Carruthers, a minor official in the Foreign Office, is contacted by an acquaintance, Davies, asking him to join in a yachting holiday in the Baltic Sea. Carruthers agrees, as his other plans for a holiday have fallen through. He arrives to find that Davies has a small sailing boat (the vessel is named Dulcibella, a reference to Childers's own sister of that name), not the comfortable crewed yacht that he expected. However Carruthers agrees to go on the trip and joins Davies in Flensburg on the Baltic, whence they head for the Frisian Islands, off the coast of Germany. Carruthers has to learn quickly how to sail the small boat.