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|Chapter 55: Hellbound|
“Come in, come in,” Bridget said, smiling at Lisa and Joel as she ushered them inside, leading the way to her formal living room, where she’d set up teacakes after Lisa’s call. “Help yourselves. Would you like tea, coffee, or soft drinks?” Bridget asked, as they took seats.
“Black coffee, please,” Joel said, feeling slightly uncomfortable in the ostentatious room. He’d met Bridget several times since his return from the Mediterranean, but this was the first time he’d been inside her home.
“Coffee for me too, please,” Lisa said, leaning over to take a teacake.
“My, that is a beautiful ring, and it looks particularly splendid on that finger,” Bridget said, turning to give Joel a smile and a sly wink that Lisa could not see.
Lisa beamed with joy and pride. “Thank you, and that’s why we wanted to talk to you today. Joel proposed and we’re engaged!”
“Congratulations my dear,” Bridget smiled broadly, leaning in to give Lisa an uncharacteristic hug. “Congratulations to you both. You make a wonderful couple,” Bridget exclaimed, and then gave Joel a warm hug too.
Lisa looked out at the empty dock, and said, “We won’t be getting married until August next year, but we’ve already started planning. We were thinking of an unconventional arrangement; we wanted to have the reception first, and then the wedding ceremony. We want to get married on Trev’s boat, Atlantis, and then we can leave on her for our honeymoon. We wanted to ask your advice, on all of it...”
“My, that is a... unique idea; the reception first, and then the wedding... The tradition is that the newly married couples entertain their guests for the first time as a married couple. Therefore, what you are describing is having a pre-wedding party, and then the ceremony. At first blush it sounds a bit peculiar, but the more I think about it, it has definite possibilities. Am I correct in assuming that the ceremony itself will not be formal?” Bridget asked.
Lisa glanced at Joel, and then replied, “Neither of us are big on all the fancy dresses, tuxedos, bunches of bridesmaids, or that kind of thing. What we have in mind is less formal, and we’re writing the vows ourselves. It just seemed to work out better if we had the reception first, then the ceremony, and then sailed away into the sunset.”
Bridget chuckled, and as she left to get the coffee, she paused at the doorway and said, “That actually sounds very romantic, and the most important thing about a wedding is that it is your day. I’ve seen so many – my own included – spoiled by busybody in-laws who think their way is best. First and foremost, it must be your day, for the two of you.”
When Bridget returned with the coffee tray and began pouring, Joel smiled and nodded. “My mother wants us to have a big formal church wedding and then a hotel reception. Lisa and I talked about it, but... it’s just not what either of us wants. It’s also very expensive. What Lisa and I have in mind is just close friends and immediate family. We want the ceremony to be a celebration, so we want it to come at the end of the party. We also think that sailing away on our honeymoon would be a perfect way of ending the party,” Joel said, taking Lisa’s hand.
Bridget angled her head thoughtfully. “Very unconventional, and I daresay unique. At first blush, I think it is a splendid idea, though it will need careful planning. For example, what of the traditional cakes?”
Lisa nodded and smiled. “We decided to go conventional there. A regular wedding cake for the bride’s cake, and brandy-soaked fruitcake for the groom’s cake. That’s Joel’s favorite.”
“A dark cake is indeed traditional for the groom’s cake,” Bridget said, nodding and then taking a sip of her coffee. “I very much approve that you have decided to honor the Southern tradition of a groom’s cake. I have always felt that it adds variety, especially if creatively decorated.”
Joel grinned, glancing at Lisa, and then at the dock. “Bridget, we were wondering... We’re only having a small gathering, and we need somewhere with a dock–”
Bridget held up a hand. “Of course you can have your wedding here, and I shall be honored and delighted to help plan it. I have done quite a few over the years, you know,” Bridget said, with a gracious smile.
Lisa broke into a broad smile, and giving Joel’s hand a squeeze, she said, “Thank you, Bridget.”
