by Andrew Foote
Following lunch, we again met in the conference room to continue on from where we'd got to that morning, but before this happened, Captain Stone had questions he needed answering.
"First off, our people together with the police, have conducted an extensive search of Conqueror and have unearthed nothing that would indicate that it was in anyway involved in this matter. I apologise for all the inconvenience this has caused you but, in order to be completely satisfied, we had to do it. But now I need to know something about the Marion S."
He turned his attention to Cathy. "Aside from the damage to the accommodation, the generator and cabling, have you noticed anything else out of the ordinary?
Before you think about that, I would ask you to listen to the reasons behind the question.
The reason I ask is, because when your boat docked and we managed to spring our trap, arrested those men and getting your father and his crew to hospital, all the cabins were intact if in a bit of a mess, meaning the damage you see now was done since she docked, not before.
That leaves us with the question of why someone would find it necessary to go to all the bother of expertly picking the locks and running the not inconsiderable risk of being seen.
There can be only one credible explanation, that being, we didn't find the complete cargo, just some of it.
Why rip out the cabins?
Because those people who knew where it was hidden were all in custody, so whoever is behind the operation sent in more troops in an attempt to recover the remainder of the cargo, but they were working blind and set about looking in obvious places such as behind the wood panelling and under the floors.
We've had specialist sniffer dogs and a team of people going through the entire boat but so far? Nothing, but we know that there's more to be found, it's just a case of where it is.
We have to, must find it. For you to put out to sea with just the possibility that something we had missed was still on board, would've put you in considerable danger which is the reason we ordered you back to harbour.
So Catherine. Please try to think very carefully about anything you might have noticed that seemed unusual to you."
The look of concentration on her face was obvious as she struggled to think of anything but then Rob looked at her.
"That fuel gauge Cath. What about that?"
"A knackered transducer, that's all."
Captain Stone interrupted her. "What about this fuel gauge?"
"Sam told me that we had 25% left in our tanks although he didn't dip them, he just relied on the gauge but then, this morning we took on over two thousand litres. But the thing is, the gauge still reads one quarter full so we just assumed it was a buggered transducer – nothing that couldn't be looked at once we got back to Tresgillith."
"But transducers run off a twenty-four-volt DC power supply and if that went over-voltage, the readout would freeze. Did you think to check them?"
Cathy looked at me to answer that.
"All power supplies, whether AC or DC and no matter what their voltage are monitored. If one had failed through either under or over voltage, it would trigger an alarm but in all honesty, no, I didn't think to do a physical check."
"Then might I suggest you do so?"
"Sure. Let me back on Conqueror and I'll get my 'scope."
"The power supplies are fine but there's absolutely nothing coming back from that transducer. I double-checked with the fresh water tanks, they run off the same supply and they're all working normally."
"So, either we're looking at a cooked transducer or……"
"Something's damaged it like a……"
"Heavy object hitting it? You catch on very quickly Simeon!" He then turned to his subordinates. "Lift the fuel tank inspection cover, get the camera over here pronto and let's see if anything's down there."
Well, that put paid to what remained of the day. There was rather a lot down there and they had to drain the tank in order to hoist it all out. Captain Stone thought that this find was the lion's share of the haul, making the total quantity seized worth in excess of fifteen million pounds – more, much, much more after cutting it.
We were free to leave whenever we wanted, but one small bonus for Marion? The Customs people topped up her tank to overflowing as all the packets of drugs had displaced so much capacity, they thought it only fair.
One passing suggestion from Captain Stone however.
"I realise you need to get back to your normal routine, but might I suggest you hang around for a while longer? We think it might be wise to put out as much information as we can. If those people are still waiting around, not aware of our find, you stand the chance of being jumped once you leave harbour, doubly so it you ventured into international waters. Doubtless they know how much that cargo weighed and with us confirming it? Well, where would be the point in coming after you."
"I'll have to phone my Mother. We have a pub to open and she's not long out of hospital."
"I can't insist you stay, but honestly Simeon? Would you go out of business if you had to keep the pub shut for a couple of days?"
"No, but the natives might go into open revolt and storm the place!
No, I know you're right and I'm sure she'll understand."
"Thank you, and by the way. I never served with your Father although we met on a number of occasions. He was a very fine officer and his passing under such dreadful circumstances must have been a terrible thing for you and your Mother to come to terms with, but know this young man, he was also a great loss to the Service…… he was a man destined for great things.
God speed you all."
Mum was cool about the entire thing. She levelled her wrath at those who savagely attacked Mr Penfold and his crew, but then she spoke about our return trip.
"Don't worry about the pub. We'll open as usual as I've co-opted help from some of the ladies from the village.
One question though? Are you still planning on stopping off at Penzance?"
"T'was the idea? Why do you ask?"
"Good. Just get Cathy and Sam to visit their Mum while you're there. No need to rush back – just take it easy."
"By your command Madam!"
"Yes…… there's a first time for everything Simeon…… not!
Seriously though? I'm under orders not to tell you why – just make sure it happens?"
"I'll do my upmost, I promise.
'Night Mum. I love you too. I'll call once we have a timetable"
Call finished and I went below to find the others and a cold beer, relieved that the pressure was off regarding the pub, and thankful for being back out in the harbour rather than cloistered up in the Customs shed.
Cathy was busy with paper and pencil and with input from Rob, were putting together a list – damage to the machinery on the Marion together with what had to be done to bring her accommodation deck back to something approaching Serviceable.
