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It rained and it rained. The wind blew. Then it rained some more. Hazard River flooded and the water turned into a giant cappuccino – all brown and frothy. The wet weather looked like ruining the summer holidays at Hazard River.

Until we found the message ...

The day started like every other day that week, with a board game.

‘Can I play Monopoly, too?’ my little brother Ben asks.

It's our third board game this morning and it's only 9 am. When will this rain ever stop? I could be out looking for a new secret base. I could be boogie boarding or playing cricket. Instead I'm landing on my neighbour Lachlan Master's hotel on Mayfair. Just about to go bankrupt.

‘That will be five thousand, six hundred and seventy-two dollars,’ Lachlan says with a smile.

‘It can't be that much!’ I protest.

‘It's called inflation. The prices go up, the longer you take to pay. It's six thousand, four hundred and twenty-nine dollars now.’ Lachlan will do anything to win.

‘There's no such thing as inflation in Monopoly,’ I protest. ‘You're cheating.’

I count out my notes. The grin doesn't leave Lachlan's face.

‘Fifteen ... sixteen ... seventeen ... eighteen ... nineteen. Nineteen dollars. That's all I've got left,’ I say.

My friend Mimi quietly slips a couple of fifty-dollar notes my way. But it's not enough. Lachlan has beaten me again.

This is not what I call a good way to spend the holidays.

‘Look! Look!’ my little brother Ben shouts. ‘There's a houseboat sailing sideways down the river. That's cool. Can we try that? It looks like fun.’

I look out the window through the rain. Sure enough a big square boat is heading sideways down the river in the howling wind. But someone isn't sailing it that way. I can't see anyone on the boat at all.

Somersaulting sausage rolls! It's a ghost houseboat.

‘There's no one driving the boat and it's just about to crash!’ I shout.

‘And that's Zingarra it's going to crash into,’ Mimi says.

Zingarra is a yacht. It's also Mimi's home. She and her parents have sailed around the world in Zingarra. The boat has survived gales in the Atlantic Ocean and cargo ships in the Malacca Straits. But it's just about to be demolished by a ghost boat on Hazard River.

‘We've got to do something!’ Mimi screams, jumping up from the table and knocking the Monopoly board onto the floor. ‘There's no one on Zingarra. Mum and Dad have gone shopping.’

‘What about our game!’ Lachlan says. He tries to reassemble his hotels and houses on the board.

‘What about our breakfast?’ Ben says. ‘I can smell pancakes.’

‘There's no time for pancakes or Monopoly,’ Mimi says, running through the front door.

Ben gives the air a little sniff, then leaves the pancakes behind. He chases Mimi outside. I'm right behind him.

‘Help me with the dinghy!’ Mimi calls, running down to the water's edge.

Mimi's Zodiac dinghy is sitting on the beach. We push the inflatable craft into the river and jump onboard. Mimi starts the motor. We fly off in the direction of the ghost boat. The rain is almost blinding me. The wind is pushing us all over the place.

‘What are we doing?’ I shout over the noise of the motor.

‘We have to get on that boat. We have to steer it away from Zingarra,’ Mimi shouts back.

‘But it's a ghost boat,’ I remind her.

‘It's not a ghost boat. It's just a houseboat that's drifting down the river. It must have broken free of its mooring in this wind,’ Mimi replies.

It all sounds a bit unlikely to me. I imagine climbing on board. There's a ghostly captain. His spindly hands are on the steering wheel. There are one-hundred-year-old crackers in his woolly beard, rats on his scrawny shoulders. That doesn't sound like a place I want to be.

But Mimi has other ideas.

‘You'll have to jump on board and grab the steering wheel,’ Mimi shouts, bringing the dinghy up to the houseboat. ‘I know you can save Zingarra, Jack.

‘On the count of three! One ... two ... three.’

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