epublication uk By epublication uk, 16th Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1_ka17c8/
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A sailing adventure set on the South-East coast of England.


The Lad ( Jamie ) orphaned from an early age. Works under the wing of Joe Masters, boat builder, repairer, in the market town of Maldon, Essex. The River Blackwater is the center of their working lives and provides a backdrop to the events that follow, which will have a lasting effect on all of their lives.

Patricia Hodge ( Pat ) to her fiends. Lives with her Mum and brother David. She is a free spirit, and very much a person of the waterfront. She can turn her hand to most jobs in the marine environment, and works freelance, attending to the many tasks that require casual labour that come her way. She has a soft-spot for the Lad, but is not sure that she will be able to land her catch. A competent young lady in many ways; she is finding this quest challenging and frustrating.

Bethany Holden ( Beth ) a successful young law partner in the City of London. With a failed marriage behind her from her student days, she has avoided becoming deeply involved emotionally until the Lad stirs something within her, and the sleeping tiger awakens. This is a beginning for him, unexpected, and all consuming in its intensity.

John Francis, late husband of Beth. Recently resigned his flying commission with the Royal Air Force. By chance becomes involved in a police inquiry, leading to the discovery of terrorist agents, plotting to corrupt the entire water supply of the United Kingdom. The plot is foiled, and those involved are arrested. The case is considered closed, but sinister events lead to a final showdown, where loyalties are tested to the full, and relationships reveal their true identity.

Chapter 1.

The waters, fleets and marshes of the Blackwater Estuary, extending Easterly toward the North Sea, looked strange and unreal in the early morning light. John Francis had known the area from early childhood and now surveyed the scene with mixed feelings of familiarity and excitement at the prospect of his homecoming. He banked the Cessna to port, steadying on a bearing of 30 degrees magnetic, Just ahead he could see the outline of Osea Island, his final destination. There was just two miles now to his objective. This would not be an easy landing. A steep descent, full flaps, flaring-out just above the sea wall that bordered the Southern end of the small grass field.

It had been ten years now since he had sailed these waters with his wife Beth. Long, lonely years that he still bitterly regretted. They had met as students and married in the Spring of the following year, 1975. Both were in their late teens and perhaps somewhat over optimistic in their endeavors. The summer of that year had been idyllic. They had rented living space in an old sail loft close to the river, and sailed regularly in the evenings and at week ends throughout the season. In the August Beth had fallen for his child, but as summer turned to winter the loft no longer offered the haven of comfort that it had previously afforded them. Then in the Christmas week Beth had slipped on the loft stairs, fallen badly and miscarried.

An angry obsessive mother had insisted that her daughter should return to the family home, and he was hardly in a position to argue, having realized that his prospects were at the very least non existent. After that they had somehow drifted apart and he had not contested the divorce that followed. A ten year flying commission in the Royal Air Force had helped to alleviate the deep feelings of lose and failure after the event. Having completed his flying training he was appointed to transport command. There had been a point when feeling more complete and secure with his situation, he had tried to contact Beth, only to find that the family had moved abroad.

His attention was drawn to a small flashing light on the island. This was his landing beacon as promised. He set his fuel mixture to rich, fully extended the flaps and started to let-down towards this point in the half-light. This landing was to be one of so many that he had experience, but still difficult in these conditions. He remembered Harry his instructor saying “They are all easy when your feet are on the ground.” This advise had stood him in good stead through out his career.

Harry Tenant, Aitch to his friends, had really put him through the mill during his in-flight training, For which he was eternally grateful. It had eradicated many of the mistakes and bad habits that young pilots could succumb to, and allowed him to gain the wealth of experience that he now had under his belt, so to speak. They had become firm friends over the years, and were always please to see each other when their paths crossed as they often did. In fact their last meeting had occurred in the City only a month earlier. “Hello chum!” he had always called him chum. “Didn’t fly the desk then?” Aitch continued, “not likely!” he replied. His involvement with transport command had ended after an ear infection had landed him in doc for a while. They had offered the desk job, but he decided to resign his commission and try his luck elsewhere. “Got just the thing for you,” said Aitch, handing him a small neatly printed business card. “Chap I know, out on this island in the Essex marshes. God knows what he is doing there. Wants a pilot! urgent! Give you a start! got to rush! good luck!” and he was gone, lost in the evening commuter rush.

The meeting with the agent in his Holborne offices had been brief, perhaps a little too brief. Upon inspection of his CV, documentation and logs he had been commissioned to collect the Cessna from the dealership and deliver it to the island at an allotted time, He had also been given two thousand pounds for expenses and offered a rather large monthly salary, for which he promptly signed on the dotted line. The next two weeks had passed quickly, as he put his affairs in order, transferred his bank accounts and gathered the gear and resources that this new endeavor would require.

