Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge – The Ship of the Desert, Day Five


Dear follower/visitor, This is my final contribution to fellow blogger Jane Dougherty’s challenge to write a post each day. I decided to come up with one story in five parts. It is an English translation of a Dutch story which was published earlier on this site. I hope you will like what you find. signature_1

Painting by Max Jensen

Painting by Max Jensen

Originally, the idea was to set a course for the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal. However, once at sea under full sail, Khamsin proved to make so much progress that the sultan ordered the ship to follow the ancient clipper way around the Cape of Good Hope with its favourable trade winds. Rolling on the high seas Khamsin made huge 24-hour runs under sail alone, which caused some crewmembers to hang over the side; nevertheless, the camel remained untouched by seasickness.

The ship called at Cape Town for refreshments and to walk the camel. The animal was a little unsteady due to the constant movements of the ship. Led by a servant in full dress he was a sight none of the harbour district residents would have wanted to miss for the world.

The Indian Ocean had a heavy gale in store which the ship negotiated easily without mishap. The helmsman had no trouble whatsoever handling his helm as Khamsin rode before one greybeard after the other.

And so the home port came nearer, and with it the notorious Somali pirates’ waters. The camel couldn’t help noticing the mood change among the crewmembers. Nervously pacing around in his stable he put his nose in the air, as if the unavoidable smell of the cargo was affecting his lungs. His own production of droppings accelerated, whereupon Ron de Vos, who assisted the stable boys, declared that this could be turned into a big advantage… That night, an extra lookout was sent up into the foremast, bringing night binoculars to support the radar. Then came eight bells: the dog watch. The bow wave hushed gently to the swell. In the moonless night the desert perfumes came across the sea driven by the warm wind. Suddenly, the lookout’s voice sounded in the dark like an experienced muezzin. Ron de Vos, who was just about signing off, immediately understood what was going on and what had to be done. Two, three steps at a time he descended into the lower hold, where the camel’s attendants were sound asleep. “Come on, boys! This is it!” he shouted in his best French. “Why? What’s up?” one of them yawned, “Did we run aground?” “Just do as you’re told!” Ron commanded, “If you want to stay alive!” That did the trick. The men followed him in a hurry, to the engine room where the generators hummed assuringly. The servants were given instructions, and then Ron rushed back upstairs to take his position on the bridge. “Well,” he said, “now let’s see who’s pissed off!” The radar didn’t detect anything unusual, but the mate knew better. “Those guys use stealth boats,” he explained, “you won’t see them until it’s too late!” The words barely spoken, Khamsin was caught in a bright search light, electrifying the bridge crew. The helmsman lost control of his wheel, but Ron de Vos immediately took over. He used the intercom to contact the men in the engine room: “Time for action, boys! Are you ready?” “Allah is great!” they replied. “OK. Wait for my call.” There was a tense moment when the pirates started a yell, the words of which nobody understood but the rhythm, intonation and phrasing of which were unmistakable. Their vessel remained invisible behind the bright light, you could tell only from the sound of her engine and the swell crashing against the sides that she tried to come alongside. That was just what Ron de Vos had hoped for. Holding on to his microphone he waited for his moment to arrive then called out: “Khamsin!” The two men in the engine room switched on the drain tank pumps at full speed. In the meantime, a row of air conditioning tubes stretching along the full length of the deck opened up. Next moment, a smelly shower of sticky mud was sprayed across the pirate’s deck, instantly transforming it to one big filthy slipway. There was a deafening roar of horror from the villains, and an equally deafening one of surprise from Khamsin’s crew. The pirate ship’s deck lights were sprung, showing the pirates’ desperate attempts to keep clear of the mess, which of course they didn’t make as they held on to each other just to stay on their feet. None of them was remotely willing to carry on with the attack, which gave Khamsin the opportunity to wear round, set all sail, and disappear soundlessly into the night.

There was no end to the festivities. Even the camel danced around his stable. His bowels would probably remain uneasy for a while, but nobody cared. Ron de Vos was praised again and again for his inventiveness, even by the sultan who took a deep bow.

Sultan Petr el Bouchi’s dhow fleet was left in peace ever since. During a great public ceremony at the palace Ron de Vos was awarded a special distinction: the Golden Anchor of the Ship of the Desert.

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Should you wish to know more about, or contribute to Ron de Vos’s Windship Project, please check his site.

All five parts of this story are now combined to one page in the English essays and poems section of this site.

This was the fifth, concluding part of the challenge. I hope I have sufficiently met all requirements, and hereby pass the challenge on to fellow blogger Marion.

The Rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1. Post a photo each day for five consecutive days. 2. Attach a story to each photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual. 3. Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. The nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

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