Eternal Press released this book on August 1st
It's had long voyage to publication. I first wrote this story in the mid 1970s as an experiment to see if I could write novel- length fiction and there are ten drafts from that time, each in its lever arch file and all typed on a cheap portable typewriter on watch in the engine rooms of ships very similar to those appearing in the story. It's characters are drawn from real life (types, not individuals) as are the details of the story itself.
In 1976, I decided that life as a writer could not meet my financial obligations to my wife and three children and put the ten drafts on the top shelf of our wardrobe while I continued my ascent through the ranks of my profession. My writing was relegated to an enforcible relaxation from the stresses of a 24/7 career. Twenty years later, my eldest daughter found the ten drafts and read them all, a feat of filial devotion, and I think she saw something of herself in the heroine. From that moment on, she was determined that it should be published and nothing I said about its limitations of being locked in a time and place in Australia made any difference.
I returned to writing in 1997 when I retired and Coasting will be my twentieth published story, ending its voyage.
I hope you enjoy it.
This is how it begins:
The brisk northerly blustered its way through the tall stacks of containers and whipped up wild dust devils on the concrete wharf apron. It fluttered the skirts of Julie's light summer dress, molding them against her thighs and drawing a flurry of nudges and winks from the linesmen waiting at the Hamilton Wharf of the Brisbane River.
In mid-stream, the Kooyonga seemed impervious to the wind, swinging ponderously about her mid-length axis to point her bow downstream. On the wing of her navigation bridge, a small civilian-suited man raised himself to new heights of histrionic display, threatening the heavens with a hand held portable radio and gesturing imperiously with the other hand as he shouted over his shoulder at some unseen listener.
"That's the pilot," Terri pointed. "He boards the ship in Morton Bay, brings her up the river, and then turns her round before putting her alongside the wharf. It makes it easier when they leave in the morning." She worked hard to persuade Julie that meeting the ship was a good idea, adding details which might pique her interest.
"She looks big." Julie didn't know what else to say. Even in the middle of the river, the Kooyonga towered above them, her slab sides extended upwards by three layers of containers stacked on her long foredeck.
"They're building bigger ones now." Terri grasped the opportunity to air more of her knowledge. "She's only thirty thousand tonnes; the first of the second generation box boats. The Kooringa was the first purpose built container ship in the world, ran mainly from Melbourne to Fremantle, self-discharging with its own crane. They've built special cranes on the wharves now and the second-generation ships don't have their own any more. It allows them to stack the containers higher on deck. There's talk of building special container terminals in all the major ports and the wharfies are going ape at the prospect. It threatens to halve their numbers and their union is not happy."
Julie was glad of the distraction. She wasn't happy with Terri's reason for this visit to the ship. Her attempt to become a show dancer might not be going well, but Terri's suggestion of a trip on a coastal ship as a virtual stowaway was a step too far. It didn't help that Terri had done it before, calling it a "ringbolt trip" for some obscure reason.
Their money was close to exhausted, with the closing days of 1973 curtailing their chance to earn more before the New Year, but there had to be other ways to survive.
The Kooyonga, now facing downstream, had two tugs shunting her towards the wharf, the tall white-painted accommodation block at the aft end of the ship opposite to where they stood. The lines' boats already picked up the thick yellow hawsers and were towing them towards the waiting lines men on the wharf.
"Be another ten minutes before she's secure and they rig the gangway," Terri said. "You want to take the weight off your feet?" She indicated a bench seat at the end of the wharf. They were both wearing heels, having dressed to visit the ship and meet Bill.
"It looks like every seagull in Brisbane shits there." Julie shrugged her refusal and then turned away from the ship as a taxi arrived.
A tall figure in a crumpled suit emerged to stand a little unsteadily as he paid the fare.
"MacDonald's back and pissed already." Terri shook her head. "He's the Mate--a miserable bloody Scot with a grudge against the world. The deck crowd won't be happy."
