An action-jammed adventure traces the experiences of a group of Iron Curtain refugees, escaping from Estonia, after they are rescued in the North Atlantic from a capaized fishing vessel by a British cargo ship, Saracen. When they reach the U.S. they face deportation, hijack the Saracen with its Captain Banks and crew, and become the ""sea beggars"", wandering from port to port until they reach a Caribbean island in the throes of a revolution. The Estonians, even Lydia, to whom the compassionate, middle-aged Banks is attracted, all join the rebel forces and when they are defeated, it is Banks who makes possible their flight from the island. Their fruitless odyssey continues, until finally the Saracen is intercepted by the British Navy and the Estonians in desperation persuade Banks to scuttle the ship. They again find sanctuary on another island, only ultimately to be brought to trial. The book, with its bittersweet romance, ends on a note of pathos which shades and softens much of the turbulent suspense, vivid and exciting as it is.