Tom Harrington, 50-something and recently bereaved, is sailing on the Mediterranean. His boat is The Lon Dubh, a “Cheoy Lee, built in Hong Kong 1960. Thirty-six footer. Teak all the way, solid. Bronze fastenings, Oregon pine mast and boom.” The novel opens as Tom has a one-night stand with Christine in the harbour at Syracusa, on Sicily. The following day he meets up with another young woman, Clare Hogan, who goes aboard The Lon Dubh and stays. The owl and the pussycat go to sea.