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|Chapter 58: The Equation of Time|
SPECIAL NOTICE: THIS STORY IS MOVING!
For Trevor, it was terror in the dark; a confusion of sounds, and above it all the deep and pervasive roar of the wave.
Atlantis, in the grip of the raging whitewater, pitched even further nose-down, until her port bow slammed into solid, almost stationary water below the wall of white. Slewing her hard around, spinning her. Trevor felt himself falling in the darkness, expecting death at any moment, his world a dark and violent confusion.
Atlantis shuddered in the heart of the rogue wave, spinning slowly, leveling out, her hulls glancing into the solid water below, slowing her enough that the wave began passing her by.
It had only taken seconds, but for Trevor, now in a heap in a corner, it seemed like forever. He thought the roar was fading and seized onto that hope, and when he saw the light returning, he began to breathe.
As the whitewater abated, Atlantis emerged from the passing maelstrom sterns-first, emerging into daylight, shouldering aside some of her crushing burden as the many tons of water began cascading away.
Trevor struggled free of the netting sail, feeling a cold rush of water slopping across the cabin floor. Reacting fast, he shoved at the netting sail, heaving it onto the mattress stand. He acted even before he consciously realized that, had the netting sail gotten soaked, he would likely die of hypothermia.
Scrambling to his feet, Trevor dashed into the galley, then the salon, seeing water still dripping from several hatches, which had leaked under pressures they had not been designed to withstand.
A glance at the salon door showed water still leaking in around the edges, and three feet of water, slowly lowering, sloshing in the cockpit, as Atlantis wallowed, abeam – sideways – to the seas.
The rogue wave that had hit Atlantis had been seventy feet, and only the top thirty had been a breaker. Atlantis had come within moments of pitchpolling – flipping end over end – but she had survived, though with severe damage. She, and Trevor, had been lucky. Some rogue waves can reach heights of well over a hundred feet, and the Southern Ocean is notorious for them.
Trevor stood in the salon, watching as the cockpit drained. The hard fiberglass of the cockpit awning was battered in, dented and distorted by the massive force of the water.
The debris and scraps that Trevor had carefully stacked and sorted in the salon had been thrown free, and now littered the floor between the exposed crossmembers.
A furious roar from the port side, and then the impact of a wave slamming into the hull served as further notice that Atlantis was no longer underway, but was adrift, riding abeam to the seas, and Trevor realized the reason even before he turned around and looked out the salon’s forward windows at the empty, violent ocean. His wooden sail was gone, smashed to kindling and swept away by the violent fury of the wave. Where it had once stood, only a few hanging cables remained.
Trevor tried deploying his cabinet as a sea anchor, trailing it astern. For a while, it worked to turn Atlantis downwind, letting her take the still-violent seas from astern instead of abeam. It did not last long; the wire parted, and Atlantis returned to riding abeam.
The danger was immense; by presenting the lengthwise flat face of her port hull to the oncoming waves, Atlantis was receiving hammer blows from every wave, in the worst possible place. Putting tremendous strain on her structure. It was not as great as the strain she’d faced in the rogue wave, but it was repeating with every wave, and Trevor knew that, if she remained abeam for long, she was doomed.
That left Trevor with just one option. He stripped naked and hauled the salon table into the cockpit, and then forward, past the salon. Twice, he was nearly swept away by the crashing waves, but shivering, he struggled on. He used the heavy steel cabling that was all that was left of his wooden sail to make one long, and very strong, cable, a hundred feet in length. He secured it to the table, and then timing the seas, he scrambled out to onto the crossmember between Atlantis’s bows – the forward cross brace – and ran the line through the anchor guide, and then tied it off on a deck cleat normally used for an anchor rode.
Numb, in agony, and already hypothermic, Trevor made his way back to the deck, shoved the table overboard, and was barely able to toss the slack cable in with it before half-stumbling, half crawling back to the cockpit and into the salon.
Trevor slammed the salon door shut just ahead of a wave, and began toweling off, so cold he could barely make his limbs work. He felt Atlantis slowly turning to take the seas bows-on, and hoped the cable could hold.