"Christ knows how much this little lot's going to cost. Once you get started with lists, they get longer, like stupid things you take for granted. There were TV's in every cabin – all of them trashed but I forgot about them to begin with. Light fittings, personal belongings of everyone on board, clothing, oilskins, boots and God only knows what else. I don't suppose you've got a digital camera with you?"
"Yeah, there's one somewhere. Do you want me to go and find it?"
"Thanks, but tomorrow's good enough. I just want to document everything and as we'll be here for a bit, there's no panic."
"I expect the insurance assessors will do much the same thing, but I know where you're coming from."
I went up top - I never smoke below decks…… much. Aruno followed me and sitting down on the after-deck, he voiced his thoughts.
"Cathy is too upset Mimi-cu. After all, it's only a boat?"
"I know, but we take these things personally. It's difficult to explain but give me a moment and I'll try."
I thought for a bit then continued.
"Not a perfect example but it'll do well enough.
Take my Landrover for example. You said you thought it was lovely?"
"It is lovely!"
"So…… if it was we took her up onto the cliffs, I forgot to set the handbrake and it rolled over the edge into the sea? How would you feel?"
"It's the same with boats, only more so. We get emotionally attached to them, cos when you're out, you become totally reliant on them – they're your lifeline, your friend and your partner.
I've been out with your Dad, and each time he got back to Tresgillith, he'd place the palm of his hand on the rails as he disembarked, pause momentarily and say a simple "Thank you." He was thanking the Marion S for bring him and his crew back to the safety of port which is why he lavished so much care and attention when it came to her upkeep. Marriages break down, friendships are lost, but a skipper, a boat owner, never falls out of love with his boat no matter what.
A boat can do no wrong, it is completely up to the owner to do what's right for her which is why I find it difficult to walk around Penzance Harbour and see those fine boats languishing there, abandoned, unused, just waiting for the day they're sold off for scrap."
"I think I understand, but nothing lasts forever Mimi-cu? One day, even your fine boat will die, I will die, you will die, it is just the way of all things."
"Yes and I know this, but only when the problems become such that it's the right time to say good-bye. Time will come when we have to say good-bye to the world, Conqueror will one day say good-bye to her life at sea but only when the time is right. Those boats I talked about at Penzance; there's nothing too wrong with them that can't be put right? They've been neglected, but the only reason they're not out there plying their trade is because it's becoming harder and ever harder to make a living from the sea. No one wants to buy them so their value falls, maintenance becomes too costly so they're left to rot, and so the downward spiral continues – an unstoppable decline until they become too much of a liability and have to be towed away to a breaker's yard."
"Is that what Cathy is worried about? Marion being scrapped?"
"No. Your Dad would never even consider that as an option. Anyhow, I don't believe she's so much worried as angry and upset about how those animals could attack your Dad and his crew then set about causing tens of thousands of pound's worth of damage."
"Material things only. My father will repair, so will his crew and the damage to the boat will be fixed."
"I hope you're right and there's no lasting physiological damage cos I'm pretty certain, had that been me out there, I'd think twice before putting back out."
That night, and with all of us seated around the TV, we watched the news to see if anything regarding that new find had made it as far as the newsroom but disappointingly, it wasn't mentioned on the main bulletin or on Look Southwest, the local news channel.
Rob asked us if we would go out with them to eat then catch a drink somewhere but we declined in the belief that they could use some alone-time together. I think that Rob wanted to try and lift Cathy's spirits and he might be better able to achieve that end without us being there so we ate aboard then bunked down early for our own bit of privacy.
For a change, I woke first, and after a very large mug of tea, I went in search of a newsagent to buy some ciggies and a local paper.
On getting back, I lit up and sat on the harbour wall and on looking at the headline, there it was.
"MORE DRUGS RECOVERED FROM THE MV MARION S."
The article touched on the original haul, the boarding by pirates and the injuries sustained by the crew and so on, then turned its attention to the latest events like how the water tanks had been investigated using under-water video monitors, the holds and refrigeration units emptied of the catch, the entire boat turned upside down before pumping out all the fuel to reveal that latest haul.
It went on to detail the number of packages, estimated street value and the total weight of the drugs seized before quoting Captain Stone as declaring the Marion clean, and with no charges being considered against her Master or her crew, but what did catch my attention was the final paragraph.
"All who were on board at the time of the original episode, are recovering from their ordeal and have been discharged from hospital to the care of relatives or private doctors."
I wanted to tell Cath this news but they had obviously got back rather late. Aruno and I were still cuddling up and chatting at midnight and I hadn't heard them return, so looking at my watch, and judging it would be okay to call home, I phoned the pub.
"Mum? Sorry to call so early but I've just been reading today's local rag. Mr Penfold and all his crew have been discharged from hospital and as Cathy isn't home, I reckon it might be wise to go up to their house and see if he needs anything."
"No need. I heard the news a couple of days ago. He's not back home, he's with Anita, she's taking care of him."
" What?? He's with his ex?"
"Not his ex Simeon. They never divorced, just split up over that disagreement regarding Sam. He's still very fragile, she's a very experienced doctor, - it makes perfect sense don't you think?"
"Well I'll be damned! Who would have thought it!"
"Indeed, but perhaps now you'll understand why I need you to persuade Cathy and Sam to pay them a visit as and when you get as far as Penzance, but for God's sake, don't say Them, stick to Her. This is meant to be a nice surprise for all of them. The first time back together as a family in over thirteen years has to be something very special."
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