Float My Boat

A ‘ghost ship’ was this week washed up onto the shores of County Cork, brought in by the bad weather that lashed Europe in Storm Dennis….

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Their first inkling was, fittingly, a bump in the night.

“Land at last, lads!” shouted the Captain.

The ghost crew of the pirate ship Santa Sharlana leapt from their beds and scrambled up on deck, then looked around in astonishment.

“I knew we’d died,” muttered the First Mate, “but I didn’t realise we’d gone to Hell.”

The sky was black and cloud-filled. The wind would have whipped their breath away, if they’d had any. The rain somehow managed to sting their spectral faces. Occasional flashes of lightning revealed that they were rocking on rocks off a coastline of grim, grey starkness.

The spirits of the spirits sank. This was a final straw in their boater of humiliation.

Their voyage had been cursed from the start. Their rum was not the customary black Jamaican type, but some clear liquid called “Bacardee” that tasted like rust-filled bilge-water. Their wheel was jammed and would turn only to starboard. Their map collection turned out to be street maps of towns in North Wales.

Their binnacle was broken, though that was ok since none of them knew what it did.

Nonetheless they had set out, planning to get rich by plundering the trade ships of the colonies. It was a plan, like so many, that had lasted just until first contact with the enemy.

On June 14th 1717 they had encountered the galleon Susanna Mae two hundred miles east of Bermuda. After a long circular approach (the ship had unfortunately been to their left) they had hoisted their Jolly Roger (printed sideways, they discovered), armed their cannon, and lit the fuse.

As they did so the cannon had rolled forward, its mouth catching the rail of the deck. This had pushed it upwards, and the crew had watched expressionlessly, Wile E Coyote-like, as the cannonball shot directly into the air and then down through their own ship.

So a life on the ocean wave became an after-life below it. And, as people do, they adapted. They studied the fish that teemed around them. They made musical instruments with holes for the tides to flow through, so that the sea played music to them. In later years they amused themselves by doing knick-knocks on the sides of passing submarines.

But all the time they’d been drifting, scraping slowly along the ocean floor, and all the time they dreamt that one day they would wash ashore. The problem was that this dream, seemingly etched into all our psyches, involved a desert island with just one palm-tree and yet an endless supply of coconuts.

This was not where they now found themselves.

“What is this ghastly place?” gasped the Bosun.

“It’s -” the Captain looked up, confident that he could read the stars. There weren’t any. “-er, um…”

“It’s Ireland,” said the ship’s Doctor, beaming like a man who hadn’t got to give an opinion in a very long time.

“How can you tell?” asked the First Mate.

“The rocks are littered with Guinness casks,” said the Doctor.

There was a short, sad silence.

“No palm trees then?” said the Second Mate eventually.

“No coconuts?” said the Bosun.

“Afraid not,” said the Doctor.

The crew looked at each other. They sighed, then shrugged.

“Top of the mornin’ to ye,” said the First Mate.

The Santa Sharlana

 

 

 

 

 

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