It was far too dangerous for Trevor to be on deck for more than a few moments, so he turned his attention to the arduous task of pumping out the partially flooded bilges, warming himself in the process. As he pumped, struggling to keep from being bounced off the walls, he dreaded the coming of the next massive wave, fearing that the monster he’d just encountered was the first of many.
Trevor returned to the salon, and looked forward, through the angled windows. He watched as Atlantis’s bows took another wave, eight feet of churning water, head-on. The sound of their impacts rang through Atlantis: a roar, and then the thuds against the cockpit windows. Trevor pulled on his clothes, and watched as the next wave hit. ‘If Atlantis has vertical forward windows like the newer Lagoons, I think I’d be dead already... now way could they take this,’ he thought, giving Atlantis’s doorframe a proud pat as he entered the cabin and burrowed into the netting sail.
In the early afternoon, the storm ended as it had begun; a rapid change in the power of the wind, and the seas easing. In the space of two hours, the wind had dropped to twenty knots, and the seas calmed. The seas were still rough and confused, but the waves were no longer large enough to pose any threat to Atlantis, even when riding abeam, so Trevor retrieved his table and cables, stowed them in the salon, and retracted the daggerboards, letting Atlantis float free and cover as much distance as she could. It wasn’t much; without her sail, and riding mainly abeam, she was making barely a knot.
Desolate and despairing, Trevor stared out at the windswept sea, trying to think of a way to re-create his wooden sail. Many ideas raced through his mind, but he lacked enough paneling and the top beam needed to rebuild it.
After an hour of stewing, Trevor picked up his notebook and wrote;
The storm almost finished us. It still may have. We must have covered some distance in the storm so we’re closer to Cape Leeuwin, which I’m guessing is now about six hundred miles to the north. I can try to dismount the cockpit’s hard awning and lash it to the mast, but it’s small and all it would give is maybe a knot or two at best. I might have no choice though.
There may be another way. The barometer looks like it’s rising. If it ends up being like the last high, I’ll try raising the netting sail if the wind eases enough. If I’m very careful, and use it only in calm or moderate winds, it might last long enough to get us to land.
Maybe we won’t even need to get that far. We should be in the shipping lanes by the time we get within a hundred miles of land, and fishing boats go out further than that.
Trevor waited until the following dawn, and under clear, chilly skies, he set to work raising his netting sail. The one main difference was that this time he had some extra cabling: several long lengths of wire that had survived the destruction of his wooden sail, and also most of the wire he’d used to deploy the cabinet. This, along with making use of the halyards that ran to the top of Atlantis’s mast, allowed him to change the rigging. The netting sail could now be suspended from the spreader as before, but its main weight in the center was now supported by the halyards. The sail’s upper corners were supported via cables from the deck that ran up to the spreader, over the tips – held from slipping off by the shrouds – and down to the netting sail, allowing it to be raised or lowered from the deck, by releasing the cables and halyards. The change would, Trevor hoped, mean that he’d no longer have to climb the mast to raise or lower the sail.
As soon as the netting sail was raised, Atlantis turned downwind and Trevor adjusted her rudders so that she ran roughly true to the wind’s northbound course. Her speed was only three knots due to the bow damage and moderate winds, but even that would take her over eighty miles in a day.
It was still chilly, and Trevor was uncomfortable at night without the warmth of using his netting sail as a blanket, leaving him shivering, clutching at the foam padding. However, the weather was gradually warming, and Atlantis passed forty south, heading north, at last leaving the Roaring Forties behind.
Four days after the rogue wave, Atlantis continued her desperate voyage under a sky of flawless blue.
Trevor’s improvised towed safety float and towed toilet had been swept away by the rogue wave. At three and a half knots, Trevor knew he could probably swim fast enough, barely, to catch Atlantis if he fell overboard, but it would not be easy, and the slightest delay would be fatal. So, he’d struggled to free another 2X4 from the galley and drive in a screw to attach the wire to. Then he’d deployed it, letting it trail out eighty feet behind Atlantis.
The high-pressure system passing to the south had created northbound winds, which had even tracked a little west of north for a day. Now, well clear of the roaring forties, Atlantis was running at three and a half knots, heading north-northeast on the moderate breeze.
