Monday, May 30, 2011

More Captain Jack

He woke with a start, as a flying fish slapped the side of his head before landing in his lap. Linda laughed as he fumbled with the wriggling creature, which he finally managed to toss overboard.

About noon is it?” Jack asked as he wiped his hands on his shirt, noting the sun's position, and the growling of his stomach.

Looking at her wrist watch, Linda replied. “Ten after twelve to be exact. You sound hungry.”

I feel hungry.”

You drive, and I'll see about lunch.”
Jack took the helm, and Linda planted her warm, soft lips on his cheek before she turned for the cabin.

The wind had dropped to a more reasonable twenty knots, so Jack lashed the helm. He shook out the reef and sent the main sail fully aloft, then sheeted it in again. First Watch heeled harder to her starboard with the additional thrust, and soon her pace was back up to nearly ten knots, with a satisfying wake emanating from her stern. Not just the turbulent boil that was there before, but an honest V wake, frothing and white. One that gave a real feeling of speed. Like flying on the water. The sounds of the rigging in the wind, the hull working, and the water as it splashed and hissed was like the greatest symphony ever written to Jack's ears. He reveled in it, as a child revels in his first success at something new. It was pure joy.

Linda came topside again with her arms full of bowls and cups. She braced her left foot against the heel of the boat in the corner formed by the confluence of the cockpit sole and the base of the bench seat as she walked aft, timing her steps to coincide with the brief moments between the rise and fall of the boat beneath her. Jack watched her intently as she moved in rhythm with the waves, smiling both inside and out.

My, but you've a lovely pair of sea legs” he said, still grinning.

She planted her bottom on the seat next to Jack, in perfect time with it's rise toward her. He took his bowl full of beans and weenies and cup of water from her and began eating greedily.

I've got red beans and rice going for dinner, if you can keep the boat off it's side long enough” Linda quipped, only half joking.

I'll try to keep the shiny side up” Jack mumbled with a smile and a mouth full. When he swallowed, he asked “Willie and Peggy okay?”

Willie is up. He's cleaning up a bit. Peggy, well..... She's not feeling too good”

Sea sick?”

Yep. She's used to pitching and rolling, but I guess heeling was the last straw” Linda said with a chuckle.

Well hell, I guess I can ease up on her a bit.”

Jack eased off the main sheet and the boat stood a bit more upright, though at a loss of two knots in speed. He sat back down next to Linda as the boat settled into it's slower pace, and put his arm around her. She began to rub his shin with her bare foot as they leisurely cruised along.

Willie emerged from the cabin a few minutes later with a bucket, which he discreetly emptied over the leeward rail.

Thanks for backing off a bit Jack” Willie said. “Peggy never was really comfortable on a sailboat. She could handle the trawler though, since it didn't heel. Throws her balance off I guess, heeling.”

I'll take it easy on her.” Jack replied. “We're far enough out and away now that I'm not too terribly worried.”

Willie nodded. He turned his gaze forward as he started back down into the cabin, and Linda took the opportunity to resume her foot rubbing while stealing a kiss.

Hey Jack?” said Willie.


While you two were playing footsie, did you happen to notice the boats on the port bow?”

Wha...” Jack cut himself off as he leapt for his binoculars. Scanning the port quarter, he finally spotted two tiny dots on the horizon, while wondering in amazement at Willie's visual acuity. He trained his binoculars on the distant smudges, and was amazed to see two tall ships. Square rigged sailing ships, heading on a parallel course as far as he could tell.

Willie, you won't believe this” Jack said. “It's a pair of square riggers!”

Interesting” was Willie's only response.

What do you think we should do?” Jack asked him.

Just keep an eye on 'em” Willie replied. “I wouldn't do anything different.”

With that, he went below. Linda reached for the binoculars, which Jack gave to her. She peered intently toward the two tiny specks, and shook her head in amazement.

I didn't know those things even existed anymore” she said.

Oh, there's a few of them left” Jack responded. “But what a pair of 'em is doing way the hell down here is beyond me.”

He turned his attention back to steering his course, but one eye was kept on those two distant ships from then on.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Voyage Continues

 Thank you Tanya for your subscription!

Howling wind and driving rain besieged the sodden pair as they fought to steer their course through angry seas. Huge waves shoved the bow aside, causing Jack to clap the rudder hard over to bring the boat back on course. Willie worked the winches that pulled the storm jib sheets, madly hopping from side to side as the fickle gale changed directions. At times he had to spill the wind entirely, to prevent the boat from foundering when a wave shoved her broadside to the sea.