“I shall enjoy planning such a unique event. Now, what of the wedding party itself? I do recall that your father had reservations about your relationship... will he be the one to give away the bride?” Bridget asked, raising her left eyebrow slightly.
Lisa nodded. “I think so. He kind of went ballistic for a while when we told him we’re engaged. We’d originally wanted to be married on my birthday in May, but we agreed on August to make peace with Daddy. He’s the only person in my family who’ll be attending, unless my grandmother comes down from New Jersey. Joel and I would like you to be the bride’s ring bearer.”
Bridget blinked in surprise. “I would be honored, my dear. Now what of our handsome groom? Have you selected your wedding party?”
“There’ll be my parents, my Uncle Carl and a guest, and my brothers. Trev will be best man.”
Bridget’s smile froze for just an instant, and she added some more cream to her coffee before replying, “That sounds splendid. Have you a preference for attire?”
“Casual... smart casual,” Joel replied, and then broached another issue, “You’ve seen a lot of places around the Caribbean, right? We’re trying to figure out where to sail to for our honeymoon.”
Bridget stood up, motioning for Lisa and Joel to follow her to a large bejeweled globe on a pedestal in the corner. “Some of the islands in the Bahamas are very beautiful, and beyond them to the southeast are the Turks and Caicos Islands. However, my personal favorite is Jamaica, so long as one avoids the overtly tourist areas. Much depends on what you wish to do. I would suggest a honeymoon package in a resort ashore for at least part of it. As nice as a boat trip might sound, it could be somewhat... confining, to be in close quarters to a third person.”
Lisa glanced at Joel before replying for them both, “Trev is family to us, and we’ve all been together on Atlantis before, so I don’t think that would be a problem. On the other hand, a few days ashore in a resort might be fun for all of us. I think Jamaica sounds great – I’ve always wanted to see it – and maybe the Turks and Caicos too, depending on how much time we have.”
Bridget took another dainty sip of coffee. “Speaking of Trevor, I certainly hope his father has been apprehended by then. If not, I’ll hire some security for the wedding.”
Lisa nodded. “Daddy mentioned that too, but let’s hope that’s all over and done with by then.”
Bridget saw Joel take the last teacake and stood up, heading for her kitchen. “I have some custard tarts you might like,” she said, on her way out of the room.
As soon as Bridget had left, Joel whispered to Lisa, “What about Uncle Carl?”
“What about him?” Lisa asked, with a confused look on her face.
“He’s gay, and he’s bringing David, his partner. How does Bridget feel about gays? Uncle Carl is kinda... obvious, so she’d probably figure it out.”
Lisa angled her head, remembering. “Yeah, and him showing up with a guy as his guest would probably erase any doubt. I don’t know how she feels about gay people... I’ve never talked to Bridget about that, but I guess we better find out,” Lisa whispered, and grinned as she added, “I only met him once, and I forgot about that. You’re right, he’s very obvious. I think the only person who didn’t pick up on him was Trev,” Lisa whispered.
Bridget reentered the room with a plate containing three tarts. She waited as Joel and Lisa each took one, and then she put the third on her own plate before resuming her seat across from Lisa and Joel.
Joel took a deep breath. “There’s something else we wanted to ask about... This will be in your house, so we thought we should see how you felt... ah, one of the guests, a family member, could be bringing a date, and they’d both be guys, and...”
Bridget smiled, dismissing the concern with a gracious wave of her hand. “No worries there, I assure you. I have several gay friends, so do tell Trevor to bring a date if he wishes.” Bridget looked at the expected expressions of surprise on Lisa and Joel’s faces, and chuckled softly. “Trevor told me about that, and his quest for the Ares, when he was here, running from his monstrous father. He was here to ask my advice, and after a bit of awkwardness, he told me of the issues he has with Dirk, and why. I was far more concerned for his safety. As it turns out, I believe his search for Ares is what compelled his father to try to kill him with that bomb. It is fortunate that the Ares issue will be closed once his father is convicted, for those are such perilous waters.”
