Breathing the familiar air as the Chinese Junk slid up the river towards Karilpa, the years of homesickness faded. Jiemba Yuggera gazed towards the dock where his family was preparing a welcome. He had asked the sailing master to raise a signal announcing his arrival, with the smoke signal confirming that his father Bigi had received his notice.
Jiemba stepped onto the pier from the Junk to find his family patiently waiting. He had been studying in China for these last few years preparing for his career as a Speaker. He had been looking forward to being one with his land again. The journey home began in Guangzhou, where he had spent three years studying for the Imperial exam. The passing of which, the Imperial Court awarded the title of xing guan qixau or assistant police magistrate which meant for visiting Chinese ships, he was available as a bureaucrat who could deal with their requirements, act as a translator and functionary. Passing through Dutch East Indies, he encountered European sailors and acquired smatterings of several languages, some of which he wouldn't like to translate for his mother.
Jiemba's Father and his Grandfather before him had travelled there to prepare themselves for their duty to the Murri nation. The children were keen to listen to his travels through the islands then down the coast to Yuggera their families home. His apprenticeship as a travelling messenger, arbitrator and guide also was due for completion with coastal trade by sailing ship established and requiring a pilot for navigating the ports along the Murri coastline.
The history records that Ming Emperor Taizong Shilu of the Yongle period was considering the continuing exploration voyages of his admiral Zheng He. Lightning struck the Imperial adviser who had been lobbying against the next voyage. Taking this as a judgement from the heavens, his other advisers presented this as a reason to continue as the incident showed that the Gods wished the voyages to continue or face their wrath. After far-flung exploration, the fleet reached the east coast of Australia where they set up trading relations with the indigenous Murri nation.
Chinese Merchant ships then expanded their routes as far as Aotearoa to trade with the Maori as well as the west coast of New Holland where traders collected sandalwood oil for its antiseptic properties. While the Dutch had known about the Westcoast, they were unimpressed due to its arid features and used Rottnest Island as a turning mark for their East Indies port.
Once the ceremonies were complete for his arrival had settled; Bigi presented him to the elders for them to admit Jiemba as a Speaker. This process took several days as part of the ceremony involved recounting his knowledge before the senior speakers and telling of his adventures during his sojourn in foreign lands.
His duties involved liaising with merchant ships and the merchants in town, supervising Customs Duty assessing on incoming ships. The first assignments were to accompany passing vessels as they cruised between ports along the Murri coast with a multitude of tasks such as the guide for entry into harbours.
Jiemba joined his first tour as the senior pilot for a southbound junk that was leaving the next day; his task was to guide them to the mainland ports before they turned east towards Aotearoa and the Maori ports. To meet protocol Jiemba donned his Mandarin tunic emblazoned with the Panther icon on his chest designating his status, the ensemble completed with the small-cap retained by a silver hatpin. He approached the quay where the ship had secured, those Asian sailors who saw him stepped clear to allow him and his cortege to pass.
As he arrived at the dock, there was the merchant junk waiting to depart. Striding up the gangway to locate the best-dressed man Jiemba announced, 'Ni Hao, wo xing guan qixau Jiemba Yuggera.'
'Welcome, I am familiar with your language, you are the pilot I am expecting,' The captain said, 'I am guan qi Wang, captain of the Keying.'
Jiemba bowed low to accept the lower status and said, 'That will make life a little easier though I did spend several years in Guangzhou. I have the latest rutter, and I am familiar with the hazards and can time your entry into the tidal stream to speed your trip across to Aotearoa.'
'I look forward to a pleasant journey,' Wang said, 'The crew leader will guide you to your quarters.'
An officer directed Jiemba towards the hatch where he pointed at a cubicle big enough for Jiemba and his assistant Miro. A young trainee who was a nephew having his first duty as an apprentice pilot and would have to complete several before taking the trip north to become trained in diplomacy.
Having settled his gear and dressed in light clothes for the task of a pilot. This job involved roaming the ship to gain views of the passing coast to maintain the correct route; Miro would be assisting the crew with depth soundings and as a lookout.
Jiemba joined the Captain and Master on the aftercastle where he was interested in finding that the builders had equipped the ship with a wheel rather than sweep oars.
'Pleasant ship, new?' Jiemba asked
'It is the first voyage,' Wang answered, 'Do you find your berth satisfactory?'
'Yes,' Jiemba said, 'When does the ship sail?'
'Shortly, the last merchant bound for Gumbanggi will arrive soon,' Wang said, 'Address all advice to Master Chang Wei.'
'As you wish, Ni hao Master Chang,' Jiemba said, bowing equal level to Master Chang.
'Ni hao, Master Yuggera,' Chang said as he bowed to the same inclination, 'Please address me on deck as Master and Wei elsewhere.'
'As you wish, Pilot or Jiemba is suitable for me,' Jiemba said, 'Shall I confer over the chart to facilitate your departure?'
'Please do, follow me,' Wei said as he moved towards the chart table.
After a quick orientation, Jiemba said, 'Once we clear the pier, take a sighting on the point then bear port towards a pinnacle rock.' Jiemba then produced a quick sketch on the order pad to give a mnemonic.