Jack had thought of heaving to, but he wanted to put as much water between his boat and the island as possible under the cover which the storm provided. So he pressed onward, in spite of the stinging spray, the wild pitching and rolling that threatened to toss him overboard, and the potential for damage to the boat.

Willie was a remarkable seaman, Jack thought to himself. Not a word passed between them as the pair worked the boat, but they could read each other, and the sea almost as one mind. A knowing glance was all the communication required, as each man knew what the other was thinking. Which was just as well, the howl of the wind in the rigging would have carried away any words before ear could receive them.

Within an hour the rain began to taper off and the low, dark clouds began to break up. The wind steadied and settled into a generally east-northeasterly direction, though it still blew at a steady thirty knots, gusting to thirty-five and more. Willie was finally able to sheet in the storm jib and leave it. He even raised the main to the second reef, after Jack's approving nod. The speed piled on as the main was sheeted home, and the sea hissed down the sides as they sped along at nearly ten knots. Great volumes of water rose into the air as the bow cleaved the waves, and came rushing down the deck on it's course back to the ocean.

Jack drew his rain coat tight around him, in a vain attempt to ward off the damp chill that followed the storm front's passage. He steeled himself to the long, long passage that lie ahead. Nearly six hundred miles of open sea separated them from their next landfall, the island of St. Martin. Jack chose this island because it was under French and Dutch control. As far as he knew...

The sun finally peeked over the horizon, painting the clouds red and pink. Rays of light beamed from between them. It was a beautiful sight to a weary Jack, and Willie seemed to admire it as well from his reclined position, sprawled across the cockpit benches.

The sliding hatch over the companionway opened, and Peggy's gray streaked auburn hair soon rose above the drop boards, followed by her tired, yet smiling face as she climbed the next step of the companionway ladder.

You boys look like you could use a cuppa joe” she said in her soft Texas drawl.

That we could” Willie replied. “That we could”.

Yes ma'am” said Jack. “A shot of hootch wouldn't hurt either.”

Peggy grinned and winked, then bobbed back down the steps.

About four days I reckon” Willie said.

Thereabouts” Jack replied. “If the wind holds out.”

They sat in exhausted silence until Peggy reappeared with two insulated mugs. Jack sipped from his mug, and smiled when he tasted the hint of whiskey.

Linda pulled the drop boards from the companionway, stowed them, then climbed up on deck.

Relieve the watch?” Jack asked with a wry grin.

In your dreams sailor boy” she shot back with a smile. “But I will take the helm for a spell.”

Jack layed back against the coaming as she took the wheel, and closed his burning eyes. To the sounds of the water and Willie's soft snoring, he drifted off to sleep.

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 17, 2012

6:30 A.M. Josey woke for the first time since the accident completely coherent and without fever. She's in good spirits, considering. I fixed us some breakfast while Kevin was out looking for some "protein on the hoof", then tended to her dressings. The wound is healing very nicely, much to my relief. I gave her another round of pain relief and antibiotic, and she soon fell asleep. But not before asking me to come close, and wrapping her arms around me while planting a long kiss on my lips...

10:00 A.M. When I said "protein on the hoof" I'd no idea it was prophetic! Kevin bagged a calf. He dragged it half way back to the trailer before dropping it and returning for my help. Being from the "work smarter, not harder" camp, I suggested we pile into the Scout and retrieve the calf with a little mechanical assistance.

1:30 P.M. We got calf... The 'fridge and freezer are packed full of veal, which is more than a good thing. What wouldn't fit, we tossed into a makeshift smoker which is puffing away as I write. What wouldn't fit in the smoker, we dragged off into the woods for the dogs to gnaw on. That should keep them occupied for a few days, until Josey is well enough to travel a bit.Which should be very soon. She was up again half an hour ago; hungry, thirsty, bright eyed, and bushy tailed.

10:15 P.M. Josey is doing very well. She absolutely devoured a good sized veal steak, canned veggies, and some cornbread from a pouch. She drank more water than she'd had in the last five days combined. Which led to a new "problem". She had to go...

Carefully I sat her up, then sat down beside her. I put her arm around me, and Kevin took her other arm. We picked her up and carried her the short distance to the rest room door. It isn't wide enough for all of us to pass through, so I left Kevin to help her the rest of the way.

Without getting into too much detail, everything came out okay. Which was a great relief. Puns absolutely intended! It sure feels good to be able to joke a bit about what has been the most nerve wracking experience of my life, one which I never wish to repeat.

