Argentina had long been in view, they now found the inlet, entered and raised some curious courtesy flags. Jenny had been advised by her friend Greta that if she ever visited by sea, to bring certain light, small courtesy flags and insist they be run up the mast, not the usual -only once they were inside the inlet of course.
It took a couple of hours at reduced speed but eventually they found the tributary they needed to be on, just as well the boat, which they’d still not named, was shallow, plus they were in a place where registered names and numbers were probably not an advantage. Unbeknowns, they’d been tracked the whole way across the inlet and those flags had helped. Greta had been over the moon because she knew what one meant.
They dropped anchor and waited.
Twenty minutes only it took for a motor dinghy to leave the wharf and make for their boat. Livvi and Jodi stayed in their akas for now, dead quiet.
And so Jenny and Greta were all over each other, non stop conversation, they eventually came up for air.
‘It’s better you do not come ashore,’ beamed Greta Seidel in their wheelhouse, ‘maybe at night to stretch the legs, walk up and down, then back here. I won’t go into all our ventures, Pete’s and mine, nothing in the human crimes way you understand, just commerce, he won’t visit either, the pennants will keep you safe, it’s a respected name. Glad you remembered them, Jenny.’
‘There are four others,’ Jenny smiled back. ‘I’ve always kept them with me, just in case.’
‘It eased your way through these waters, like a beacon, you’d not have made it otherwise. The courtesy flag alone would not have done it. I’m going to suggest some other pennants as well, can you put up three more short staffs from, say, the back of this wheelhouse, with lines? I’ll bring them, they’re local code of course, I guarantee you’ll be left alone with those up, no one would dare.
My runabout will be the only one to come to you, you’ll have a concealed MG for any other ‘visitors’, no one will ever ask, I’ll bring a mobile phone too, one of Pete’s. Also, it would help local relations if you’d agree to entertain four key figures in the town, one by one, over the week, I’ll bring them. If Jenny cooks, I can also bring dishes. What wine do you have?’
He went over and took one out of the carton, brought it to her.
‘You have this on board?’ she grinned. ‘Eroica Riesling, Chateau Ste Michelle? Late picked. And the dish you plan?’
‘I’m going to eat here myself. Miles, how is your German language?’
‘Ich habe vergessen mein Deutsch.’
‘Very good, far better you know not so much, schoolboy German, safer for you both. Do not be curious in this town. We will get all you need, near cost price, work will come your way, ferrying mainly, this boat’s built for it, looks like something Pete would have ordered. As you start to make some money, so you will pay more retail prices. Acceptable so far? Good. I may tell them about the Patron? They already know anyway. Accept none of that sort of work just yet, just stick to the ferrying, all right? I have to go, I’ll be back in the evening. So wonderful, both of you, so glad.’
She did the mwah mwah huggy thing with both and was gone.
‘Well well, Jenny Wren, what do you make of that?’
‘Looking good so far. I think maybe it is. I think Greta’s on the level. We do need that MG she promised and we need more if we’re to sink … a ship.’ She gulped and went quiet. ‘I hope it doesn’t come to it.’ She thought some more. ‘I sort of hope. If it does … well …’
‘I was looking at the weather pattern here, we’re in a shallow, open area, it’s quite vulnerable to short chop – waves I mean. We do have the boat for it but we couldn’t stay here permanently, we need two or three other havens. No hurry. If they want us to ferry people or letters, mail, then I see no issue but arms and narcotics – we need to decide now.’
‘No way will we do that, I’ll tell Greta, first thing. That’s run from the north and we want no part of that. Wind’s not too bad just now, Miles, flat water, can we all maybe relax for awhile? You know, do those charades we never got around to?’
‘Your word is my command, m’lady. When will we show her the two girls?’
‘Next visit of course, she’ll understand. I hope.’
Greta understood all right, in fact she was terrified … for Jodi in particular.
In broken English, she explained why, Jenny assisting with the translator where necessary. A sad commentary on the times when someone like Jodi was seen by the world rulers and criminals as fodder, as meat for the market. Jenny explained to Greta that Jodi had, in fact, almost become fodder, how she’d been ‘rescued’ from under the noses of the miscreants in Brno … and all the rest of it.