'Due west there is the island of Minjerribah, there are a large number of sandbanks and shoaling water within the bay. We have to stand clear of the shore as the Quandamooka people are belligerent to passing ships which disturb their fishing.'
'Nothing annoys a fisherman more than someone tangling their lines,' Wei said, 'At Yangzhou, you ought to hear the abuse if the ship's wake rocks their skiff.'
'We stay clear and keep them happy. Bear port then swing starboard towards the next cairn,' Jiemba directed, 'We have to proceed north before turning east, and then we can come around to the South towards Gumbaynggir where you pick up the eastbound flow current to cross the straight to Aotearoa.'
'Your countrymen like their tongue twisters?' Wei asked.
'The clan name themselves after the land, the name represents a history of the area and what you can find there,' Jiemba said, 'My clan's name Yuggera means those who serve the tree that provides cleansing and fishing balm while my family name means white-tailed water rat.'
'I have used the balm, far better than the lye soap that the Jesuits hand around, which almost strips the skin and you have to be careful what you get it on,' Wei said, 'What does it do with the fish?'
'It restricts their gills, then they come to the surface to find air where you can scoop up what you need,' Jiemba said, 'Only useful in enclosed lagoons, and the balm disperses quickly; the fish that you don't harvest, recover and swim away.'
'Interesting, ease sails bear port,' Wei interrupted to give orders, 'And how did that result in your current occupation?'
'As traders in the balm, we travel across the Murri nation and as a sideline carry messages. Over time our clan also began to act as mediators between clans when disputes arise; so it was a slight sidestep to be involved in foreign trade when your countrymen first arrived,' Jiemba said, 'As our clan had needed to become linguists we slipped into the role of translators. It then became expedient for our young men to travel to China to study.'
'We don't have that flexibility,' Wei said, 'Because of my birth status, my career was set to be a sailor, rising to this rank. There is no avenue to rise further. I am content with my status as the captain has to carry the responsibility of the whole ship and negotiations with the merchants.'
'Among my people, I may give suggestions if asked, though what the council of elders do with it is entirely their business,' Jiemba said, 'Practically speaking they rarely go against it, but for face-saving, they debate the subject for hours before announcing it as their idea.'
With the conversation waning, the pair resumed close observation of the navigation. The Keying smoothly followed the channel and reached the open sea. First warping the vessel out to the East, it headed out further to join the Southern Stream where the current sped them south towards their next destination.
At several sheltered inlets along the coast, Jiemba joined the boat crew to deliver and exchange produce. Jiemba then performed the task of translating to the local dialect and providing the news that the Bunya trees would be fruitful the coming season. This advanced notice allowed the local people sufficient time to prepare for the trek to enjoy the Bunya nut gathering where far-flung clans would exchange news, trade and arrange marriages.
The Keying hove to in the sheltered cove beyond the island Giidany Miirlari, where a natural causeway formed an ocean break wall. The crew was soon transferring the merchandise for delivery and offloading the passengers remaining at the Gumbaynggir settlement. Once they had completed the transfers, Jiemba and Miro would be available to pilot the next ship heading north. While the Keying was still in the port, a Maori vessel entered and anchored, as Jiemba was on land he met the canoe transferring the Maori crew to the shore and performed his profession to them as well.
The leader of the visitors introduced himself, 'I am Tangaroa, I am available as a pae whakaterenga for the Chinese ship.'
'I am Jiemba, the ship is the Keying and Captain Wang,' Jiemba said, 'I am available to do the same for your craft.'
'My ship is the Matahourua and Kapene Ruru which is bound for Karilpa to discuss trade with your council,' Tangaroa said, 'Come with me to my ship I will complete the introductions then we can do the same on the Keying.'
'Excellent idea, I would like to visit your country one day,' Jiemba said.
The pair boarded the canoe which transferred them to the waka. Stepping on-board Tangaroa his visitor to Ruru, 'This is Jiemba Yuggerra your guide for the travel to Karilpa.'
'Kia Ora, Kapene Ruru,' Jiemba said.
'Tena koe, pae Jiemba,' Ruru replied and rubbed noses to confirm his equal status, 'You will be joining us as the guide to your home?'
'That would be my pleasure,' Jiemba said, 'I will introduce pae Tangaroa to Captain Wang before gathering my gear to rejoin Matahourua, I have with me, Miro who is a novice pilot.'
'We have a few things to exchange with the local people,' Ruru said, 'Haere ra, Pae.'
'Noho iho ra, Kapene,' Tangaroa returned.
Loading the departing guide's gear into the canoe, they paddled over to the Keying.
'Ni hao, Captain Wang, here is pae Tangaroa your guide across to Aotearoa,' Jiemba said.
'Ni hao, pae,' Wang said, 'Zian jian Jiemba.'
'Zian jian Captain,' Jiemba said, 'Safe voyage until we meet again.' Jiemba them completed his transfer of gear to the canoe to join the Matahourua.
After a few days while the Keying loaded water, food and cargo for the voyage across the straight to Aotearoa to trade with the Maori tribes at the Manakau port which serviced the area of Tamaki.
Once aboard the Matahourua, Jiemba and Miro secured their gear, then waited till Ruru was ready to continue north.