Tomorrow it looks like we'll be able to move on a bit. Though slowly, I'm sure Josey won't be able to handle too many hard bumps. I've had a broken leg before, and I remember the pain from bouncing down old country roads on the way to a doctor appointment. I can only imagine Josey's pain is much worse...

Don't miss this little bit I posted below:

I Completely Forgot About This Short Story

Hell, I was entertained by reading it : )

Follow Via E-mail

For some reason I never thought to add e-mail subscription... DUH! Well it's here now, right there on the sidebar. Now you won't have to keep checking in for new posts, an e-mail will be sent to notify you if you sign up. I'm slow, but I get there eventually, with a little help from my friends : )

A Little Something Different

Pete, thank you for your subscription!

Here's a little something different. It struck me as I was mulling over Captain Jack's next installment...

Soul Upon the Sea

It is a bent and tortured soul
Who stands along the shore
Staring out across the sea
But wanting something more

A heaving hull with wind in sail
Afloat upon the tide
Serenity and inner peace
Such articles provide

A bearing plucked from heart's delight
And plotted on the chart
Sets the course for Freedom's Keep
And longing to depart

Within the mind, the vessel plies
Through stormy froth and rain
Riding high on raging sea
Safe harbor to attain

For now the body stands ashore
Fixed with what might be
But in the offing, there resides
A soul upon the sea

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 16, 2012

A big thank you to Henry and William for your subscriptions!

5:30 A.M. I've been up for an hour. Josey continues to do pretty well, just a mild fever. The antibiotics are doing their thing, especially since the raging infection was cut away. I never would have thought I could do such a thing, but as they say, "necessity is the mother of invention". Yesterday I was just a simple man, and today I'm a surgeon. May I never have to repeat the experience so long as I live...

8:30 A.M. The three of us have had breakfast. Once again, Kevin has fixed us a delightful meal from what storage goods we have stashed. Powdered eggs and spam, mixed up with bacon bits, dried onions and peppers, with a side of instant potatoes. A meal fit for a king, given the circumstances. Josey woke long enough for a few mouthfuls and half a bottle of water, which put my mind somewhat at ease. I know she's dehydrated, and still a bit "shocky". Far from out of the woods yet, but improving.

After she fell back asleep I checked her wound. It looks good, if that can be said of something so horrendous. I cleaned it with alcohol, changed the dressing, then propped her stump up on a pillow to keep it elevated. There is a lot of swelling, which is to be expected I suppose, but the skin is not off color. Nor is there any discharge other than a little blood.

1:00 P.M. Kevin shot a rabbit this morning, and it's meat was mixed up with some canned veggies for a soup. It was delicious, and Josey had nearly a bowl full. She's doing very well, thank God. She's drinking more, and the color is returning to her face.

Her temperature is down to 99.9 degrees. I'm hopeful that the worst has passed, and I can soon fabricate some sort of prosthetic to get her up and walking again. She's a spirited woman, and being bed-ridden is not on her agenda. She's already griping that us men folk have no sense of cleanliness or organization as far as the camper is concerned.

10:15 P.M. Josey is asleep after dinner and a round of pain killer and antibiotic. I cleaned up while Kevin tended to his Mom.  Then I stepped outside for a couple shots and some "unwind" time. Didn't realize it 'til just now, but I was wound up tighter than a drum. This whole ordeal has tested me to the limit, and now I can definitely feel the effects...

As I sit here outside in the cool night air under a star lit sky, I've had time to reflect on what's happened. Seems to me that I simply went "robotic". All emotion was swept aside, and my actions were almost automatic. I did what I had to do, no more, no less. And when it was done; when I was satisfied the danger had pretty much passed, the emotion came flooding back in. Like a ton of rock dropped on me all in an instant. Maybe that's how a soldier felt in the heat of battle, cold and calculating. When the battle was through, the weight of it all came crashing down on top of him. I can only speculate of course, having never seen combat. Then again, maybe I just have, but the opposing army could only be seen through a microscope...

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Voyage Continues

A big thank you to Barbara and Kurt for your subscriptions!

Low, dark clouds were on the horizon as the dinghies assembled around Willie’s boat. He paced the deck as the last of the stragglers rafted up to the bobbing mass of little boats, and Jack sat on Island Time’s aft cabin top with Linda and Seth. When the last boat was tied off and the crowd’s attention undivided, Willie stepped up to the stern rail and began to speak.

