A merchant ship on the approaches a mystery vessel, in the latest from Through the K Hole
He stood at the helm, salt spray and soft sea-swell. Un-looping the brass cap from the end of the barrel he held up the mahogany eye-piece and scanned the horizon.
In the distance he could make out the stout central mast and taut rigging of a merchant ship. Up to that point they had been making headway along the disputed trade route and as they rounded the coastline they’d been sailing at around twenty knots. They then fell into the breathless contortion of the doldrums. And now, adding to their growing difficulties was a rogue vessel they would have to confront with ballast and bronze cannon.
They turned the rudder and steered a slow but bold course directly to the enemy craft; as they approached they could see wreathes of mist snaking around the mizzenmast. There was noone on deck, and the sails had slackened in the hush. They fired a warning shot over the bow but there was no response and as the broadsides touched they saw that the wooden eye of the ship’s wheel had been lashed into position with rope.
His men found plenty of food and water on board but no crew. There were medical provisions below deck and it was clear that the ship had been used as a hospital to ferry supplies to the flotilla in the north and take the wounded back to dry land.
In the officers quarters they found a note which had been hurriedly signed by the ship’s surgeon:
‘Because of the sustained abusive treatment from Parliament and loss of popular support we have abandoned ship’.
The vessel was a deserted cradle, slowly rocking on the endless lullaby of the sea.
Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen
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