'We sail past the island and turn north?' Ruru asked.
'Yes, you need to stay within sight of land as there is an ocean current further out to sea, heading south,' Jiemba said, 'It will speed your return voyage but is not helpful for now.'
'That would be so,' Ruru said, 'When are the most favourable winds?'
'Mornings have the southerly breeze acting as a mild starboard vector to our travel which is east of north,' Jiemba said, 'Usually it is a prevailing wind though we need to watch for storm cells. In which case we have several havens where the ship can ride those out. They are mainly from the northeast, and as we are hugging the coast, it would add a hazard having the land on your lee side.'
'Fair winds if the gods are favourable,' Ruru said. He then set about to prepare the Waka and made sail to the north.
The return leg was uneventful, and the Matahourua sailed into Karilpa port.
Jiemba stepped ashore with Miro and took their gear with them; they would reboard at the end of the week when Ruru had finished his talks and then headed south on the return leg to home.
After the short stay, the Matahourua stood to sea with Jiemba and Miro on board again to pilot them past the hazards of the bay shoals. Then joined the south current until they arrived off their destination and swung west to seek a favourable wind for entry to the cove.
Approaching the Giidany Miirlari island point, ahead a strange sail approached headed north.
'Possibly one of those strangers from the west?' Ruru said, 'The wind is not favourable to enter the cove as yet, out of curiosity shall we approach and hail them?'
'Since we have time to fill; if you are confident, why not?' Jiemba said, 'I have heard that they are settling in the south beyond our territory and all that we can learn would be helpful to my nation.'
'If hostile, Matahourua can run rings around that boat,' Ruru said with a grin.
Setting his ship to place it in a strategic interception course, they closed the gap and matched the foreign vessel to be in the hailing distance.
Jiemba decided that Dutch would be the first try at communicating, 'Hagel Schipp, where bound?'
'Noord, schipp Investigator,' The answer came, 'Kapitan Flinders. Wat schipp?'
'Matahourua, Kapene Ruru,' Jiemba said, 'Is bound for the cove to the west. Join us?'
'Will do, a bit of a chop out here,' Flinders said, 'We will follow.'
Ruru shouted orders to swing into Gumbaynggur Inlet, and the two made their way slowly jibing as needed. Once hove to within the cove Ruru and Jiemba paddled a small canoe over to converse.
As they approached the Investigator, sailors slung a rope ladder over the side, and the two soon had climbed on deck. It was evident that the crew were puzzled by their appearance, Ruru was a Polynesian and Jiemba was an Indigenous Australian, the people that they could see were heavily dressed, as was an Indigenous person.
'I am Matthew Flinders, Lieutenant in command of His Majesty's Ship Investigator,' Flinders said, 'My guide Bungaree from further South.'
'Kapene Ruru Haaki from Aotearoa, Pae Jiemba Yuggerra from Karilpa,' Ruru said, 'Pae Yuggerra can guide you to the north.'
While the man understood the names, he was confused by Ruru using Cantonese.
'What language was that?' Flinders asked, 'I speak English, some Dutch and Espanol.'
Switching to Spanish, Jiemba translated what Ruru said, 'That I, Jiemba can pilot you further north. I do have some English but regrettably not polite. Ruru is from the east, and I am from the north in the nation of Murri.'
Flinders nodded to his companion, indicating that he should take his turn as an interpreter, 'Do you understand Koori?' Bungaree asked.
"Yes, I am a speaker for Murri,' Jiemba said in that language, 'From where do you come?'
'Kuringgai, north of where these fellows are camped, ' Bungaree said, 'I know some English and I am the speaker of the ship.'
'Welcome to Murri in peace, inform your captain that Murri also welcomes his ship as it passes,' Jiemba said. Bungaree translated this into English.
By now, Ruru had felt left out and hinted to Jiemba that he needed to return to his ship. He said, 'A bit tiring with this jabbering, I have to return to my ship and prepare for the home voyage.'
'Captain, Ruru wishes to return to his ship, would you like me to return and pilot your ship along the coast?' Jiemba asked.
'Mucho Gracias, Jiemba, if you wish I will have a rowboat pick up your luggage,' Flinders said, 'I had explored further north but was cautious with straying too close to land without depth knowledge. When I did land, I couldn't find any inhabitants.'
'That would be fine, a short time and I will be ready,' Jiemba said, 'I wish to have my assistant Miro to accompany me, and it would please my nation if he could learn some of your languages as we voyage. The locals are shy until they define your status.'
'Wave a cloth, and I will send the coxswain over in the longboat,' Flinders said.
'Hasta la vista, Capitan,' Jiemba said as he joined Ruru in the canoe and together they paddled back to the Matahourua.
'Haere ra, Jiemba,' Ruru said.
'Noto iho ra, Kapene Ruru,' Jiemba said, 'May the gods treat you well.'
Jiemba and Miro waved the signal and waited while the longboat made its way across to the waka, by now Jiemba had donned his mandarin outfit to fit his standing. When he had passed through the Dutch East Indies this had drawn startled looks from the Europeans and only the wicked sword hanging from his dai discouraged further questions, his dark face contrasted with the exotic silk gown. Most assumed that he was a Hindu prince on tour.
