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|Chapter 3: Casting Off|
An hour after nightfall, dirty and sweaty, Trevor climbed back up on deck, nearly bumping into Lisa. “Pew, you stink,” she said, wrinkling her nose.
Trevor rolled his eyes as he flipped on the 12-volt deck lighting. “Nice to see you too, Lisa. After working for five hours, including an hour down in the bilges, I do tend to stink.”
“What’s wrong with the bilges?” Lisa asked, knowing full well that getting Trevor talking about Atlantis was a sure way to put him in a better mood.
Trevor began wiping some dirt and grime off his bare torso with a rag as he replied, “Nothing, but if I don’t check them and clean and service the pumps and water sensors, the Atlantis could sink. Those pumps are battery powered and automatic; there’s one in each hull plus a safety cross feed that I added. There’s a water level sensor in each bilge, so when enough water seeps in, the pump gets rid of it.”
“So this is not just a tub, but a leaky tub?’ Lisa asked with a wicked grin.
Trevor laughed. “Yeah, right. Actually, all boats have bilges. Very few are actually perfectly watertight and water gets in from above, too. Anyways, if the bilge pumps conk out, enough water might seep in to damage stuff in a week or two and a lot faster if it rains.”
Lisa snorted. “A week or two? And when was the last time you spent a whole day away from Atlantis?”
“Probably February, when I had the flu,” Trevor admitted.
“So, what happened with Ben?” Lisa asked, getting to the real purpose of her visit.
Trevor crossed his arms and looked at her for a few moments, wondering how to proceed. “Lisa, I’ve asked you not to do that.”
“Do what?” Lisa asked, in an innocent tone.
Trevor sighed. “You know darn well what. Every time I get out of the pool, you’ve dragged some guy there and come up with some reason to introduce us.”
“Three times is not every time you get out of the pool, Trev.”
Trevor grunted in exasperation. “Why the pool?”
Lisa shrugged. “Hey, it’s the logical place. You look damn fine all wet and in those tight little racing swimsuits.”
Trevor rolled his eyes. “I’m not out to most of the guys on the swim team, Lisa. They aren’t blind; some of ‘em are cracking jokes about you dragging guys there.”
“You’re out to Joel and as for the rest... I’ll bet none of ‘em is giving you a hard time about being gay, am I right?” Lisa asked, smiling. She knew that two of the guys on the team were out and had been accepted, and that Trevor was well aware of that fact.
Trevor realized he’d fallen right into the trap Lisa had set, which neatly reignited a long-standing argument. “Look, I’ll come out when I’m ready, not until. You know my situation at home.”
“Trev, I’m only trying to help. You’re brooding and lonely. Don’t deny it, because we both know it’s true. As for your dad, he’s so nice and he seems open-minded. I really don’t think he’d react the way you think. Have you even tried, since the last time?” Lisa asked, knowing that she was pushing.
Trevor began to pace, his temper beginning to boil. “Lisa, back off. Has it ever occurred to you that I know my own father better than you do? Look, I tried, okay? I tried to bring it up, three times over the last year, and all he does is get edgy and change the subject. Ever since the last time, he’s been distant, not like before.”
“What exactly did you say,” Lisa asked, not giving an inch.
Trevor kept pacing, letting his temper simmer down. “I started by talking about gay people to see how he’d react. He doesn’t get ticked off easily, but that did it. He doesn’t like gays, Lisa, so he sure as hell isn’t going to be too pleased that his son is one. I’ll tell him but only after I turn eighteen. Right now he could force me to sell Atlantis even though it’s in my name, because I’m a minor. Then where would I be?”
“A normal guy with free time like everybody else,” Lisa said, and then Trevor’s answering glare made her regret it. “Sorry, I know how much this tu– boat means to you, and why. I guess if your dad acted like that more than once, you’ve got a point.”
Deciding to turn the tables, Trevor looked Lisa in the eye. “Now, while we’re on the subject of relationships, let’s talk about you and yours. Have you dumped Joel? You’re crazy if you do, and I’m not just saying that because he’s a good friend of mine. This cold abrasive act of yours just drives people away, and I know damn well that’s not the real you. I also know why you do it; you don’t want your heart ripped out again, like your mother did by leaving. So you just push everyone away, in one way or another. The only problem for you is you can’t do it to me, because I know you too well. You’re not the hardcase you pretend to be. Inside, you’re lonely too, just like me. The difference between us is I’m just waiting until I turn eighteen but you’re setting yourself up for a miserable life.”
