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Date Posted: 16:50:37 11/04/02 Mon
Nearly a month ago, the Navigator and her crew had left the port of New York City for Africa and India. Captain McGreggor was taking a small group of trappers across the Atlantic and around Africa into the Indian Ocean to collect animals for the New York City Zoo.
It had been a rough trip around Cape Horn, but the Navigator had carried her crew to safety, and to port, for re-supplying, with admirable strength.
Some eight days out of port and well into the Indian Ocean, Rico and Lt. Tates put their latest prank into action.
“Seńor Pradelli!” Rico shouted as he ran from the cargo hold to the deck. “Seńor Pradelli! We left the trapping equipment back at port!”
Lucas Pradelli, head of the trapping expedition, looked skeptically at the young Mexican. “Is this another of your jokes? I personally supervised the loading of all our gear back in New York and none of it left when we docked in Africa.”
“I’m sorry, seńor, but you are no right. I was just down there looking for an extra blanket and it’s all missing! Come, I show you.”
Lucas sighed, but followed the energetic youth to the hold. On his way bellow deck they passed by the sleeping mound of orange and gold that was Namir, his faithful Siberian tiger. Most of the crew feared him so most of the caretaking responsibilities fell upon himself, not that he minded at all. Bringing the tiger had been a requirement for his participation on this trip. Actually, he enjoyed watching everyone run around like madmen when ever the big kitty cat felt in a playful, pouncing mood.
They passed the sleeping giant and descended the stairs to the hold. There, he was surprised to find Rico had spoken the truth. Not one bit of the equipment they would need to trap the great elephants, tigers, lions, or monkeys was to be found. Even the collapsible cages were gone!
Lt. Petar Tates was going through one of the trunks, searching for something.
Trying his best to sound authoritative, Lucas boomed, “Lieutenant! What is the meaning of this?”
The muscular navel officer immediately straightened and saluted. “Sir! I was just looking for an additional blanket for Rico, Sir!” Even though he had retired after the American Civil War, he still acted military. However, his playful nature had not been dimmed by the strict navy training.
“Oh, you’re not in the Navy any more; stop saluting,” Lucas laughed as he walked around, searching for their gear.
Rico saluted and began marching around the hold, looking for the missing goods.
“Rico? What are you doing?” Lucas asked, getting exasperated by the youths antics. Maybe he hadn’t made the best decision in taking the 18 year old on their hunt…
“Looking for the traps Seńor,” Rico replied as he kept marching around.
“Aren’t you the one that told me they’re all missing?”
“Then why are you…. Ah, I’m going to speak to Captain McGreggor about this.” As he left, Lucas could have sworn he heard Lt. Tates and Rico laughing.
Captain Mark McGreggor stood at the ships port side with Jebar Sorla, the ships cook and cabin boy, though he was well into his thirties. The broad shouldered Irishman watched the oceans waters with a well practiced eye. Dolphins, a seaman’s omen of good luck, played in the waters surrounding the Navigator. Still, goosebumps appeared on his arms and his stomach tied itself into knots. From all outward appearances, he was calmer than the sea itself.
“Bad storms coming,” the captain calmly said.
“Aye, I feel it too,” Jebar replied. “I’ll tell the passengers to get below decks.”
“Thank you.” Captain McGreggor continued to scrutinize the clear blue skies for any sign of when the storm would break.
Late that night, the first raindrops started. Within moments, a few light raindrops grew into a full scale tropical storm.
The shrieking wind tore at the sails while the angry waves alternately shoved and pulled the Navigator.
Shipmen ran back and forth, tying down barrels that had broken loose and the helmsman had tied himself to the wheel to keep the massive waves that washed the deck from sweeping him away.
Through the blackness, Captain McGreggor could see the white waves breaking over a reefs deadly teeth, and his ship was being driven towards it…
“Reef!” he shouted and ran to the steering wheel, desperately trying to help Dekko steer away from the fatal rocks. Despite the combined efforts of both men, the ship was driven into the stony jaws with a sickening splintering of wood that drowned out even the winds howl.
Every man on board rushed to the lifeboats. The trappers fled to the deck as the lower levels quickly began filling with the seas fury.
Shipmen pulled back the tarps covering the lifeboats and found two of them loaded with trapping gear, but balanced with enough space for five men each. The other lifeboat was empty.
Lucas scowled at Rico, “In the boat!” he ordered.
“No me boy a mantor en ese bote!”
Lucas pushed Rico into the boat and climbed in after. The boats were soon in the oceans savage swell. Amazingly, the two boats with trapping gear balanced the best; the extra weight acted as ballast.
“Namir!” Lucas called his tiger. The great cat came bounding over the ships side to land in the boat. Namir curled up miserably in the middle of the already full boat and tried his best to stay near Lucas.
“Pull, men!” Captain McGreggor directed his boat. Everyone manned an oar, desperately trying to avoid the sharp sea stones.
Suddenly, the boat Rico, Lucas, Lt. Tates, and two other shipmen were in was pushed heavily to one side. Again and again, something rammed the small boat, guiding it around the reef.
Rico caught a glimpse of a dolphin just as the boat was rammed again. “Los delfines! They’re helping us!”
“Then follow them and pray the others do the same!” Lt. Tates shouted.
Hours of the tortuous battle for life passed as the crew followed their dolphin guides.
Eventually, the sea claimed a boat, the one unweighted by the trappers gear. A single dolphin lifted one man back to the surface and sped ahead of its companions. Soon, the porpoise and human were lost to sight.
Minutes, hours, days later, who could tell, Namir lifted his striped head from the boats bottom. The great tiger looked around in the darkness, sniffing. Suddenly, he leapt out of the boat and started swimming away.
“Namir!” Lucas cried out. Then, he saw what Namir had smelled, land. “Land! There’s land!”
The exhausted men pulled with renewed vigor and soon felt sand scraping the bottom of their boats. Leaping out, they pulled their water soaked craft above the tide line and hunkered down under some palm groves to wait out the storm.
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