By Mike Stevens
Under a clear blue sky the Beast of the Seas steamed on her way to Jamaica. The trip had been uneventful so far, and if Captain Paul Courageous had anything to say about it, it would stay that way. He had recently been promoted to captain and he was having a hard time believing it. All of those dreary, never-ending years spent scrubbing the decks, painting, and wishing and hoping to be promoted quickly had finally paid off. He was now captain of the Beast of the Seas, a brand-new luxury cruise ship, and this was her maiden voyage. He gazed down from the bridge on his relaxing passengers; some playing shuffleboard, some talking with other passengers, and some sunbathing. The Captain was so intensely watching a young lady in a thong bikini he failed to notice the luxury yacht directly in front of the ship apparently unable to move due to a stalled engine. He was staring at the healthy young lady, enjoying the sight, when he happened to glance up. At last, he noticed the dead-in-the-water large yacht dead ahead. He yelled to the sailor at the wheel,
“Hard to port,” before realizing the sailor was drunk; so drunk he had slid to the floor.
So he leapt to the wheel and cranked it hard to port. For a second he didn’t think there was enough time to clear the yacht but slowly the massive ship turned to port and the ship barely missed a collision. Wow, that had been a close call. That damn drunk b*****d! He sure would be reprimanded. How would he ever have explained that? He vowed to keep all of his attention on sailing the ship. He kept his eyes riveted on their path through the sea.
Captain Courageous was straining to see anything with his binoculars. It sure was a pitch-dark night out there. He reminded 2nd Officer Lightower to keep a sharp lookout. One never knew what one might run into (literally) out here. After nearly colliding with that luxury yacht back there, Captain Courageous wasn’t taking any chances. He’d posted Lightower as a lookout, even though as far as he knew, the ship’s radar was working fine. They were sailing smoothly along when a strange blip appeared on the radar screen.
“Captain, you’d better come see this.”
Captain Courageous let go of the binoculars hanging around his neck and walked over to stand by his 1st Officer, peering at the radar screen. Courageous was shocked to see something massive filling the screen!
“What the hell is that?” he exclaimed. Then he said, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
The 1st Officer answered, “It just appeared. One second, there was nothing, and the next, there it was!”
Captain Courageous then called out to 2nd Officer Lightower, keeping watch at the front of the ship, “Can you see anything?”
Lightower answered, “No, I can’t see anyt—whoa! What’s that? Iceberg, dead ahead!”
Courageous dismissively replied, “Iceberg? In these waters? Mister, it’s 85 degrees out here. I don’t know what you’ve been smoking, but—damn; all engines reverse! Hard starboard!”
What he had seen was a massive iceberg looming directly in their path. With painful slowness the Beast of the Seas bow began to swing right. It kept on swinging, until Captain Courageous began to think they might swing clear. But suddenly, there came a shudder, accompanied by a deep grinding noise. Chunks of the iceberg fell on the port side deck. It was obvious to everyone watching the terrifying scene that Beast of the Seas had struck the iceberg. Now, Captain Courageous needed to know how badly she was damaged. He sent the 1st Officer below decks; below the waterline; to discreetly check on the damage, telling him not to alarm the passengers.
1st Officer Harvey Seconds worked his way down into the bowels of the ship. Along the way he met reveling passengers, who all wanted to know what the shuddering they’d felt was. Nothing they needed to concern themselves with, he assured them. At last, he arrived at the door to the forward cargo hold. He opened it and a geyser of seawater erupted from the open door. 1st Officer Seconds let out a scream and scrambled back up to the bridge, moving as quickly as he could past the same passengers he had just told there was nothing to be alarmed about. They saw the worried look on his face and ran to pack their things before they were told to report to their assigned lifeboats.
1st Officer Seconds burst onto the bridge and breathlessly broke the news to Captain Courageous that there was already seawater up to Cargo Hold One.
“Cargo Hold One? That iceberg must have opened us up like a tin can. It’s bad, gentleman!” he told the assembled crew. “We’re going down, and we only have about 5 minutes.”
“5 minutes? Damn!” exclaimed 2nd Officer Lightower.
