get into a dry shirt. I'm soaked through. Some of you chaps pull the side curtains down on the port side. We might as well keep as dry as we can."

"Looks to me as if the fog was rolling in from the starboard, though," said Han.

"Yes, it's coming from the southeast, but we'll swing around in a few minutes because the tide's coming in. Wonder where the Follow Me is."

"Harry would probably make for harbour, too, wouldn't he?" asked Joe, following the other down to the cabin. "I wouldn't be surprised if we found them here when the fog clears."

A yacht, hidden somewhere in the fog ahead, sounded eight bells and was instantly echoed from further away. "Great Scott!" exclaimed Steve. "Is it twelve already?"

Joe nodded, glancing at the ship's clock at the end of the cabin. "Two minutes after if our clock's right. Say, Steve, the next time we go out in a fog we'll-um-we won't go, eh?"

"Not while I'm running this hooker," agreed Steve with intense conviction. "Now that it's over, Joe, I don't mind telling you that I was a bit worried. I wanted like anything to drop anchor back there by the jetty."

"Why didn't you then?"

"I don't quite know," replied the other thoughtfully, "but I think it was chiefly because I didn't like to be beaten."

"Dinner!" called Ossie from the forward cabin. "All hands to dinner! Get a move on!"

* * *

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top