The man retrieved a battered two-suit valise from the cab and stepped back as it drove away. When he swayed into a turn towards the ship, moving with ponderous gravity only drunks achieve, Julie smiled. Her expression brought a wash of fury to his face and he lurched a step towards them.
"Fuckin' slags," he swore.
Julie took a pace backwards, shocked by the venom in his voice.
"That's enough, Mac." Another man emerged from behind a container stack, carrying an equally well-used, but more expensive suitcase. "You don't know who they're meeting and you're already on thin ice." He spoke like someone who expected to be obeyed.
Surprise washed the fury out of the Scot's expression. He glared at the newcomer, but muttered something that could have been an apology and lurched away to stand closer to the edge of the wharf, his back to them.
The newcomer shrugged and turned to the girls. "My apologies. He not a happy man at the best of times...and things haven't been going his way of late." He had a nice smile and Julie's embarrassment receded a little.
"You're the Second Engineer." Terri recognized him. "Rejoining after leave?"
"Yes," he nodded confirmation. "I thought you were familiar. Bill must be back from his leave too."
It was Terri's turn to nod. "This is Julie. She's a dancer, like me, and I'm Terri."
"Doug." He shook hands with each of them in turn. "Where do you dance?"
"We're between shows at the moment," Terri gave the stock answer.
"I'm told it's a tough life." He wasn't fooled, but his sympathy seemed genuine. "A friend of mine is the stage manager at the Saint George League's Club in Sydney and he was talking about it a week ago. He'd just auditioned a gaggle of girls to fill two slots and said most were disappointed."
"We were part of that gaggle," Terri admitted.
"He said they came from all over."
He understood too much of their situation for Julie's composure. She was glad when the clatter of the aluminum gangway end grounding on the concrete wharf gave her the excuse to turn away to watch the group of seamen rigging cargo nets under it to provide additional safety. The Scot didn't wait for them to finish, thrusting his way past the men doing the job and going up the steps with a clatter, his unsteadiness forgotten.
"Patience is not his strongest point." The Second Engineer dismissed MacDonald with a shrug, picked up his suitcase, and led the way to the foot of the gangway as the men tied off the last rope and retreated onboard.
They reached it and he stood aside to let them pass when the rattle of the swiveling aluminum treads made him look up. The small civilian-suited man was hurrying down, a harried expression on his face. The Second Engineer turned to them and shrugged an apology.
"Little man, big ego," he explained, pitching it to carry to up the gangway as well.
"Busy man, actually. This is my fourth berthing today. We've three off sick and two ships still waiting in the bay," the sea pilot riposted. "Thank you for your courtesy." He reached the bottom of the gangway.
"You should try it yourself," their self-appointed protector suggested.
"It's good to see you too. I'll buy the first round next time in compensation." The sea pilot thrust out his hand.
"Promises, promises. Your arms are always too short for the depth of your pockets when you're standing at the bar."
The two men grinned at each other as they shook hands and then the sea pilot hurried away to the waiting car.
"Ladies first." The Second Engineer turned back and gestured for them to precede him.
Terri led the way and Julie followed, finding the swiveling treads a trial. Designed to remain horizontal regardless of the angle of the gangway, there was enough slack in their linkage that they tilted through several degrees with the shift of Terri's weight as she climbed ahead of her. When the Second Engineer started the ascent behind her, his greater weight on the treads made the movements unpredictable and her progress slowed.
Terri was waiting with a touch of impatience when Julie reached the top. "This way," she said, passing through an open steel door opposite the gangway top and disappearing down a steep stairway. Julie turned to thank the Second Engineer for his courtesy, but he'd already disappeared through another entrance.
eBook ISBN: 9781615727308
Genre: Contemporary Women's
Sub Genre: Romance
Novel of 92000 words
Heat rating: 3
Cover Artwork by
Print ISBN: 9781615727315