Now as they were closer to the equator, Paul and his motley crew were feeling terribly tropical. They’d fallen in love with their vessel and were always happy to get back aboard after a trip ashore.
Paul’s mother had described her as ‘home’.
At the close of play in the Margarita-infused capital of Oranjestad however, she nearly didn’t make it home!
Shortly after docking in Aruba Linda, Tina, Bill and Grace took the local bus to the beach, whilst Uncles Paul and Andy opted for a sedate walk about town. The boys had visited the island many times, be it a good few years back, but they were aware of her charms. They were also aware that there happened to be a cheap casino at the other end of the jetty, and they were both partial to a little flutter now and then. Aruba being more of a now rather than a then.
After flirting with the handsome gentleman in the ‘Tag Huer’ duty free shop, they made their way towards the garish place of sin. It was just as Paul had remembered it over twenty years before. Scruffy, loud and incredibly friendly.
He sat and played two sessions of Bingo with some local ladies from the island, their Spanish patois was just about logical enough for him to understand and the conversation flowed freely.
Even if the numbers didn’t.
He didn’t win.
Not even one line. But the buxom bevy of bingo girls laughed at all of his, so it was a full house socially. And Paul was rather comfortable between the two fat ladies.
Andrew had disappeared into the electronic ether and was no doubt pressing buttons until his fingers became raw and his wallet leather more so. Paul decided there was probably no hidden treasure to be found on this island of iniquity today.
He found Andrew amid the bars and aces, stupidly gave a few bucks to the machine adjacent to his partner’s electronic piece of banditry and then bid his farewells. He was off to meet the rest of the family at a dockside bar which were serving Margaritas for three dollars a pop. And pop it certainly wasn’t!
In fact the cocktails at ‘Lucy’s possessed all the kick of an epileptic donkey and they all managed, somehow, to quite forget the hour.
When Andrew met them and they ordered a round for the road they should have known they were in trouble.
They weren’t travelling by road after all.
Paul happened on a moment of clarity and made a purposeful glance towards his novelty watch, he could just about decipher that the family had about twelve ‘Snowies’ to get aboard the ‘Tintin’!
Or something like that.
Otherwise they would surely be marooned on the lovely Aruba, sans money, passport, or more importantly for Grace,
(Graceowers@instagram dot something or something like that)
They rushed towards the port full steam ahead, none of them wanted to be castaways, especially as mother had booked the posh restaurant on the boat that night.
As Paul turned to make sure his family were alongside he saw at once they were not a complete outfit. Two of their company had gone absent without so much as a by your leave!
‘Where’s mum and Bill?’ Paul barked in a most bossy manner towards his sister.
‘Looking at the fish’ replied Tina calmly.
‘Looking at the fucking fish!? Paul bit back with even less patience. ‘They are not gonna make it aboard the bloody boat!’
With that, himself, Grace and Tina went on ahead, hoping in vain that they could prevent the 150,000 ton Britannia from sailing without the rest of them. Andrew had already made headway as he knew from old days cruising the only cardinal sin was missing the point of departure.
Paul also knew from his days on the hideous ‘Splendour Of The Seas’, (or the ‘splenderous disease’, as he’d re-named the old tub!), that big boats rarely waited for small crews, it cost them far too much.
As Paul reached the gangway, breathless and bleached blonde, he explained to the first mate who was ashore that his family were following close behind. His mother had ‘turned’ her ankle he said. He had no idea where that hackneyed phrase had sprung from but was rather glad it had as it turned the officer’s head, he thought for a moment and then,
‘How many of them are there?’ He bellowed.
‘Just two’ puffed Tina, as she arrived on the jetty after her sprint along the pontoon.
‘Shall we wait here for them?’ Paul asked.
‘No’ the first officer said sternly, ‘go on-aboard. The Captain is getting worried.’
‘Yes sir’ Paul heard himself respond. He was horrified. His nautical years were coming back to haunt him.
Tina had slipped the officer’s mooring and gone running back to get Bill and Linda to put some spring into their step before the Britannia slipped her moorings completely.
Paul was now aboard the vessel and had completed the security check, the friendly Filipino asked him for whom the ship was waiting?
‘Oh my mother’, Paul confessed.
‘She has turned her ankle terribly badly – I do hope she makes it.’ He had now turned into Mr Darcy what with the stress of it all.
‘So do I sir’ said the security officer. With not a hint of irony. Or Austen!
It was at this moment that Paul’s mother and nephew speedily turned the corner, on ankles quite unturned, and raced, giggling, towards the gangway.
Paul saw from inside the boat some words exchanged between the late arrivals and the Captain’s mate down on the gangway.
Billy later told Paul that the officer had chastised he and his grandmother quite severely. He had told them in no uncertain certain terms that the chief wasn’t happy about burning fuel and they were costing money.
He’d used a most un-nautical tone.
Of course, Paul thought, it had to be financial more than anything. Everything on the boat came at a price.
Even the water in the cabin!
But thank bloody Neptune they’d managed to all get aboard.
As his mother came towards him at security, Paul observed her singing of ‘Margaritas and then dancing a little jig towards the same man with whom he’d been discussing her turned ankle just minutes earlier.
She’d just blown that story out of the water.
‘How is your foot?’ The friendly Filipino wryly enquired.
‘Fine’, replied Paul’s mother, almost giving her best pirouette.
Right out of the bloody water!
The security guard smiled. He looked, to Paul, like he knew how it felt to have one too many sherbets, especially when the sweet shop was so reasonable.
And so close ‘to ‘home’.
Thank the ‘God Of Large Cruise Ships’ for that.
One ‘Margametre’ further and they would have completely missed the boat!