by Andrew Foote
It was a simple enough exercise to attach the tow and offload the pump, but at no time did anyone thank us for being of assistance and neither did I see Arthur Penfold, Cath and Aruno's father which in retrospect, was odd.
I hung off midway between Conqueror and Marion S until I saw a fountain of water cascading over the side of Mr Penfold's boat that told me the pump was running then made my way back to Conqueror.
We waited until Marion S was riding noticeably higher in the water then turned, took up the slack and slowly made towards Tresgillith and the relative safety of the harbour but then, about forty minutes in, Cathy, who had been watching through binoculars, handed them to me.
"Why do you think he's started his main engine? He's under tow so there's no real reason to or rather, none that I can think of?"
Her question was about to be answered as an alarm sounded.
"The three phase breaker has tripped on the port genny. Was that the one powering the pump Cath?"
"Yes. I fired it up 'cos the starboard one was powering everything else on board and not knowing how much current that pump pulled, I thought it best. Was that okay?"
"Yeah. Good thinking really but hang about a minute? What the hell does he think he's doing! He's making to ditch the tow!"
I reached for the radio.
"Papa-Zulu four five nine. What the blazes do you think you're up to? Over."
"Papa-Zulu four five nine from Papa-Zulu one one eight six. Please acknowledge. Over."
I shook my head in disbelief.
"He's let go the tow, chucked it together our patch lead into the drink and now…… now he's altering course. Oh for heaven's sake Cath? He's heading south-west…… he's going to try and make Newquay!"
"But why? Why doesn't he make for home and inspect the damage?"
"I've no idea but he's a danger to shipping and alright, at the moment the pumps are doing enough to keep him afloat but he's got to round Land's End and that's not nice even if you're seaworthy, which he isn't.
I've got to think."
"Yes, but what if he's just playing the deaf mute and hears our transmission? Once he's outside of the three-mile limit, he's in international waters and they don't have any jurisdiction, not even the HMRC."
"Phone them then."
"Now why didn't I think of that! You're a genius!
"I know! You do that while I winch in the tow and cable."
I turned to Aruno.
"You're doing a great job. Are you okay if I ask you to carry on a while longer?"
"Yes Mimi-cu. I like to be busy."
"Thanks. Stop the engine until Cathy has got everything on board. The last thing we need is to go snarling the prop but by then I should be done with this phone call and I'll give you a break."
"I would prefer it if you kissed me?"
"I can do both. First a kiss then the break and then another kiss."
"What are Penzance planning on doing?"
"Nothing. There's not much they can do other than tell the coastguard who'll keep a watchful eye on them.
What I can't get my head around is, why make for Newquay? If he's had a successful catch, then surely it makes more sense to land it at Penzance? Just the extra cost of the fuel alone will cost a bob or two not to mention the risks he's taking with his vessel and crew? If anything untoward were to happen, his insurance would refuse his claim so he is playing a wild card and that just doesn't compute."
"I don't like to think about the alternatives Simeon."
"Smuggling contraband, drugs, people trafficking?
Who was on board with him?"
"I only saw the one guy and I've never seen him around before. He never even spoke except to tell me to stand clear of the winch chain."
"What did he look like?"
"Can't remember. I was too busy standing clear of the winch chain."
"That's not very helpful."
"Sorry but he didn't sound as if he was local."
"Well, okay so he didn't go saying 'Ooo-arr, that be a mighty fine-lookin' pump you got there my lovely' but he didn't even sound English. Spanish maybe?
"Again, not helpful!"
I'm trying my best but I was only expecting to help your Dad out of a spot of bother, not keep a lookout for pirates on the high seas?"
"My turn to apologise. I'm sorry."
"Forget it and anyway, there's not much to be gained by idle speculation. We're about twenty minutes out of Tresgillith so maybe our time is better spent in preparing to tie off."
"Cath? Aruno? Come on up. It looks like we have a reception committee waiting."
I eased Conqueror in through the harbour entrance only to see two cutters tied off against the harbour wall, in deep water and out of sight from the sea. One was a coastguard vessel, the other, Customs and Excise. Two police cars were parked away from the immediate area and an unmarked minibus parked next to them and as we approached our mooring buoy so a motorboat set out to assist us.
