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In the Portuguese colony of Macao, off the coast of China, ex-Navy diver Steve Kent learns that his boat, the Yank , and all of his equipment has been repossessed by owner Dr. Lorca. When Steve goes to the "bank" where Lorca exchanges smuggled gold for cash, the tyrant suggests that Steve smuggle gold to nearby Hong Kong in order to earn his boat back. Steve refuses and visits the local casino, the Paradise. There, beautiful Vivian Craig, a stranger, sits next to Steve and recites information she has learned about his past: he was awarded the Navy Cross, moved to Macao and is now the only honest captain in port. She informs him that she is a recently arrived importer and takes him to her lavish home. When he tries to kiss her, however, she reveals that she wants to hire him to recover crates of medical supplies lost on a plane that crashed at sea. Although Steve does not trust her, he needs the money to pay for the Yank , and so agrees. The next morning, Vivian insists on accompanying Steve and they take off with his first mate, a native boy named Kai Lun, whom Steve rescued from the streets. When they finally reach the plane crash site, Steve uses his antiquated equipment to salvage the crates. Vivian helps lift the crates by a pulley, but is so eager that she splits the box open and a gold brick spills out. Realizing that she lied to him in order to smuggle gold, Steve informs her that he is going to turn it over to the port authority when he returns. Vivian explains that she knew everyone on board the plane had died, and so wanted the gold for herself. Feeling reproached by his silence, Vivian slaps him, and he at first slaps her back but then kisses her passionately. On the way to port, Steve hides the gold in his nets while Vivian describes how she grew up as an orphan and was forced to cheat and lie for survival. She states that the gold represents her only chance to escape from a man who is chasing her. Steve tells her he cannot help her, but when they dock, he cannot turn her in to the police. Vivian goes home and there is stunned to find the man from whom she is running, her husband Allan Craig. He congratulates her for leading him to the gold. Just then, Steve rushes in to tell Vivian that he loves her, but when Allan sees him, the smuggler orders Steve to sail them to Hong Kong. Steve refuses and insists they get the gold off his boat by noon. Vivian is crushed, but when Allan then offers her a three-way split and her freedom once they get to Hong Kong, she rushes to Steve to convince him to take them. Against his instincts, he agrees. The next day, Lorca melts the gold into smaller ingots and suggests they visit Cajo to obtain information that will help them avoid local pirate Bok-Ying. Unknown to them, Cajo is actually Bok-Ying's spy, and although he sells them fireworks so they can pretend to be exporters, he also informs the pirate of their trip. Steve then secures a permit from the port agent, who secretly tips off the police that Steve is embarking on a suspicious excursion. Later that day, Bok-Ying forces Steve, Vivian and Allan to his hideout and informs them that they must stop at a cove along their route and give him half of the gold or he will kill them. Steve agrees and the trio returns to the Yank , where Steve arranges for another boat to follow them and act as a decoy. That night, they set sail. Allan woos Vivian, who tries to turn to Steve but finds the captain icy. They reach the cove, where the decoy leads the police off their trail. Steve then hides the boat in shallow water hidden by a deep fog. Bok-Ying, knowing only that they are somewhere in front of him, prepares to drop his small boats into the water to attack, but allows them time to surrender. In that time, Steve ties a rope around his waist and quietly dives into the water and attaches explosives to the pirate ship. Just as he does so, however, Allan hits the detonator and the ship explodes. Vivian, horrified, assumes Steve is dead until she feels him tug at his line. As Allan searches through the boxes of explosives to uncover the gold, Vivian jumps in a dinghy and picks Steve up out of the water. Inside the boat, Allan drops a fire cracker, and Steve and Vivan hold each other as the Yank explodes in a hail of fireworks.