Ferdinand Magellan and me (12) :Bucko

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Bucko-our defence against pirates.

Our defence against pirates was more creative than James’s. We bought a dog. He should probably be called a doglet. He was a silky terrier, one week old, just about big enough to fill the palm of my hand. Why should I get a dog to save us from pirates? you may ask. And why not get a real dog, like a Dobermann, instead of a toy like a silky terrier? My thinking was this. These pirates nearly all came from Indonesia, which is the most populous Muslim country in the world. I had been told that Muslims regard dogs as unclean. All I had to do was wave the dog in the air and they would be repelled in disgust. At last, an ethical approach to piracy. I eschewed the path of terror and besides, we fell in love with him. I rigged netting on the guard rails all around the boat to save him from falling overboard.

We called him Bucko, as in bucko mate, and set about training him to do his ablutions in a tray of kitty litter in the cockpit. Poor little bugger probably thought he was a cat, never able to cock his leg on a lamp post, but he had the heart of a lion. Eventually, I did build him a lamp post out of an old broom stick in his kitty litter tray and witnessed what has to be one of the great marvels of evolution. No one had ever taught him to cock his leg, he just did it. What’s more, by the time he was a couple of months old he could climb the ladder from down in the cabin up to the cockpit so we didn’t have to lift him up there any more. We just had to be careful not to step in anything nasty.

We left Singapore after a farewell barbecue at Ong’s and headed up the Malacca Strait on the lookout for pirates. Before long the weather was up to its old tricks, with a heavy rainstorm and brief but violent squalls. I dropped the anchor to sit it out. Bucko spent most of the time asleep, not worried by the storm, but sudden noises like the engine starting frightened him.

Some time in the early hours of the morning when the weather had calmed Bucko started barking up on deck: ‘Yap, yap, yap,’ waking us up.

“Shut up, you stupid dog,” I said, but he paid no attention and, eventually, I had to get out of bed to investigate. He was barking at what looked like one of the local fishing boats returning to port. I went and got the spotlight and trained it on the triangular shape gliding through the anchorage. It wasn’t the sail of a fishing boat; it was the dorsal fin of the biggest shark I have ever seen in my life.

“Holy shit,” I said. “Shut up, Bucko. You wouldn’t even be a snack for that thing.”

But then I realised I had to give him a pat for doing a good job.

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leonidas

Sailor from wayback with a Master's degree in Technology Management. Prefer classical music to rap and chicken curry to steak.

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