Cathy looked perplexed but said exactly what had flashed through my mind.
"Well at least it's not us in the shit. This has to be about the Marion S don't you think?"
"Must be. Let's go and find out. We can sort the boat later."
Leaving Conqueror's engine on tickover, Aruno lowered the inflatable then disconnected it from the davits before diving in to the water and climbing aboard. Cath and I waited until he brought it round to the ladder before joining him and with my Aruno at the helm, we sped across the harbour where the only face I recognised was sitting on an upturned lobster pot – PC Alun Reynolds – our local copper – a Welshman but we don't hold it against him!
"Hello Simeon, Catherine? Who do we have here then?"
"Hi Mr Reynolds. This is my brother Samuel but don't ever call him that or you just might die an unspeakably painful and horrible death! Sam works well enough!"
Aruno proffered his hand which PC Reynolds accepted.
"Nice to meet you Sam and as for you all? An interesting and adventurous day by all accounts?"
I tried to be serious but I laughed at this comment.
"We were only going for a picnic around Tore Point as well!"
"Did you enjoy it? Lovely beach that."
"By now there'll be some very fat and happy gulls there 'cos Cath picked up that distress call, only by accident as we'd left the ice on the boat so picnic got cancelled!"
"Never mind. Summers set fair this year, but now I should take to over to our friends from the Customs as I believe they have a few questions for you."
A few questions??
Hundreds more like but the upshot was, they had picked up a very broken transmission telling of being boarded then what sounded like a cry of pain but then the transmission either got cut off or the distance too great to receive it.
Three hours later came the first distress call – the one Cath had heard – me answering it then everything from there on had been monitored and recorded.
"What we can't understand is that given that initial call was made when the Marion S was only fifteen miles out, if the call regarding boarders came from the same boat, why was it so weak? Any thoughts?"
"Did it come in on channel sixteen?"
"The distress call, yes it did but not the original shout."
"So…… what if he was in touch with another vessel at the time? He would've changed channels in order to talk to them – sixteen we monitor all the time as it's the emergency frequency but rather than clog it with random stuff…..?"
"What you're saying is that perhaps, in a state of panic, he forgot to change frequencies but what difference might that make?"
"If you go to sixteen, your radio automatically selects high output power, in our case twenty-five Watts, larger vessels more, but on other channels, ones we use over shorter distances, high power has to be selected, not de-selected."
"Alright, thank you. I'm an investigator not a seaman so my understanding is limited but that still doesn't account for his comment about his radio being on low power, one Watt I seem to remember, even on channel sixteen?"
"He said he'd lost his port generator due to flooding in the engine room. His main battery bank had flooded causing short circuits all over the place so he selected his lowest output power – possible if you're running on your emergency bank, but as he's no doubt running AGM or similar batteries, once they've had a chance to dry out, he'll be back up and running, none the worse for wear."
"We'll have to wait and see what transpires but for now we're following his boat – not by water where we might be picked up on radar but by aircraft and helicopter.
Anything more you need to know?"
Cathy was anxious to know if her father was under any suspicion – a fair question all things considered.
"Under suspicion of what? Granted, something is going on but until we know what that might be, we have to keep an open mind so to answer your question, no he's not, unless being reckless with the lives of those he has on board is a crime."
We left to go back and tidy the boat just as the customs people were leaving having given Conqueror the once-over.
We were given the green light…… naturally, then with the boat secure we walked back to the Nelson and a well-deserved pint.
It was weird having the pub to ourselves. The weekend had been a busy one both over the bar and food sales.
I offered Cathy Mums room rather than going home but she thought that she ought to be there if in the unlikely event she had a call from her father which left Aruno and I to bunk down early.
I showered first and was asleep before he climbed in beside me, but the tangle of arms and legs when I woke at a not unreasonable seven in the morning was an indicator of what we felt for each other.
For a moment I just lay there listening to his slow, even breathing. I surmised that there was nothing about him I didn't love and cherish.
When he was awake, his face sported a constant smile but asleep he looked serious and thoughtful – much the same as Cathy looked normally so there was no doubting his lineage.