The longboat ranged up alongside, the pair passed over their gear, and then they boarded themselves. Giving the okay sign, Jiemba had learnt the meaning of the gesture during his contact with the Spaniards in Guangzhou.
Arriving at the Investigator, Jiemba made an impression with the crew, as the last time he had the bare essentials for travelling with the Maori.
'Welcome aboard. You now wear silk tunic?' Flinders asked as the last he had seen was near nudity in common with the Indigenous Australians he had seen away from Port Jackson.
'Keeping up appearances for my status as xing guan qixau, if you have to wear your stiff looking uniform, it would be poor form if I didn't match your discomfort,' Jiemba said, 'Once at sea I will revert to a Chinese sailor rig suitable for a qualified pilot.'
'I am sure that I will become used to the idea, and that title means?' Mathew asked.
'Within China, it indicates the rank of assistant police magistrate which allows me to fulfil several functions when dealing with Chinese visitors to our land,' Jiemba said, 'The icon shuts down most superior sneers from the merchants when they think they can put something over on the locals.'
'I see, back to our task, are there any real dangers we need to avoid?' Matthew asked.
'It is better than I tell you than find them as your countryman did further north,' Jiemba said, 'Without a guide, my people are nervous when strange ships land, they have heard how your people are spreading from further south and are waiting to learn more.'
'I had read Cook’s report; the coral reef is rather extensive? I would have missed this place if I hadn't followed you in,' Matthew said.
'Yes there are several smaller inlets which are difficult to see from further out, yet large enough for this ship to navigate,' Jiemba said, 'Karilpa is found by swinging around a headland and retracing sixteen leagues to enter a winding river. There you will find an established dock.'
'Marvelous, though it conflicts with my duty,' Matthew said, 'My orders require me to post the boundaries of our new realm.'
'Ah, the fiction of Terra Nullius,' Jiemba said, 'I will have to disappoint you as my nation has borders, buildings and written records. While the Spaniards may dispute this as we aren't all Christians, our contact with China has taught us how to deal with foreign powers.'
'I hope diplomatically?' Matthew asked, 'Our military are a little aggressive if they feel challenged.'
'Of course and if there is aggression, note that we don't have a central figurehead to hold to ransom as Pisarro did,' Jiemba said, 'Don't let us go down that path, we welcome peaceful visitors, and you will not see many warriors.'
'Since I am on a small ship with a minimal crew, I am not about to start anything hostile,' Matthew said, 'I am all for fair trade and depend on the peaceful attitude of those I meet so far from assistance.'
Flinders was called forward to deal with ship matters leaving the two Indigenous men together.
'Bungaree, what is your opinion of the new neighbours?' Jiemba asked in Koori when they were alone.
'Most are easy to get on with; there are a few that look for an easy way to steal everything they can. Their sense of humour is somewhat exploitive,' Bungaree said, 'They gave me this plaque to hang around my neck. Someone told me that it reads my name and signifies that I am Boongaree, the 'king' of Broken Bay tribe. I found that a great joke, though I haven't dared to explain the meaning of the second phrase to my kinfolk who live in Kuringgai as I am not on the council of elders.'
'I found that when I was amongst Europeans, they look down upon anyone with any colour to their skin and are surprised when we show that we have a mind of our own,' Jiemba said, 'And they accuse us of smelling bad as if flowers sprouted from their backsides.'
'If I am downwind I can tell who is thereby the smell without looking,' Bungaree said, 'The Captain at least keeps clean, though some of the sailors seem proud of not washing.'
'That is not good for my clan of soap makers,' Jiemba said, 'Not they have much that I would receive in exchange.'
'Still, it fills the day,' Bungaree said, 'I suppose the pair of you want to be coached in English, It is a hard language with many words sounding the same but mean entirely different depending on when used.'
'If you would, Flinders doesn’t seem overly keen on using Spanish, I have heard that those two countries are at war most of the time,' Jiemba said, 'And Dutch is not much better though sometimes they are on the same side.'
'Competition for trade can raise enmity over minute matters,' Bungaree said, 'Life was so simple in my territory and boring. When I observe, they seem to take care not to be overheard by the wrong person. Some spend their life only manoeuvering for power; I haven't seen any benefit that would fill my stomach.'
'What little I saw of the Imperial Court was the little men barely able to move with their ornate robes trying to gain the slightest advantage over supposed rivals,' Jiemba said, 'At the end of the day they sacrifice everything including their manhood and therefore don't even have a family to praise them.'
'In that case, I will be content to remain a poor man.' Then to change the tone, 'The amount of water that they pump out of the ship worries me a little, we all take turns,' Bungaree said, But it loses some of the novelty after an hour or so.'
'I will talk to Matthew about it, we have a repair dock for visiting ships,' Jiemba said.
Later, when he toured the ship, he noticed the pump in action. It seemed that there was a significant flow over the side with a constant rotation of men operating the pump handles. On the Keying occasionally their pump would be run for a time as expected on a new ship and the ship that had brought him home hardly at all.
'Capitan, may I have a word?' Jiemba asked.
'Certainly pilot, what would you talk about?' Matthew asked.
