Chapter 13 – Looking for the Lost Boats – Modern Day
Jason picked up the log to return to his boat but before he did, he extracted all the money from both the cash-box and the till. He had qualms about taking the cash, but he figured it had been there for some 70 years and nobody had missed it up until now. He walked to his boat as fast as he could but still using enough caution to ensure his foot didn’t go through any of the wooden panels on the docks. When he reached his boat, he looked down at the plaque indicating his slip number, it was indeed 362. He tried to look through the depths in the neighboring slip, number 361, but the water was too murky to distinguish anything. He didn’t need to look at slip 360, the mast protruding from the water was proof enough there was a submerged vessel down below, but was it the St. Louis Streamer? Right then and there he decided to reconnoiter the area with his scuba-gear but as it was already lunchtime he was going to give the dive some thought over a sandwich and a coffee.
While he was preparing lunch, several questions began to cross his mind. If, indeed it was the St. Louis Streamer that was submerged in the next slip, why was it reported as sunk during the storm? If it sank here in the marina, surely the passengers would have made it to safety and if that was the case, what had happened to them? The same applied to the cabin-cruiser his grandfather was on. If he made it here to the marina, why would he have left a second safe-haven if the storm was as bad as Chuck had said it was? What if the cabin-cruiser is submerged in the very next slip? In which case, what happened to his grandfather and his shipmate?
Jason decided he would wait an hour to let his lunch settle then he would carry out an exploratory dive to verify two things. Whether the cabin-cruiser was there or not and check the name on the boat in slip 360. After lunch, Jason began preparing his diving equipment and secured his camera in its purpose-built underwater housing. Ninety minutes later Jason, in full scuba gear, was slipping into the cold, murky, waters of what had once been what appeared to be a thriving marina. The first thing he wanted to check was the existence of a cabin-cruiser in slip 361. Jason turned on his underwater light and while floating on the surface he checked his immediate surroundings for obstacles. Seeing none he made a couple of adjustments to his buoyancy control device and began to dive downwards into the gloom. After only a couple of seconds, the shape of a boat began to loom in front of him. It was indeed a cabin-cruiser that fitted the description Chuck had given him during his first telephone call with him. Jason continued diving downwards and he could clearly see the reason why the boat had sunk. On the starboard side of the boat, a large hole could be seen that had not only ripped through the hull of the boat but had also penetrated the deck. That must have been one bad collision to have made that happen, Jason thought, as he snapped off a couple of photos.
Moving slowly, Jason ventured out into the main body of water to move over to slip 360. Jason flicked his fins a few times to get close to the prow of the boat in the next slip. On the side of the boat was some lettering but it was obscured by algae and grime. He rubbed off the muck with his gloved hand and he could just make out the wording, ‘St. Louis Streamer’ and again, he took a couple of photos. He swam towards the stern of the vessel and just like the cabin-cruiser, there was a large hole in the port side of the vessel which would have easily resulted in the sinking of the ship. Jason then ascended a few feet to swim to the rear of the boat, there was a large door that was swinging idly with the movement of the water and he felt the entrance was large enough for him to enter without fear of getting his equipment snagged.
Inside were obviously the remnants of a party. Plates, tureens and eating utensils were scattered along tables. In one corner was an old drum set, a saxophone and a clarinet together with other instruments lying around a small stage. In another corner was a roulette wheel with chips floating on the ceiling, unable to escape from the room. Jason noticed a sign above a door leading to the bridge that said, ‘Max. Persons 36’. If he remembered correctly, the dockmaster’s entry reported a total of 32 people on board, so the boat had certainly not exceeded its safety numbers.
Realizing there was nothing more he could discover, Jason decided to surface and return to his boat but as he headed for the door he felt a tug on one of his fins. He immediately turned and looked down but there was nothing there. It must have just been a shift or a slight current that gave the illusion of a tug. Although, on second glance, he did notice a door he had missed when he was reading the sign. The door appeared to lead below deck somewhere, but he certainly wasn’t going to risk taking that route. The chances of getting stuck became exponential when you were diving in cramped spaces like stairways, it’s right up there with cave diving, which is something that had never appealed to him. Without giving it another thought, Jason returned to his boat, discarded his equipment on the transom and climbed aboard.
Jason went below and despite the dive in the cold water he was sweating profusely after wearing his tight wet-suit, so he opened the forward hatch to allow a little breeze to flow through the cabin. Once he had stripped off and changed back into regular clothes he began to evaluate the sizeable holes that were in the two boats. Was it a collision that had caused them? It would have been a side on side collision although he couldn’t quite understand how a crash of that nature would have caused so much damage to both boats. Regardless, neither boat would have been able to continue motoring with so much water deluging the boat and yet there they were in the slips designated by the dockmaster. Did it occur as the two boats were moving into the slips? Possible, but then it would have been almost certain someone would have managed to survive. This whole situation with the wall, the boats, the reported disappearances, suggested that something else had happened here. He needed to return to Chuck’s marina and show him the proof of what he had found but he was also concerned that once he left through that small gap in the marina’s entrance, the wind and the current may shift some of the concrete and he wouldn’t be able to get back in. He decided to stay the night, and in the morning, he would carry out a little more exploring before returning to Chuck’s marina after lunch.