Chapter 24 Summary

The next morning, Jim wakes up and finds that he is still in Ben’s little boat, drifting along the southwest edge of the island. Not far away, waves crash violently against the rocks. Strange monster-like creatures play among the waves. These, he learns later, are just harmless sea lions. However, right now he thinks they will surely eat him if he gets too close.

The sun is climbing in the sky, and Jim's need for water is already painful. He tries rowing, but the boat goes out of control. After some experimentation, he finds he can use his paddle like a rudder to ease the boat in the direction he wants to go. He does this, and soon he is making slow progress in the right direction.

After a while, Jim drifts around a point of land and sees the Hispaniola. He ducks down into his boat, sure that he will soon be spotted, caught, and killed. He watches the ship sail toward him, but soon it changes course and sails toward land instead. “Clumsy fellows,” he mutters, assuming that the men on board are drunk as usual. The Hispaniola turns again, aiming out toward the sea. It dawns on Jim that nobody is at the helm, and that the ship is simply sailing itself in circles.

Suddenly all thought of shore goes out of Jim’s mind. Either the pirates have abandoned the ship, or they are passed out drunk. If Jim can get aboard, he can take the ship back for Captain Smollett. Not only that, but he can also drink the water the men keep stored on deck. He changes course, attempting to steer toward the ship instead of the shore.

For a long time, Jim makes very bad progress. He is drifting in the direction he wants to go, but so is the Hispaniola, and he cannot seem to catch up. Suddenly the wind shifts and the ship turns, putting yet more distance between itself and Jim. This frustrates Jim—but only until he sees the ship turn again. This time it turns toward him.

The Hispaniola’s approach toward Jim looks slow and gentle—until it gets close. Then he realizes that it is stronger than he expected. He can see that it will swamp his little boat, and that he will have just one chance to get out safely. Jim waits until the last possible moment, and then he springs to his feet and scrambles onto the ship.