The weather was warming with every passing day. Now, the daytime temperature was in the low sixties, which, after what Trevor had endured, felt almost balmy. It was colder at night, and Trevor still huddled with the foam padding and his few remaining towels to keep warm while he slept.
Atlantis smelled damp and musty from the dousing she’d received. Trevor, finding the temperatures tolerable, opened up the salon vents and doors, letting the air circulate to help dry the remaining damp areas.
Trevor was growing nervous about his food supply. His estimate was that he’d have enough to reach shore, but any delays would mean he’d be going hungry. He knew that a few days without food would not harm him much, but any longer and he’d grow too weak to bail.
The bailing was taking more and more of Trevor’s energy as Atlantis’s leaks grew ever more severe. He’d increased his pumping sessions to three times a day, taking close to an hour each time. ‘If I live, I’ll have killer biceps,’ Trevor mused, as he neared the end of his second bailing-pump workout that day.
That afternoon, hoping he’d soon reach the shipping lanes, Trevor hoisted the ‘Victor’ flag he’d made, watching it flutter in the breeze alongside his makeshift radar detector. The flag was a red ‘X’ on a white background, the international signal for a vessel in need of assistance. ‘Man, does that sure fit,’ Trevor thought, glancing around at the wreckage.
In the Fort Pierce forensics lab, Officer Gonzalez paced impatiently as the satellite phone box that Trevor had sent from the Seychelles was reexamined. “Check the packaging; look for signs of resealing, and see if there is anything, and I mean anything, in there.”
“I am, just like before,” the lab tech said, more than a little irked at the implication that he’d missed something.
Gonzalez was keeping a great deal to himself. He was well aware that it made no sense for Dirk to send a rock to his son. Far easier to have sent Trevor’s old satellite phone, or a boxed one. Criminals did not always act logically, but in this case, Gonzalez believed that Dirk was unaware of the rock – which geologic and pollen tests had shown had almost certainly come from his own front yard.
The payphone from near Dirk’s chandlery was another piece of evidence. It had been tested in place and then moved to the forensics lab for further testing. So far, it had yielded nothing useful; there was no sign of Dirk’s fingerprints or DNA, but the phone had been contaminated by years of use.
The Egyptians had sent him an update on their findings, and had mentioned again the discovery that the intact propane tank they’d found had American standard threading, only this time, they had included the detail that it had been full, a fact they had previously omitted.
It had not taken Gonzalez long to think it through. Atlantis had a total of four tanks; one in the cockpit hooked to the galley supply line, two in the storage locker, and one on the barbecue. Piecing together what Trevor and Joel had told him, Gonzalez knew that one empty tank had been topped up in Greece and had been put into the storage locker, and the two tanks in the locker were the ones Trevor had reported stolen. The other two were in use so would not have been full, and Trevor had not mentioned changing out a tank after Greece. The full intact tank was the final clue; if Gonzalez’s hunch was right, and Trevor could confirm it, it would mean that the swap of the tank for the bomb had to have occurred after the refueling in Greece. That would mean it occurred well after Jim’s visit, as Gonzalez had long suspected, but now he felt he was on the cusp of proving.
His reasoning was that if the full tank the Egyptians had found could be proven to have been filled in the United States, then the one Trevor filled in Greece must be the one later swapped for a bomb.
Gonzalez had sent the Egyptians a request to have the tank contents analyzed for ratios and proportions of the trace gasses propylene, isobutane, butane, and methane. A petrochemist had assured Gonzalez that HD5 – consumer grade – propane in the United States would have different ratios to that found in Greece. One difference was a higher butane content in Greece due to the practice of using the same transport tanks for propane and liquefied petroleum gas, the latter being a mix of propane and butane widely used in Europe. Therefore, if the ratios the Egyptians found matched the HD5 propane in the U.S., it would prove the tank was filled in the U.S. and the one swapped for the bomb was the one filled in Greece, thus exonerating Jim.
It had taken a while, but the results had come in: the intact tank was a match.