“It has become fairly obvious that we are not safe anywhere near the United States. It is also fairly obvious that we can’t get too much further away in power boats. We have no idea when or where fuel will be available, nor will we be sure of how we can purchase it. Which leaves us in a bit of a pickle, and as far as I can see, with two choices. One, we could all crowd aboard the few sailboats amongst us and leave. Two, we could run the boats out to sea and scuttle them, leaving us stranded here come what may, but maybe we’ll be left alone. I’ll leave y’all to chew on that for a bit. I know it’s not much.”

Several minutes crept by before anyone spoke. The only sound was the increasing wind and small waves lapping the boats as their occupants quietly murmured among themselves. When finally the silence was broken, it was the cigarette boat’s skipper that addressed the assembled.

“Folks, I am going to stay put. I’ll scuttle my boat and take my chances. There’s not enough room on the sailboats, and I’ll be damned if I’ll become a burden on anyone else. I think we’ll be okay here so long as we lay low.”

“Might as well count me in” said the owner of the little trawler, already damaged in the passage through the Florida Straight. “We won’t get any further.”

A gust of wind rippled the bay as the storm clouds drew near, which sent a chill through Jack as he sat there looking at the group before him. Talk flowed as they all tried to decide what the best course of action might be. After quite some time, when the first drops of rain started to ripple the water’s surface, the decisions had been made. Most were going to scuttle their boats and melt in to the island’s population, hopefully to live in peace. A few decided to transfer on to one of the few sailboats that had room. And Jack had agreed to take Willie and his wife aboard First Watch.

With much sadness in their hearts, Seth and his wife decided to stay put for the sake of their young son. The details being finalized and good-byes having been said, the group went their separate ways as the lightning lit up the sky and the rain came down hard. Jack and Linda boarded their dink, cast off, and headed for First Watch. He pulled hard at the oars against the wind and chop which had whipped the shallow bay to a froth. Foam streaked the water’s surface and spindrift flew past them as spray pelted their bodies when bow met wave. Willie had won his anchor and come alongside Jack’s sailboat in the time it took him to row the fifty yards or so between the boats.

He helped Linda aboard after tying off his painter, then hauled himself over the life lines as the rain increased. Lines were passed between First Watch and Island Time, and Willie’s son Ben placed fenders between the hulls as they met. Then began the task of passing gear across from boat to boat. When the final items had found stowage aboard Jack’s boat, Willie launched his skiff for Seth and his family to take ashore. Tears mixed with rain and spray as they climbed aboard the skiff with their belongings. Hugs, kisses, and good-byes finished, they cast off and headed for shore. Peggy and Linda went below as Jack and Willie agreed on the coordinates for Island Time’s final resting place. With a lingering glance of both sorrow and dread, Willie cast loose the moorings and entered Island Time’s wheelhouse for what would be her final voyage.

Jack hauled his anchor and raised the storm jib. The wind was gusting over forty knots, and the rain fell hard, so much that the deck drains barely kept up. He followed Willie as he headed for the open sea. Soon the chop turned to swell that heaved their hulls as they passed through the gap in the reef. Soon after, Willie signaled by flashing his anchor light that they had reached their destination. Jack sailed upwind of Island Time, then launched his dinghy. He sent it over on a long line, and it reached the trawler just as Willie emerged on deck. He signaled that the deed was done, then climbed over into the little boat. As Jack hauled him in, he sat facing his beloved boat as she began to settle in the waves. Every light aboard was burning, and adorning the mast was a white flag bearing a black cannon barrel and the words “come and take it” as it snapped and popped in the wind.

Willie climbed aboard First Watch, but ignored the dink’s retrieval as his gaze returned to the sinking trawler. Jack also turned to watch as Island Time slowly settled, then turned over as a large wave struck her beam. The cabin lights could still be seen shining under water as the stern slipped beneath the sea. Soon the bow was standing straight up. The lights flickered out, and a great belch of air came from the bow hatch as it blew out. She bobbed twice more, then Island Time went down. Willie stared at the foamy spot for a few seconds more, then turned to haul Jack’s dink back aboard. When it was secured on deck, he went below without a word.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 15, 2012

A "two-fer" today, read this one first!

5:30 A.M. I woke with a start at 4:30. Immediately I went to check on Josey, and was relieved to find her very much alive. Though still warm, it seems her fever has subsided. She took some water, and murmured a bit before slipping back into unconsciousness. For a long while, I held her small hand and gently rubbed it, looking at her moonlit silhouette. I wished I could transfer my energy through her hand to make her well again. Maybe I did, because I am very tired again...