'Is there a problem with the pumping of the bilges?' Jiemba asked.
'Yes, though please don't bandy it around the crew, this ship is old and due for retirement,' Matthew said, 'We pump or swim until the ship returns to our home port.'
'Karilpa has slipway facilities perhaps you can have some critical planks replaced,' Jiemba said.
'I don't have a budget for work to that level,' Matthew said.
'I can authorise repairs, drawing on the contingency funds which are set aside for passing vessels needing repair,' Jiemba said.
'For a potential enemy?' Matthew asked.
'Rarely does someone who has been helped respond adversely. The Buddhists have a word for it, “Karma” which roughly means as you act evilly, eventually evil will return to punish you,' Jiemba said, 'Keeps the poor from feeling put down by the powerful, the little I have heard about Christianity is it is based on that myth.'
'We will see, any help would be appreciated,' Matthew said, 'Of the latter, a cynical person may think so, though best not say it to some ears.'
'Those who seek out a living pandering to the spirits, guard their mummery with vigour,' Jiemba said, 'The Buddhists rarely stoop to violence but practice martial arts for when they are challenged. Speaking of which I need to exercise my ward in these arts, we haven't been able due to lack of room on Ruru's canoe.'
'Do you mean Chinese boxing?' Mathew asked, 'Early morning the mid-deck are free for an hour for exercise. It should entertain the crew.'
'That would be helpful, the junk's crew all do so as their watches permit,' Jiemba said.
The next morning Jiemba and Miro found a clear space and commenced their warmup exercise performing the Taiquarn forms, as this was slow-moving and graceful they received a few snide comments on 'girlie dancing', Jiemba gave the nod, and Miro scurried off to return with the practice swords. Soon the pair were vigorously fencing, demonstrating the art of the sword. Jiemba restrained his style and pace matching Miro, though not letting him strike and restricting his lunges to those that Miro could parry. At a break, Jiemba spotted boarding pikes, pointing at those he asked, 'May we?' to the Coxswain surprising him by using English. As he did so, he couldn't help notice a few disconcerted frowns as some of the crew had been talking and smiling using words about 'monkeys' and other derogatory terms.
Selecting one pike each, Jiemba took Miro through the Taiquarn daqiang forms, sliding from one pose to the next in unison. This technique of using the long spear requires balance and skill, Jiemba had to guide Miro in the subtleties of some of the moves when the young man stumbled. By the time the pair had finished their exercise, there were admiring glances from the audience.
After the pair had washed, cooled off and resumed their deck clothes, Matthew approached to have a conversation.
'Interesting exercise, I may join you for the fencing practice, I am a little rusty,' Matthew said.
'You would be most welcome, I have been taught the Spanish style as well, which I am sure you would be more familiar with?' Jiemba said.
'I will look forward to that,' Matthew said, 'For now the eight bells sun sightings are due.'
'May I watch?' Jiemba said.
'I suppose you may, though it took me years to learn the quadrant,' Matthew said.
The officers assembled on the quarter-deck and unlocked a wooded case, extracting several instruments Captain Flinders took his position on the sunward side of the deck and once he heard the last ring of the bell called out a figure which the second officer wrote down. From the bow, the coxswain called the speed in knots.
'The next step I am afraid is confidential, and I will have to annotate my charts alone,' Matthew said.
'Reciting arcane spells no doubt?' Jiemba said in jest.
'Caught again, Oriental Gentlemen are very intuitive,' Matthew said with a grin.
Flinders went to his cabin below decks to update his charts, returning after a time to resume observation of the coastline. He used his quadrant to calculate angles and distance when a prominent feature was sighted and recorded this in a logbook. While Jiemba was interested in what the captain wrote, he was ignorant because it was written in English. Latin, he could understand, but he was still keen to learn this new language and writing.
Still, when Jiemba consulted his rutter, Matthew was also ignorant as the author had inscribed the information in Chinese characters and drawings.
'Interesting diagrams and what do they mean?' Matthew asked.
'Shall we compare charts?' Jiemba offered, 'I am as curious as yourself.'
‘I suppose that it wouldn't hurt, they aren't official charts,' Matthew said, inviting Jiemba to his cabin.
Pointing to the notes he had written, he indicated the latest inclusions which followed the progress since the last port. Jiemba opened his log to the same points and showed the equivalent headlands and inlets.
'Would it be alright if I have a copy of the drawings?' Matthew asked.
'I will have Miro copy them as an exercise,' Jiemba offered, 'And annotate them in Latin, he needs the practice.'
'That would be appreciated,' Matthew said.
Returning to the deck the usual watching routines were resumed, until the lookout called clouds ahead, Matthew used his telescope to have a closer view.
'This formation, the storms that you warned of?' Matthew said.
Jiemba followed the direction pointed and pronounced, 'Yes, that is the Nor-easter building up. we should head for the inlet about three leagues ahead,' Jiemba said, 'At this speed, we should be able to anchor before the squall arrives to back the sails.'
'Sufficient draft?' Matthew asked, 'The Investigator has 20 hands below water.'
Jiemba did a quick check of his rutter, made a few calculations in his head then said, 'Yes, as long as the ship follows the channel. The seafloor is sandy.'