Officer Gonzalez now had hard proof that the bomb could not have been planted by Jim in Italy. However, he felt no compunction to disclose that fact, not until the discovery phase of trial, nor was he under any departmental or legal compunction to do so. In this case, he had a strong reason not to, at least for a little while.
Officer Gonzalez returned to his office, where he fussed with the papers on his desk, frustrated by the case. He needed to talk to Trevor, to ask a few follow up questions, but Trevor had made that impossible by sailing from the Seychelles.
Drumming his fingers on his desk, Officer Gonzalez remembered what Trevor had said about single-sideband radio. Gonzalez was considering a request to the FBI, to see if they could set something up, but he was almost certain that it would be fruitless; even if they agreed, by the time they arranged with the Navy to give it a try, Trevor would probably be in Australia.
Gonzalez looked at his calendar, and picked up his cell phone to dial Joel. As soon as Joel answered, Gonzalez identified himself, and asked, “I need to talk to Trevor. Do you have any further information regarding his arrival in Australia?”
“All I know is he said it could take until mid-November. Lisa and I are getting a little worried, but he had a long way to go, and has to do it at slow speed due to the tsunami debris. He should be getting into port any time now... I hope,” Joel replied.
Gonzalez considered that for a few moments, and then asked, “You know a lot more about sailing than I do... how much longer until you’d say something is wrong?”
Joel thought about that for nearly a minute before replying, “I guess... maybe two more weeks. I’ve been watching the weather reports in the central Indian Ocean, along his planned route from near Rodrigues Island to Fremantle, near Perth. There have been some days with little or no wind, but Trevor has about a fifteen hundred mile range in engines. My guess is he’d use ‘em if he was stuck for more than a few days.”
Gonzalez marked his calendar before replying, “Okay. I’ll touch base with you in a week. What’s the procedure... for starting a search if he’s late?”
“Uh, I was hoping you could tell me that. I don’t know. I’ll see what I can find out,” Joel replied.
“Thanks... I’ll do some checking too. Let me know if you hear anything from him, and if I don’t hear from you first, I’ll be in touch a week from today.”
As soon as the call ended, Joel looked at Lisa, who was snuggled up by his side on the guesthouse sofa with a worried look on her face.
Lisa looked out the window for a few moments, and then said, in a quiet tone, “Did you mean what you said... that if Trev hasn’t checked in within the next two weeks, he’s in trouble?”
“I don’t know... my real guess is a month, but it’s just a guess. He couldn’t go the whole way on engines, but he’s got plenty of range to get out of becalmings. There have been some windless days in the central Indian Ocean, and when Trev was becalmed north of the Seychelles, he said he stuck it out for a week before giving up and using the engines.”
Lisa nodded, latching onto that hope. “That’s true, he’s very cheap. I don’t think he’d want to be very late though... he has to know we’d stress out, especially after him falling overboard in the Atlantic, and then that bomb.”
“Yeah. That’s why I said two weeks... He told me November, so if he’s not there by the first few days of December, I think something is wrong. Right now though... I’m not worried too much yet, but I will be if we get to the end of the month and Trev is still out there,” Joel said, giving Lisa a hug.
Gonzalez was waiting when Henry arrived for their pre-arranged meeting at the sandwich shop. This time, Gonzalez did his best to turn on the charm, and bought lunch for Henry and himself. They made small talk while inside the sandwich stand, but as soon as they were on their way back to their cars with the food, Gonzalez said, in a very offhand way, “Mr. Wesson, I’d like you to arrange for me to meet with your clients, so I can interview them. They’ll be free to stop answering at any time, but this may serve all our ends, at least in respect to some of the charges.”
Henry gaped in surprise. He’d expected many things, but not that. “You know I can’t tell you where they are,” he said, and then glanced around the parking lot, wondering if Gonzalez, who had asked for the meeting, was as alone as he appeared to be.
Officer Gonzalez shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, because that’s not what I asked. I want you to arrange a meeting, nothing more, and this will have to be off the record.”
Henry rolled his eyes. “I’m a lot of things, but I’m no fool. You’d arrest them on the spot. You’d have to; otherwise you’d be in violation of procedure.”
