We were out, using words taken from a marching tune of our brothers-in-arms, the Royal Marines, where the scattered waters rave, and the tempests roar, but that would be on a bad day for the South China Sea.
It was a good day with flat calm sea, and no wind blowing other than a gentle zephyr, with a burning sun blazing down, which turned our steel Mike Zippo boat into a frying griddle. In fact she had already been used as such, by the engineer, who had rubbed a patch of shaft grease on the top of the flamethrower turret, and used it to fry eggs for breakfast, appropriately sunny side up.
Becalmed, was what the old sailors called it, when aboard a windjammer and its power source, the wind, gave out leaving it sitting there static, as in the tale of the ancient mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean, there it would wait for the wind to return.
On the other hand, a Mike Zippo boat was driven by diesel motors connected to shafts which in turn had propellers fastened to them, and those propellers had a problem, something was stopping them from turning. So, just like a windjammer without the wind to drive it, she was going nowhere in a hurry.
However, unlike the windjammer sitting peacefully in mid ocean where there is little or no current to be drifting along on, nor any lee shore to go fretting about, the Mike Zippo was in a War zone, which by their nature tends to be extremely unpredictable. In addition, she was securely fastened to a half rotten, end-of-life, wooden coastal trade junk that had been converted into a type of dumb barge. This in turn was piled high with a cargo of unstable captured munitions!
The barge’s piled cargo was acting as a form of sail, and driving the Mike Zippo and her tethered charge slowly landward on a light breeze, towards a mangrove tangled shoreline, which had the bad reputation of being VC Charlie’s back yard. In the military operational term of the day that coastal area was designated “fucking Red hot”, the emphasis on red being for Communist.
The engineer was leaning on the aft .50 cal weapons quad, and puffing away on the stub of a fat cigar, whilst watching a big fish lazily swimming around close to the surface at the Mike Zippo’s flat stern. The surface is the danger zone for fish, and especially for that one, for every so often the engineer, between cigar puffs, and in his boredom, would take a poorly aimed pot-shot at it with a colt 1911 automatic pistol. It was in no great danger of being hit, other than by chance. The fish would dart off under the boat’s hull in fright, but quickly reappear after regaining its nonchalant swimming posture, and continue on with its leisurely cruising pace.
Although obviously irritated by the intrusion into its watery domain by the fired pistol rounds, it never lost track of why it had been attracted to our boat in the first place, an easy meal that’s why, supplied by a large shoal of gaily colored smaller fish, who...