Lisa’s lips began to quiver, letting Trevor know that he’d hit a nerve. She leaned against the guard wire and looked out to sea. “Okay Trev, maybe you’re right. I just don’t like... people getting too close to me. It... scares me. Maybe you’re right about why. I just don’t know what to do about it.”
Relieved that he’d finally gotten her to admit it, Trevor sat on the guard wire beside Lisa. “It just so happens that I know exactly what to do about it. You need to tell Joel what you just told me.”
Lisa shook her head. “I don’t think I can.”
Trevor nodded, and said, “I’m supposed to give him his next scuba lesson in a few days so I’ll tell him if you don’t.”
Lisa glared at Trevor. “You wouldn’t... that’s meddling!”
Trevor laughed and grinned. “And you trying to set me up with every gay guy you find isn’t? Turnabout is fair play, Lisa, so yeah, I will.”
“You bastard,” Lisa said in an exasperated tone, before giving Trevor a punch in the arm. After a sigh, she added, “Okay, okay, I’ll talk with Joel.”
“You have until I get back from my charter, because I’ll tell him then if you haven’t, no matter what.” Trevor announced.
“You would, you sanctimonious ass,” Lisa said, giving Trevor a shake of her head and a hint of a wry smile. “Okay, I’ll do it. Now, as for you, what happened with Ben?”
“Maybe we’ll become friends – but nothing more – due to the fact that neither one of us are looking for boyfriends right now. His folks move around a lot so he doesn’t want to get into anything,” Trevor said.
Lisa snorted. “God, you’re impossible. You’ve got this boat here, which has cabins and beds, so you could do whatever you wanted. Ben would have; I saw his jaw drop when I pointed you out when you got out of the pool. Just sex, Trev, if that’s all you want. Come on, how long has it been? Give your hand a break every once in a while!”
Trevor began to blush slightly. “Lisa... Geeze... I’m fine, okay? Look, after I hit eighteen I’ll start dating again; count on it, but not now.”
“That’s a year away, Trev. You’ll have hairy palms by then,” Lisa said, smiling sweetly.
Trevor’s cheeks glowed crimson as he replied, “Lisa, you’re too much sometimes... and this is one of ‘em. Now do me a favor and stop bringing guys to the pool, okay? If for no other reason than I don’t want to be any more out?”
Lisa nodded. “Okay, fair enough. I’ll just bring ‘em by Atlantis so they can see you working shirtless.”
“Lisa,” Trevor said, with a warning tone in his voice. He pointed at a large store, a quarter of a mile away, near the end of the pier. “As you damn well know, that’s my dad’s chandlery, so what I don’t need is a parade of guys coming by. He already at least suspects thanks to me trying to sound him out, and that’d clinch it.”
“Okay, okay, no more bringing guys to ogle your bod, here or at the pool, I promise, for now. So, where’s the charter to this weekend, as if I didn’t know?”
“Reef diving in the Bahamas. As far as Dad knows, I’ve got the same next weekend as well. That’s when I’ll head for Bimini.”
“Doesn’t it bother you, all alone out there on the ocean? Especially in the Bermuda Triangle? Whatever got your mom could get you, too,” Lisa said, broaching another subject Trevor didn’t like to talk about.
“No one knows what happened to her. I’ve read everything I could find on the disappearances in the triangle. Some are just normal, like anywhere, and others disappear without any trace at all, like Mom and the Ares. Her last radio call was that she was taking on water, but the Ares couldn’t just sink; she was just like the Atlantis, built with foam flotation chambers in the deck. No one knows what could have happened, and that’s one other subject Dad doesn’t like talking about, though this one I can understand. So, people just chalk up the loss of the Ares to another Triangle vanishing. I want to find Mom and bring her home to dry land, so she can at least have a real funeral and a burial.”