‘Is she your captive now?’ asked Greta, quite innocently, as if Jodi might be the pleasure slave of the three of them.
‘In one sense she is, if you mean she sees the alternatives and decides – but that’s us too. Best Jodi says what she wishes here now, glad she has her translator with her. Jodi.’
She went red again. ‘I didn’t know there was all this going on. I just grew up what I thought normal, friends, did things normal. Well, not much to say. I was rescued, offered a job more like and it was a real job with these people, I’ve been happy with this but lately we have been discussing my future and what I need and want. I love these people on this boat. My mother and brother are safe in another place with … other people we worked for.’
‘Then you are a lucky one, Jodi, to a point. This is a refuge for German people the liberal west does not like, people fled here after the war, near the end of it. The trouble is, the people protecting you just now are global, they are part of it, bemused that you sailed in here. Your connections will soon be known.
But there are two boats also sailing this way, they have people on board which those onshore here would like to send to Germany for big money, this settlement needs that money to live.
We must stop those boats getting here, we must meet them and I myself am going on one of them. I said two boats but you’ll meet only one. The other I myself must escape on, which means I am begging you to take me now as far as a place I’ll tell you on the way out.’ They nodded.
‘I know your Patron, he’s on one boat, you will not meet him because he will meet the smaller boat first, a catamaran, and people will step across to the cat, people you will know, some will surprise you. That’s later. I’d appreciate if you would drop me onto a small boat which comes up to us near the end of this inlet and he will take me to the Patron.
You will not get out of this inlet without the right pennants up. You must wear the small pennant saying you are running an errand, I have this here. She took out a gold and burgundy swallowtail and handed it to Miles. I shall tell you when to hoist. Shall we go? The runabout can just drift.’
Miles was at the helm, they’d dropped Greta off and recognised one of the patroni.
They’d now been searching for an hour and a half, Jodi found the catamaran, Miles slowed behind her, both were now heading south … they took the pennants down.
About forty feet she was, the cat, maybe forty-three, older style, wooden, there was someone just outside their salon, in the covered aft area this side of their sliding glass doors and he was gesticulating for them to sail in behind them but not too close – he made the gestures.
He pointed to what looked like an awning above the glass door but it was not, it was white coloured cloth, no matter. He now let one sheet down and tied it down at each lower corner, it was a message, they were too far to read clearly, the spray was covering their window looking for’ard.
‘I need to be on the helm,’ said Miles, ‘we need someone to take this permamarker and this clipboard, put new paper in it, take three sheets, go for’ard and write exactly what is on the sign, I think there may be more than one.’
Jodi swooped, grabbed the things, scurried up the stepladder, clipped herself on one by one and, making it to the bow, wedged herself in and waved. The guy waved back, she could be sure it was Luke.
The message said: ‘Use no radio, no engines, only one from each boat to show ourselves, no visiting yet, we go Magellan Strait to Pacific, dangerous.’
He dropped down the second sheet, tied the corners, and it said:
‘Pilot will come to both boats, costs big, much bigger for you, need to bribe, we meet Punta Arenas, bye for now, Luke.’
Jodi finished writing, waved that it was ok, Luke made gestures that they were to keep within eyesight range, trimaran behind at all times, slow down, she waved again, he waved and went inside.
Back inside, Jodi said, ‘Oh my goodness, did you have messages for them?’
‘No,’ said Miles, ‘not at all, not yet anyway. Livvi, would you take the wheel, I have to look through the data – charts, A4 notes, all that.’
Miles came back to the wheelhouse where they were all huddled … it was nice back there.
‘Ladies, we have a problem. If we go through the Magellan as planned, we’ll be taken. For a start, we’re up for $7,700 just for our boat for a pilot, theirs is lower cost, compulsory, it’s also tidal surge and blowing 65 knots … our way …’
‘You weren’t thinking Punta Arenas were you?’ asked Livvi. ‘I know about it. It was my job to hack in Brno, many things came through, most I never bothered with – things in China, in New Zealand and so on. This was about this port – it’s global council now. We would be taken all right … Miles and I both came to the same conclusion. I did not know you were planning for that port exactly, I was thinking of the strait further down or else go east. I was going to ask once we’d met the others.
