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Two sailors, Harbutt and Raft, discuss their plight as workers under the thumb of a wealthy owner. During a windstorm, Raft and his fellow hands must climb a mast of the three-master to control a rigging gone astray. Once they master that runaway rigging, they pause to watch another vessel in the distance. It's a ship many have seen before. We are introduced to the occupants of this new ship, the Gaston de Paris. The owner is Prince Selm, who loves the finest things in life, yet is drawn to the sea. His guests are an elderly eccentric woman, Madame de Warens, and her adopted daughter, Cleo de Bromsart, an unmarried 20-year-old who looks down on the lower classes. Madame de Warens is upset that Cleo has rejected Selm's proposal of marriage. Cleo, feeling an urge to go on deck, puts on storm gear and begins to climb the steps. Suddenly the engines thrust the ship forward fast, throwing Cleo back. She rushes up on deck to see the three-master hovering near, the name Albatross on its side. Her ship is listing to port. The last thing she remembers is Prince Selm's voice. Many questions remain: the fate of either ship, the safety of Madame Warens, and not the least the future of Cleo and Selm.
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