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|Chapter 7: Pilgrimage|
Trevor walked out into the salon grinning at Joel and Lisa’s note, which was still in his hands. He placed it inside his nav desk drawer, and then glanced at the clock, seeing that it was almost five. ‘Thanks to Joel and Lisa, there’s something I can get done today instead of tomorrow.’
Bolting from the salon and leaping to the dock, Trevor took off at a run, heading for a florist’s shop a few blocks away, where he picked up a small wreath he’d ordered. After returning it to Atlantis and placing it with reverent care in his galley refrigerator, Trevor decided to head home.
While kicking back in his room looking at charts, Trevor heard the front door open and bounded down the stairs. “Hi Dad, how was the trade show?” he asked, wondering what his father’s mood would be this time.
“Fine,” Dirk replied a little abruptly, setting his bag down and heading for the coffee pot. “Anything new here?” he asked, in a pleasant tone.
“Not much, except the inventory and cleaning of the chandlery. They’re done,” Trevor replied with a smile.
Dirk spun around to look at his son. “Okay, that’s one hell of a surprise. Thanks Trev, but... does that mean you’ve been working ever since I left?”
Trevor shook his head. “Nope, I talked Joel and Lisa into helping so we got it done in a day. Today I took ‘em out on Atlantis, surfing. We had a blast.”
Dirk nodded. “Good. I’m glad you’re doing normal stuff like that.”
Trevor’s mood instantly darkened, though he didn’t want to show it. ‘Great, another crack about normal. Why the hell did I ever try to come out to him?’ he thought, as he sat down at the oak kitchen table, staring absently at its surface.
Dirk took a deep breath and then said, “There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about. I know it’s half a year away, but... I’ve been thinking of something for Christmas break for you: I want to send you to Western Australia for a couple of weeks.”
Trevor’s eyes shot up, and he found himself staring at the top of his father’s head. The name of the Australian state was one Trevor instantly recognized. “That’s where Mom was from.”
Dirk nodded. “She still has some relatives there, a few hundred miles north of Perth, and I think it would... do you good to meet them. They’re in a town not far from the Shark Bay area, which I’ll bet you’d like to see anyway.”
“That’s a long way and a remote area...” Trevor began.
“We can afford it and I think it would do you good,” his father said. After a silent pause, he added, “You know I can’t go,” Air travel affected Dirk almost as badly as being at sea, “but if you wanted, you could take a girlfriend with you.”
Trevor felt his stomach churn. ‘Won’t he ever let that issue drop and accept me? He’s been pushing me about getting a girlfriend ever since I tried to come out to him,’ he thought sourly. “I’m not seeing anyone right now,” Trevor said, trying to keep his voice pleasant.
With an uncertain tone that Trevor noticed, Dirk replied, “Christmas is six months away so I’m sure you’ll find another girl by then. Or you could go on your own if you want, it’s your choice.”
“I’d like to go,” Trevor said, still trying to skirt the girlfriend issue.
With a strained smile on his face, Dirk nodded, still not looking up. “Good. You already have a passport so I’ll check to see if you need a visa too. Anyway, it’s a long ways off but it’s something for you to think about.”
The thought of the trip was enough to subdue Trevor’s irritation over the girlfriend remarks, so he smiled and replied, “Thanks Dad, that sounds awesome!”
“You’ve got a charter this weekend, right?” Dirk asked.
“Yeah, it’s still on, starting tomorrow afternoon,” Trevor lied, feeling a little guilty.
Dirk sighed. “Are you going to be okay? I mean, it’s the... anniversary.”
Trevor nodded. “I’ll be okay; work keeps my mind off it. Thanks Dad.” Trevor was mildly surprised; it was rare for his father to mention his mother’s disappearance in any way, a fact Trevor had always ascribed to lingering grief.
The next morning, Trevor heard his father leave and sat up in bed, still half asleep. He grabbed a fast breakfast, then a shower, and tugged on some shorts, thinking they were all he’d need. He planned to sail in the afternoon and there wasn’t much remaining to do aboard, but he wanted to get back to Atlantis anyway.
