As they had suspected, the hulk was utterly deserted, and the fact that the forecastle and the captain’s quarters were bare of anything of value and that the davits were empty indicated that the vessel had been abandoned in order. There was a good deal of water in her, but, as Steve pointed out, she wouldn’t sink in a dozen years with that load of lumber to hold her up. “She wouldn’t show much speed,” he said when they had completed their investigations and were once more on deck, “and she’ll tow about as easy as a lump of lead, but it’s only thirty miles or so to Portsmouth, and even if we make only two miles an hour, and I guess we won’t make much more, we can get her there tomorrow. That is, we can if our cables hold and the weather doesn’t get nasty. I don’t much like the looks of that same weather, though.”
“Well, the barometer is rising,” said Joe, “and that means—”
“Never mind your old barometer,” laughed Steve. “Anyway, we’ll have a go at this. If we have to give it up, all right, but we’d be silly not to try it. Come on and we’ll get the cables aboard.”
Two hours of hard work followed. With the cruisers tagging along nearby, suiting their pace to the slow drift of the schooner, the boys cut away the wreckage and rigged a jury-mast at the stump of the foremast. On this they spread a spare forestaysail which they dug from the sail locker. That it would aid greatly in the ship’s progress Steve did not expect, but it would, he figured, make steering easier. Then the cruiser’s heaviest anchor cables were taken aboard and made fast at the bow. A “prize crew” consisting of Joe, Han and Perry, from the Adventurer, and Wink and Bert, from the Follow Me, was placed in charge and enough food for two meals supplied them. The galley stove was still in running order, although it reeked of grease, and there was a fair supply of wood handy. Bert Alley, who had volunteered to do the cooking, objected to an inch or so of water that swashed around the floor, but the others pulled a pair of old rubber boots from a chest in the forecastle and he became reconciled. At noon they all returned to their respective cruisers and ate dinner, which, under the conditions, was no easy matter. They had to hold the dishes to the table and swallow their tea between plunges. Joe was inordinately proud of himself that day, for, in spite of the nasty motion—and there’s nothing much more likely to induce sickness than a long ground-swell—he not only remained on duty but consumed his dinner with a fine appetite. It rained quite hard for a half-hour about noon and then ceased just in time for them to set off to the Catspaw again. It was decided that the Follow Me’s tender was to be left with the schooner, in case of necessity, and Joe acknowledged that he felt a bit easier in his mind when it had been hoisted, not without difficulty, to one of the davits.
“It’s all fine and dandy to say that this old tub can’t sink,” he confided to Wink Wheeler, “but—um—suppose she did sink? Then that little old dingey would be worth about a thousand dollars, I guess.”