Joel shook his head. “Trev wants to find his mother’s body and give her a proper burial. He won’t quit, no matter what happens with his father. Lisa and I are part of that too; it’s just the right thing to do. We have to bring her home.”
Bridget nodded once, and took a sip of her coffee. “I can understand that. I think I would have felt the same, under similar circumstances. We are all obliged to do our duty to those departed, to whom our hearts hold dear across time’s remorseless span, no matter the cost,” Bridget said, glancing lovingly at her late husband’s portrait.
Lisa gave Bridget a sympathetic smile, but was at a loss for words, not wanting to mention the subject of Dirk, or reveal her doubts.
Bridget gave Joel an apprising, almost predatory glance. “Tell me, Lisa, does Joel play tennis? If he’s good, perhaps you could compel him to join our games on occasion... I have not had a good game of Canadian Doubles in many a year.”
Lisa laughed, giving Joel a comforting pat on the hand. “He’s not bad, but I can beat him. I think he needs to play more, so I’ll twist his arm a bit and get him to join us.”
Bridget gave Joel a wink. “The best player usually plays against the doubles, so you’ll be my partner. I think we can take her, if we work together.”
Joel, blushing slightly, chuckled and nodded. “I’ll do my best.”
Bridget’s eyes flocked towards her grandfather clock, and as she stood up, she said, “I shall look forward to seeing you both for our Saturday match. I’m afraid I’ve run short on time today; I have a business meeting for which I must prepare. My congratulations to you both, and I wish you all the happiness in the world,” Bridget said, showing Lisa and Joel to the door.
Lisa and Joel waved goodbye to Bridget as they climbed into Lisa’s truck. Lisa waited until they’d pulled away to say, “I think that went great, that’ll be an awesome place to have the wedding, and I’m so happy Bridget will help us plan it.”
Joel nodded absently, “Yeah, that did go well... uh, did you notice anything kinda... odd?”
Lisa, who had been focused on her wedding, paused to think for a few moments before replying, “Come to think of it, yeah. Bridget and I have talked a lot about Trev, and she never mentioned him being gay... but maybe she didn’t know I knew. I’m really surprised Trev told her; he’s not exactly into outing himself to people the first time he meets them.”
“Yeah, that’s an understatement and a half....”
“One other thing... Bridget didn’t seem surprised when she noticed the ring. She was happy, but not surprised,” Lisa said.
Joel fidgeted in his seat. “Uh, well, ah... the reason for that is the first time we met in person was the day after I got back from the trip. I couldn’t find the ring and raced over to the guesthouse, thinking it might have fallen out there. It did, and Bridget had found it when she went in to clean. She knew it was an engagement ring, so we agreed to pretend we’d never met the next time we did if you were there... so she’s known for a lot longer than you have.”
Lisa snorted and laughed. “A conspiracy! I love it! She never let on, either... She’s good at keeping secrets, I guess.”
Joel nodded. “So maybe that’s why Trev trusted her... I could see him doing it, under the circumstances, and I guess he did out himself to Officer Gonzalez, who he’s never met at all. He kinda shocked me when he told me that, actually.”
Lisa turned a corner, merging into the left lane to prepare for the turn into the mall. “Good, that means he’s finally loosening up. Maybe he’ll actually have a date to bring to our wedding.”
“Or to our fiftieth anniversary party, at least,” Joel quipped, but then he added in a more serious tone, “I just wish he had that damn phone. I hope he’s doing okay and having fun out there,” Joel said, as they arrived at the mall.
Bridget closed the front door as soon as Lisa and Joel were out of sight, and walked back to the living room, shouting towards her bedroom door, “They’ve gone.”
George emerged, an empty gin and tonic in hand. “Interesting conversation, what I caught of it.”
“Indeed, in many ways.” Bridget nodded at his glass and asked, “Can I fix you another?”