He dashed out to his car, and as he opened the door, he paused, seeing the two file boxes. ‘I better get those put away,’ he thought.
Carrying both boxes, one atop the other, he stumbled up the main stairs, and then up the much narrower attic stairs. He set the boxes down and flicked on the light. The attic wasn’t much; just plywood nailed over the insulation and rafters, leaving a space too low to stand upright in, but useful for storage, a fact attested to by several dusty stacks of boxes, many of which bore the label of ‘Miscellaneous’. Trevor grinned wryly. ‘Organizing stuff isn’t exactly Dad’s strong suit.’
Trevor pushed the two file boxes into a corner and turned to go, when he remembered the dates on the boxes.
‘1997, Mom was alive for part of it,’ he thought, and then, not knowing what he expected to find, he lifted the lid off one of the boxes and began flicking through the file folders.
The box was stuffed full of tax records, inventory notes, scribbled reminders, and all manner of scraps of paper. With nothing much else to do, Trevor sat down and began looking more slowly, wondering if he’d find some scrap of his mother’s handwriting.
A few minutes later, having found nothing much, Trevor was about to give up when he came to a thick sheaf of white paper, filed under bank statements, stapled together at the top, bearing the seal of the St. Lucie County Superior Court. Puzzled, Trevor flipped the cover page aside and began reading.
Five minutes later, his hand shaking, he pulled out his cell phone and speed-dialed. When he heard the call pick up, he asked, “What are you doing right now, Lisa? I... I think I found something. Can you come over? No, wait... can you meet me at Atlantis?”
Hearing the badly shaken tone in Trevor’s voice, Lisa put down the speaker from her truck that she’d been trying to repair. “I’m on my way,” she replied. She considered asking what was wrong but decided that, with Atlantis five minutes away, she’d find out soon enough.
When she jogged down the dock, she saw Trevor pacing in Atlantis’s cockpit, and broke into a run. As soon as she was aboard, she asked, “What’s wrong?”
Trevor didn’t reply right way, Instead, he led her into the salon and closed the doors behind them, and then he handed Lisa the sheaf of papers he’d found. “These were in one of the file boxes I took home. They’re preliminary divorce papers.”
“Whose?” Lisa asked, puzzled, and she flipped through the first pages, and then she muttered, “Oh, fuck...”
“Yeah,” Trevor replied, as he slumped onto the sofa. “What the hell does this mean?”
Lisa sat down beside him, still reading, and replied in a shocked tone, “It looks like your parents were getting a divorce. Did you ever hear anything about this?”
Trevor shook his head. “Not a damn word. And Lisa... look at the date. That’s just a few weeks before Mom died.”
Lisa shook her head. “This is weird.”
“It just doesn’t fit. Dad hasn’t even dated since Mom died; I thought he loved her too much to start over, but... they were getting a divorce, Lisa. He never told me, not one word, in all these years. He hardly ever talks about her...” Trevor let his voice trail off, his thoughts a mass of confusion.
“You’re wondering if he had something to do with her death, aren’t you?” Lisa asked.
Trevor didn’t reply at first; he just sat and stared at the wall of the salon. When he finally spoke, he said, “I don’t think so. I’ve never seen him be mean or violent, ever. I just don’t think he’d do something like that, but I didn’t think he’d hide something like this from me either.”
“What are you going to do?”
Trevor shrugged and buried his head in his hands. “I don’t know. Try to find out more, I guess, before I confront him. I’ll see what I can figure out, and deal with this when I get back.”
“You’re still going to Bimini?” Lisa asked.
Trevor nodded. “It’s the anniversary,” he replied, as if that was reason enough.
Lisa shook her head and grabbed Trevor’s hand. “Don’t, not feeling like you do right now. Or if you’re going anyway, take me too. I don’t care what my dad thinks. Or take Joel, he’d love to go, but please, don’t go alone.”
'This isn't a fun trip. I'd love the company, but no way am I going to subject Joel or Lisa to a downer of a trip like this, or a crossing in a rage sea,' Trevor thought, pausing a few moments before replying, “I’ve got to. I need time to think, Lisa. I’ll be okay, I promise. I’ve taken Atlantis out alone lots of times.”
