Here is a short excerpt from the latest book I am writing. It is called “The Red Jewel.”
“We dropped anchor in the spot that Mac identified. Sails were lowered and secured. The engine cut. The anchorage was well protected by the high lush green hills of the coastal Tell. A few houses could be seen ashore just inland from a broad, dark sandy beach. Local fishermen could also be seen tending to their boats and nets. Seas were calm, crystal clear with a muddy pale blue of colour. There was little activity as we were well east of the port and industrial area of Bejaia. It seemed to me from afar to be a vibrant and beautiful Algerian city.
From our sailing directions I learned that Bejaia had the standard historical script for the area. The area was first thought to have been inhabited by the Andalusians. It then became part of Carthage and ultimately Rome – an important port of the Roman empire that supported and facilitated trade between the Mediterranean countries and the Sahara caravans. Over the years it became Byzantine, Muslim, Christian, Spanish, Ottoman and French. It was even the site of a major battle during the African campaign during World War Two. Today the port of Bejaia is the principal port of the western Mediterranean for oil exports although the area is also active with the export of iron, phosphates, wines, dried figs, and plums. An interesting place and one that I will never be able to explore.
The sun set and dusk fell rapidly. Tonight there was no moon. It was as black as Satan’s erse as Mac would say.
“Nigel, go below and stay up in the forward berth. Get some sleep. I’ll keep watch. Don’t come up unless I ask you to”
I did as he said but was confused and a tad frightened. What is going on? I thought.
I fell asleep, restless as I was.
I was awoken sometime early morning. A thud against the hull about mid-ships on Orion’s Belt startled me and caused me to sit up. Adjusting my eyes to the darkness and rubbing the sleep from my being I listened to a thud, thud thumping sound of what must have been a small punt banging against the hull by the motion of the sea and the up and down movement of Orion’s Belt on her anchor chain. I could also hear the muffled sounds of human conversation but it was so low and baffled by the hull that I couldn’t make out what was being said. Just then the familiar Scottish brogue from Mac came into audio range, but in a language I did not understand. It was all so low and muffled. I slowly and quietly got out of my bunk and peered out one of the small ports. All I could make out were the legs of about three men who were standing on the port side of Orion. I could not make out their faces due to the lower aspect of the small port. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness outside I could see that these men were all carrying weapons…shotguns: the weapon of choice in a confined area such as the topsides or the lower and restricted confines of a sailboat’s interior.
“Aye, aye, aye. Yes…oui, oui.” It was Mac speaking French to these interlopers. But why?
“Dites a Momawd…that I will do as he says but there will be an additional cost. Aye, an additional cost. Comprendre?”
Silence, then “Oui Monsieur” one of the strangers said, and then to his comrades…”Allez, allez…la”…and with that they disembarked into the punt and were off. I went back to my berth and pretended to be asleep. After a few minutes Mac came below and aroused my out of my slumber.
Nigel…Nigel…up lad. We have to go…now.” he shook me and repeated himself. Up and at em laddy. Let’s go…NOW.”
I got out of my bunk. I was still in my day clothes. I stretched and yawned and called out to Mac who was heading aft toward the engine compartment. Get the anchor Nigel. I will flash up. We’ll leave the sails secure until daylight. I came up, topsides. It was still as black as Satan’s arse outside: warm and still and very humid. I could see the odd light ashore. Not a sound could be heard. I wondered where our company was at the moment but I could not discern anyone in a small vessel. It was too dark and there was no sound of voices.
The stillness and the blackness of the night made me shiver with anxiety, especially at what had just occurred. Mac was not forthcoming as to what was going on. It took me some time to get my night vision. In doing so I made my way forward to the anchor rode. I began the hand over hand motion to raise the anchor and get it out of the water and secured into the anchor locker. The muffled sound of our reciprocating engine came about and morphed into a smooth idle. In a few seconds Mac had the engine into gear and Orion’s Belt began her forward movement from our anchorage. With our sails down and secured we motored out and into the broad expanse of the Med. We continued in a northerly direction until sunrise. We both sat there in silence. I did not dare to raise the subject of what had just occurred as I was thought to be asleep. Mac was not open to me about his strange rendezvous. Who were these people? I thought to myself. And what do they want with Mac?”