Cast & Crew
Following a violent storm in which the captain and first mate of the Prince Rupert are killed, the ship, broken and disabled, drifts helplessly through seemingly endless days of no wind. The ship's crew, led by the Swedish bosun Lundstrom, are held in check by Matt Brennan, a rumrunner, who, by virtue of a gun he brandishes, controls the dwindling water supply. Although the ship has 5,000 cases of liquor onboard, there is only one barrel of water left. Brennan refuses water to the sailors until a wind will come. When Johnny, the mess boy who is sick, convinces Brennan to let him have some water, a near-crazed sailor tries to jump Brennan, who shoots and wounds Johnny. Meanwhile, in the dead captain's quarters, Ruby Smith, Brennan's ex-mistress, sleeps. Previously, while the ship was in Tahiti, a man named Maxie brought her aboard for the captain, in exchange for a ride. Ruby, who wanted to get away from Brennan, boarded the ship not knowing that Brennan was going to ride with the rum. She is now afraid that Brennan, who doesn't know she is onboard, will kill her when he finds out. When Joe Shane, a sailor, sees a steamer light, Lundstrom tells him not to send up a rocket and hits him because he is afraid that the steamer would take the rum, which Lundstrom plans to steal. Johnny tells Ring, the cook, that he has a letter with money in it, which he received when his father died, and in exchange for water, Johnny tells Ring where the letter is. As Ring reveals a hidden stash of twelve gallons of water in the boiler, Lundstrom sees them. He then pours water into empty bottles and surreptitiously gives some to Shane, fooling Brennan, who thinks he is drinking rum. Meanwhile, Johnny faints at the boiler and accidentally lets the water pour out. After Lundstrom finds Johnny at the spilled water, he describes to Brennan's henchman, Gattallo, the horrible experience he will have if he dies from thirst and convinces him to get him Brennan's gun in exchange for water. With the gun, Lundstrom now refuses to give his sailors water and forces them work the pump because the ship has sprung a leak. The pump soon breaks, and realizing that the ship will sink in eight hours, the men get drunk on the rum. As the twelve men replicate the "Last Supper" tableau, Johnny sees a light in the form of a cross, and a stowaway, who does not identify himself by name, appears carrying a lantern. The men complain that now, with the unlucky number of thirteen men onboard, the ship cannot survive, but the stowaway, who is carrying Johnny, shows that he has died. He then reveals that there is plenty of water onboard in the barrels that were supposed to be filled with wine. Although the men are saved by this revelation, Brennan is angry that he has been swindled. As the sailors carry the barrels to the deck, one of them discovers Ruby, and she locks her door. Lundstrom breaks it in, and he is about to attack her, when Brennan comes in and pulls a gun on Lundstrom. The stowaway enters and calms the situation by revealing that the ship has stopped sinking. He guesses from his experience as a carpenter that the seams may have swollen shut. Ruby thinks she recognizes him from somewhere. The stowaway then offers to navigate by the stars. After Brennan gets the gun back from Lundstrom, the crew decide to kill the stowaway, whom they think is bad luck. However, as one sailor starts to choke the stowaway, he suddenly stops, and the two men exchange greetings as friends. Ruby and Brennan reconcile, and when the seas turn rough, the ship's doctor, who had lost the use of his hands, is able to steer again. As dawn breaks, the stowaway steers, and the ship hits a rock. The men abandon ship and swim to the beach, where they see the ship sink. They notice that the stowaway has gone, and Ruby, looking at the sun behind the clouds, says that she remembers where she knew him.
Some reviews note the similarity of this film to the play The Passing of the Third Floor Back by Jerome K. Jerome (London, 1 September 1908), in which a Christ-like stranger changes the lives of people in a London boardinghouse. Variety commented, "Idea was to produce a strong moral lesson, but it made this evening's audience laugh."