“No diving, right?” Lisa asked, knowing that Trevor’s mind was made up.
“No diving,” Trevor replied. “Besides, in two weeks it’s our birthday. Let’s sail out; just you, Joel, and me. I’m thinking the far side of the Bahamas for a few days, hell, maybe a week. We’ll hit a few ports and have some fun, too. It’ll give me something to look forward to and I really need that right now.”
“I know Joel can go, and I think my Dad will let me, or maybe not, but for this, I’ll go anyway. Better to ask forgiveness than permission. What about your dad, or will you just tell him it’s a charter?” Lisa asked.
Trevor nodded at the sheaf of divorce papers. “I don’t much care what he thinks right now, and I’m going no matter what he says. It’s my boat.”
Lisa took a deep breath. “When are you heading for Bimini?”
“As soon as you’re off the boat. I might as well get started.”
“I’ve half a mind to stay put so you’ll have to take me with you,” Lisa said, considering doing just that.
Trevor stood up and smiled, “I’ll be fine, Lisa, honest. I just need some time to think.”
Realizing that Trevor wouldn’t change his mind, Lisa stood up, pulled him into a hug, and clutched at his bare back as she said, “You be careful out there.”
Lisa watched from the dock as Atlantis stood out to sea. As it disappeared from sight, she said to herself, “Be careful, Trev.”
Reaching the open sea, Trevor took a course of south by southeast, trimmed and balanced the sails, and kicked in the autopilot. Then he went to the nav station and keyed in his destination; twenty miles northeast of Bimini’s northernmost point. The range was one hundred and thirty nine miles, and with the north wind pushing him along he expected to be on station by morning. His one remaining concern was the weather; a north wind over the Gulf Stream was nearly guaranteed to stir up what mariners call a rage sea, due to the current running to the north and the wind coming from that direction. The weather forecast had a small craft advisory up for that reason, but Trevor would not be deterred. ‘Atlantis can handle this,’ he thought, and then re-checked his charts. One consequence of a rage sea was that most of the passes into Bimini’s sheltered areas would be unnavigable, but that was of minimal concern to Trevor. ‘It’s not like I want to go ashore.’
Within an hour, the sea state had grown rough, with random waves running at over sixteen feet. Every so often, one would peak between Atlantis’ hulls, slamming against the floor of the cockpit and the salon. Every loud bang and shudder made Trevor wince. ‘It’s like being inside a drum’ he thought, as he glanced around the salon.
There was some danger, and Trevor was aware of it. The Lagoon 55 catamarans were not designed for rough seas, and in a heavy storm, the continual pounding could cause structural failure. Trevor knew that the current sea state was within the limits, but he knew better than to depend on the weather. After another check of his charts, he altered course ten degrees to the east so that he’d pass close to Grand Bahama Island’s western tip. That would give him the option of ducking behind a lee shore, south of the island, out of both the Gulf Stream and the brunt of the north wind.
Satisfied with his course, Trevor slaved the radar and nav displays to the screens built into the cockpit, and headed back out, taking his place at Atlantis’s wheel, using his skill to gauge the chaotic seas and minimize the wave impacts.
For Trevor, it proved to be a long night. The seas worsened after sunset, and the pounding between Atlantis’s hulls grew more frequent and severe. ‘The seas must be sixteen to eighteen feet,’ he thought, angling for the next wave.
It was midnight before he drew abreast of the aptly named West End, the westernmost point on Grand Bahama Island. With the point three miles to port, Trevor swung Atlantis hard over, altering his course to east by southeast, as he tracked the angled shore. Within fifteen minutes, it was clear that the worst was over; he was out of the worst of the rage sea.
Trevor waited until he was just south of Freeport, the largest city on Grand Bahama Island, and glanced at its lights, just three miles away, as he swung Atlantis to the south, jibed as the wind direction crossed his stern, and then set a course of southwest, a direct bearing to his destination, now just forty miles off his bows.
The seas, calmer now, allowed Trevor to sleep. He set the radar alarm and navigational alarms, and then settled into the waterproof beanbag he’d long ago installed next to the port wheel of Atlantis. He slept as he always did while underway; lightly, waking a few times an hour to glance at the display screens, and then napping again.
