First, the SSB/modem system wouldn't work, despite pretending all was well during frequent troubleshooting sessions. Then the inverter/charger began to charge erratically or not at all. The new lifelines wouldn't fit through the stanchions. The bolt for the bail on the mizzen was too short. Erik found a dubious spot way up the main. Some of these were little problems, some of them enormous. All of them were suspicious. Being a methodical sort of person, I sat down with a cup of tea and pen and paper to figure out what was going on.
Possible culprits for recent issues on Papillon
4. Small-and-unusually-nimble crocodile escapee from the neighbouring mangroves
5. Angry Australian bird, likely deadly.
I could quickly discount the bird. We do get a lot of birds aboard, but they are normally content to screech at us and deposit their guano here and there about the deck. Ditto the crocodile; even the smallest croc would have simply eaten us instead of trashing the boat. I couldn't see a human saboteur for this job; first, all four of us are ready to stop repairing things and move along to Indonesia, and second, the issues we've had were just too fiddly for human origins. The Papillon Crew isn't blessed with a subtle nature; if any of us had wanted to sabotage the boat, it would be gently settling into an oceanic trench somewhere. Clearly, the only reasonable explanation was a ghost.
I sat up straighter. There is only one answer for a ghost problem. Well, two, but I don't happen to own a positron collider, a ghost trap or a functioning containment unit. Our power system can't handle that. No, it was clear I was going to have to go Scooby Doo on this mystery.
|How is the gang going to get out of this one?|
"Hmm, bad luck we're having lately," I said.
Erik shook his head. "Things were going so well while you were away. Now the charger is useless, we had a diesel flood from the forward tank, that scupper hose failed... it's like someone is trying to get rid of us."
I made a big red note in my notebook: "GET RID OF US!?!?!" and nodded sagely. Classic Scooby. The ghost always wants to scare you off. But why? Time to split up and look for clues.
I needed to make a choice. Fred, Velma and Daphne were great at making plans, but those plans never panned out. I decided I was better off doing a Shaggy & Scooby, so I made myself a sandwich. But as I opened the cupboard below the sink, the knob came right off in my hand.
Erik appeared out of nowhere. "I just fixed that last week! Piece of absolute..." Maintaining a low-volume-yet-constant stream of profanity, he disassembled the unit and replaced it with a latch.
I ate my sandwich and watched him work. Our ghost was ramping up the action. I was clearly on the right track.
Time for some serious snooping. I checked out the girls' room. Clothes and stuffed animals everywhere. If there was anything suspicious in their cabin, it was effectively masked by the cuteness bomb that had exploded there. "You win this round, ghost," I murmured.
Nothing odd at Erik's tool bench. Ditto the nav desk and the salon. I sat down in the V-berth to ponder. This might be a two-sandwich problem.
Slam! The hatch crashed down above me.
"What do you want, ghost?" I cried.
Stylish poked her head around the door. "Mom, are you okay?"
I waved her away. No time to explain my methods to amateurs.
Something rustled at the edge of the mattress. I leaned over and pulled out of a sheaf of papers hidden beside the wall. They were all magazine articles: 30 Tips To Make Him Yours. Top 10 Ways To Get Her Thinking About You. Respect Yourself: Getting Your Needs Met All Day Every Day.
The lightbulb went on. It was time to unmask our ghost.
|What, you didn't think it was a real ghost, did you?|
The boat maintained a chilly silence.
"Are you feeling ignored? Like we don't care? I'm sorry we were away for so long, but we're back now, all day every day. And we love you. You don't need to resort to shenanigans to get our attention."
Papillon was still angry.
"Really, this sort of nonsense just makes you look needy. You're better than that. You don't want to seem whiny and desperate like Hotline Bling, do you?"
I could feel the boat tremor in shock.
"I know that was harsh, but someone had to say it. We'll take care of you, I promise. Just, please, stop breaking everything."
I think I got through. I gave the boat another friendly pat and walked back to the cockpit. But as I descended the companionway, I thought I heard a voice on the breeze:
"I would've gotten away with it to, if it weren't for those meddling kids!"