Two days into a world cruise a man is reported overboard, but no one appears to be missing. As she heads for the Caribbean, the good ship Gioconda faces further problems. What about that unsavoury passenger in the owner’s suite? And can the Bear Bugger keep the old ship going?
I’d been given an outside cabin on bilges deck: a ‘Stateroom on Atlantic deck’, according to the brochure. Normally, this would have allowed me a glimpse of the outside world, but I found the porthole cover had been battened down. Was my window not designed to survive a few waves?
Day one to Biscay had been spent battling a Force Eight, with ‘waves breaking to form spindrift and considerable airborne spray’, according to the scale invented by Admiral Beaufort. Stabilisers are not much use against pitching motion, so some of our customers would have been nursing their mal-de-mer, where death is seen as a welcome release. The only factor preventing mass suicide was the knowledge that we would shortly be in the doldrums.
By yesterday evening Biscay had relented sufficiently for the removal of my porthole cover. It was now the second morning of our cruise. We were heading for warmer climes, in other words South, and I had slept soundly in my starboard side cabin. My window must therefore be facing west. And the sun was streaming in.
It was rising in the west!
Keen to learn more about this unique phenomenon, I quickly dressed and took the lift up to deck 8, ‘BBQ Deck’, where, in the tropics, alfresco meals were served from the adjoining Tropicana restaurant. It featured a small swimming pool, a couple of jacuzzis, and was the only deck with a 360° view.
Water, water, everywhere. In all directions only water. Seadogs will howl in protest, but I’ve never understood the attraction of a life at sea. Unlike land, which comes in a million different guises, water is….well, just water. Usually it goes up and down a bit, often it’s damned cold, and occasionally it can turn dangerous.
So why was I there at all? I’ll come to that in a moment. For now, let me just say that I stood there, trying to work out what was going on. Wisps of stratus hovered overhead. There was no wind. Another impossibility. Yesterday’s choppy seas had been caused by storm “Emily”, out in the Western Approaches, which had been sending us those Force Eight southerlies. Although the wind had eased, heading into it at maybe 17 knots should have been more than enough to make it feel draughty on deck.
But I was standing in a dead calm, our forward speed the same as the moving airmass. And the sun had apparently risen in the west. The evidence was conclusive. We were not heading south, but north. Back to Southampton.
I’d heard nothing on the public address, but that might have been because non-emergency messages were only beamed to public areas, not the cabins. Maybe there had been no messages at all? Either way, virtually none of our happy holidaymakers would be aware of this change of plan. Forget the suntan lotion, unpack your anoraks.
While musing on this conundrum, I noticed the wind freshening. And the sun was moving. We were turning, but ever so slowly, as though the captain was hoping no one would notice. I timed the manoeuvre at a full nine minutes. At the best of times ships are not fast, but even by their standards this was sloth-like. Finally, we were back on track, the sun again rising in the east, my body braced against a gale. Heading south on plan A.
What the hell was going on?
About the Author
After spending his life in the travel business, first for 25 years as an airline pilot before becoming a travel photographer and a cruise lecturer, Rolf Richardson decided that the time had come to write about some of the hundred plus countries he has visited by using them as real settings for his fictional novels.
Bear Bugger Cruise is the third of Rolf’s exciting stories, which all include adventure with an element of romance.
His first two books were titled The Last Weiss and Coffin Corner.
Praise for Rolf’s Earlier Works
“Richardson’s characters are beautifully painted with a vocabulary of limitless depth. Surprises and amusement lie at the turn of every page.” – Matt
“A superbly written book which I really enjoyed.” – Amazon Customer
“Really enjoyed the book – nicely paced with interesting characters…” – P Thompson
“I enjoyed this book – something a little different that kept my interest all through.” – Geoff Robinson
“An unusual story and a very good read.” – Mrs Marianne Ingledew