A few hours later, as the first hint of dawn colored the horizon, the nav screen informed him that he’d arrived. Trevor checked his depth gauge, which was reading thirty feet, about average for the area. He deployed the anchors and backed Atlantis down to set them, and then, knowing that he needed more light and the sun at least roughly overhead, he went back to sleep.
The hot sun streaming in from the side, under the cockpit awning, woke him. He glanced around, scanning the horizon, finding it empty. Bimini, a low, flat island, was twenty miles away, over the horizon and out of sight.
He climbed up, onto the cockpit awning, and sat down, basking in the sun, just looking at the sea. It was calm, the rage sea of the night before just a memory. ‘According to the Coast Guard, it was like this when the Ares went down, so why...” Trevor thought, getting no closer to the answer.
Trevor climbed down and put his safety harness on, clipping his lifeline to a guy wire. It was something he knew he should always do at sea, especially alone, when a fall overboard while underway would be fatal; Atlantis, on autopilot, would sail on alone, leaving him to eventually drown.
Trevor pulled on his flippers, facemask, and snorkel. After one last glance at the autopilot and radar, he started the engines, confirmed that Atlantis was doing two knots, and walked down the aft starboard steps and jumped into the sea.
The safety harness line played out its full fifty-foot length, and Trevor felt the snatch as it became taut and began pulling him through the water. This was one part of his trips to Bimini that he never told anyone about; on the face of it, it sounded dangerous, which it was. With Atlantis underway, if the line parted, Trevor could be left behind. If he injured an arm, he might not be able to pull himself back aboard. However, he believed it was not as dangerous as it seemed. With swim fins on, he could swim fast enough to catch Atlantis with ease. There was also the fact that he’d set Atlantis’s autopilot to crisscross the area on parallel reverse courses, so at any given point he could count on her returning to within two hundred yards of his position.
Trevor cleared his snorkel and adjusted his facemask, letting Atlantis tow him along. Thirty feet down, he could see the white sand bottom, which was uneven in places, with an occasional outcropping of coral to break up its rippled surface of sand. With the sun high in the sky, it made for good viewing, and Trevor settled into his search routine.
For three hours, he found exactly nothing. Then, sticking his head up to check the horizon, as he tried to remember to do every few minutes, he saw it; a distant white lump, occasionally peeking above the gentle swells. Trevor hauled on the line, pulling himself towards Atlantis and then clambering aboard. As soon as he had regained the deck, he looked again, ‘Crap, that’s coming close,’ he thought, as he dashed to the wheel and the beeping radar display.
The AIS radar and his active radar were both painting the target. The AIS gave him, via the freighter’s transponder, her course and speed. “One mile, fifteen knots, on a collision course,” Trevor mumbled, doing the math in his head as he advanced the throttles. Fifteen knots meant he had just under four minutes to get out of the way.
Trevor was about to reverse course when he looked at the radar display and saw the freighter’s heading slowly changing, its projected course now passing astern of Atlantis. ‘I guess their navigator is awake,’ he thought, and then, a few minutes later, gave the massive freighter a friendly wave as it passed two hundred yards astern.
Trevor checked his navigational plot and, finding himself uncomfortably close to the shipping lanes coming out of Nassau, he swung Atlantis around, heading south. He checked his distance and bearing to the placemark centered twenty miles northeast of the northernmost point of Bimini, and wondered, ‘How accurate was that call? Could she have been east by northeast instead of northeast? Or maybe northeast of the center of the island and not the tip?’
Trevor studied his charts for a few minutes, noting an area of slightly deeper water a mile and a half to his south. ‘As good a place as any,’ he thought, as he advanced the throttles and Atlantis surged ahead.
The darker shade of the water was his first clue. A quick glance with a glass-bottomed bucket confirmed it, he was over a coral bottom, about a hundred and fifty feet down, too deep to be able to see clearly, but he could still see a little in the crystal clear water. Instead of resuming his towed search, he let Atlantis drive with the current and used the glass-bottomed bucket from the aft stairs. All he could discern were the blacks and browns of coral, with scattered patches of white sand between. Then, he saw it, for a fleeting instant; a metallic glitter. He strained his eyes, seeing nothing, and then raced for the cockpit where he marked the location on GPS.