8:00 A.M. I awoke to the smell of breakfast cooking. Bleary eyed, I saw Kevin at the stove with a smile on his face. I looked over to Josey and saw her sleeping, with a little color having returned to her cheeks. Kevin told me that she'd woke up around 7 and said she loved him. He got her to drink a whole bottle of water before she fell asleep again. I was overjoyed, and Kevin wrapped me in a big bear hug. He bawled with joy, and so did I. It was only beans and cornbread from a pouch, but it was the best breakfast I'd ever eaten,

12:00 P.M. Josey spoke! Her fever broke, and she woke up. She asked me how I was doing. Choking back the tears, I told her I was fine, then grabbed her up in a hug. Then she realized that her leg was gone... I told her what happened. She lay there quiet for a minute. Then she looked me in the eye and softly whispered "thank you".

I told her that I didn't do anything for her that I didn't think she'd do for me, and Josey softly said "bullshit". She then took my hand, smiled, and told me I was her hero. I told her that I was just returning the favor. With that, she went back to sleep.

7:30 P.M. Kevin went out to hunt down supper while I stood watch over Josey. I gave her another round of antibiotics, and changed the dressing on her stump. her color is returning, and the fever is all but gone. She's still a little warm, but she's not burning hot or sweating much. I was even able to feed her some broth, which she kept down.

Kevin fed him and I a couple roasted rabbits with some caned veggies, which was a welcome treat after fasting for a couple days. After eating, Kevin ordered me to hit the sack or else. So I'm off to sleep. Let tomorrow find Josey stronger...

May 14, 2012

3:30 A.M. Josey's condition is deteriorating. She's been shivering hard, and mumbling incoherently. We can't get her to take any water. All color is gone from her face, even her lips are white. Occasionally her eyes flutter open, revealing only the whites because they're rolled up.

I uncovered the wound so I could clean it out with alcohol. It's starting to weep a foul smelling pus. Kevin had to step outside...

Cleaned it up the best I could, then wrapped it in clean bandages. Gave her another antibiotic shot, but I skipped the morphine because she's so far out of it. I'm afraid to give her too much, and as far as I can tell she's not feeling any pain. Please God, let her pull through...

6:30 A.M. Daylight is breaking and Josey is still with us, but barely. Her shivering has stopped for the moment, but she's impossibly hot to the touch. And to make matters worse, her foot has started to turn greenish-black. I'm afraid gangrene is setting in. I'm even more afraid of what might have to be done.

9:00 A.M. Her foot continues to worsen in color and the pus from the wound has increased. Kevin steeled himself to it, and took over monitoring his mother so I could dig into the medical books I brought back from the military clinic.

1:15 P.M. It's time. Her condition is degrading rapidly now from the injury and dehydration. I can't delay any longer. Kevin is begging me to do it. Oh God I can't even write it out, what I'm about to do...

11:00 P.M. At this time, I'm about half way through my second cup of vodka. My hands are still shaking... I have never held a life in my hands, and I never want to again.

Kevin started a fire outside and put the largest pot we had full of water on to boil. While he sterilized the freshly sharpened knives and the hack saw, I wiped down the 6x8 piece of poly tarp with alcohol. Then I gently worked it under Josey, and wiped it down again when I was done. Next I arranged what little medical supplies we had on the small counter top next to the bed.

Kevin brought in the sterilized tools on a tray covered with another piece of sanitized poly tarp, and looked at me with the most desperate look I've ever seen. I began to shake, so I took a shot of vodka to calm my nerves. Didn't help much. So I just clenched my teeth and went to it...

 I tied a tourniquet about five inches above her knee; then Kevin pulled a pair of nitrile gloves, previously washed in alcohol, on to my hands. Then I gave Josey a shot of morphine and waited several minutes, just staring at the knife while my insides curled up into a knot. Then I looked at her face, so pale and glistening with sweat. I looked at Kevin's face, twisted with fear. Almost unconsciously, I felt my hand reaching for the knife.

Two hours later, for better or for worse, the deed was done. Josey made not a sound during the whole gruesome thing, which was a great relief to me and to Kevin for sure. The procedure is detailed in one of the medical books I found, and I followed it the best I could, taking great care to be as clean and thorough as possible. When I'd finished bandaging her stump, I left Kevin with her while I disposed of her leg. I buried it, to keep the dogs or whatever from eating it. I don't know that they would, given the condition it was in, but I shuddered at the thought. And when I was finished, I vomited. If I ever have to do all that again in my life, it will be too soon.

She's still in bad shape. Her pulse is weak and her heart rate is slow, but at least she's still. Kevin even got her to take some water just a little while ago, which is encouraging. Now I'm going to finish my vodka and collapse...