“Fire!! Help! Fire!!”
The men on the boat shouted wildly as they frantically heaved the heavy amphora over the side. They had to make the boat lighter so that the wind would drive it closer to the shore.
The fire was eating into the deck, flames were licking the sails and the burning pitch was sending up clouds of acrid, evil smelling smoke that choked them and made them cough.
“We’ll have to jump!”
They scrambled over the side of the boat and plunged into the sea. The boat sank slowly into the waters at the entrance to Guernsey’s St. Peter Port harbour.
“We made it!”
The Captain squeezed out his shirt and helped the last of the spluttering, dripping crewmen to his feet.
“We have no boat and no cargo to sell, but I have a little money. Come, I will get us some help and we will get back to Gaul.”
“It was a good boat”, grumbled one of the seamen, “I built it myself with good mortice and tenon joints and we had proper metal bearings to make the pump work.”
“We would have been better sealing the leaks with the pitch then we would have had no need to pump out the water,” complained his mate.
“Then we would have no pitch to sell, stupid,” said the cook.
The captain stopped them, “Come men, this is no time for squabbling, we must get help.”
The seamen trooped off to the nearest warehouse to get food and water.
“We need a boat to take us back to Gaul” said the one of the seamen, “or to take us to Britannia!” called another.
“We are strong and we are all good seamen, carpenters and fishermen,” declared the Captain.
One of the Guernsey men looked the seamen up and down. “A boat has just pulled up at the jetty, go and speak to the Captain. I will pay you if you help to unload his cargo.”
The seamen toiled all night and most of the day until the Guernsey man called them over.
“You have done a fine job and the Captain will take you back to Gaul if you work your passage. Here is your pay.”
He handed the seamen a bag of coins and waved them away, “The boat sails with the tide – run!”
Ten days later, having been good crewmen on the boat, they arrived back in Gaul.
“We will get some food and water and then we will go and see our master. We have to tell him about the fire and the boat that is now at the bottom of St. Peter Port harbour.” The Captain looked at the crew with a worried frown. He knew they would be in trouble.
At the food stall by the quay, the store holder, who was very grumpy looked at them suspiciously, “let me see your money.”
The Captain handed over his coins.
“As I thought,” jeered the stall holder, “come from Guernsey have you? What fools!” He threw the money down. “They have coin moulds there – they make counterfeit coins – didn’t you know?! Pah!”
The seamen looked at each other. Not only had they lost the boat and the cargo but they had also been tricked out of their wages. They would certainly NEVER go to Guernsey again!