George shook his head and sat down on the sofa. “Nah, I’m on duty so I better watch it.”
Bridget fixed herself a martini, and sat down beside George. “Utterly preposterous: an informal wedding!”
George chuckled. “I thought you were going to explode. Besides, that actually sounds very romantic, and the most important thing about a wedding is that it is your day,” George said, quoting Bridget.
“Oh hush, you,” Bridget said, with a warm smile. “I have always highly valued class and style. I was not born to the upper class, I earned it, and it has been my goal since I was a girl. Formality is one thing upon which you and I disagree, of that I am well aware, but for a wedding? And having the reception first? Oh well, best not to worry, as the point is likely moot. Did you hear the part where I sounded them out about Ares?”
“I did, and I caught what you did; you mentioned the bit about Trevor being gay to surprise them, so they’ll remember that, not the part about Ares. Smoothly done.”
“It was a small risk, but I doubted that Trevor would have told them what he didn’t say here, and even if he had mentioned it, they would likely just think to ask the next time they speak to him,” Bridget replied.
George laughed, putting his arm around Bridget. “And unless they hold a séance, that’s one conversation that won’t be happening. So, did you settle your mind about Lisa and Joel?”
Bridget sighed, but then her back stiffened with resolve. “Yes. This confirms what we’ve heard from the guesthouse. I believe they will pursue the Ares search, and Trevor’s death will merely spur their dedication. We shall need to make use of the cocaine, and sooner rather than later. It is sad; they do make a lovely couple, but I think that in the final analysis we shall be doing them a favor by forestalling their awful wedding plan,” Bridget said.
George laughed and slapped his knee. “I’m not sure they’d see it that way, but I’m not about to argue with you on that issue.”
“I have my values, you know,” Bridged said primly, accompanied by a sly wink. Then, she frowned and asked, “Before they arrived, you were telling me about the search of Dirk’s chandlery. How did that go?”
“About like we expected,” George replied with a shrug. “We already knew about Trevor getting a box with a rock in it, so it was no surprise when that didn’t turn up at the store. The good news is Dirk didn’t log it as sold – it looks better that it’s just missing from his inventory. Gonzalez got the box and rock Trevor sent him from the Seychelles, and forensics is looking at it now. They’ve already confirmed that the rock is a match for the landscaping rock at Dirk’s place – and a few thousand other Florida homes – but they think they can narrow it down more. Trevor getting that damn rock is not a help to the case, not like having the box discovered in the store would have been, but the fact it was in inventory there still helps. I don’t see anything to worry about; the investigation into you died the moment they filed the indictment. It’s finally over, my love.”
Trevor stared at the map, trying to find some other way, but he could see no other option. From what he could remember of the wind forecasts and seasonal averages, there was no suitable land within his reach, not until he’d crossed the Indian Ocean – and the direct route to Australia would take far too long to be survivable.
Trevor found the decision easy, for he knew it was his only real hope. “It’s not the distance, it’s the time...” Trevor muttered, tracing his finger in a curving arc, far to the south, then up towards the west coast of Australia. If his audacious plan succeeded, he could be able to reach Australia fast enough to survive. If...
That route would take Atlantis far south of the direct route he’d once planned. It was fraught with danger. At the world’s southern reaches, bands of wind, blowing from west to east, circle the globe almost uninterrupted. Mariners know them as the ‘Roaring Forties’ and ‘Furious Fifties.’ The most massive waves on the planet are found where strong winds consistently blow in a constant direction. The worst such place is south of the Indian Ocean, due to the strong eastbound winds unimpeded by any landmass. It is home to violent storms and near constant gales. It is also called the Southern Ocean, and stretches of it, particularly the area Trevor intended, are widely known – and rightly feared – as the most violent seas on Earth.
In these perils lay the hope of salvation. As Trevor knew, the wind patterns in those bands are by and large predictable, perturbed only by passing high and low pressure regions. They blow with great and unremitting force, eastbound. If Atlantis could reach them, she would be hurled east.
