The Derelict Vessel Mrs. Pauley

Writing 101 Day 18: Craft a story from the perspective of a twelve-year-old observing it all. For your twist, focus on specific character qualities, drawing from elements we’ve worked on in this course, like voice and dialogue.

Prompt: She had seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley had been grounded there since before anyone can remember. She’d fallen in disrepair and no one knew who her captain was. The Harbour Authority, accompanied by C-Tow, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the coast she’s served on for forty years.


They’d come for her. She’d been called a derelict, an environmental and safety hazard, and she had to go. The grownups were tired of her, “an eye soar unbecoming to a budding resort marina”, they said. With so much talk about her over the years, I felt like I knew her, yet I knew nothing about her except that I felt sorry for her. She had an unusual name for a boat. It was a couple of years before I realized she was a boat and not some neighbour my parents were bad-mouthing. Then all the comments suddenly made a lot more sense. I had always thought that Mrs. Pauley was some poor old lady who had been abandoned by her husband after fourty years, and having no where to live  she camped on the beach without power, or water taps, and had to wash up on the shore.

A lot of things made more sense since turning twelve earlier this year, including the boater and VHF radio exams I took and passed before summer allowing me to operate the motorized skiff all by myself. Well, me and my “ship’s cat” Purrsea that is. Every ship needs a lucky cat. I dreamed of being the captain of a huge ship one day, like the cruise ships that passed silently by on their way to Alaska. I loved boating and wanted to travel the exotic world I was learning about from the tourists that came to the resort, not the average world they told you about in school.  Getting my Personal Craft Operator Card was my ticket to gaining the many hours of “sea time” a future sea captain would need. I knew as captain I would be solely responsible for the safety of my vessel and all persons…and cats… on board.

During the summer as I practiced my boating skills, Purrsea and I would idle past Mrs. Pauley in curiosity. The hint of blue paint was losing its battle with the green marine growth, and the starboard side was giving up it’s resistance as it slumped further and further into the sand. A few items of personal belongings still remained scattered on board, but anything of value was long picked over by scavengers. Forever an unsolved mystery, Mrs. Pauley had little left to live for. While Purrsea and I watched the tow company lift her carefully off the shore onto a small barge, I tried to imagine her last fateful cruise….

“MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY,

This is the motor vessel Mrs Pauley, Mrs Pauley, Mrs. Pauley.

We are about five kilometers northwest of April Point on Quadra Island. The engines are dead and we’re taking on water. Need emergency and medical assistance. There are three people on board… two adults, one youth… and one cat.

OVER.”

It was all up to me and the cat now. The impact had knocked my parents unconscious and only I could save them. The billows of a relentless westerly tormented the sea into a tizzy of angry swells that threatened to spill over the sides of the gunnels and take us down after it had thoughtlessly tossed us on the rocks as we tried to navigate into a small cove sheltered from the freak squall. It was all I could do to hang on  without getting hurt myself although I was somehow oblivious to the gash on my leg and throb in my head that wouldn’t be ignored for long.

The flares, where were the flares? The emergency box had abandoned it’s home from under the galley seat. In the darkness my hands plowed through the mess of food cans, dishware, and unidentified belongings floating inches above the floor, my probing fingers unable to locate the crucial safety kit in the frigid water. The cat still secured in his travel carrier yowled his distress, mortified by the lurching motion of the vessel. Grasping at any secured surface to hold myself up, my hand thankfully landed on the relocated container. Grabbing the box tightly I waited until the boat pitched forward again, using the momentum of the wave action to propel myself over to the settee where the cat was. With fumbling fingers I managed to open the latch and access the contents inside. A flashlight found it’s way into my hand and I pressed the button. Light! Now I could see. The flares…”Yes!” I croaked to the cat. Seeing his eyes wide with fear, I opened the carrier door to give him a quick pat of reassurance, and one more for luck. I flashed the light over to my parents slumped on the floor, their life jackets keeping their heads out of the deepening water. They were too heavy for me to move.

Still no response to my distress call, I had to get the flare into the gun and shoot it into the air. That was our last chance. Somehow the wind seemed a bit calmer now and I could actually use both hands to load the gun instead of holding on. Wading back through the debris pool and stepping over their bodies I opened the cabin door and prepared to tackle the wind. Instead, I almost dropped the flare gun in shock. There, a few hundred meters away all a twinkle in the night, was the unmistakable outline of  a cruise ship, her huge size shielding us from the wind until a rescue vessel could reach us. Yelling and waving my outstretched arms, I felt the cat brush up against my leg. Then my yelling turned to laughter as I pulled the trigger. =^,,^=

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