PART FIVE: My Sea Adventure
Chapter 23: The Ebb-tide Runs
THE coracle--as I had ample reason to know before I was
done with her--was a very safe boat for a person of my
height and weight, both buoyant and clever in a sea-way;
but she was the most cross-grained, lop-sided
craft to manage. Do as you pleased, she always made
more leeway than anything else, and turning round and
round was the manoeuvre she was best at. Even Ben Gunn
himself has admitted that she was "queer to handle till
you knew her way."
Certainly I did not know her way. She turned in every
direction but the one I was bound to go; the most part
of the time we were broadside on, and I am very sure I
never should have made the ship at all but for the
tide. By good fortune, paddle as I pleased, the tide
was still sweeping me down; and there lay the
HISPANIOLA right in the fairway, hardly to be missed.
First she loomed before me like a blot of something yet
blacker than darkness, then her spars and hull began to
take shape, and the next moment, as it seemed (for, the
farther I went, the brisker grew the current of the
ebb), I was alongside of her hawser and had laid hold.
The hawser was as taut as a bowstring, and the current
so strong she pulled upon her anchor. All round the
hull, in the blackness, the rippling current bubbled
and chattered like a little mountain stream. One cut
with my sea-gully and the HISPANIOLA would go
humming down the tide.
So far so good, but it next occurred to my recollection
that a taut hawser, suddenly cut, is a thing as dangerous
as a kicking horse. Ten to one, if I were so foolhardy
as to cut the HISPANIOLA from her anchor, I and the coracle
would be knocked clean out of the water.
This brought me to a full stop, and if fortune had not
again particularly favoured me, I should have had to
abandon my design. But the light airs which had begun
blowing from the south-east and south had hauled round
after nightfall into the south-west. Just while I was
meditating, a puff came, caught the HISPANIOLA, and
forced her up into the current; and to my great joy, I
felt the hawser slacken in my grasp, and the hand by
which I held it dip for a second under water.