'If you provide the heading we will have a smooth haven,' Matthew said, 'Better than standing to sea, deploying sea anchors and losing hard-gained miles.'
'My thoughts entirely, as the ship aligns with the next headland, sail one league until you sight this rock,' Jiemba said, showing the diagram in his rutter, 'Then turn port to set a course for this next rock, slow to steerage then I will call the changes.'
Flinders gave orders to follow the pilot's directions and had barely secured the anchors as the squall hit, making the inlet choppy. The ship was secure and rode fairly in the scud.
'Well timed, I would have been reluctant to enter without a proper guide,' Matthew said, Then noticing movement on the shoreline, 'Some of your friends?'
'The locals checking to see if you are after their fish traps,' Jiemba said, 'If you provide a boat, I will assure them you are harmless.'
'Coxswain away longboat,' Matthew said, 'Bungaree and I will join you, it is part of my warrant.'
The longboatrowed towards the shore, and Jiemba called out to assure the gathering men that there was no problem, once ashore he commenced the routine of displaying message sticks and ensuring that there were no misunderstandings.
'These are the Yaegl clan, and they call the area Yambah. The rocky headland at the river mouth they gather a shellfish by that name,' Jiemba said to Matthew, then to the spokesman of the locals, 'Giinogn, Yaam durray ngiina gudoyaygu, Jiemba Yuggerra, This fellow is Whalpala from Goagul and Bungaree from Kuringgai.'
The elder responded, and Jiemba translated, 'He says welcome and how long do you stay?'
'Perhaps a few days, that storm has mucked the sea up,' Matthew said.
'Juga,(six) and he will leave gifts for your family,' Jiemba said, receiving a nod from the man, who then gathered his people and retreated to their huts. These were well-constructed dome-shaped structures with a circular entrance.
Matthew noted this in his diary and waved his crew back to the boat, 'Man of few words?' Matthew commented.
'As we weren't invited to come here, we are tolerated. The locals are keen to get out of this cool breeze,' Jiemba said, 'If the elders invite you to a meeting, you should prepare yourself for a long session. They repeat every word for the hard of hearing, and every subject talked to death as it is polite to hear each person's view.'
'He seems happy for up to six days as long as you leave some nets, cordage or such,' Jiemba said, 'Otherwise they are a self-sufficient clan who are beholden to no-one.'
The Investigator remained the six days as Jiemba forecast catching up on exploring filling water casks and other housekeeping activities. Jiemba caught fish which were appreciated by the crew when Miro demonstrated his cooking skill by preparing an exotic meal. He had fishing lines that he had brought from China; they compared favourably with the English version. When one of the British crew pulled a toad-fish in, Jiemba warned him that it was poisonous and a nuisance as they stole the bait.
'The first of your people found out the hard way when he ate one at Stingray Bay.' Jiemba said.
'How would you know that?' Matthew asked when he heard.
'My father told me, it was carried from the south and passed by word of mouth,' Jiemba said, 'I am afraid the teachers use this story as a lesson that children should listen to their elders. Though the strange Nippon see a similar fish as a delicacy and prepare it carefully; if the cook makes the slightest mistake, it poisons all who eat the meal. I think they like to live dangerously.'
'I understand that the safest course is to throw it back,' Matthew said.
Eventually, the sea subsided, and after leaving some netting, the Investigator resumed cruising up the coast. Hoving to several times to allow soundings and closer examinations of the shoreline, the ship reached the Minjerribah headland, and Jiemba directed the course to clear before heading south to locate the Karilpa inlet.
'I noted the sand island and sailed straight past last time,' Matthew said.
'As did your predecessor when he sailed up the coast,' Jiemba said, 'It was offseason for the Chinese merchants, all he would have seen is the occasional canoe.' He pointed at an outbound junk on the opposite tack.
Sailing up the river to the docks, Jiemba indicated where to anchor the ship while he organised the repairs.
'If you take me ashore I will find a few people and see what I can organise,' Jiemba said, 'There is the slipway which seems unoccupied. A good sign.'
Commander Flinders had his men row them to shore and followed Jiemba up the tracks to find the senior council area. This venue was little more than an open space where the elders sat in a discussion, as it was a pleasant day there were elders in attendance.
Jiemba indicated that they were to remain quietly sitting in the outer circle and wait until addressed. This wait was shorter than usual as Matthew was an exotic figure and the assembly was curious, though time had to pass to maintain dignity.
Eventually, the last speaker gestured for Jiemba to introduce the visitor.
He stood and said, 'Jiemba son of Bigi Yuggera humbly present Whalpala Matthew Flinders from the south and west ocean, his ship cruises these waters in search of new friends and humbly beseeches your indulgence for this passage.'
'Can't he speak for himself,' An elder asked irritably.
'He is feeble of mind and has not the right words,' Jiemba said, 'I speak for him. His language is unknown to civilised people.' Jiemba sat down again while the elders debated the speech.
'What did you say?' Matthew asked in a whisper.
'I gave your name then excused you for being ignorant of our language,' Jiemba said.
'What does Whalpala mean?' Matthew asked.