“I won’t arrest them at the meeting you arrange. I’ll make it easy for you; I’ll leave my gun, badge, and phone at home. You’re carrying, I won’t be. You can check me for wires, tracking devices, whatever. Then, you can blindfold me and drive me to wherever you set the meeting for, taking whatever precautions you want.”
Henry shook his head. “That’s insane. You’d never put yourself in that kind of danger–”
“I’ll be checking you out, to make sure you’re who you say you are, beforehand. I’ll also make damn sure that if I don’t come back, the department will know to look for you. Also, this is my idea, and I see no motive for you or your clients to do me harm.”
Henry thought it over, and then replied, “No goddamn way. You’re asking the impossible. Even if it goes down like you say, all you’d have to do is announce ‘You’re under arrest’ when you see Dirk and Jim. If they defy you, they’re resisting arrest, and that’s something that would add additional charges, ones they’d actually be guilty of. Same with me; so what if I’m armed? What do you think I’m going to do; pull my gun on a cop?”
“I’d give you my word as a police officer that I’d do no such thing,” Gonzalez offered.
“Sorry, but I don’t know you, and even if I did I wouldn’t trust you that much,” Henry replied.
Gonzalez smiled. His offer had mainly been a fishing expedition, and he was pleased by the responses he’d received. “I didn’t think you’d go for it, but I had to try. However, for your client’s sake as well as for many other reasons, I have to interview them. It doesn’t have to be in person though... So, you set up a phone call or maybe a videoconference, via laptop computers. They’ll be at one end, and then you pick me up, search me, take me to wherever you have the other computer, and let me talk to them. Or, we can do this by phone, same rules, your choice, or even by some other method you can think of,” Gonzalez offered. He saw the suspicion on Henry’s face, so he added, “I’ll sweeten the deal. If you do this, you’ll come away with even more than you’ve got from the alarm company. It’ll be enough, combined with what you already have, to guarantee either an acquittal or a dismissal for the Atlantis bombing. Furthermore, I may soon have something that will do the same for the Bellevue case as well.”
Henry was out of his depth, and knew it, so he gave an honest reply. “All I can say is I’ll talk this over with my clients and Frank Tittle. It’ll be their decision, not mine, thank God.” Henry knew that in a normal case, Dirk and Jim would be fools not to jump at such a chance, but this was no normal case. There were questions Gonzalez could ask that, no matter how they answered – or even refused to answer – could wreck everything. Henry knew that they’d need to stall until after the statutes of limitation ran out in a few weeks.
“When you call me, do so only on my cell line, not via the department,” Gonzalez said quietly, knowing that Henry would guess the reason, if he hadn’t already.
“We’re on the same page, I see,” Henry replied.
“Thanks for the talk, and I’ll be seeing you,” Gonzalez said, ending the meeting.
November 1st, 2006
It was slow going for a while, but for the last few days the wind has held pretty good, pushing me basically north. It shifted around a little overnight, now it’s blowing steadily from the southwest at about fifteen knots, and we’ve been moving at about three knots through the water. We’re about three hundred miles south of cape Leeuwin, so if we can hold something near this rate of progress, we could make landfall in a few days or so. The bad news is the sheets in the netting sail are fraying badly and I doubt it will hold much longer, and then all I can do is drift before the wind until I can rig something with the cockpit hard awning and a few ceiling panels from the cabins.
The moon looks like it’s about a week from being full, which will give me moonlight almost all night, so I’ll have a fighting chance of seeing the coast in time even at night – if we make it that far. Maybe I’ll get lucky and be able to hail a passing ship; there’s got to be some coastal traffic. If not, I’ll try to beach Atlantis on a sheltered shore. I don’t have an anchor so I don’t have much choice; either pick the spot or the wind does it for me, but on any exposed beach, Atlantis would be quickly destroyed by the surf. I don’t want to lose her, not now.
The warming weather had other consequences: Aboard Atlantis, something stank... a vile, acrid smell. It was Trevor.