The massive swells would aid her on her way, but a storm would turn them into mountainous breaking waves. Even were she whole, Atlantis would have been in deadly peril, but crippled as she was, a storm would doom her.
The difficulties were enormous. Trevor would need to sail his crippled Atlantis over four and a half thousand miles, across some of the most remote and violent seas on Earth, but he could see no other choice. Believing that he was unlikely to survive, Trevor had no option but to try.
His improvised sail was but one cause for concern: the bed sheets were already showing the first signs of degrading, eaten by the sun and the salt. They would stand no chance against the fury of the Southern Ocean. Neither would Atlantis herself, in her current state.
Trevor’s decision was to remain adrift while he prepared Atlantis for the Southern Ocean, which he estimated would take three days. There was still a faint hope of a passing ship, but he knew he was already well beyond the shipping lanes and leaving them ever further behind.
Trevor looked around the salon, and muttered, “Sorry,” – It hurt him, to have to further Atlantis’s destruction – as he began loosening the screws that held the salon’s ceiling panels in place. They were just vinyl-faced plywood panels, a third of an inch thick, that concealed the fiberglass roof, but Trevor needed them. There were five, and each one was four feet wide and twelve feet long.
It took Trevor a half an afternoon of struggling with his inadequate tools to get the panels down. Once he had done so, he was able to harvest an added bounty; many long cables that had been concealed behind them: the wiring. There was a lot, due to the recessed lighting fixtures – which had been mounted in the panels – and Atlantis’s stereo and intercom systems. Trevor added more to them, by ripping out the remaining wire that had once served his nav desk and helm stations, galley, bilges, and cabin audio-visual systems.
Then, he took a step he knew would put him in constant danger; he removed the guard wires. Made of strong steel cable and supported by small vertical posts called stanchions, the guard wires ran along the port and starboard sides, serving as a safety railing. Without them, there was nothing to stop Trevor from falling overboard if he slipped on the deck, but he needed their strength.
The guard wires were not continuous; they were broken on each side of Atlantis by a single openable length between two stanchions, which served as a gate. Trevor puzzled over this for a few minutes, wondering how to make a knot in the heavy, stiff cable, but then he slapped his head when he realized that there was no need; the ‘gate length’ of wire opened and closed via a latching pelican hook, so he just left that in place.
The wire was held in place at each stanchion by adjustable fittings – designed to allow the wire to be tightened – each of which had to be loosened and freed in order to allow the cable to slide through. It was a long, tiring process, but eventually Trevor was done.
By nightfall, Trevor was exhausted.
Sunrise the next day found Trevor busy with the next step: the salon floor. The flooring material was three-quarter inch marine teak-faced plywood, which was far stronger than the ceiling panels.
The flooring was in four-foot by eight-foot panels, secured to the fiberglass-Kevlar stringers and crossmembers beneath with screws, which were countersunk in small metal grommets and concealed by wood plugs.
Trevor took his screwdriver’s flat blade and began popping the first wood plug out, concerned about what he’d find. What he hoped he wouldn’t see was a Phillips head screw; there wasn’t a Phillips head screwdriver aboard, and he’d have to struggle with each one, using his flat-bladed screwdriver at an angle.
He exposed the screw, and then a few more, breathing a sigh of relief as he found that the screws were slot-headed. Over the next couple of hours, he freed his floor panels, saving the screws in an old hot dog can. He heaved the panels up, allowing him to detach the pedestal dining table.
One by one, Trevor stacked the heavy panels on the salon roof, and then winced at what was left of the floor: just Kevlar-fiberglass crossmembers, running beam to beam, crossed by an occasional stringer. Below them was the underside skin of the hull wing.
Trevor turned his attention to the ten-foot steel poles that had once held his wind-driven generators. They had been lowered to the deck on their hinge pins by the pirates, and then their wind turbines cut away. Trevor unbolted the poles, taking them to join the rest of the supplies on the salon roof.