His approach was almost complete, He was down to 200ft and could clearly see the extent of the landing field. The beacon was still flashing at the far end, and he estimated that the sea wall stood no more than 5 to 6ft above the level of the field. The waters of the estuary slid by beneath him. He throttled back the engine, pulled back on the control column, and the Cessna crossed the sea wall boundary and settled softly but firmly onto the grassland beyond. He surveyed the field as he taxied to a parking area which fronted a large shed. He maneuvered the aircraft onto this hard-standing and switched off the engine. He sat in the silence for a moment and then opened the door and stepped to the ground. He removed four large travel bags from the rear of the aircraft, and stood there surveying his surroundings. He was a James Stuart look-alike, No wonder Beth Holden had fallen so helplessly for him. He was tall and slim with quite grey eyes and a generous smile.

“Mr Francis?” A large figure of a man had arrived at the field. “Hello Sir, my name is Johnson. The Governor has asked me to meet you and escort you to the house. I see that you have luggage. Please allow me.” He lifted the heavy bags placing one under each arm, and one in each hand, as if they were rag dolls. “This way please Sir! it’s only a short distance.” They walked along a narrow path that ran parallel to the side of the shed and came to a small road running to left and right of it. A golf trolley was park by the end of the path. “Sorry about about the transport, best we can do I’m afraid.” “That’s OK !” he answered. “I’ve had worst.” The bags were deposited in the back and they turned right onto the road which led them towards the river, at which point the it turned left and ran parallel to the frontage a large manor house, before turning left again to give access to the rear of the property. He had noticed the building during his approach. An elegant structure with a large dormer window and twin towers topped by spires. “Have to use the back entrance Sir, the front is locked for security. This place is up for sale. We only have it for a month, just for this operation.” Having offered the information he wrapped himself round the bags again, like a crab carrying eggs and proceeded to enter the building through the back door, which gave access to a kitchen and a small dinning area.

Three men sat at the table sharing the first meal of the day, whilst a fourth, moved silently around them attending to their needs. The elder of the three stood up as he entered the room, offering his hand in welcome. “Hello! I’m Graham Spencer. For my sins, I’m in charge of this little lot. Have a seat.” He nodded to Johnson. “Take the bags up will you. I’ll show Mr Francis to his room later.” “Yes Sir! right away,” came the reply and he withdrew to attend to the request. There was no doubt that this man commanded respect. He was tall and slim, with dark hair combed back from his temples and a pencil thin mustache. “Let me introduce you. Tim Western and David Cox.” he said, referring to his two companions. “Tim is your flight engineer and David will be installing the camera and handling the photo-graphical side of things.” They both nodded and smiled in recognition. Tim Weston arose from the table. “Please excuse us for now, we have lots to do if we are to be ready in time.” They took their leave, and went about their business. Graham Spencer looked at his watch. “Good Lord is that the time?” He beckoned to the house keeper. “See that Mr Francis gets a good breakfast and then show him to his room, will you?” “Of course Sir, one breakfast coming up” the man replied and busied himself at the stove. His attention returned to his guest, “I’ll see you back here for launch, at 12.30hrs. Do make yourself at home and have a look around the grounds if you wish,” and then he was gone. Moments later a very large plate of bacon and eggs appeared upon the table and John Francis realised that he was ready for every scrap of it.

It had been a very full day. His room on the upper floor looked out across the river. The furniture and decoration had seen better days, but it was adequate and he had spent an hour stowing his gear and settling in. He had to admit that his situation gave him some concern. They had lunched together, and on the surface it had been friendly enough and he was pleased to be working in a team again. After lunch, they had attended a briefing at the large shed. A camera pod had been attached to the underside of the Cessna. A monitor screen in the cockpit displayed the camera view, plus navigational information to the operator. A small hand-held unit enabled control of the camera. They discuses the flight procedures and camera operations in great detail. The level of knowledge present at the meeting impressed him.

It was early evening before they returned to the house, and he was now sitting in his room by the window considering the events of the day. The project involved an aerial survey of the island and surrounding area for the new owners. But why assemble such a specialist team, when an aerial survey company could have completed the task at a fraction of the cost. He put the mater from his mind and turned his attention to the view from the window. A small sailing cutter had anchored some distance from the shore. The crew had been busy attending to the rig and were now seated in the cockpit enjoying a hot drink. The scene evoked distant memories of happier times, and he sat silently recalling them for a while. When he looked again, the cutter had hoisted tan colors sails, weighed anchor and was dancing across the small waves, her sails full in the breeze, heading for open water and the sea beyond.

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Adventure, East-Coast, Sailing

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