Set in 1938, this novel tells the story of the Corbetts, a family preparing for the coming war. As the world begins to collapse around them, they decide to chance their one means of escape and take to their small yacht on the Solent. Peter Corbett, a local lawyer, his wife, Joan, and their three children make the decision to move away from the war zone after their house, and Corbett's offices, are destroyed. They move aboard their small yacht, kept on the river Hamble, but quickly realise that escaping to ports further from Southampton is the only answer. However, because of the fears of cholera and other diseases, many ports are under quarantine. Whilst on the open water of the English Channel, the Corbetts go to the assistance of some downed British naval pilots. Their commanding officer suggests that the family should head for the French port of Brest - where Corbett may volunteer for war service and his family may board a liner for the safety of Canada. The novel addresses the issues of the aftermath of bombing, such as the spread of disease from lack of clean water, and what may be done to relieve the distress of those affected by it.