At nearly midday, a big sky, light blue and cloudless, sat above a three metre swell, and the grey ship that sailed upon it. So far from shore now, seabirds had stopped following them. The only winged beasts to be encountered were great swarms of flying fish, skipping and skimming across the surface. A heady scent of salt and iodine filled the air, and an ocean drenched Petty Officer of the Royal Australian Navy cursed the Officer Of the Watch, whose maneuvers had nearly run his RHIB beneath the ship as it came alongside, whilst underway.
Standing amidships in the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat, he watched as harness and line were quickly lowered down to him. Fighting to maintain his footing, the RHIB moved up and down in the water out of sync with the much larger ship, grabbing the harness out of the air, he pulled it down further until he could secure it around the man laying wet and fearful at his feet. Job done, he looked up at the sailors above him, shouted that man was secure, and looked on as he was lifted from the boat.
Having watched the man retrieved above, he quickly scrambled up the rope and board ladder swinging from the side of the ship. Reaching the upper deck, the Executive Officer, number two to the Commanding Officer, approached him. In a quiet voice he said “With me.”
Five minutes later, water dripping onto the deck of the XO’s cabin, the conversation continued.
“Aye Sir, after all intel, and safety reports had been received from the ship, I boarded the vessel.”
“Tell me again what happened once on board.” questioned the X.
“On boarding, I saw no sign of the previous boarding party, nor any evidence that the vessel had in any way been secured. We were fired on once it was established that there were only two of us coming aboard. The Kellick Diver copped a number of rounds to the chest, and fell back over the side. It was then that I was directly fired upon, and threw myself over the side, into the ogen. I lost the Kellick in the water”
“Yes, and then?”
“On surfacing Sir, I encountered further small arms fire, dove back under and swam away from the vessel, hoping I was heading toward the RHIB. However, when I surfaced I was only able to see smoke dissipating where I had last seen it. I now believe that the RHIB had been sunk, although at the time I thought I was just unable to locate it due to the swell.” he said, no hint of emotion was present as he spoke. “The small arms fire continued around me, whilst the vessel changed course, circling around to starboard, and returning in my direction. I returned fire with my side arm, hoping to scare the crew back into the bridge, whilst I attempted swimming back to the RHIB, as they got closer to me.”
“Okay, this I already know P.O., what happened when they pulled you out of the water?”
He stopped for a moment, thinking of how best to answer this. With emotion beginning to creep into his voice, he started, quietly.
“I was dragged over the gunwale by two men, locals to the region by the look of them. Once on the deck, I was lifted to my feet then punched back to the deck. The second time they lifted me, I was able to land a number of blows of my own. Sadly, I was over come when I was struck on the head from behind. It was then that I lost consciousness, and was out for while. I did note, that prior to being knocked out, there were a great number of shell casings on the deck. 7.62mm by the look of them.”
“Hmmmmm…………okay, go on.”
“When I woke, I found that I had been dragged beneath decks, and I had been lashed to a bulkhead. My wrists and ankles had been cable tied. My boots had been removed, as had my side arm, dirk, and watch. My life jacket had been slashed, but I still had it on. The compartment I was in was a cable locker of sorts. Absolutely no light whatsoever. Although I was unable to see, after a search I found no sign that the boarding party had been there.”
“How long were you captive in that space?”
“No more than a half day. I was not checked, nor was I given water at any stage in that time.”
“How did you escape?”
“With difficulty Sir. It took me hours to loosen my bindings enough to allow my to break the cable ties on my wrists, the rest came away fairly easily after that. The space was not large, the watertight hatch had been dogged, and then padlocked from the outside. There were no other egress points within. Scrounging around I found nothing to offer me any use as a tool or a weapon. So I hid beneath a tangle of berthing lines, and waited. Not long after, the hatch was thrown open, a firehose was turned on full, aimed at where I had been secured. When they realised that I was no longer there, they assumed I had escaped, and was elsewhere on vessel, so they left in search of me. The hatch was dogged behind them, but left unlocked. I counted to sixty then followed them out. The padlock to the locker was still there, so I threw it over the side. Gauging the sun was just over the horizon, I could only hear, but not see the crew as they looked for me. Not wanting to chance being found, I re entered the locker, and hid myself once more beneath the lines. Actually Sir, do you mind if I duck below for a snappy tubs, and continue this then. I have been wet for nearly a week, and cold for most of it.”
“Yes, of course. Back here at 1900.”
Click the picture above, the clip is reminiscent of the setting of the yarn above. Well, sort of, ish.
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