This is the sequel to “Dog Watch”. Peter has been swept overboard and washed ashore. Now he has to try and stay alive waiting for help, which arrives unexpectedly…
White as unwritten paper the beach stretches out before me. The fragrance of the shore mixes with flower scent, the surf sings its tidal song. Respectfully, palm trees bow to the western wind while rocks last forever.
Her whisper blossoms from the breeze and resounds inside my revolving head. Who was she… oh, I remember her… so beautiful… dressed in her beauty alone… we were on the deck at night… she danced in the nude… we fell overboard… and now I am… where am I?
Blow, bonnie breeze,
My true love to me…
The surf washes my feet, and there she rises right before me. Shamelessly relaxed as the morning sun, her nudity emerges from the tidal waves. Her luscious forms glow in the floodlight, caressed by the ocean foam… she stretches her slender figure, gracefully causing my imagination to run wild… she smiles, blows me a kiss… and strolls on to the shore. The island scene frames her reflection in the wet sand, two palm trees forming a heart around her. Pacing graciously and athletically she walks towards me, hands on her hips… her winking eyes are like pearls hypnotising me, I cannot, will not run away from her spell… drifting on the sea breeze her perfume of exotic fruit fills my senses as she slowly draws nearer… behind her the tide goes out more and more… her magic eyes are smiling, beckoning: “Come to me…”
At the touch of her body the fragrant haze of her nearness paralyzes me from head to toe… all she wears is her natural beauty, and the scent of a long, warm summer… irresistible to my touch, her presence is inescapable… her golden hair descends, covering both of us in a bridal veil… and I am flooded by the incoming tide of her embrace. She sighs as all of her weightless, nude, fragrant, comfortingly warm body flows around me, I am submerged in her tenderness… swallowed by the gentle swell of her forms caressing me like the ocean breeze I drift away weightlessly on a cloud of love… and I am eventually drowned in her cherry brandy kiss…
Night is falling when our lips reluctantly part. “Want to come?” she whispers, “I’ll make you a night you’ll never forget…” she takes me by the hand and leads me into the flowery scent of moonlight. Her forms glow softly in the golden haze of her hair as she leads the way, climbing higher and higher, the sea roaring way down deeper and deeper… the trail is like a maze perfectly matching my delirium. Every now and then I lose track of her, but then she reappears, her graceful shadow depicted in the starry sky. Suddenly we reach the summit and the night reveals its grandeur. But she is all I notice as she turns towards me. Her bridal veil dissolves into the moon reflection on the water. Smiling at me with her glossy lips she stretches her arms, whispering: “Come to me…” and I cannot help drifting into her embrace, softer than moonlight…
Suddenly a cold, icy mist rolls in from the sea. I shiver as she stares at the lost horizon, stretching out one arm like when I first saw her, softly humming her song… the mist clears and reveals the image of Cutty Sark at anchor as in Sydney Harbour. Now she has the silvery colour of a photo negative, as if she were covered in ice, shining like crystal.
“Fore and aft!” her alto cries out into the night. Before I know I am at the wheel while like an acrobat she flies through the rigging to set sail. The wind blows, the anchor chain rattles, I get steerage way, the deck heels, the bow wave rushes to leeward… the sea gets higher and higher, shimmering in the moonlight while Cutty Sark rides one greybeard after another under all plain sail. The main deck is awash and Nannie – as I remember her name now – shamelessly takes a bath right before my very eyes. I can barely look away as she dances seductively around the main fife rail, her wonderful body drenched by floods and sprays of ocean foam… she winks and blinks over her shoulder, her shining lips blow me a kiss… and for one brief moment I completely neglect my task as a helmsman. Luckily, the ship steadily keeps her course so I might as well let go of the wheel. Not a single ply disturbs the humming canvas, the coils swing simultaneously to the ship’s movements…
She climbs the stairs to the afterdeck, leaning against me: “Keep her as she goes…” she whispers close to my ear, embracing me tenderly before climbing up the wheel case. Towering above me her wet, shining body dances and twists, her hair whirls around her, she sings and I sing along as Cutty Sark tears through the moonlit hurricane…
I do not know where to look until she stretches her arm; barely visible on the port bow the ‘real’ Cutty Sark is depicted against the gloomy shadow of Cape Horn. The royals are the only sails not set, and we are rapidly closing in on her.
“Bring her gently to the wind! Keep the other ship to leeward until she is dead ahead, then bear away and keep your course!”
Our yards brace automatically, as I slowly turn the wheel the ship rolls heavier but Nannie stays put. The moon hides behind our topgallants and for a moment I stare at the rigging shadows caressing her body…
“Steady as she goes! Keep your course!”
The other ship is much closer now, as is Cape Horn. Perfectly in line the ships chase each other, rolling, heeling, tossing and jerking in the stormy seas… I expect to hear a yell from the other taffrail any moment now, but nobody seems to notice and Nannie just keeps crying: “Keep your course! Keep your course! Steady as she goes!!”
Another greybeard groans ominously behind me, our deck is flooded, the roaring bow wave glistens… I can see the other ship moving in exactly the same way… both clippers dance more and more simultaneously… a screaming squall strains the humming backstays… our jib boom stabs the other ship’s taffrail… snapping her fingers Nannie releases our royal halyards, the two ships unite… and I end up at the wheel of the real Cutty Sark, standing next to Toby Mayall.
Falmouth, Cornwall, 1891.
Toby lights his pipe. His tanned face reflects the tobacco glow as he looks at me from the corner of his eye:
“You’re a quiet one! Have been all along.”
What can I say? How can I possibly explain what happened? Can I think of anyone who would believe one word of my story?
No-one even noticed my miraculous return to the ship. Nobody as much as turned their heads when Nannie’s crystal white, shining ship wore round and sailed back dead into the wind while she kept on dancing sensually on top of the wheel case, winking seductively, blowing me a parting kiss for the very last time… even skipper Woodget, always aware of everything, remained undisturbed when all of a sudden two men were at the wheel.
Our brand new inner jib has been mended by the sail maker, because of a rip half way up the fore leach. Perhaps I was not entirely concentrating on my job back in Sydney after all…