Lisa turned to stare at Trevor. “My God, you’re diving out there, aren’t you? In the middle of the fucking ocean, alone. Scuba divers are supposed to buddy-dive, not go down all alone in the ocean. Trevor, don’t.”
Trevor shrugged. “It’s not that bad. Besides, I’ll only go down if I see something. I stick my head over the side wearing a facemask, and in some places out there it’s shallow with white sand and clear enough to see the bottom easily.”
“And what have you found so far?” Lisa asked.
Trevor looked down at his feet. “Not much. Some wrecked lobster pots that had grown barnacles, a chunk of coral, and an old wheelbarrow, probably washed out to sea in a storm.”
“Diving alone is fucking dangerous, especially with no one up top. Don’t do it. Look, you don’t know her last position anyway. Even if that radio call was right it only gives you a rough area,” Lisa said.
Trevor stared out to sea. “I’ve got to find her and this is the only way I know.”
“And that’s because you’re stupid, Trev. Look, my dad works with computer databases and he’s been teaching me a few things. I’ll make a deal with you; you promise me you won’t dive this time, and I’ll help you find everything there is to know about the sinking of the Ares. For starters, I can get you the complete Coast Guard investigation and search results, every last detail,” Lisa offered, wondering if what she said was true.
Trevor shook his head. “I’ve already checked with them. They found nothing, nada, zilch.”
“That’s just a starting point. The radio might be the key. If some other station picked up the call and got a directional bearing, that would narrow down your search area drastically. If there’s a second directional bearing from another site, you’d be really close. They didn’t have the computer systems back then like we do now so we can probably find stuff the Coast Guard couldn’t,” Lisa said, shuddering at the risk she knew Trevor intended to take.
“Even if we get that last position, what then? Like I said, the Ares couldn’t just sink. If it settled to the waterline and drifted with the current, it could be anywhere.”
Lisa glowered, wanting to scream in exasperation. “Then why the fuck are you diving out there?”
Trevor sighed, still staring out to sea. “Okay, no more diving, not alone anyway. I’m still going, and I’ll use a glass-bottomed bucket to look underwater every once in a while, but I’ll be harnessed the whole time. If I see anything, I’ll mark it on GPS and take somebody back with me later. Maybe Joel; I’ll have him certified pretty soon. You can come too.”
“Go out in the middle of the ocean on a tub that’s named after something that sank? You don’t ask much, do you? But okay, if that’s what it takes,” Lisa said. She’d been out on Atlantis before, but couldn’t pass up a dig.
Trevor turned to face Lisa, grinning. “Now, do you really think you can find some info or were you just bullshitting me?”
Lisa shrugged. “Part bullshit, but I really do think we might find something if we did database searches. Maybe some wreckage washed up somewhere, years later, on the other side of the Atlantic or somewhere. Can’t hurt to try. But I mean it; no diving alone this time, okay?”
“Deal,” Trevor replied, wondering if he meant it.
Trevor’s charter was set for early Friday afternoon, which left him with one small task; getting his absence excuse signed.
Bounding down stairs Friday morning, still in just his boxers, Trevor found his father in the kitchen, just about to leave. “Morning, Dad,” he said with a grin.
Dirk glanced at his son and nodded, turning away slightly. “Morning, Trev. What do you need?” he asked, already well aware of what Trevor was about to ask for.
Trevor looked at his father, feeling a little saddened by the less-than-enthusiastic greeting. “I’ve got a charter this weekend, out of Cocoa Beach, and I need to sail by one this afternoon. I need a permission slip to skip my last two classes. I can get it Monday if you’re in a hurry; I just need it before I go back to class.”
Dirk’s hand tensed, clutching the keys he held. “Trevor, we’ve talked about this before. You can’t keep missing school to run charters; you’ve missed a lot of time this semester already. Which two classes?”
“Geography and P.E.,” Trevor replied, and then reminded his father, “Which I’ve been getting A’s in.”
Dirk rolled his eyes. “Teaching you geography is about as much use as teaching you to swim, because you’re already damn good at both. What’s the capital of Uruguay?”
“Montevideo,” Trevor replied without hesitation, smiling at seeing his father’s old rapport again.
