River Odyssey

River Odyssey

by Philip Roy


    • Autumn 2010
    • ISBN 978-1-55380-105-4
    • ebook ISBN 978-1-55380-117-7
    • 5-1/4″ x 7-5/8″ Trade Paperback, 234 pages
    • Young Reader Novel – Ages 9 to 12

In the third volume of the Submarine Outlaw Series, Alfred sets off in his submarine up the dark and wilful St. Lawrence River. With Hollie and Seaweed, his dog and seagull crew, Alfred follows the route of Jacques Cartier, nearly five hundred years before them, as they sail down the Strait of Belle Isle into the largest river mouth in the world.

But the St. Lawrence is a treacherous river, concealing many dangers beneath its surface, not least of all the cursed and ghostly Empress of Ireland, a sunken ocean-liner that has claimed the lives of over a thousand people and that reaches up to entangle the sub as they pass.

Alfred must sail to Montreal to confront the man who abandoned him at birth — his father. Only then will he escape the unfinished business that haunts him. But is the quest worth the danger? And why is Alfred plagued with bad luck? Is someone, or something, trying to turn him back?

Click here to read Chapter 1 of River Odyssey

IT BEGAN WITH a conversation.

I was sitting on the floor of Sheba’s cottage. I had books,
maps and charts open everywhere. There was a cockatiel on
my shoulder, a cat on my lap, a dozen dogs and cats on the
floor and sofa behind me, a tortoise slowly creeping under
one book and a goat wanting to eat another. I was preparing
for my longest journey yet, to the great Pacific Ocean, when
Sheba appeared in the doorway from the kitchen. She was
wearing a white dress with tiny green, yellow and pink
flowers speckled over it. Her hair fell in red shell-like tresses
all the way down the front of her dress like two rivers of red
gold. In the spring Sheba dressed like the May Queen.


I looked up. Sheba was the voice of love for all creatures,
living and otherwise. She was also the voice of omens, good
and bad, and it was wise to listen to her. In the ancient world
they would have called her an oracle.


She threw her next words at me like a quest. “You must
find your father!”


The cockatiel flew to the top of the bookcase. The tortoise
stuck his head out from underneath the atlas, then pulled it
back in. Sheba returned to the kitchen.

I was so stunned I didn’t know what to think. I got up,
brushed the cat fur from my lap and went to the kitchen.
Hollie was curled up on a mat by the door, ready in case I
should go outside. Edgar, the kitchen goat, was standing by
the stove looking as if somebody had just died, though he
always looked that way. Sheba had returned to sit at the
table, had thrown on her apron and was peeling onions and
garlic. She was peeling slowly and her eyes were watered
with tears.

“I’m getting ready to go to the Pacific.”

“I know, Alfred.”

“I’ve never even seen my father.”

“I know.”

“He . . . he left when my mother died, when I was born.”

Sheba looked up with a loving smile beneath onion tears.
Her eyes were green like a cat’s and sparkled when they were
wet. “I know, Alfred.”

I sat down. She was filling two bowls with garlic and
onion bulbs. Her garlic was big and her onions were small.
Both had been grown and picked right here in the kitchen,
Sheba’s hydroponic garden, where it was always summer.
Outside, the fog rolled up against the windows. Ziegfried
said that Sheba could grow a tomato from a stone. I believed
it. I sat and watched her peel, and waited.My two favourite
places in the world were Sheba’s kitchen and my submarine.

“I dreamt about you last night,” she said finally.

Now I knew I was in for it. If Sheba dreamt about you,
you were in for it.

“There was a big storm,” she began.

I sat up and listened closely. A big storm was no big deal;
I had seen lots of those.

“And there was a sea monster.”

Not so good. “What did it look like?”

“I couldn’t see it; I just knew it was there. And your submarine
was sinking.”

Shoot! “Was the monster pulling it down?”

“Yes, I think so. I’m not sure. It’s just that . . .”


“Well . . .”

“What? What is it?”

“I think maybe the sea monster was your father.”

“My father? How could it be my father? And why would
he want to sink my submarine? He doesn’t even know me.”

“I know, Alfred. I don’t know why. It was him and it wasn’t

I didn’t like where this was going.

“There was an angel too.”

“An angel? What did it look like? Did you see it?”

“No. I was waking. She just called out, ‘Alfred!’”

Sheba’s eyes drifted onto the onion she was peeling but I
could guess where her mind was. She was twelve the last
time she had seen her own father. She turned and looked at

“And then she said, ‘Forgive.’ But I don’t know if she
meant you were supposed to forgive someone else, or ask
for forgiveness for yourself.”

“Which one do you think it was?”

“I don’t know.”

“And you didn’t see what she looked like?”


“What did she sound like?”


“Why would I have to ask for forgiveness? What did I do?”

“I don’t know. Maybe that’s not what she meant. Maybe
you’re supposed to forgive somebody else.”

“Who? My father?”

“Perhaps. The important thing is that you find him. Then
you will know.”

“But why?”

“I don’t know, Alfred, but I don’t dream about angels and
sea monsters every night. It is an important dream.”

I didn’t like to argue with Sheba. I wasn’t really arguing
with her, I was just trying to understand.

“But I’m happy.”

“You’re happy now.”


“But this dream tells me that something is coming your
way. And you need to find out what it is. You can either go
out and meet it, or wait until it finds you, but something
tells me you’ll be happier if you find it first.”

“My father?”

“Maybe. Maybe something else.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know.”

I watched as Edgar dropped his head onto Sheba’s shoulder
and waited for her to scratch him. Even as she did, he
looked like the world had just ended. That was his nature.
He was a goat.

I had no intention of going looking for my father.