It was still cool at night and even during the day on deck, but it had warmed enough to allow Trevor to shed one of his three T-shirts the day before, swapping it for the innermost one. That had not helped the smell from his unwashed and continuously-worn clothing, so Trevor decided to use the faint warmth of morning and the promise of a sunny day to do some laundry.
He stripped naked, and used a little dish soap and salt water to rinse out his shorts and the T-shirts. He hung them to dry in the sunlight streaming in through the salon’s forward windows, and then treating himself, knowing he had more than he needed, he used a little of his precious fresh water and a sock to sponge himself down. He dried himself off with a towel, feeling almost human again. ‘Good thing I did that... or the Aussies would have got one whiff of me and kicked me back out to sea.’
At noon, Trevor took his sightings and calculated his position. Grinning broadly, he sat down to write in his journal,
I think we’ve done it, just about. I took several sightings and they were closely clustered, a good set. I averaged them and got 36° south, 115° east. That puts us about seventy miles due south of Cape Leeuwin. I know I could be off by a lot, maybe a hundred miles for latitude, but we’re close! We could see land tomorrow.
This also means we’re in, or close to, Australian coastal shipping lanes. Maybe we’ll see a ship and I can signal for help.
Trevor had only one means of making light at night, and he sat down to prepare it by removing the bullets from several rounds of ammunition and replacing them with wads of cotton cloth from his outermost T-shirt.
Remembering the boat light he’d seen near Réunion, he again mentally kicked himself for not thinking of using his gun to shoot fire sooner. To his chagrin and regret, the idea had only occurred to him when he’d wanted to start a fire on the log.
By sunset, Trevor’s clothes were still a little damp, but dry enough to put on, so he tugged them on, shivering from their clammy touch, intending to let his body heat dry them a little before he slept.
Late that night, Trevor saw the lights of an aircraft, far to the north. It gave him a feeling of tremendous hope; it was the first sign of human civilization he’d seen in weeks.
That night, what he’d been hoping for happened; he saw the distant bright light of a fishing boat, roughly nine miles to starboard. Hoping for the best, Trevor fired off two rounds from his gun, creating a small flash of spark and fire that sent the glowing wad of cotton flying into the air. It was far less visible than he’d hoped, so Trevor reluctantly abandoned the effort, and unable to change course enough to come near the fishing boat, he consoled himself with thoughts of soon seeing land.
The day dawned bright and clear, and Trevor spent the morning scanning the seas ahead, hoping for his first sign of land. It came just before noon, flying in from the east to perch atop Atlantis’s mast.
Squinting against the glare, Trevor studied his little avian visitor. It was a Red-necked Stint, and though Trevor had no idea of its species, he could tell from its small, lightly-built shape that it was a shorebird, and thus it was evidence that he was nearing land.
After resting for a few minutes, the little bird took off, heading east, leaving Trevor with newfound hope, as well as a new stain on his netting sail.
Trevor took his noon sighting, and with eager anticipation sat down in the salon to make his calculations.
When he applied his coordinates to the map however, his reaction was a mix of hope and dejection. ‘Crap, this shows us as twenty miles inland from Cape Leeuwin!’ Trevor thought it over for a while, and then chalked it up to the inaccuracies of his navigation. ‘Well, we’re getting very close, that’s for sure,’ he thought, as the smile returned to his face.
Two hours later, Trevor spotted a faint mark on the horizon, just a brief glimpse whenever Atlantis crested a swell.
Trevor scrambled up his knotted rope to the spreader, and from his vantage point high on the mast, he stared east, at what he could now see was the top of the superstructure of a large ship, hulldown over the horizon. Trevor’s heart sank as its changing position indicated that it was northbound and was drawing away from Atlantis. Trevor watched until is disappeared from sight, and then looked around at the empty sea before descending.
‘Why would it be northbound here? There’s nowhere but Antarctica south of us,’ he thought, staring at his map in the salon.
Making his way into Joel’s cabin for a nap, Trevor yawned, and then froze in his tracks as a sudden, growing, excruciating pain flared in the side of his head. Clutching at his head in agony, Trevor collapsed to the deck, as the pain began to subside as quickly as it had begun.
