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Peter Duncan, an American visitor to England, becomes interested in a small boat he sees in the English port of Shoreham-by-Sea. The local police Inspector Neal tells Peter that the sloop was recently found at sea by brother and sister John and Joan Drew, who have placed a salvage claim on it. Peter visits the Drews on their charter yacht and learns that they discovered the boat adrift with two male crew members aboard. Due to the noise from the wind and sea, the Drews were unable to communicate with the men, but threw them a line and towed the boat into harbor. It was dark by the time they anchored, and when John went on board the boat to talk with the men, he discovered that both had disappeared. The next morning, police searched the boat but found only one shoe. A few days later, a Ministry of Transport Inquiry determined that the boat carried no papers or charts, had not been reported missing and that the men were presumed drowned. Peter asks to see the boat again and on their way there, he and the Drews meet Mr. Walton, who is in the area on a fishing vacation. On board the boat, Peter finds a concealed plaque, which indicates that the vessel was built in Trouville, France. Peter then suggests that they sail there at his expense to find out more about the boat. Peter's interest in the boat leads John and Joan to suspect that he might be a smuggler. The next morning, the trio sets off across the English Channel in the Drews' yacht. In Trouville, they are able to locate the boat's builder, who gives them the address in Deauville of the man who commissioned it. Peter learns that the owner has recently sold the boat to an English woman, a Parisian artist who goes by the name of Vivian Barry. Vivian claims to have sold the boat two weeks earlier and gives them the new owner's address, which turns out to be false. On the voyage back to England, Joan discovers Peter's notebook and finally asks him why he has become so interested in the boat. Peter then explains that he is a writer of pulp mystery novels and hopes that the investigation will provide the plot for his next book. Back in England, a body washes ashore and, at a coroner's inquiry, is identified as Michael Henry Bolton, who died from a gunshot wound. The victim was wearing one shoe, which matches the one found on the boat. Inspector Neal also determines that Bolton was a research chemist. Later, after John tells Peter that he has been awarded ownership of the boat, Peter buys it from him with the intention of demolishing it to search for illegal cargo. The Drews help Peter with the demolition and, one night, when Peter and Joan are dancing on board the yacht, they hear a woman crying for help in the water. Upon rescuing her, they discover that she is Vivian. After a man, claiming to be a doctor, examines Vivian, they both disappear, causing Peter and the Drews to report the incident to the police. Meanwhile, the "doctor" takes Vivian to his boss, who cryptically informs him that he now has the "stuff." They then lock Vivian in an attic and leave. That night, Peter and the Drews develop skin rashes and are later diagnosed as suffering second degree burns from some radioactive substance. Carter, who was Bolton's employer at a nearby research laboratory, confirms the diagnosis and reveals that Bolton was developing a new uranium derivative with enormous potential in nuclear weaponry. A small sample of the substance the size of a pea disappeared with Bolton. Returning to the boat with Peter and the Drews, Carter passes a Geiger counter over the craft and determines that the sample was probably concealed in the top part of the mast in order to reduce the range of contamination. Peter and the Drews have already removed the mast top and thrown it on a junk pile and now find that it has been removed from the trash. Meanwhile, Vivian escapes from the attic and, at the police station, explains to all that Barry is only her professional name and that she is really Vivian Bolton, sister of the dead man. She suspects that he was being blackmailed into smuggling materials from his lab. When she draws a sketch of the ringleader, Peter and John recognize him as Walton, the visiting fisherman. After a fatal explosion at Bolton's former lab is traced to the uranium derivative, Carter realizes that the substance is highly dangerous. When Walton and an accomplice are spotted leaving the harbor in a fishing boat, Neal, Peter, Carter and the Drews chase after them in the Drews' motorized yacht. Upon catching up with the boat, Neal hails Walton to advise him that the volatile substance they have stolen is dangerous, but he shoots at them with a rifle. Carter then warns that shock waves from the rifle shots could set off the substance. As Walton continues to shoot at them, an enormous explosion demolishes the boat. Several weeks later, Dangerous Voyage , Peter's novelization of the events, is published and he and Joan leave on their honeymoon.