When Basky lost his way.

Discussion in 'Member Writing Forum' started by badger, Apr 19, 2022.

  1. badger

    badger Well-Known Member

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    Basky was a proud man! It had taken 'Bas' most of his life to work his way up through the never ending ranks to become a skipper, and as he stood at the helm of the old Gamecock for the first time he knew he was almost bursting with pride about the haughty position in creek-side society in which he had now established himself.

    To command a crew! At last! Bas decided to give an order for something to be done, but since the old barge dog Smu was barking 'loud and regular' in to the thick dirt filled fog that hung across the great estuary there wasn't much more to order the old hound to do, and Sid the barge hand was already stirring up the grounds in the barge's kettle, and Bas didn't want to slow down the arrival of a nice hot mug of tea.... so nobody to order around just then.

    The Gamecock was on route from Brightlingsea to Barkingside with a Haystack for the horses of London, and to fill mattresses in the poor houses of Cheapside, and although she could only show her topsail above the huge stack she was being drawn along by the incoming tide, she was in the centre of the channel, and all was well.

    Anyway, that's what Basky's dead-reckoning had decided........ until through the thick fog ahead, right ahead, and very very close, a cow let out a long drawn out 'Mooooo..!'

    The shock and the horror of that sound, a cow calling, and dead ahead! What had gone wrong? Bas had learned how to dead-reckon his way around the vastness of the great estuary from barge-master after master... he knew about the movement of tidal waters over the ground, of leeway angles, of distances run, timing, depth of water, tidal heights and speeds of ebb and flow. He didn't make mistakes!

    But a then again, dead ahead, another cow called a long drawn out moo, and then another, and then a whole heard of them began their excited 'feed time' racket of sound.

    The old Gamecock....... about to hit the Foulness? Or the Shoebury Peninsular? Those grounds were like concrete and could break a laden barge's back if she struck a hump and Bas had seen cattle roaming out upon those marshes before...... and he had been a young deckie on the barge Molliet when Master Stocker had 'put her on' and lost her, together with his reputation and livelihood, so he knew what happened to masters who lost their vessels.

    Let down by old Smu? Had he lost his first command, first trip?

    Basky rushed to let go the topsails' sheets, and rang the bell!

    More....anon..... :)
     
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  2. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    I want to know what happens next :)
     
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  3. badger

    badger Well-Known Member

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    When coming alongside the quay, any quay, a barge skipper and mate should be so perfectly in control as to be able to move as if in slow motion. Everybody would be watching, and the slightest over-exertion would show the discriminating eye that the skipper was 'excitable' and not as able as could be. A skipper could lose 'water-points' if he showed any lack of nerve at all. And so when operating within view of anyone, anywhere the rule is...... Cool Captain 'n Crew!'.

    The Lord of the waters can be cruel, but that morning somewhere in the great Estuary He was kind, and the fog was so thick that nobody could have seen ten feet, or Bas and Sid in total and literal blind panic. Only old Smu was enjoying anything about the whole business and so she barked away in to the blind and spun in joy at the thought of a herd of cattle to annoy.

    Bas and Sid had both rushed up on the great stack of hay, thirty feet up above the Gamecock's deck, but the fog was as think up there as at sea level, and they peered in to the nothingness as the mooing continued on, and right ahead.

    'They could be sea cows', offered Sid. 'My uncle was a tops-hand in the Bellerophon and come home with tales of sea-cows 'n' mermaids 'n' stuff'.

    'Meh!' was all that Bas could offer to the conversation.

    That's when Sid put out a shaking hand to touch his skipper's shoulder...

    'Skip..... they's up in the air!'

    Indeed, the now frantic mooing seemed to be coming from far above the two men, themselves perched on the haystack some thirty feet above the sea.

    'Oh dear!' cried Bas, 'I knows I've bin bad in me time.... that Sally Wenlock at the Kings Arms, she did turn my head, lured me in to wrongdoing! I know why this has happened. The Lord knows my sins and I'm going to be punished for it all now, just at the time of my making skipper as well.'

    'And me', muttered Sid, 'The parson always said I'd be sorry for my ways, and I've had a few.'

    And now the calling of the cows was high up in the sky and coming ever closer, the Gamecock was surely lost, and all aboard her. But old Smu was delighting in the whole business, barking her joy across the waters.
     
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  4. badger

    badger Well-Known Member

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    And as that dreadful sound of mooing drew closer to the Gamecock from on high, Bas and Sid stood in horror on the haystack and stared skywards through the impenetrable fog, waiting for what would certainly be their end. There was no high ground anywhere in the 700 square miles of the great estuary, only ditches, creeks, channels and shallows, and all the surrounding land was salt marsh and wetland, flat as the Dutch coast.

    There was no reason for this extraordinary situation to exist, and the two most notable characteristics about barge men being their inability to swim and their extreme superstitions, Sid fell down upon the stack in a full swoon, leaving only Basky to face their end.

    And old Smu, completely hidden in the fog and way down below on the foredeck, continued to bark out her warnings to any who might dare to approach her charge.

    And then the whole view ahead became darkened as Bas shivered in horror and looked on... the very fog ahead, to either side and high up in the air took on a darkness, and Basky took up enough courage to face his maker, confess his encyclopaedia of sinful deeds and thoughts, and take his punishment whether in purgatory or hellfire.

    Moo! Mooo!..... and the darkness closed upon the Gamecock, until she thumped up against it fairly stoutly and began to turn side on to it.

    And Smu rejoiced at the sounds and aromas of cow...... wafting strongly over the whole barge at that time.

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    Captain Giddings felt nothing when the Gamecock bumped the side of his gigantic vessel. He had heard a dog continuously barking for several minutes, far down below and approaching slowly on the starboard side. The Steam Ship Elizabeth Broker, ten thousand tons and laden with cattle for the butchers of the great city lay anchored in the Swin channel and unable to move one yard closer towards the London river, because she still hadn't collected her river pilot for that dangerous passage and her estuary pilot could not leave.

    And it was past feeding time for her passengers......

    Old Smu had a most wonderful experience.
    Sid vowed to attend church more regularly after that incident.

    But Basky recovered very quickly because he was layed up alongside an enormous cattle ship which was unable to proceed towards the great city until the dreadful smog which could take days to clear in that calm had gone, and filled with hungry cattle.... and he the skipper of a barge which was carrying a giant haystack.

    And so the owners of both vessels, both skippers, all the passengers and the old dog Smu, all were most pleased with the whole event.

    And Sid renewed his vows.

    :)
     
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  5. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Ha ha. Great
    Waiting for the next story :)
     

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