“Now, everybody listen up,” yelled Captain Courageous. “I want every crewman to their lifeguard station. I’m going to get on the P.A, and give instruction to the passengers. They will probably be panicky, so we must stay calm. Is that clear?”
Everyone nodded yes and quickly departed for their assigned lifeboats.
The Captain picked up the microphone of the P.A. and said, as calmly as he could, “Attention, all passengers report to their assigned lifeboats. This is only a drill. I repeat, this is only a drill.”
Immediately, the corridors were clogged by screaming, panicked passengers. An older woman was pushed aside by a horde of rushing teenagers intent on making it to their lifeboat. A wheelchair-bound man was wheeled out of the way by some others.
Suddenly, the ship gave a sickening lurch, and settled lower in the water. Captain Courageous knew they didn’t have much longer. “Hurry along, people!” he shouted.
One passenger replied, “Only a drill, huh?”
Courageous answered, “Okay, so it’s not a drill. We’ve struck an iceberg and are sinking.”
Another passenger asked “An iceberg? Here?”
“Yes, here. I don’t understand how it could possibly be, but there you are.”
Then, over the P.A. he said, “This is your captain speaking. This is not a drill. We’ve struck an iceberg and are sinking. I’d just like to remind all passengers to be sure to apply lots of sunscreen before boarding your assigned lifeboats, as we can’t be sure how long it’ll be before we’re rescued.”
Somehow, all passengers and crew were safely aboard the lifeboats. They had been launched and everyone stared back at the stricken ship. She was now almost perpendicular, her bow underneath the water, and her stern high above the waves.
“There she goes!” someone yelled, and they watched as the stern slowly slid under the becalmed seas.
The Captain had watched not only his ship go under, but his career sink as well. He gloomily stared at a woman passenger sitting across from him. The more he stared, the more he didn’t ever remember seeing such an unattractive lady. Wait a minute! Her hair was crooked. Then he noticed a pair of pant legs protruding beneath her dress’s hem line. He looked accusingly at her and said,
“There’s something wrong with you!”
The voice that responded sounded deep, like a man’s. “What, is it my face? Do I have something on it?”
“No ma’am, well, except for the stubble, and your hair’s crooked!” responded the Captain.
Slowly, the woman reached up and pulled off a wig, saying, “Okay, there’s no sense in continuing this charade. I’m really a man! I thought you would order women and children into the lifeboats first and I wanted to make sure I got a seat.”
Captain Courageous gave the guy a, ‘you sure are a coward!’ look and replied, “You’ve seen too many old movies. Now days, ships carry enough lifeboats for everyone.” Unbelievable!
Captain Courageous stood on the bridge of the charter boat he had just purchased. He had bought the Fish Factory, intending to make a decent living as a charter boat captain, but he had forgotten one small fact: he would need a master’s license, and his had been suspended. He still wondered how it was that an iceberg had been floating in the ship’s path when it was 85 degrees out; an iceberg for crap’s sake! He wasn’t looking for it, because it was totally impossible for an iceberg to be that far south. And why hadn’t the damn thing appeared on his radar screen until it was too late? Anyway, now he’d lost his captain’s license and couldn’t now legally helm a commercial ship, or any type of ship. And so, after purchasing this charter boat he’d decided the hell with the master’s license. He’d sail without one.
Captain Paul Courageous sailed the Fish Factory out into a calm ocean under clear, bright blue skies. He was so glad to be out on the ocean again; glad to smell once again the salty sea air and glad to be a sea captain again. He was taking out a couple of wealthy-looking businessmen; taking them out to where the big fish hung out. He had told his clients he knew a secret place where they’d reel in a monster. Actually, he had absolutely no idea where to go but as long as it was far away from the damn Coast Guard patrol boats, it would do.
He was traveling along; enjoying his freedom, when out of nowhere, a sailing ship sailed into his view. What the hell? Someone was signaling, frantically waving a white towel. It seemed they needed his assistance. He looked longingly at the ocean that spread out before his bow. For just a second he toyed with the idea of pretending he hadn’t seen their frantic appeal for help, but his duty was clear: he would have to help. He steered the boat towards the vessel in distress, upon which his two clients, who’d each had too many beers, looked annoyed, and one of them asked,
“Where the hell are you going?”