Trevor didn’t wait. He checked the depth gauge, which read an even one hundred feet. ‘I don’t need tanks,’ he thought, and set Atlantis to hold station. Then, in just shorts, flippers, and facemask, he took ten deep breaths and dove over the side, kicking hard for the bottom.
A free dive of one hundred feet is dangerous, and in the open sea alone, more so, but Trevor was fixated on that metallic glint he’d seen. A hundred feet was, just barely, within his limits as snorkeler; he’d been down that far just a few times. He had to pause to clear his ears, but within half a minute, he was eighty feet down, scanning the bottom. There....
Trevor kicked hard, angling down towards the metal object, which was partially buried in sand between two coral outcrops. Taking care to avoid the jagged coral, he reached his fingers into the sand and pulled it free. It only took him a second to realize what he had; an aluminum beer can, its upper surface worn clean by the sea.
Trevor kicked for the surface, exhaling slowly as he neared it, and surfacing thirty feet from the Atlantis, gasping for breath.
Dispirited, he hauled himself aboard and made his way into the salon. There, he again studied his charts, both paper and electronic, before letting Atlantis drift free again, as he resumed his search with the glass-bottomed bucket.
By three, the sun angle was too steep for him to have a usable view of the bottom, so Trevor guided the Atlantis a few hundred yards further south, and anchored.
Throughout much of the Bahamas, the sea is very shallow, even miles from land. For miles in every direction from his current position, it was shallow enough to dive. Trevor’s plan was to search a circle five miles in diameter, centered on the Ares’ last reported position, hoping to find some clue. As Trevor marked his private chart of the area he’d covered that day, filling in the area with a colored marker, he could see that his total searches, including previous trips, had covered far less than five percent of the circle he’d drawn. He was, at best, looking for a needle in a haystack, and he knew it.
He slept uneasily that night, and resumed his search the next day, free-drifting, picking spots and looking, trying not to think of the fact that it was nine years to the day since his mother’s words had cracked over the radio.
Trevor found nothing that day, not even a tin can. Baked by the sun in spite of the sunscreen he’d slathered on, he sought shelter in the salon that afternoon and stared at the charts. ‘Why am I even out here, I’ll never find anything,’ he thought.
A solemn duty remained. Trevor adjusted his course so that it passed over his placemark that denoted the last position of the Ares. Trevor watched his navigation display, and as he reached that lonely spot on the map, and as the sun touched the horizon, Trevor went to the galley refrigerator and retrieved the small flower wreath made of Freesias, his mother’s favorite. Taking it up on deck, he stood, looking at the vast and empty sea, and then, with a sad sigh, he tossed the wreath overboard. “I miss you, Mom,” he said. Trevor remained, watching the sunset, feeling painfully alone.
Returning to the salon, feeling the gentle motion of the boat, Trevor sat down to do something he’d been avoiding: thinking about the divorce papers he’d found. It had been a preliminary ruling, not a final decree, but the process had been underway, and the petition to the court bore both of his parents’ signatures. ‘That means it was mutual, but why, and why didn’t Dad ever tell me? And what did this have to do with Mom’s death?’
Trevor had one day remaining on his sojourn and decided to make the best of it. Heading south a mile for shallower water, he again began the towed search. Two hours into it, he saw a strange outline in the sandy bottom, in fifty feet of water, an easy freedive.
After bringing Atlantis to a halt roughly over the outline and mesmerized by his find, Trevor forgot to check the horizon and jumped into the water, snorkeling alongside Atlantis for a few minutes, studying the area and trying to spot any other items. With his head submerged, he was unable to hear the beeping of the radar. The approaching ship, a small freighter, was in violation of the rules of the sea; the navigation station was unmanned while underway. There was no one but the ship’s electronic eyes to see the signal from the Atlantis’s transponder. This it duly reported, via a satellite link, to the firm’s automated tracker. Even had anyone noticed, no heed would have been taken; the ship’s course did not come within a mile of Atlantis and the preoccupied Trevor, on the far side of his boat, never saw it.
