Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Voyage Continues

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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.


  1. That was fun! Thanks Mayberry!


  2. Having sailed a 37' Morgan Out-Islander on this same course, you have an amazing acuity to imagine the reality of the situation. The only thing missing is the occasional slap on the face from a flying fish, who errantly aimed a bit too high towards the white of the main.

    Each morning and after each blow, I had the junior members of the crew to clear the deck or the fast decomposing fish made my normally enourmous appetite wane to naught.

    You really bring back the memories of salt water softened hands, wool gloves and the wool blanket used to keep the chill off after sunset! I can smell it now... Keep up the good work!

  3. You got the shinin' boy!

  4. S4r, thank you!

    Anon 9:27, darnit I didn't think of flying fish. I've been in that part of the world, and hit a few "Saints" along with Puerto Rico back when I was in Uncle Sam's Canoe Club. But mostly, I read a lot of sailing blogs and such. Plus I do a lot of research to make the story authentic. I've got a folder in my internet "favorites" where I have Caribbean maps, info on the islands Capt. Jack and crew have visited, wind and tide charts and tables... Then there's my wee bit of sailing experience on a Sunfish, a 12' Puffer, and a couple bay cruises on a Hunter 34. Glad to know it passes muster with someone who's really sailed those waters! Thank you!

    Anon 10:57, redrum : ) Thanks!