Knowing that he’d soon need something to stand on, Trevor hauled in his cabinet sea anchor, untied it, and hauled it onto the salon roof to dry in the sun.
From the salon walls, Trevor harvested a few pieces of light wood paneling. He carried a piece forward and threw it over the hole that had once been sealed by the hatch cover to his crew cabin, and screwed it in place to the fiberglass deck. By the same means, he replaced his two missing engine room hatches.
Then came the long and brutal task of removing the aft transom railing, and Trevor had a case of the chills when he reached the spot on the rail where the pirates had tossed him overboard to die. ‘I’m going to survive, and so is Atlantis... I’m not letting those fucking pirates beat us!’
One obstacle Trevor encountered in several places was Allen screws. This caused him delay by sending him searching Atlantis for hex head bolts that would fit. He would then put a few nuts on the bolt and use it, bolt-head first, with his adjustable wrench, to remove the Allen screws.
Trevor began making wire cabling from the long lengths of electrical and speaker wire he’d harvested. He also needed a way to cut the wire, but he found that using a sharp piece of metal trim and a block of wood for a hammer worked just fine, as long as he had metal underneath to strike against, and the handle of his adjustable wrench served that purpose.
Trevor hauled the transom railing forward, to the salon roof. There, he set it on top of his upended cabinet, five feet above the deck. Then, he tied lengths of wire to each tip.
Atlantis’s mast sprouted from the deck just a few inches forward of the salon’s sloping windows. The salon’s roof was barely three feet above the level of the main external deck, and the roof’s forward edge was close to the mast, though not quite close enough for what Trevor had in mind.
He climbed up, balancing precariously on the slightly wobbly cabinet. Trevor took a few deep breaths and heaved the railing up, and held it horizontally against the aft side of the mast, eleven feet above the deck.
Trevor used a length of wiring to lash the railing in place with a few diagonal wraps, forming an X forward and aft, and then tying it off before adding another length, and then another. The wraps were just above one of the mast fittings, which kept them from being able to slide down the mast.
Trevor yanked at the new crosspiece, and finding it fixed stoutly in place, he jumped down. He used the two lengths of wire from its tips to secure it to the deck-edge cleats, giving him a firm, level crosspiece. It would be the upper edge of the center of his wooden sail. To extend it, he lashed the steel poles to it, one to each tip with a few feet of overlap. The final step was to lash the tips of the crosspiece to the shrouds, securing it firmly in place. The result was a strong side to side crosspiece, thirty feet in length – almost exactly Atlantis’s maximum width.
Looking up at his partially furled netting and cloth sail, Trevor realized that he’d made a big mistake. Atlantis, without her sea anchor, was riding abeam – sideways – to the ten-knot breeze, but as soon as Trevor raised a sail area, she’d turn downwind, making it difficult for Trevor to build his sail in the full force of the breeze. He had planned to deploy his cabinet sea anchor from the port – upwind – bow to keep Atlantis from turning, but he’d neglected one small problem; he still needed the cabinet to stand on.
Mentally kicking himself for the oversight, Trevor headed inside, looking around for something else he could use as a sea anchor. He settled on the large, heavy pedestal table from the salon, and hauled it amidships on the port side.
Trevor used the fifty-foot wire line that had held his cabinet sea anchor, tying it to the port aft cleat, and then walking the other end forward to his table, tying it to a protruding bolt in its pedestal. He then ran another fifty-foot line from the same bolt to the port bow, and tied it in place before heaving the table overboard. It floated almost submerged, providing plenty of drag for a good anchor point, as Atlantis’s movement took up the slack, leaving her anchored, bow and stern, to the table floating forty feet off her port beam.