‘Yes,’ said Miles, ‘I’d been thinking east as well but there was you, Livvi, and hubby to think of.’
‘That’s why we meet these people or at least know who they are … then decide. For now, let’s do as we’re doing. Talk about your idea for the east.’
It would cost $7,700 for us anyway to go through the channel, less for them, monitored all the way. Falklands is out, any British port is out, there is a point we can stop behind this little island near the Sandwich Islands for a short time, inhospitable, nothing there but rock and wildlife, can’t see the point, South Africa is a land mass we can’t go to, it’s in enemy hands – all major ports are, including Fremantle in Western Australia. We can’t go north up the east coast of Africa because of pirates and the religious thing. Nor India, none of those, certainly not south-east asia or islands.
My suggestion for our port is the beach on the left just inside Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania, near a place called Strahan, pronounced Strawn, we’ll need supplies.’ Jenny was furiously writing all this.
‘Ask what his boat draft is, minus centreboards. Ours has half length skegs each hull, so shallow water is near irrelevant for us, we’ll be perched above it anyway. The journey, slowed down, might be 40 days, maybe less. One issue is money for supplies – they might have changed the world currency, ideally we pull in there, it’s the time of year for holidays, ask who’ll spare food and water, we pay well over the odds, we’ll need a lucky break or two, those who pray, do pray for that. Best is a kiosk which serves a nearby campsite. It’s the nearest safe place.
We need to know how many need feeding and watering on this journey, are they big consumers, ours are like sparrows, we ration everything, which is ok because it’s all downwind, minimal physical work. The age old conundrum, the dilemma – the further south the latitudes, the more insane the wind and heaped up seas, sometimes 25 metres, 80 feet, long fetch, meaning slow rise but they can break and that’s not good, it’s like surfing, this drogue we deploy behind us, by the way, is to slow us to wave speed and just go with each wave slowly, needs someone on watch the whole time, so watches come back into it.’
‘All done,’ said Jenny.
‘Here’s a tub,’ said Jodi.
Livvi came back down from the deck and took the wheel, Jodi then collected Jenny and they went up top to tend to their things.
Livvi put a hand on his forearm to stay with her … he was going to anyway. He looked at her and said, ‘You are so special to this boat, to each of us, Livvi, plus I know you skippered the winner of your division in the Fastnet.’
Her turn to gasp. Then smile. ‘With my husband, Miles.’
‘I’ve watched you … you’re an actual sailor. In this environment out here, that’s like hen’s teeth, quite apart from what I think of you personally.’
‘Aren’t there enough complications with Jenny and Jodi?’ she smiled. ‘Let it resolve itself with time, Miles. As for me, I don’t allow you to intrigue me but at the same time, I stayed on this boat and there will be a time we have to be under wraps together, so to speak. Clothing defeats the purpose … can you assure me you will not do ‘that’, even if my body wants? I need strength from you, Miles.’
‘It shall be exactly as you wish, Livvi. And I thank you … for everything.’
‘All part of the service, skipper. Besides, it might not arise about you and me … we’re getting to that time we have to head east, we have to know who’ll be on which boat. We have to know who those people over there want.’
The girls came back down below, hung the gear on the wet area pegs, went and dried, dressed warmly and came out. They grabbed eats and a drink each, brought their wooden chairs up near the steps, they awaited instructions or not. They were looking at him quite disconcertingly. ‘You’re frightening me, girls. Someone speak.’
‘I think this is where you tell us to be brave and we’ll get through it all,’ said Jenny.
‘And we’re stronger than we think and not to eat too much,’ said Livvi.
‘What are we going to call the boat? She must have a name,’ said Jodi.
Jenny agreed. How can we embark on this hazardous journey if one of us doesn’t even have a name?’
‘Fine, so let’s get naming – suggestions? Get suggesting, girls.’
Livvi put in: ‘I’m not sure it needs to be a woman’s actual name if we’re a majority female crew. How about a quality in life, or a seabird or something broader, such as where we four met? I wouldn’t call it something dangerous which tempts fate, tempts God. Also, this is Jenny’s boat too, even though I put some money in. And Miles’s design, with Jodi’s help.’