Dirk gave his son a faint, sad smile. “You pass. Okay, this time I’ll do it, but no more until after finals. I won’t let you miss any finals, no matter how good a charter you line up. Okay?”
Trevor nodded. “I’ve got one next weekend, but that doesn’t leave until late Friday; I’m picking ‘em up in Cocoa Beach. I’ll be fine as long as I sail right after school.”
“What about the following week?” Dirk asked, his voice becoming stern.
Trevor grinned, surprised that his father had forgotten. “I’ve got a five-day charter starting Thursday night, but the last day of school before summer break is Tuesday–”
Dirk held up his hand, “Okay, okay, I get the picture. Fine on that one. Just remember I’m counting on you to help me reorganize and inventory the chandlery after that charter. Now, about your charter today; you took their driver’s licenses along with the credit cards and ran a check on them through the agency, right?”
Trevor nodded. That was one of the things his father insisted on; Trevor had to have a background check run on his charters, both for safety and so that there was some record of who he was out with.
“Okay kiddo. I’ll see you when you get back on Sunday night. Call me if there’s any change in plans.” Dirk took a step towards the door, and then stopped. Turning, he said in a quiet voice, “Trevor, tone it down, okay? The deal was you could take out a few charters to pay for the upkeep on Atlantis, not run it as a frequent business. It’s not as if we need the money and I don’t like what you’ve done for a license, you know that. Wait until you’re legal, then you can do what you want. It won’t be long now.”
Not long, in this context, meant just over a year. Trevor nodded and sighed. He qualified for a Coast Guard Master’s Certificate in every way but one; he wasn’t yet eighteen. As a means to an end in order to keep the State of Florida, the Coast Guard, and his insurance company happy, Trevor had found a way around that requirement that worked to keep him, technically, within the law....
Prior to Trevor’s fifteenth birthday, Dirk had employed a crew for occasional charters of Atlantis, in order to pay for her upkeep. Trevor, already an experienced seaman and fully capable of handling Atlantis – he’d first taken her out alone two years before – had, after his birthday, decided to take a more active role in the running of his boat. Dirk had vetoed the idea, based on the fact that Trevor could not legally act as captain when paying customers were involved. Trevor had taken that as a challenge and set out to find an answer to his problem.
It had taken him two weeks, mainly devoted to checking the law and then asking around for advice. He’d hit paydirt when he’d broached the subject to Julie, who was then an employee of a dive shop a few doors down from his father’s marine chandlery. When she’d heard Trevor’s idea, she had said, “My late husband owned a fishing trawler and I hold a master’s license, inactive. I live on my pension and work so I can afford to dive. It wouldn’t take much for me to reactivate my license, and you’re running mainly dive charters, right?” Ten minutes later, Julie, who had just turned fifty, had entered the employ of fifteen-year-old Trevor.
Trevor had waited until he had everything arranged and Julie had reactivated her license. One last time, Trevor had double-checked the legalities. He would, officially, be little more than a passenger on his own boat. With his plan in hand, he had approached his father one lazy afternoon. He’d led off by idly remarking, “If it wasn’t illegal, couldn’t I hire a captain for Atlantis and sail on her as crew? I can handle her better than anybody, you know that.”
Dirk, distracted – exactly as Trevor had hoped – by the football game he’d been watching, had replied, “Sure, no problem, except like you said, it’s illegal. You’re not even old enough to drive.”
Trevor had smiled and sprung his trap. “I didn’t say it was illegal, Dad. I said if. Actually, it’s legal and I already have a captain.”
Dirk’s beer had instantly decorated his TV set, and he’s spun around, still sputtering, to glare at his son. “You WHAT? Trevor, this can’t be legal–”
“It’s legal, I checked. As long as I’m not paid to be on board, I can be. I own the boat so no issues there; I can hire someone. You have to be sixteen to be an employee in the state, but there’s no age limit for being an employer. The only difference from now is I’d be going out on Atlantis with the charters, which would save the need to hire crew. You did say the only problem you’d have with that was the law, right?” Trevor asked, keeping his face pleasant and blank, and his fingers crossed.
The game forgotten, Dirk had stared at Trevor for a while. “This was a setup, wasn’t it?”