'Roughly spirit that walks among us, explains your pale skin and allows you a little more leeway as a possible relative,' Jiemba said, 'If you use Espaniol, be very careful with your words as there are some who do understand, not that they would admit to it. I can translate some English if spoken slowly enough, which would reinforce the need for compassion.'
At this explanation, Matthew gave Jiemba a tight glance, but the captain realised that he was in Jiemba's hands.
The elders had come to a decision, gestured to Jiemba to proceed further.
'His ship needs repairs as he is too poor to have a new vessel and this ancient boat leaks. Rather than impose on our hospitality for unfortunate sailors if it sinks, I would request our dock see if they can repair your ship.'
'That is not a matter for the elders. Tell he is welcome to abide peacefully for a time, you deal with hospitality and repairs,' An elder said.
Jiemba gestured Matthew to follow him and led him away from the meeting place.
'They left it up to me to organise; they feel that while interesting your plight is below their dignity,' Jiemba said, 'Expect to be chased up later to be squeezed of every bit of news of the world.'
'It went well?' Matthew asked.
'If they had an issue with you it would have soon become clear,' Jiemba assured him, 'Here is the first to approach, my father.'
'Hello, Father, please meet Commander Matthew Flinders of His Majesty's Ship Investigator,' Jiemba said then switching to Spanish, 'My father Bigi Yuggera, he speaks Spanish, Dutch and Latin.'
'Good day commander, I have heard of your people camping in the south,' Bigi said, 'I hope his Majesty has no eyes for our land?'
'That is not in my orders, though I would strongly recommend in my report that you are better friends than hostile,' Matthew said.
'Then the reports that several of your comrades have raised flags and fired guns are exaggerated?' Bigi asked, 'I am reliably informed that it is your way of claiming land for the crown of England.'
Caught out, Flinders hummed and hemmed then bashfully admitted, 'That is the ceremony to claim Terra Nullius unless we record evidence of civilisation. There is certainly ample to see here; my recommendation would be to offer a treaty of friendship.'
'Then we are in accord, we are a friendly nation eager to show our enlightenment to others less fortunate than ourselves,' Bigi said with a grin to indicate that he wasn't serious, 'Now the repairs, how desperate are you?'
'We are keeping up with the leaks, and it will make it back to my port safe enough,' Matthew said.
'I will talk with the Chinese Shipwright and arrange an inspection,' Bigi said, 'Do you have a problem with unloading your heavy items to make the slippage easier?'
'I suppose that it is necessary, rather than throwing them over the side if at risk of foundering,' Matthew said, 'Would they be offended if I posted marines as sentries?'
'I have already set the tone that you are cautious, as long as they are encouraged to be friendly and take care of their talk,' Bigi said, 'Many speaker students would try to pick up foreign words.'
'I am afraid that in my travels I have learnt many vulgar words. Sailors seem delighted to teach these to the gullible,' Jiemba said, 'I am cautious about finding out what they mean before I use them.'
Bigi and Jiemba escorted Matthew over to the slipway to locate the shipwright; they found him seated at his table within his hut.
'Ni hao, Master Chang, This is Captain Flinders of the Investigator; in need of some repairs for its safety,' Bigi said.
After a quick discussion, Bigi informed Chang of which language to use, 'Ni hao Captain, what do you need?' Chang asked in Spanish.
'I have some leaks despite previous repairs, my crew are constantly pumping,' Matthew said.
'I will examine the ship,' Chang said, 'How is the bottom covered and what weight fixed and removable?'
'Copper sheathed, rated at 334 tons. We can offload about 40 tons,' Matthew said.
'I will come and have my divers check the hull,' Chang said.
'I will wait for you there,' Matthew said and bowed as he saw Jiemba do.
As they walked back to the boat, Matthew asked, 'The bowing is necessary?'
'Very much so, just the right amount to acknowledge the relative rank, you may have noticed that my father bowed to a lesser degree and Master Chang much deeper than any of us?' Jiemba said, 'In China, one can hardly move with all the head-knocking. Though only an unequal status requires the extremes.'
'I suppose one should learn that though military protocol requires me to doff my hat to a superior and the sailors usually tug their forelocks to an officer. The juniors make themselves busy to avoid the need,' Matthew said.
'In my society, we are all equal though precedence in speaking is allowed to the elders,' Jiemba said.
By now, they had arrived at the investigator and Matthew showed Bigi the upper decks while they waited for Chang to come with his workers. As it may have been a slow day, a group of Chinese and locals trotted up to wait at the dock alongside the ship, coming at a more leisurely pace Chang wasn't far behind and soon ordered a pair to enter the water and duck dive around the waterline.
Chang waved and was gestured aboard to begin his survey, escorted below decks to the hold where the shipwright could view the inner hull.
After a time of poking and prodding, the divers returned to the dock and waited until Chang joined them and after receiving their reports performed some calculations and returned on board to approach Captain Flinders.
'Yes repairs are required there are extensive rotting of the timbers around the mast base. My people can do the work by the end of twenty days after the ship is out of the water,' Chang said, 'If your men start slinging the moveable items onto the dock. I will gather the necessary labour to slip the ship.'
'Thank you; I will commence that as soon as possible,' Matthew said.
'Send a runner when you are ready to slip, Buenas Dias,' Chang said as he waved his workers home and followed after.