Captain Courageous replied, “Why, the boat in front of us had some type of emergency.”
To which the other client turned beet-red and went ballistic. “What? The hell with him! We paid you to take us out to a good spot, and we demand to get what we paid for.”
Courageous responded, “What if that was us who needed their help?”
“Then we’d be up Human Waste Creek, without a paddle. I would never expect somebody to just drop what they’re doing and come to my rescue,” the inebriated client replied.
Courageous gave the guy a sour, disgusted look, and said, “Well, looks like you two are overruled! It’s my boat, and I’ve decided to stop and help him.”
And so, the Fish Factory kept sailing right for the in-distress ship. They then pulled along side and the Captain shouted over,
“What’s the nature of your emergency?”
At the rail of the other ship, a man appeared, looking like a dude dressed in 1700’s style. “Aye, we’re boarding your boat and taking anything of value!”
Captain Courageous replied, “So, there was never an emergency?”
“Aye, you’re a smart one, aren’t you!” responded the freaky-looking dude.
“Let’s get out of here!” the Captain yelled as he cranked the wheel and turned the Fish Factory sharply away and gunned the engine. Without a motor, the strange ship could not follow. When Captain Courageous looked back, he saw the strange dude pointing at them. Courageous then noticed a cannon had been uncovered and was pointing at them. “Damn!” exclaimed Courageous, as immediately the sound of a booming shot reached them from across the water, followed almost at the same moment by a tremendous crashing noise and geyser of exploding boat parts, which rained down on them. The strange ship had fired on them! Courageous couldn’t believe it, as the engine immediately stopped. He desperately tried to get it restarted, but to no avail. The engine just made a pathetic grinding sound and stayed silent. They were dead in the water. The strange vessel slowly sailed towards them, pushed by the wind, which was blowing in their direction. As the wacked-out ship came alongside them, they heard,
“I now claim this as my prize and order you and your crew into this lifeboat,” from strange dude.
Damn; there was absolutely no way he was giving up his boat. “Not a chance Captain. I refuse!” answered Captain Courageous.
Immediately, a swarm of men leaped aboard and physically grabbed the Captain and his clients and tossed them overboard. Courageous sputtered seawater as he struggled to stay afloat. Then he heard,
“A very poor choice, Captain, we’ll leave you the lifeboat, if you can climb aboard her. Good luck, and goodbye!”
Captain Courageous couldn’t believe his bad luck. First, the Beast of the Seas, now this. What next? he wondered, as he watched his stolen boat disappear over the horizon. Almost at the same moment a Coast Guard cutter appeared. Pulling along side them, there was a hail from the cutter.
“Ahoy, lifeboat. Did your boat sink?”
Courageous replied, “No sir, it was stolen.”
The Coast Guard then asked, “Stolen, stolen by whom?”
Courageous answered, “Well you’re not going to believe this; by what looked to be a pirate ship!”
The Coast Guard guy stared, then said, “I don’t think I heard you correctly. Did you say a pirate ship?”
“You heard correctly, a pirate ship, and he sailed that way at about 6 or 7 knots, I’m guessing, and not more than 5 minutes ago.”
“You say a pirate ship stole your boat and left you with this lifeboat?” the Coast Guard guy asked.
Courageous said, “Yeah, that’s correct.”
The guy then said, “Well, our radar does show a ship out that way, so we’ll check it out and I’ll need to see your master’s license when we return.”, and the Coast Guard cutter plowed away through ocean water, in the direction of the blip on their radar screen.
With the cutter’s speed Courageous figured they’d overtake the pirate ship in a few minutes, but they didn’t return for over an hour. They again pulled up beside the Fish Factory, and once again hailed her, using their P.A. system.
“Ahoy, Fish Factory, the strangest thing happened. We were closing on it and the thing just disappeared. One second it was there, and the next it wasn’t! So we’re coming back to tow you back in. Here, catch this tow line and please have your master’s license out and ready to be checked over.”
Captain Courageous thought to himself, as he caught the tow line, damn!