Part 6 Chapter 60
Nils Christenson gazed out of the window of the wheelhouse of the Frederick Willheim at the dark smudge of land on the horizon. The sun had just risen in the east sending its shimmering reflections over the surface of the Mediterranean, promising yet another glorious day for the locals and tourists alike who were still asleep in their villas and hotels lining the distant Costa del Sol. The Sun Coast, thought Nils and cursed, for he knew it had originally been called the Costa del Viento, the Coast of Winds. It had lived up to its earlier name that night, with the squalls and the heaving sea. They were some sixty miles out from Ceuta, with still another twenty miles to sail to his home port of Benalmadena. Nils was a worried man, and he reached for another cigarette from the pack on the chart table and coughed as he lit up in a cloud of blue smoke. Checking the time again on the Breitling aviator’s watch on his wrist, he knew that by now the Guardia Civil and customs launches that patrolled The Straits would come out of their lairs. Although the ketch was well known in these waters, he realised that was no guarantee from being stopped and searched.
Nils had planned to arrive hours earlier under the cloak of darkness, instead of exposed out here with the illicit cargo he was carrying. The delay in Ceuta from the late arrival of the merchandise, together with the strong easterly levanter resulting in having to tack the ketch during the night, had all conspired to hinder their passage. Now, the service batteries were going flat as the bilge pumps worked to keep down the level of water leaking into the hull. He started the generator to recharge them, inhaled another deep lungful of smoke and tried to relax, for when he got to Benalmadena and received payment for the goods, his problems would be over.
The first sign that it was about to go wrong was the fast launch making a high bow wave as it powered towards them from the direction of the Spanish port of Algerciras. Nils knew this early in the morning it was unlikely to be a private speedboat as all the owners of this type of boat would still be in bed sleeping off their hangovers. Grabbing his binoculars, he watched with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as the green and white colour scheme of a Guardia Civil patrol boat came closer. Realising there might just be time to ditch the illicit cargo, he shouted for Ray to take the wheel. Nils grabbed an empty holdall from under the chart table and leapt down the companionway into the interior. He stopped as his deck shoes squelched on the water soaked carpet and looked down in horror at the rising water. His worst nightmare had just begun.
‘Shit!’ he swore to himself, realising the batteries powering the bilge pumps had gone flat or the water was flooding in too fast for them to cope, due to the heavy swell caused by the wind opening up the rotten planks on the way over. He ran across the sodden floor into the guest bedroom and ripped the bedding, mattress and slats off the bed frame. Grabbing the packages, he stuffed them into the holdall. Clambering back on to the deck, he heard the wump, wump, wump of helicopter blades whirring above him. Shading his eyes from the sun, he saw a blue and yellow striped Dauphin Eurocopter of the Spanish Aduanas hovering above.
He started to run across the deck to heave the heavy bag over the rail when a row of machine gun bullets stitched across the deck in front of him, throwing up splinters from the teak planks.
Nils stopped dead in his tracks, clutching the holdall and looked up in shock at the uniformed man pointing the barrel of his machine gun from the open doorway of the hovering helicopter.
‘Fucking hell! It’s like being in a Rambo movie!’ and shouted to Ray in the wheelhouse to heave to.
Ray spun the wheel to spill the wind out of the sails and they fluttered as the way fell off the ketch until it hove to, wallowing in the waves. The Spanish patrol launch eased alongside while the officer in the helicopter kept the gun trained on Nils and Ray. Two Guardia officers leapt on board while two others on the launch covered them with their guns.
‘Give me that.’ instructed one officer in Spanish.
Nils was not good at Spanish but understood when the officer started gesturing towards the bag and a spot in front of him with the barrel of his machine gun. He dragged it over and the tough looking Spaniard opened the bag and took out one packet. Pulling a knife from a sheaf on his belt, he slit open the outer cover of plastic and brown paper. The second officer took some powder out and opened a leather case holding a field testing kit containing reagents for testing the more commonly found drugs. The Frederick Willheim gave a deep shudder as if resigning her crew to their fate.
While the second officer tested the white powder, the other ordered Nils and Ray to get their passports, covering them all the time with his gun. Reaching for the document wallet under the chart table, Nils took them out and handed them over.
‘A Inglés and a Sueco. What makes you think you have the right to smuggle drugs into my country?’
Judging by the blank look on their faces, he asked ‘You do not speak Spanish?’ and switched into passable English. The ketch gave another shudder as she settled deeper into the water.
‘And what is wrong with your boat?’ asked the Spaniard. ’You have opened the seacocks to sink her?
‘No. It’s the reason I got into this bloody mess, she’s got rotten timbers.’ muttered Nils.
The officer testing the suspected drugs picked some of the white powder up between thumb and fore figure and sniffed it under his large Roman nose. Then he sighed and tasted it.
‘Manuel, what are you doing? That stuff could be poisonous.’ hissed the other.
‘Poisonous, my arse! I’ll take some back to my Maria and she can bake tortilla.’
‘Hombres, fortunately for you, it is only what you call flour,’ and turning to Ray said,
‘Someone, how do you Inglés say it, is taking the pizz, si?’
Some fifty miles to the east off the coast of Almeria, the Hayalet was hove to as the crew offloaded a small crate onto the deck of a state of the art sailing boat. The Guía and a trusted employee levered the lid off the crate and lifted out a medium sized suitcase with difficulty, for it was very heavy for its size. They manhandled it down below decks and into the yacht’s engine room. The Guía, who had been instrumental in arranging the transaction on behalf of his ISIS brothers, gave a sigh of relief that the operation had gone according to plan. It pleased him to be taking an active part in the operation as he craved excitement in his life before he got too old. He turned the yacht back towards the boatyard and the Hayalet started her large diesel engines and set course for the last part of her voyage to Morocco. Further down the coast, the Spanish patrol launch with its would-be drug smugglers on board was making a fast passage back to Algerciras as the tops of the masts of the Frederick Willheim slipped beneath the waves. The diversion had been a resounding success.