I could feel myself getting very hard down stairs so rather than spoiling the moment, I left the bed to cook us breakfast, an ENGLISH breakfast of an omelette with grilled bacon and toast – coffee being an essential side order.
With breakfast eaten and with nothing much else to do, I got back under the covers to cuddle up to my boy.
This wasn't one of those moments you read about where shear passion and lust takes to the stage, it was very gentle, even meaningful as we kissed deeply.
Aruno, questions in his eyes, traced his hand down to my throbbing penis then took it in his hand. "My Mimi-cu…… my very BIG Mimi-cu!"
I was incapable of answering him – too far gone I think as it only took a matter of seconds before I cried out and came…… the first ever time at the hands of another person.
It seemed to last a lifetime and then some. I came gallons but Aruno just smiled down on me saying, "I think my Mimi-cu was in need. Next time you will last longer for me so I can taste you.
Rest now. We have a lifetime ahead of us."
Midday and I heard the phone ringing and leaping out of bed, waking Aruno in the process, I ran down stairs to answer it.
"Simeon? It's me, Cathy.
They've found Dad."
"Hang on a bit? What do you mean found! Wasn't he on his boat?"
"Yeah, yeah he was in his cabin, trussed up like some turkey ready for slaughter.
Customs. They were waiting, not at Newquay but at Torquay. We must've got it wrong, either that or they threw Newquay into the mix in order to confuse things.
When they cut the tow they were headed South-west but it would be a simple matter to do an about turn once she was over the horizon and head North-east but anyway, they mounted like a sting operation and caught the bastards red-handed. Dads boat had been seized and the crew taken hostage but they needed Dad to make the distress call so no wonder you never saw him? The berth at Torquay had already been arranged two days previously. Torquay harbour picked up on their request to be towed to Newquay and realising something odd was going down, phoned the Coastguard – the rest you know."
"He's alright though yeah?"
"They all are thank God. He'd been roughed up a bit so he's been taken to hospital as a precaution but the best is yet to come so hang on to your willy.
Mr HMRC reckons they were carrying in excess of eight million quid's worth of pure, uncut cocaine! Do you have any idea of what that might fetch on the streets?
Neither do I but it's more dosh than you and I, maybe the entire population of Cornwall will, collectively, ever see."
"Don't swear Simeon. It doesn't sound right coming from one who never use potty-language. That's my preserve!"
"Sorry. So what gives now?"
"Tomorrow I'm getting the train to Plymouth so I can check up on my old man then do whatever he needs me to do which means I need to beg yet another favour from you.
Given he hasn't set eyes on Sam since he was a baby, I think perhaps he should stay here with you, let Dad deal with the trauma of being boarded then later, once he's over it……"
"I agree but I think you should be the one to tell him.
I'll go and find him."
"This really isn't how I thought it might go. He must think that Dad doesn't care."
"Does he care Cathy? It isn't my place to go throwing rocks but here's the man who wanted to have him aborted! I fail to see how he could possibly have a change of heart, he chose to go out to sea the day before Aruno arrived, and I'm sorry if you find my views offensive, but that smacks of a couldn't give a damn attitude, not of a father desperate to see his only son after an absence of thirteen years."
"I'm not going to condone his actions – don't you think I haven't thought much the same? What he did was shameful, and you can be sure I'll tell him as such once he's home."
Cathy paused mid-conversation but then her voice started shaking, – she was scared.
"What if…… what if he went out knowing what was going down? What if he knew what his cargo was going to be but then something happened and it turned ugly?"
"There's one easy way to tell.
He's been out for what, almost ten days? Provisions alone for a trip like that would've been huge. He had to water up, buy fuel, get the crap-tank emptied somewhere? Why not take a look at any invoices that have arrived, his credit card bills, they'll tell you if he's called in somewhere and if there's nothing, it can only mean one thing, that he got refuelled and restocked at sea? Take a look at his catch. If the holds are empty, then surely that's like proof-positive."
"I suppose so, but I'd feel bad opening his post or digging around behind his back. He has his faults but that doesn't stop me from loving him Simeon?"
"I can get that, but either you stop worrying and let the authorities get on and do their job, or try and set your mind at rest and do your own spot of investigation."
"Set my mind at rest or get even more paranoid you mean?"
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