Trevor had nodded, staring at his feet, looking sadder by the second. Dirk could see how much it meant to him. The deciding factor had been Dirk’s own feeling of inadequacy; ‘Some father I am, I can’t even be on a boat past the breakwater,’ he’d thought. “Okay, we’ll look into this. I want to meet him, this captain of yours.”
“Her,” Trevor said proudly. It hadn’t been easy, but, over the following months, Dirk had allowed Trevor to run charters under Julie’s license, with Dirk overseeing everything from the safety of dry land and wishing that his traitorous stomach would permit him to go to sea with them.
The deal had held, and so Trevor had become the unofficial but de-facto Captain of the Atlantis. Trevor still employed Julie as the nominal captain, a fact which often grated on him due to his far greater skill, but Julie didn’t charge much. She did get a cabin at sea which meant, in spite of what Trevor had told Ben, he usually ended up sleeping on the salon couch or in his cockpit beanbag whenever they needed the other four cabins for the charter guests.
Julie liked diving, which was her main payment. Her only real responsibilities were to act as captain for the passengers, whenever the Coast Guard was in sight, or when paperwork was required. Trevor ran the ship in every way; Julie merely made it legal.
What mattered most though, to Trevor, was that regardless of the legal arrangements, Atlantis was his, and he was, official or not, her captain.
Dirk, who had much on his conscience, had allowed Trevor freer rein than he was comfortable with, a fact Dirk often regretted.
This day was one such time. With a reluctant ease, Dirk wrote out a note excusing Trevor from his last classes on Friday. Then, he looked his son in the eye. “One string attached, Trev. Pick up some lunch on your way to the dock; otherwise, you won’t have time to eat. You can’t be in the galley and at the wheel.”
That was one string Trevor happily agreed to.
Dirk turned away, heading out the door. “Be careful out there, Trev. Call me on my cell if anything changes, okay?”
“Will do, bye Dad. See you at lunchtime!” Trevor said as Dirk was about to close the door. Trevor noticed his father glance back, his eyes unreadable, and then Dirk hurriedly closed the door.
With his father gone, Trevor stood alone in the kitchen, clutching the note, and wishing he’d never tried to come out to his father. ‘It’s just not the same anymore. He’s uncomfortable around me now, sometimes. He knows but doesn’t want to acknowledge it, so he ignores it,’ Trevor thought, once again blaming his own vague attempts to come out for the change in his father’s behavior.
As soon as the lunch bell rang, Trevor raced for his car. He stopped at a drive-through for three orders of burgers and fries on his way to the Atlantis.
With the food on hand, Trevor raced into the chandlery, picked up a satphone from his father, handed him one of the fast-food bags. “Have a great weekend, Dad,” Trevor said, and before Dirk would say more than a few words, Trevor was dashing down the dock.
Trevor leapt aboard Atlantis, eager to put out to sea. As he entered the cockpit, Julie stuck her head out of the main doors to say, “Howdy, Trev. If some of that food is for me, you’re a saint.”
“Hi Julie,” Trevor said with a smile. No matter how much it grated on him that he could not yet be the official Captain of the Atlantis, he never let it affect his friendship with Julie. ‘It’s not her fault the rules are so dumb,’ he often thought. Trevor handed her one of the two paper bags and they sat down on the cockpit bench to eat.
“So… a saint, am I?” Trevor said, mumbling around his first bite of burger.
“I just wanted food, what can I say?” Julie replied with a laugh.
Trevor looked at his official captain. She looked the part; her tan skin wrinkled beyond her years by long exposure to the sun, her graying hair swept back.
Trevor wolfed down his food, and Julie chided him. “Easy there Trev. A couple of minutes won’t make a damned bit of difference.”
With a nod and a smile, Trevor finished his burger and jumped to his feet, flicking the master power switch to the engines and pressing the ignition button. The twin diesels rumbled to life, sending a vibration through the deck. Trevor watched the RPMs fluctuate, and then as soon as they stabilized, he ran forward with a shout of, “Casting off!”
Julie watched him go, grinning at his exuberance. Casting off, she was sure, was his favorite thing in the world.