‘By the way,’ asked Miles, ‘while we’re deciding, who’s steering?’
‘You are, we’re eating,’ said Jenny. ‘Who knows when we’ll eat again?’
He heard some good suggestions, such as the first names of the mothers in the cat but as Jodi pointed out – they weren’t exactly involved with the tri. Jenny suggested ‘La Cosa Nostra’ or ‘our thing’. Livvi said she wasn’t a thing.
Miles called out, ‘Southern Belle’? She was born in the south, a Southern belle put the most money into her, her first adventures were all in the south.’
Livvi blushed, Jenny immediately liked it, Jodi went along with Jenny. Miles called out again, ‘I was thinking Rebel Belle but that’s getting a bit too political.’
They liked Southern Belle, the only question now was Jodi’s – could she be the Southern Bell instead and they’d have a brass bell of freedom in the salon or even on deck and everyone would know it was those girls in costumes …
‘Jodi, I was one of those. I actually wore such a dress.’
‘You did?’ She was in awe.
‘Right then,’ said Jenny, ‘so that’s that, all good. NOw we have the really tough bit – who is going to be on which boat. It all depends on who wants who. I’m sorry, but that time is here. It need not be the end of everything, just who’ll sail the boats for four weeks, as we’ll be fighting to survive, let alone swap boats. It’s now, folks. What do we want?’
‘Impossible, said Livvi, without Luke telling us who’s over there and there’s not much time before we have to change direction. Will Jenny write? Miles, please speak.’
We have to send a copy of three diagrams:
… plus the explanation sheet of the pennants and how we need to use them. We need to give a brief explanation of us, Livvi and Jodi that they will accept, including who they might have their eye on if at all.
We need similar from them over there. Also, there needs to be an even distribution of those who are mariners, true sailors, plus able-bodied people who have learnt to sail. There’s the medical side too – we need to have care on both boats. No doubt they’re thinking the same thing over there.
Also the berth layout. At a pinch we can take 8 – three in each outer hull, aka, and two in the centre hull. Anyone anything to add? No? Jenny, also please add that the signal from us will be the flag that we’re passing to port and we’ll lead the first part of the trek west. We’ll not be able to communicate once we’ve entered the roller coaster east, we need to make any personnel changes now, not permanent, just for this journey, there’s a second chance at the other end.’
They got all those together, Jodi took the tubful and out she went. Luke saw her scrambling forward, the transfer was made, Jodi came back down below.
The tub which came back, after a long 20 minutes, was accompanied by a flag up the mast – yes, they had flags over there anyway. It was the Code or answering pennant, Livvi found the notes on it, printed from Google:
“Also known as the Code Flag for the Navy, this flag is hoisted under the Ensign at the Peak. When used as the Answering Pennant it is hoisted at the Foretop, or where best seen. It means “Message is understood.” It is also used as the numeric decimal point.”
Jenny had the general notes, Jodi had gone above though with, you guessed it – the answering pennant. Jenny waited till she came back down.
‘Right,’ said Jenny, ‘good and bad news over there. Good news are our two mothers, Jodi, plus Stas,’ she clenched her fists in joy, ‘and as Livvi already suspects, Hubby is there, says this whole thing is insane but as everything else has been insane till now, why not some more …’
‘That’s ma boy,’ chortled Livvi, beside herself, despite herself.
‘… one very special to us and to Luke … yes, though Romy did die at the whatf, the great escapologist escaped …’
‘Gabby!’ gasped Livvi.
‘Yep, and now the bitterly sad bit for Jodi. I hate this. There are two others … this new Doctor they spirited out, Jodi saw him on the train … Jesse … but before you get any hopes up, Jodi … he’s engaged.’
‘Don’t tell me Julie’s there too?’
Jodi went into the salon and collapsed to her knees. Miles made a move, Jenny put a hand out and went herself. It was risky but Miles put Southern Bell on bungee auto and zipped down to the salon.
What on earth was the point of those two coming then?’ Miles forgot himself, chagrined for Jodi. Livvi had some poignant words for him, for everyone now.