Shipwreck on Cocos Island by Captain Voss

Mac and I took the dinghy and pulled round to Wafer Bay, where the goods we had come for were supposed to be stored. After rounding a sharp, rocky promontory, Wafer Bay opened up, and a small house came in sight on the upper end of the right side of the bay. We made for it and landed a few yards from the building. Out of the house stepped a man of rather slim build. I should say that he was certainly six-feet-four inches in height. He had a beard hanging down from his chin which was about two feet long. The gentleman was followed by a small, pleasant looking lady.

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On reaching us, the gentleman introduced himself as Mr. Giesler, Governor of Cocos Island, and the lady as his wife.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Giesler,” I said. This was not quite ninety-nine per cent true because I had nourished the hope that we should have the island to ourselves.

“Where do you come from?” asked the Governor.

“Victoria, B.C.,” I replied. “We made Chatham Bay this morning at daybreak, got becalmed, dropped anchor, and rowed round here in our dinghy.”

“You are after the treasure of course?” said Giesler.

“No, not that exactly,” I said. “We are just on a little pleasure cruise and thought we would come and have a look at the island.” (That was another lie).

“Of course, Mr. Giesler,” Mac said, “if you’ve got any gold bricks you don’t want, we don’t mind taking them along.”

Mrs. Giesler smiled at that and said gold bricks were very scarce on Cocos Island.

“Are they?” I said. “I thought you had lots of them.”

“Yes,” replied the Governor, “there are lots of them here, but we have got to find them first.”

Owing to Mr. Giesler’s size and appearance, I considered it advisable to keep on the right side of him. I therefore said, “Mr. Giesler, we have got a few days to spare. Will you allow us to prospect for the treasure, and if we find it, will you allow us to take it on board our vessel?”

“You can prospect as much as you like,” replied Mr. Giesler, “but of whatever you find you must give the Costa Rica Government one-third.”

I could see no way of avoiding this gift of one-third to the Costa Rican Government, so agreed to the Governor’s offer.

When everything was settled Mr. Giesler said, “Now you had better go and bring your vessel round here, and, by the way, how big is she?”

“Ten tons,” I said.

“Ten tons, well, well, well! And you came all the way from Victoria in a ten-ton vessel! Why, a ten-ton vessel will not hold even a fifth part of the gold that is buried here!”

We assured Mr. Giesler that we would probably be satisfied with ten tons of gold and a ton of diamonds. We would let him or the Costa Rican Government keep the rest. He seemed to be well satisfied and asked us to come into his house and have a drink. I have never been known to refuse a good thing. We followed Mr. and Mrs. Giesler into the house. In little more than ten minutes, Mrs. Giesler had a table set for us fit for a king. There was fine homemade bread and butter, ham, eggs, cold roast wild boar, and other things. This was in addition to the good breakfast that we had had before leaving the vessel. We put that on top of it and just about cleared up the table. When Mrs. Giesler saw all the empty dishes on the table, she asked me if we had plenty of provisions on board. Of course, I knew what she was alluding to.

Now let me give the landlubber just a little advice. Never offer a yachtsman anything to eat when he comes on shore, unless you mean it. A yachtsman when cruising is always hungry and doesn’t know how to say “no” when anything in the shape of eatables comes his way.

“What is the draught of your vessel.” asked Mr. Giesler.

“It’s just about four feet,” I replied.

“Is that all? Well, then, you can bring your vessel right up here to my house and tie her up to the trees.”

He then took me outside to show me where to put the vessel. Right at the head of Wafer Bay is a sand spit, which is about three hundred yards deep, between the higher land and deep water. It is about half a mile wide. On both sides, there is high land. At high tide, the sand spit is about three feet under water. On the right side, when coming into the bay and within a few yards of Giesler’s house, there is a stream coming down from the mountains. Just alongside, it is large and deep enough for the Xora to lay comfortably. The stream had washed a hollow through the sand spit, which the Governor claimed sufficiently large to allow our boat to pass through. I, of course, took his word for it, especially as the man said he had been on the island for eighteen years. He knew all the ins and outs of the place. The only thing that he did not know, he said, was where the gold was hidden.

“We will find that easy enough,” Mac said.

It was then about ten o’clock. As Mr. Giesler said it would be high water at noon, Mac and I went back in our dinghy to bring the Xora around. That would allow us to cross the spit at high tide. A nice little breeze had sprung up from the west, and, with a small sail set in our dinghy, we were soon alongside the sloop. Jack, in the meantime, had been fishing. He was busy frying some of his catch, grumbling all the while that the fish refused to bite.

“And how did you catch these fish if they didn’t bite?” asked Mac.

“I went down and hooked them on,” was Jack’s reply.

“Come along here, now, and get up the anchor and set sail and have your growl afterwards,” I said. As my two shipmates were always right on hand when I said the word, we had our anchor up and sail set in no time. With the centreboard down, we beat up against the westerly breeze to Wafer Bay.

On rounding the rocky point, we saw Giesler hoisting the Costa Rican flag, which he had informed us would be a sign that the water was high enough for the Xora to cross the sand spit. I at once directed my course for the channel, and everything went fine until we got about half way across the spit. Then, she struck a rock, and, in less time than I can write it down, the sloop filled with water. We did not even have time to save our provisions much of which was spoiled by the sea water. The sails were lowered at once. We tried hard to get the vessel off but were unable to move her.

I felt like shooting the Governor, and I think we would have shot him if it had not been for his wife. All three of us had murder in our hearts.

ABOVE WAS A SELECTION FROM SAILING TO TREASURE ISLAND: THE CRUISE OF THE XORA BY CAPTAIN J.C. VOSS EDITED AND ANNOTATED BY LINUS WILSON. YOU CAN BUY THE EBOOKPAPERBACK, OR AUDIOBOOK. THEY ALL MAKE GREAT GIFTS FOR YOUR FAVORITE SAILOR.

 

 

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