Trevor took a few deep breaths and dove, but the mysterious object, to his disgust, turned out to be a sunken porta-potty, almost completely buried in the sand. ‘I guess I literally found shit,’ he thought sourly as he ascended to the Atlantis.
He continued his search until the angle of the sun robbed the depths of usable light, and with that, Trevor gave up for the day, and there would not be another. He checked the weather again, learning that the rage sea had abated and, though rare that time of year, was forecast to return in twenty-four hours. It was time to go home.
Trevor shut off the engines and set sail, heading due west across the Florida Straits and the Gulf Steam, his bows pointing directly at Miami. His plan was to reach the Florida coast, just sixty miles ahead, and then follow it north. It was a longer route but it would keep him in calmer waters, in case the rage sea returned earlier than expected.
An hour into his voyage, Trevor passed within five miles of Bimini, seeing its lights in the distance. “Bye Mom, I’ll be back,” Trevor promised aloud, as Atlantis left the Bimini Banks behind.
The voyage home proved uneventful, and Trevor docked in Fort Pierce late Sunday afternoon. He drove the few blocks home, tired from lack of sleep.
As he walked in the door, he found his father waiting for him. “Hi Trevor, how was the charter?” Dirk asked. Trevor was too tired to notice the danger in his father’s tone.
“Fine, I just didn’t get much sleep,” Trevor replied, heading for the stairs.
Dirk drummed his fingers on the table. “By the way, guess who I bumped into at the supermarket Friday? Julie. She said to say hi.”
Trevor froze in his tracks. ‘Oh, shit!’ He turned to look at his father, seeing the anger in his eyes. ‘He didn’t tell me about the divorce, so what the hell,’ Trevor thought, and then said, “I went out alone because I felt like it.”
Dirk scowled. “I know you did. After I saw Julie, who had no idea where you might be, I checked the dock to see if you were still tied up. Then I checked the harbormaster’s office and they told me you’d sailed Thursday. Now, here’s some news for you; did you know that the AIS transponder data is sometimes relayed to shore, and if you ask really nicely, with a damn good reason, the Coast Guard will tell you if a ship’s transponder has been picked up? Imagine my surprise to find out Atlantis was stationary, twenty miles northeast of Bimini.”
“That’s where I was,” Trevor replied, his voice even.
Dirk stood up and yelled, “You were out there alone, weren’t you? You crossed in a rage sea and were out there alone. You could have been killed. Why, Trev, just tell me that.”
His fists clenching, Trevor fought against his temper and lost. Raising his voice, thinking of the divorce papers, he said, “Why the hell should I? You’ve got your secrets from me. I know, all right? While you were gone I–”
“Enough,” Dirk roared. “My life is not what we’re discussing here,” he said, wondering again how Trevor had found out where he went and why. “You putting yourself in deadly peril on some harebrained jaunt is what you will explain.” Dirk took a breath, and then, his voice softening slightly, “Look, I know damn well what those coordinates are. Twenty miles northeast of Bimini, and it’s the anniversary... Trevor, you can’t... She’s not... Trev, the risk you took is foolish, more than you can possibly know, and I cannot allow–”
“Stop, Dad. I don’t want to hear it, not after what I... Why the hell didn’t you tell me... I found the fucking divorce papers,” Trevor said, his eyes full of fire.
‘Oh shit, he knows about that too,’ Dirk thought, feeling the blood drain from his face. Dirk lowered his voice to a normal volume and said, “That must have been a shock and I’m sorry, but there are reasons. You’ll find out everything in a few months but that’s the best I can do for now; you’ll just have to trust me and wait–”
“That’s the problem; I can’t trust you, not anymore,” Trevor said, storming out the door.
Dirk followed him out, yelling, “Come back here!”
Trevor ignored him and jumped in his old Civic, heading for the one place he felt he could go: Atlantis.
Dirk stood in the doorway for a long time, his hands shaking as his emotions warred within. “Oh God, Trevor, what have I done...” he mumbled into the dark, empty night.
© 2010 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.