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Cynical sailor Steve Conway, who has just received his captaincy papers, waits in the Dutch East Indies while looking for a ship to command. Despite misgivings about Steve's lack of command experience, businessman Singh hires him to sail the Mokara , a broken-down oil tanker, to Capetown, after more experienced captains, concerned about an approaching typhoon and the ship's state of disrepair, turn down the job. To obtain a crew, Steve starts a bar brawl and, after the participants are jailed, has them released into his custody on the condition that they sail with him. Steve must also hire a chief engineer, which is a more difficult task. Engineer Johnny Phelan, Steve's best friend, is in town, but has informed Steve of his intention to settle down and marry Kitty Mellar. Unknown to Johnny, Kitty used to be Steve's girl friend, and Steve's low opinion of her, as well as his need for a chief engineer, prompt Steve to get Johnny drunk and shanghai him aboard the Mokara . Just before the ship departs, however, Kitty boards in search of Johnny, and once she discovers what Steve has done, orders him at gunpoint to put them ashore. Steve refuses, and after taking her unloaded gun, threatens to have her jailed for attempted murder if she does not cooperate. When Johnny awakens, he is dismayed by Steve's actions, but his good nature prevails, and he agrees to serve as the engineer. Also aboard is Rik, Steve's young native friend, who wants to prove himself a good sailor. During the typhoon, the ship is pounded mercilessly, and Rik is almost crushed by a barrel. Kitty and Steve rescue him, but the youngster requires surgery. Steve decides to veer off course to take Rik to a doctor, even though he will not reach Capetown in time and will lose his job. Overcome by fever and afraid that he will ruin Steve's career, Rik tries to throw himself overboard. He is again rescued by Kitty and Steve, but the additional strain kills him. The experience brings Steve and Kitty closer together, but pressure is put on Steve's relationship with Johnny when Johnny learns that Steve shanghaied him. One afternoon, a sailor falls into an oil hold, and during the rescue, crewman Rhys attempts to kill Steve. Steve has Rhys imprisoned, and in revenge, Rhys tells Johnny about Kitty and Steve's old affair. Johnny demands that Steve marry Kitty and him the following day, and that night, Kitty declares her love for Steve, who rejects her. Kitty goes through with the marriage to Johnny, but just after the ceremony, two of the holds catch on fire, and Johnny and Steve go below to put out the fire. Johnny succumbs to the heat, but Steve saves him and extinguishes the flames. As he recovers, Johnny realizes that he is not the right husband for Kitty and releases her from their marriage. When Steve learns of this, he tells Kitty that he hated himself for letting her go, and the couple embrace.