Now, it was time to build the sail. Trevor took the first of the five pieces of ceiling paneling, pushing it upright against the mast, vinyl side aft, and centering it. Trevor climbed atop the cabinet and used some of his cut lengths of wire to secure the top of the panel to the crosspiece. He placed another panel beside it, secured it at the top, and then joined the two edges by overlapping them by an inch, lining up the screw holes, and pushing a length of speaker wire through the topmost hole, securing it with a thick knot on the end. Trevor ran the wire down, pushing it through the six-inch-apart holes, then down to the next, forward and back, until he reached the bottom and tied it off. He tested the joint and the panels, finding them a bit flimsier than he’d hoped.
He added the three remaining panels the same way, ending up with one in the center and two on either side. He then secured the bottom by running a wire from the port cleat to the starboard one, snaking it in and out of screw holes in the bottoms of the paneling, and then heaving the line tight and tying it off.
The center section of his new sail was up, and Trevor began building the end sections out of the four-by-eight flooring panels, using their tongue-and-groove joints and wire through the screw holes to attach three together, long edges to long edges, forming a square twelve foot by eight. He pushed it upright into place, overlapping the ceiling paneling by a few inches, joining it with wire via the screw holes before repeating the process on the starboard side.
Trevor stood back and admired his new sail. What he had created was, in effect, a single panel, thirty-four feet long and twelve feet high – four hundred and eight square feet – running like a fence across Atlantis, from side to side.
There were still several holes in it. Though Trevor had left the lighting cans in place, the ceiling panels had cutouts for around the skylights, so Trevor broke up a piece of wall paneling, leaving the pieces a bit larger than the holes, and then wiring them in place on the aft side of the wooden sail.
With Atlantis held side-on to the wind, the wooden sail was edge-on to it, and not yet subject to wind pressure. Now it was time to strengthen it, to enable it to withstand the thousands of pound of pressure it would endure. Taking the steel cables that had once served as Atlantis’s side railings, Trevor attached them to the tips of the crosspiece, and then ran then diagonally across the forward side of the wood sail, behind the mast, and securing them to deck cleats, forming a large steel-cable X across the downwind face of his new sail, giving it added strength. For good measure, he added a few smaller X’s of wiring.
Trevor tested the new sail by shoving it hard in several places from the aft side, finding that, as he’d hoped, it had some flexibility but was massively strong, He smiled in satisfaction; Atlantis was ready, with a sail even stronger than her original sails would have been. It was time. It had taken him two days; one less than he’d thought. He still had a few tasks to perform – including taking down his netting sail – before reaching strong winds and heavy seas, but those he could do while underway.
Trevor grabbed the lines from his flapping cloth-and-net sail above, pulling them taut and securing them to the port and starboard deck cleats, fixing his upper sail in place again, its lower edge a foot above the crosspiece. Trevor wasn’t happy with the resulting gap, but didn’t want to have to climb up the mast to lower his netting sail. That would come soon enough, when he had to take it down to preserve it, as the weather worsened.
At the port aft swim-dive platform, Trevor jumped into the sea and checked that the rudders were centered. He could not dive in while underway, so he knew it would be his last chance for quite some time to clean himself up. He used a scrap of soap he’d found – most of the soap that had been aboard worked in salt water – and washed his hair, before hauling himself aboard and toweling off.
“Time to get underway,” he said aloud, his voice shaking a little, looking at his jury-rigged sails, and then up to the top of the mast, where his makeshift ‘Victor’ distress flag and radar reflector hung.
Trevor took a glance around the empty horizon before hauling the salon-table sea anchor aboard and carrying it aft, to the cockpit, as Atlantis’s bows swung downwind and she began to pick up speed.
One issue Trevor faced was that he’d now created a wooden wall that completely partitioned Atlantis, separating the forward decks from the rest. At the moment, he was easily able to swing around the sides by using the wires as handholds, but one slip would land him in the sea. When Atlantis had been stationary, that was no danger, but once she was underway, it could be lethal. However, the deck was not the only way forward; the skylight/hatch for the forward starboard storage compartment emerged onto the deck well forward of the wooden sail. From the storage compartment, Trevor could enter the starboard forward cabin through the connecting hatch, which gave him a safer alternate route. He’d already done the only thing needed to prepare it; unlock the hatches so they could be opened from both sides. He used this route to return forward and retrieve the wire that had held his sea anchor and then return to the cockpit.