That night I crawled into my sleeping bag on the floor by
the bay window. Hollie dug a trench between my feet and
made himself as comfortable as a little dog could considering
he was dwarfed by all the other dogs and most of the
cats. During the night a few more warm bodies settled onto
the bag, making turning difficult. I couldn’t sleep anyway.
The night time was always when my worst thoughts came.
That’s what I liked about the sub; we sailed at night and
slept during the day.

I didn’t want to search for my father. Why should I, when
he obviously didn’t want to find me? If he had, he would
have. But he never did. If I went looking for him and found
him, wherever he was, he probably wouldn’t appreciate it
very much. He probably wouldn’t like me. In fact, maybe he
would hate me. Why should I go looking for somebody
who might hate me?

But a thought was nagging me. What if my father had
wanted to find me but couldn’t? What if he was sick or
handicapped in some way and was lying in a bed all these
years hoping to see his only son? How terrible would that
be? No. That was silly. I only thought like that at night when
I couldn’t sleep. My father was just busy living his own life
somewhere else and never even thought about me and
probably didn’t even remember that he had a son in the
first place.

I needed to roll over in my sleeping bag but didn’t want
to disturb the animals so I pulled my legs up slowly, turned
and slid them back in. I took a deep breath and sighed.
Then I felt a tug at my shoulder. I opened my eyes. It was
Sheba. In her gentle, songlike voice, as if it were the most
natural thing in the world, she alerted me: “Alfred. There’s
a ghost on the point.”

I jumped to my feet. I had been waiting for this for two
years. Sheba’s sightings of ghosts, mermaids, flaming ships
and strange creatures from the sea, which I had never seen
myself, at least not clearly, yet hated to discredit because I
respected her so much, had fascinated me ever since the day
we met. Was I finally going to see a ghost for myself?

I dressed as quickly as I could and joined her in the
kitchen. She said we had to go without a light and leave all
the animals in the house. We didn’t want to spook the ghost.

“They’re very nervous,” she explained as we shut the
kitchen door and tip-toed down the path towards the point.
“It won’t stay long.”

I was nervous myself. Were we really about to see a ghost?

“How did you know there was one here?” I asked.

“I can just tell. It’s a feeling. It wakes me up.”

Sheba’s island was probably one of the tiniest in all of
Newfoundland. It rose only fifty feet above the tide at its
highest point and had a circumference only a little bigger
than a soccer field. But her cottage was well protected by
rock and its foundation had recently been fortified by Ziegfried.
The “point” was the most easterly corner of the island,
where the rocks dropped like steps into the sea. Sheba said
it was a favourite stopping spot for seals, seabirds, mermaids
and ghosts.

I followed her down the path. The fog had mostly lifted.
It was a good thing I was walking with her and didn’t just
stumble into her, because, being a whole head taller than
me, with her long flowing hair and flowing skirts, and the
forward-leaning gait she had when she walked, she’d be kind
of scary to run into in the dark.

We came around a corner of the rock and she grabbed my
elbow. I stopped.

“There!” she said in a whisper.

I looked. And I saw it!

The ghost was smaller than me. At first, I thought it was
just a ball of light, like a reflection of a whole bunch of fragments
of light in a mist, but the longer I stared, the more I
saw that it had the shape of a man. I didn’t see arms or a
face but it stood with the posture of a person, as if it were
deep in thought. My foot made a sound on the rocks and
the figure turned. It appeared to be looking at us and that
frightened me. Who knew what a ghost would do?

“Don’t go,” Sheba said softly.

She wasn’t speaking to me. The ghost bent down over the
edge of the water. Was it injured? I wanted to ask Sheba if
she thought it was injured but she held her finger in front
of her mouth. The ghost was shaking. Was it hurt? Was it
crying? I turned to Sheba and saw a tear run down her
cheek. I looked at the ghost. It was just a ball of light, really,
and yet it looked so much like it was crying. I turned to
Sheba again; her eyes welled up with tears. When I looked
back, the ghost was gone. I never saw it enter the water. I
never saw it leave at all. It was there one moment, gone the
next. I felt a lump in my throat. The air was so heavy.

“Will it come back?” I asked.

“No,” Sheba said. “Not tonight.”

Click here to close the book excerpt.

Philip Roy’s Submarine Outlaw Series:

Reviews & Awards:

Selected for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre‘s Best Books for Kids and Teens 2011

“The age-old quest for the father gives depth to this exciting adventure story. Readers who discover the Submarine Outlaw in this book will want to read his earlier adventures and will eagerly await the next one. Highly Recommended.” —CM Magazine

Submarine Outlaw and its sequels have firmly established themselves as a riveting adventure series that has gathered a significant following who are anxiously awaiting this next installment. And they will not be disappointed! This personal quest and the internal struggles that it evokes for Alfred give this book a new dimension and allow his character to be more fully developed. . . . Roy continues to keep this series fresh and engaging. We will all join Alfred in anticipating his next voyage.” —Atlantic Books Today

“This book would be appreciated by anyone interested in ocean adventures or stories of individuals who plot their own course in life. . . will capture the imagination of those looking to read about adventure.” —Resource Links

“I commend Philip Roy for incorporating legends and facts about submarines and the St. Lawrence into his story; any youngster with an interest in sailing, marine adventures, or history will likely find this story fascinating.” —What If? magazine

“Readers will continue to enjoy his knowledgeable handling of the submarine and his level-headed approach to each problem that arises, but they will also relate to and empathize with his feelings of frustration and anxiety. Roy continues to keep this series fresh and engaging. We will all join Alfred in anticipating his next voyage.” —Lisa Doucet, Atlantc Books Today