I was planning to cross Halifax harbour on the ferry when a particularly strange looking ship came into view, coming into port from the ocean. It was freighter-large and military grey. It had four masts and a host of electronic gadgetry on deck. It seemed to have racks of depth charges. There was nary a name to be seen.
It seemed to be ready to come to anchor (it was aided by two tugs) and not come any closer. I did not want to be late (the next ferry was in an hour) so I reluctantly decided to leave.
I knew I could still watch the ship from the deck of the ferry, though I would get no closer to the mysterious vessel. However, as the ferry pulled away from its dock I noticed that it was not taking its usual course. It generally makes as straight a line as possible from one terminal to the other. This time it was following the shore line. Then I saw why. The mysterious ship was not coming to anchor, but continuing further into the harbour. The ferry was not going to cross its bow, but come around its stern. So, I actually got a far better view of the ship than I could ever have hoped.
It was stranger and stranger still, with its odd shape and various unusual features to its deck. Closer still, the rack of what appeared to be depth charges still seemed to be so. There were no markings and no flag I could see - strange and (I assume) illegal. There was one small Canadian flag, but all ships fly the flag of the country whose port they are in.
Finally, at the top of a spar and no larger than a pennant, I saw the flag of the United States. And as we passed the stern I saw its name painted, none to large, with its port. Also at the stern a Navy Zodiac appeared, racing around the strange ship and heading for the ferry. We were given a close once-over, and I assume radio communication with the ferry's Captain. The Zoadiac resumed its shadow of the vessel and the ferry finally continued across the harbour.
No, I'm not going to reveal the strange ship, because it will fit well (startlingly well) into my thriller. It fits right in with the murk of NATO and deliberately defined deception. However, I have found much information about the vessel on the internet, with even some video taken on board. It's official designation is suitably vague and its history has seen it in sundry places. It is also an oddity in that its crew is civilian, contracted out to the US Navy. Oh - yes - it will fit well into my Thriller.