Rae and Ingram are nineteen days out of the Panama Canal, sailing slowly across the wide, flat Pacific on the Saracen, when they find Hughie Warriner in his dinghy. He was on a pleasure cruise on his yacht, the Orpheus, he says, when food poisoning killed his passengers and his ship began to sink. After an alleged ten days of desperately fighting to stay afloat, he spied the Saracen and rowed to his salvation.
Finding the stranded yacht, against Warriner's wishes, Ingram boards the Orpheus. There he finds Warriner's passengers--very much alive and hungry for revenge against the man who attacked them and left them to drown. Ingram tries to get back to his ship, but it's too late. Warriner escapes in the Saracen, taking Rae hostage, and Ingram has no means to save them but tattered sails, a sinking ship, and rage that burns hotter than the merciless Pacific sun.