Trevor unhitched the bow spring – a line running sternwards from the bow to the dock to prevent movement – then the bowline and, thanks to the light breeze from dockside, the bow of Atlantis began to swing out as Trevor raced for the aft stanchion, where he released the stern line, hauling it aboard. Then, he jumped into the cockpit, taking his place behind the Atlantis’s wheel, and edged the twin throttles forward, nosing into the channel.
Feeling the freshening breeze, Trevor felt at home as he increased speed to five knots and motored down the channel, heading for the open sea. As Julie had often noted, Trevor was a different person at sea; happy and outgoing compared to his often sullen demeanor ashore.
Three hundred yards past the breakwater, Trevor waited until the Atlantis was abeam of the outer channel buoy to engage the autopilot. With the boat steering itself, Trevor grabbed the main halyard and began to haul, slowly raising and unfurling the mainsail. At first it luffed, but then it caught and he felt the Atlantis surge ahead, picking up speed as it knifed through the light swells, heading north along the coast.
Pulling on the foresail sheet and unfurling the sail, Trevor felt the speed increase again, to fifteen knots, and dashed back to the cockpit, where he shut down the now-superfluous engines. The noise and vibration died, replaced by the sound of Atlantis’s bows surging through the swells and the wind humming through the rigging.
Disengaging the autopilot, Trevor took the wheel out of want rather than need. He loved the sea, the feeling of freedom, bringing him a peace he could not find ashore.
Trevor checked his GPS-based navigation plot, which included an updated estimated time of arrival based upon Atlantis’s course and speed. “We should be in Cocoa Beach by four thirty,” he said.
“And the charter isn’t until six, so as usual you just wanted to get out to sea a little early,” Julie said with a chuckle, used to Trevor’s ways.
“Gotta have a safety margin timewise, in case the wind doesn’t hold,” Trevor said with a laugh, which they both knew wasn’t strictly true; Atlantis could have made the trip on her diesels.
“So, what’s the job this time?” Julie asked, taking a seat beside where Trevor stood.
“Direct course from Cocoa to Grand Bahama Banks, for some wreck-diving. Three clients, each in a stateroom, so you can have the port forward stateroom.”
“Just three, with their own rooms? No couples?” Julie asked.
Trevor shrugged. “I have no idea. The names sounded female from what I remember, but I didn’t really look.”
‘I’ll bet you’d have checked ages and pictures if any of those names were male,’ Julie thought, suppressing a chuckle. Trevor’s lack of interest in girls was something she’d noticed more and more. Julie knew that Trevor’s best friend was a girl, but she’d seen him around Lisa often enough to know the relationship was entirely platonic. A charter three months before, which included a husband and wife along with their gorgeous seventeen-year-old daughter, had confirmed Julie’s theories. Trevor had treated the girl just like any other passenger, but he hadn’t spared her so much as an admiring look. As a result, Julie had not been surprised in the least a month later, when another charter had included a stunning eighteen-year-old surfer and his parents, and Trevor had been so distracted by the surfer that he’d taken to walking into the occasional bulkhead. Julie hadn’t yet mentioned her conclusions to Trevor; in spite of their age difference and camaraderie, he was, after all, her employer. However, she was considering broaching the subject anyway at some point, to let him know that she supported him. As far as she was concerned, you liked who you liked and that was that.
Half an hour out of Cocoa Beach, Trevor ducked into his cabin to change into a clean pair of shorts and a better shirt. Trevor’s usual attire for greeting a charter was neatly pressed khaki shorts and a polo shirt. Looking smart for the guests when they came aboard was just part of the business, and Trevor, in spite of his age, was a seasoned pro in many ways.
Trevor came back into the cockpit, and Julie gave him an approving nod before suggesting, “Don’t forget your hair, Trev.” Julie smiled; Trevor, who wore his sandy-blond hair a little on the long side, often forgot to comb it while at sea.
Digging out his comb and pulling it through his hair, Trevor said, “Thanks. I’ll remember, one of these days.”
“I meant after we near the dock,” Julie said with a laugh. “Fat lot of good combing it out here will do you in this wind.”
© 2009 C James
Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"
Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.
Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.
Thanks also to Talonrider and MikeL for beta reading.
A big Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice, and to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.