The hero of this story is Walter Leigh, who takes a job as second mate aboard a gasoline-powered yacht owned by a Mrs Vansittart, whose husband is an American industrialist. Julius Vansittart is a rather nasty 12-year-old, who, despite his life being saved by Leigh, when he had fallen overboard, hates the English, and never misses an opportunity of being as unpleasant as possible, even to the point of stupidity.
There are numerous disasters in this story, with the First Mate's death occurring soon after the start of the book, and Leigh's promotion to the
position. After that there are an attack by pirates, a shipwreck, an attack by hostile natives, all of which Leigh does his best to cope with. Eventually even the dreadful Julius becomes a bit more civilised, and apologises for his bad behaviour hitherto.
They drop a large number of floating messages asking for help, into the sea, and eventually they are rescued.
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