A Tall Ship Tale #31: Warp Drive

This is the next in the series by Paul de Anguera. For those that keep count, there is no Chapter 30.

Crossing the Egyptian desert to the Red Sea seemed like a good idea at the time. Thanks to the H.M.S. Legume’s GAG levitation system, they would not have to sail around Africa to reach it as other ships would. But as soon as they got out of sight of the Mediterranean, the wind died. After a while, the First Mate emerged from the Captain’s cabin and called his sailors together.

“The Captain wants to warp the ship,” he informed them grimly. There was a chorus of groans. Warping was the last resort when there was no other way to move a sailing ship. It meant repeatedly carrying the anchor out ahead of the ship to the end of its cable, then winding up the cable to bring the ship to the anchor.

Ian Vilcorus released the anchor. The work party which was assigned to carry it started getting out a rope ladder to climb down to the sand. “Wait! I have a better idea,” the Zen Master told them. He laid a heavy board between the deck and the ground for them to slide down. And this was how Siu Lu beamed down an aweigh team. The First Mate was impressed with the innovation.

“Where did you learn to do that?” he asked.

“Boarding school,” Siu Lu modestly replied.

“It’s certainly faster than a ladder,” the First Mate observed. “Are there any limitations to how we could use this?”

“Plank’s constant,” Siu Lu pointed out.

One trip lugging the massive anchor in the scorching sun was enough to convince Owen Anatu, the Boatswain, that there must be a better way to warp the ship. While the First Mate’s party tramped around the capstan to wind the ship up to the anchor, Owen and Almo went looking for a wagon they could hire to carry the anchor ahead of the ship. They hadn’t gone far when they noticed strange footprints in the sand:


Owen fit his feet into the footprints. “It’s the tango!” he exclaimed. Sure enough, as they topped the next sand dune they saw a robed figure dancing the tango across the desert. He turned out to be the chief of a Bedouin family. He agreed to loan a wagon to the sailors, dancing in place as they talked, then waltzed away. Soon his son Fred returned with the wagon. “Why does your father dance all the time?” Owen asked him.

“Father committed many sins against Allah in his youth,” the boy explained. “In fact, he admits that once he even drank alcohol!” he shuddered. “But when he grew old he worried about whether he would be admitted to paradise. Then one day he went to the village and saw the movie ‘Let’s Dance.’ That day changed his whole life! He was certain that such a graceful man would be welcome in paradise. So he collects movies — ‘Dancing Lady,’ ‘Swing Time’ and the like — and watches them again and again, and by means of imitation has taught himself many of the steps. He hopes that by the time he dies Allah will be pleased with his efforts.”

“I see,” said Owen…

“Sheik’s spying Astaire’s way to heaven!”

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