'Handy that he speaks Espanol, translating on the move slows things down,' Matthew said.
Orders were given and relayed; the carronades began warping onto the dock, followed by the moveable items from the hold. After throwing an old sail over the pile and posting a couple of marines to watch; Flinders then dispatched a runner over to inform Master Chang that the Investigator was ready for the next phase.
'While the ship is layed up, there will be quarters assigned to your crew. Regrettably, there is a lack of taverns for drinking, advise your men that all the local men are armed and take a dim view of handling their women,' Bigi said, 'I would be honoured if you stay with my family.'
'I would be honoured,' Matthew said.
The ship was moved to the directions of Chang's foreman to line up with the slipway end. When the tide was at its highest; the Investigator then was hauled up the slope to where the work could be carried out.
The hull was soon swarming with dockworkers supervised by Chang and the ship's carpenter Jones. The sheathing and copper nails were carefully removed, exposing the planking underneath. Once these were uncovered, Chang and Jones moved down the length probing and discussing which needed replacement.
Noting that the work was underway, Jiemba and Flinders made their way to the Yuggera household; the crew had been dispersed to camp in tents until the Investigator was ready to be refloated.
Jiemba arrived at his home and called out to the occupants, 'It is I, your son Jiemba, I bring a visitor, Matthew Flinders to share our hospitality.'
His mother and father stepped out to greet them.
'My mother Mirragin and my father Bigi Yuggera, My friend Matthew Flinders from the southern ocean.'
'Welcome to my house, Matthew,' Mirragin said, 'Bigi has told me about your plight and need for repairs.'
'Thank you, your offer honours me,' Matthew said.
Jiemba guided his guest to the visitor's area where a bed was assigned and space allotted. Once this was done, the pair resumed their watch on the repair progress.
The time seemed to go slowly for the pair, Jiemba was relieved when a junk made its way into port. Jiemba was assigned to pilot it south, and by then the Keyling was due to arrive there for the journey north.
Bidding farewell to Matthew, he took his leave and joined the Hochin for this voyage and boarded leaving Matthew to wait with his parents while he carried out his duty. The junk proceeded south without drama and Jiemba was to be waiting as the pilots exchanged ships with Tangaroa and he joined Chang Wei and Captain Wang for the cruise north.
'Ni hao guan qi Wang, the Keying sails well?' Jiemba said.
'Ni hao xing guan qixau Jiemba Yuggera. Indeed it has performed with the blessings of the gods, and the Maori were delighted with the goods we traded,' Wang said, 'There is little to share until we offload some cargo in Karilpa.'
'Then we can make our way when the Keling is ready,' Jiemba said.
In due time the Keying was moored at the Karilpa docks where the Investigator was now also, the repairs completed and the crew were still busy reloading the fittings and stores.
'Interesting ship?' Wang said.
'A British ship, the Investigator, Captain Matthew Flinders exploring the coast for his people who have settled further south,' Jiemba said, 'If you wish I will introduce him, he speaks Latin and Espanol. He is a knowledgeable navigator.'
'Tiresome languages yet as a fellow seaman, I should make myself known,' Wang said, 'Profits are sometimes hidden in casual talk.'
'The ship has been in our port for twenty days being repaired by your illustrious shipwright, Chang Li, who corrected lapses from the last repairs,' Jiemba said.
'A repair facility is always welcome when we are far from our home port,' Wang said, 'While I have to step ashore to negotiate cargo exchange, a side conversation would be pleasant.'
'I will go before you and arrange the meeting. I have offered to assist in the Investigator's voyage further north in exchange for learning his language,' Jiemba said, 'It seems that his countrymen will be seeking friendly ports along the coast. My people need to learn as much as possible before they do. They have a quaint belief, as do the Dutch and Spanish, that they own everything not nailed down by a Christian.'
'Those are a pain to deal with and treat us like imbeciles in our land,' Wang said, 'The white skins have no respect for authority and resent when one of our peacekeeping men restrain their excesses.'
'I have already begun the education of Flinders and his men as to the proper behaviour expected when they are shown hospitality,' Jiemba said, 'Zian Jiang, Captain Wang, I will see you later in town perhaps.'
'Zian Jiang, pilot Jiemba,' Wang said as the pilot disembarked.
Returning his kit to his home, Jiemba tracked down Matthew to see how the ship was faring.
'Good day, Captain, is the Investigator sitting well?' Jiemba asked, 'It seems to be pumping less water than the last I saw.'
'Good day Pilot, Indeed the repairs went well, and now the bottom is sound, I will try not to scratch the hull on the voyage north,' Matthew said, 'Master Chang was expedient and perhaps has improved the build, Jones was pleased with the quality of the work.'
'That is excellent to hear, I have travelled in the Keying. Captain Wang is interested in talking about maritime matters,' Jiemba said, 'If I may invite him?'
'Please do, and if I can visit his ship, I would be glad to inspect a Chinese vessel which I have heard are superior to ours,' Matthew said. 'Of course, the Investigator is a relatively old ship commissioned for shallow navigation; the Keying is a large merchant built for trade.'
'It is fairly new; this is its first voyage from northern China,' Jiemba said.