Saturday, July 30, 2011


The breeze dropped further still, and took to coming in irregular puffs before it died altogether. Dawn's first pink glow began to show through the hazy, cloud dappled sky, and the tall ship's sails drooped sadly in the still air. Scattered zephyrs rustled the dew dripping sails aboard First Watch, but provided no thrust. She lay there, bobbing in the diminishing swell some fifty yards from the ship's port quarter, surrounded by a glassy sea.

About a mile distant, the second ship could now be seen as well. Sails just as limp, becalmed in the eerily quiet, vast expanse of what looked just like a slightly wavy mirror. In fact, it was nearly impossible to discern the horizon. Sea and sky came together in a fuzzy, dream-like haze; both imitating the other exactly in appearance. It was not until the first sliver of the sun's red disc peeked above the plane that one could tell with certainty where it was.

Jack sipped his coffee, and ran his practiced eye along the ship's lines and rigging. She was a three masted square-rigger. Steel hull and masts, painted white and tan, respectively. She had the look of a clipper ship, such as the Cutty Sark, and was undoubtedly fast in capable hands. A beautiful ship, begging for the tradewinds and a competent crew. As her high, rounded stern slowly turned toward First Watch in the idle sea, Jack mouthed her name, Caribe, now visible in the soft morning light.

For nearly an hour, he took in Caribe's form. Her shape was trim and seaworthy, her rigging stout and efficient. And he knew there was no way that six men could work her. Sure, they could set sail eventually, but there was no way they could tack her in a channel, or make any maneuvers at all in short order. She was severely handicapped, and in eminent danger anywhere but the open sea. Surely she had engines, but even so, they could not reduce sail in time should it come on to blow. And then there was his suspicion that those left aboard had no notion of the engines, much less how much fuel was left aboard.

Linda brought Jack his breakfast, a powdered egg omelette filled with canned mixed vegetables, and covered in picante sauce. He ate it greedily as he kept his gaze on the ship, who's stern was now about twenty yards off of First Watch's starboard beam. When he'd mopped up the last of the picante with a slice of bread, Jack swallowed it down, cleared his throat, then hailed the ship.

Ahoy Caribe.”

Silence was all that returned his call. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he hailed again. After some minutes had passed, Vasiliy's voice came over the water from Caribe's port bulwark.


Do you know how much fuel you have aboard?” Jack inquired.

Good question! Engineer was one who left in boat. We have only deck crew left.”

Nobody knows anything about the propulsion plant?”

We sail, and see to the passengers. No engineers.”

You do know that you are undermanned for any kind of maneuvering?”

Yes, yes. Very short. We thought to anchor in cruise ship harbor and maybe, how you say, catch a lift ashore. The approach is wide, we swing wide around many miles, plenty of time to tack.”

You're sure of this?”

Yes, yes. Been there many times. No problem.”

Not wholly convinced, Jack nodded and waved, then turned toward the companionway and a much needed bunk. Linda kissed him before he turned in, and said she'd take the watch. He gave his respects to a much renewed Peggy, now almost human due to the calm, and then fell into his bunk, asleep before his head hit the pillow.

Swimming in the realm that occupies the space between dream and consciousness, Jack had a vision of a blue marlin leaping gracefully, shaking it's massive head in an attempt to throw the hook which had lodged in it's gaping jaw. He could see clean through it's flared gills, right to the water from which it thrashed and danced in it's efforts to free itself. The scream of a reel, and triumphant whoops from those who fought the great fish dragged him from his slumber, and soon he found himself blinking against the bright sunlight as he ascended the companionway ladder. Peggy had an iron grip on a doubled over fishing rod, and Linda held the gaff against the gun'nel, through the life lines, in anticipation of landing their supper. Several hands lined Caribe's rail, taking in the excitement, but not necessarily concentrating on the fish. And then, not ten yards from First Watch's stern, the glorious yellow, blue, green, and purple polka-dotted bull dorado made a tremendous leap into the air, raising a cheer from the onlookers aboard the ship, and delighted squeals from the women engaged in the battle. The fish seemed to hang in mid-air much longer than physically possible, but it finally came down with a great splash, and the reel sang out again as the fish made another blazing run.

Though not quite played out, Linda made her lunge with the gaff (for fear of losing such a grand meal). With one graceful arcing motion, she brought the fish up, up, and over the life lines into the cockpit sole. There the fish began flailing wildly, flinging blood all around, it's vivid colors undulating along it's body, until Jack subdued it with his billy club. Smiles and laughter came from those in the cockpit, and a great cheer came from the men on the ship, who then hurried off for their own fishing poles.