We had lost our boat: but Billy Priske had spent his afternoon in fashioning a raft out of four empty casks and a dozen broken lengths of deck-planking; and on this, leaving the seamen on board, the rest of us pushed off for shore. For paddles we used a couple of spare oars. The water, smooth as in a lake, gave us our choice to make a landing where we would.
There were great scarred marks on the deck-planking over which the cargo-derricks had been hauled. One must have fallen by the way, for the bulwark-rails were smashed and bent and the side-plates bruised. "It's the Governor," said the skipper "He's been selling her on the instalment plan." "Let's go up with spanners and shovels, and kill 'em all," shouted the crew.
A startled shout rang out upon the heavy night air from somebody upon her forecastle in response to those weird cries of mine, and above the hissing wash and gurgle of the water under her bows I caught the sound of naked feet padding upon her deck-planking, as the rudely awakened look-out sprang to peer over the topgallant rail.
He raised himself in the bunk, striking his head smartly against the low deck-planking above him as he did so. He looked for his clothes where he had flung them off before turning in, but they were not there; casting his eyes about the little apartment, however, he presently recognised them hanging, dry, upon a hook screwed to the bulkhead.
The oak-built ship was nearly new, the copper which covered her bottom up to the bends had not a wrinkle on its entire surface, and her deck-planking showed no signs of wear; but she was modelled for carrying, rather than for speed; it was therefore decided without much hesitation that she should be the one to be broken up. The next point to be settled was the position of the building-yard.
The pontoons were decked all over, the deck-planking for a length of twelve feet in the middle portion being also carried right across from one to the other.
She delighted in out-door work, and sometimes dug so vigorously in our garden that she brought up pieces of the deck-planking with every shovelful. Our boarder took the greatest interest in her, and sometimes watched her movements so intently that he let his pipe go out. "What a whacking girl that would be to tread out grapes in the vineyards of Italy! She'd make wine cheap," he once remarked.
It was a difficult cast to make on a rolling ship, but the sharp point of the spike, whistling seventy-five feet through the air, barely missed Wolf Larsen's head as he emerged from the cabin companion-way and drove its length two inches and over into the solid deck-planking.
The old man led the way out into the yard; and there, indeed, amid an indescribable litter of timber wreckwood in balks and boards, worthless lengths of deck-planking, knees, and transoms, stem-pieces and stern-posts, and other odds and ends of bygone craft, condemned spars, barrel-staves, packing-cases a boat reposed on the stocks; but such a boat as might make a sane man doubt his eyesight.
These pontoons were built with their fore-and-aft centre lines parallel, and were constructed on separate pairs of ways, the whole of the materials being obtained from the wreckage already strewn along the beach, and such portions of the deck-planking of the wreck as could be removed without exposing the cargo to the risk of damage by sea or rain.