Using the two fifty-foot lengths of wire that had held the sea anchor, Trevor attended to his safety: he tied them together to form a hundred-foot line.
What he needed now was something that would float, without a lot of drag. An empty two-liter soda bottle would have been perfect, but none remained aboard. A piece of wood would do, but then Trevor’s eyes fell on the despised sight of his garlic crusher. He picked it up and popped open the top lid, sliding the glass jar within out into his hand.
He held up the jar of sea salt, glaring at it. He’d stored the jar within the garlic crusher himself, to save cupboard space. Its weight, he knew, had been in large part responsible for him mistaking the garlic crusher for his EPIRB. Trevor looked at the white salt crystals, “At least I won’t have to worry about running out of salt,” he grumped, glancing out at the infinite miles of salt water as he put the salt aside, wishing again that he had been able to get an EPIRB emergency beacon instead.
Trevor turned his attention to the garlic crusher, judging that it was too small and heavy to make a good float, if it were waterproof. ‘Totally useless,’ Trevor thought, tempted to hurl it into the sea, but he returned it to the debris pile, unwilling to discard anything.
Trevor settled on a length of two-by-four, which had once been part of his dishwasher’s mounting frame. He chose it mainly because there was still a nail in it, sticking a few inches out at the end, where it had been ripped out of the cabinet frame. Trevor pounded it over, forming a loop, and tied one end of the wire to it.
Returning aft, Trevor knotted the hundred-foot sea anchor’s line every two feet, creating grip points, and tied it to the nail in the two-by-four. He tied the other end to a deck cleat aft, and then tossed the two-by-four overboard, and began feeding out the line. When he was done, Atlantis’s forward motion pulled the line taut, leaving the wooden two-by-four trailing nearly a hundred feet astern. It would be Trevor’s literal lifeline if he fell overboard – a likely occurrence, especially in rough seas, due to the missing netting forward and the lack of side guard wires. Even at four knots, he couldn’t swim fast enough to catch Atlantis, but he could haul himself up the knotted wire if he fell overboard while underway. It wasn’t as good as a safety harness, but it would be better than nothing.
Taking care of one more detail, Trevor stowed his dining table and galley cabinet in the salon, ready for use in their role as sea anchors.
Exhausted, Trevor sat down in the cockpit, looking out at the sea, estimating that Atlantis was doing almost four knots in just ten knots of wind. ‘She should do at least five knots in a fifteen knot wind,’ Trevor guessed. He’d almost doubled Atlantis’s sail area, which meant her speed in a given wind would increase by roughly half. “Australia, here I come,” he said, with far more confidence than he felt.
It was then that Trevor noticed another unforeseen consequence of his wooden sail. Looking forward, through the narrow gap between the salon roof and the cockpit awning, Trevor could see only the wood panels, not the sea. His view forward from the cockpit was blocked. He could still see forward by leaning over the side, so he shrugged off the problem, reasoning it to be both minor and unavoidable.
For the next two days, Atlantis ran before the wind, heading south by southeast, averaging a hundred and fifty miles a day. Trevor became concerned; he estimated that he was five hundred miles south by southeast of Reunion, and he’d expected to pick up the westerlies by then. ‘Great, I’m heading for Antarctica with damn near no clothes,’ he fretted, absently touching his bare chest as he prepared to take his noon sightings.
That afternoon, the winds began to gradually change direction, beginning to come out of the northwest, as Atlantis neared thirty degrees south. The wind began to freshen, driving Atlantis along at six knots, as she entered the northern bands of the westerlies, bound for the furies of the Roaring Forties.
© 2010 C James
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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.
Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice, and to
Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and