For a few moments, Trevor sat in the dark in stunned silence, wondering what had happened, and then he noticed something very different in the sound of the sea, which was now coming from all around him. Trevor grinned in the dark, and clicked his fingers by his left ear, and then his right, hearing them almost equally. “I can hear on both sides!” he said, elated that his ruptured right ear was working again. He’d been concerned that his hearing loss had been permanent. As the last of the pain faded away, Trevor smiled in profound relief, listening to the glorious, everyday sounds of the sea.
At noon the following day, Trevor made his calculations and cringed at the result. “This puts us in downtown Perth!” he muttered, looking around at the empty sea, and beginning to doubt his improvised navigation.
Trevor paced in the ruins of the galley, glancing at his barometer, which was still steady, and then at his meager remaining food supply. He’d already eaten everything edible aboard except for ten cans of hot dogs, one can of pork & beans, and two packets of sugar. A few times, deep in the cold of the Southern Ocean, Trevor had eaten three cans per day, but even at his normal rate of two cans per day, he’d be out of food in five more days. ‘I’ve got to stretch this out, just in case. One can a day from now on, starting tomorrow,’ he decided, and then returned his thoughts to the far more serious navigational issue.
All through the afternoon he brooded, going over the reasoning he’d used. In frustration, he wrote in his journal;
I’ve gone over it in my head a million times. I think I’ve got the navigation basically right, but I must have screwed up somehow. I know I could be off by a hundred miles or more on latitude, but I should be closer than that on longitude.
The last position fix shows us at two hundred miles north of the latitude of Cape Leeuwin, and I didn’t think I could be off by that much. If we’re too far east of the cape, that puts us in the Great Australian Bight, and we should make landfall at any time.
The only thing I can think of is maybe Joel’s watch is gaining or losing time. Or I screwed up on the adjustments for date for latitude, or something. I’ll just have to wait and see, because I don’t think I could have screwed up by that much. At least I hope not.
Trevor was looking in the wrong place for his mistake. It wasn’t aboard Atlantis at all, but in the sky: the sun wasn’t where he assumed it should be.
The book on celestial navigation that Trevor had partially read many months before had contained just a single entry – less than half a page – about the Equation of Time, but Trevor had missed it.
The Equation of Time is the difference, due to Earth’s elliptical orbit, between observed local solar time and actual time.
One way apparent, or true, solar time can be obtained is with a sundial, which shows time based on the angle of the sun as it traverses the sky throughout the day. Mean solar time at the sundial, however, would be the time indicated by a steady clock set to the average solar time through the year.
Due to Earth’s position in its orbit, apparent time, and thus a sundial or any calculation based on knowing solar noon, gradually changes throughout the year, and can be ahead of mean solar time by as much as sixteen and a half minutes on November 3rd and slow by fourteen minutes and six seconds around February 12th.
If the sun’s position over a specific point at noon mean time is charted, its path appears as an elongated figure 8, called the Analemma. The north-south component is the sun’s seasonal shift – appearing higher in the sky in summer, lower in winter – and the horizontal movement of it due to the Equation of Time.
Trevor’s calculations for the time of noon were therefore off by over sixteen minutes on average. At the equator, a minute equals fifteen nautical miles. At Trevor’s current latitude, thirty south, it was less by a third, but that was still a difference of over one hundred and sixty miles. Therefore, when Trevor calculated his longitude, his estimates placed him, on average, over one hundred sixty miles to the east of his actual location.
Due to the inherent inaccuracies of the system Trevor was using, plus the Equation of Time, Atlantis was off course. The City of Perth, Western Australia, was in fact two hundred miles southeast of Atlantis’s current position.
The next day dawned bright and clear, as Atlantis rode the warm breezes north. Trevor stepped out into the cockpit to look around, seeing the empty seas, and enjoying the no-longer-chilly air. Smiling, he peeled off his final T-shirt, reveling in the feel of the breeze on his bare chest.
Sitting down to open and eat that day’s single can of hot dogs, Trevor cringed. He’d eaten them for almost every meal for a month and a half, and had come to loathe even the thought of them. One by one, he ate the cold hot dogs, dreaming of hot food... of any kind of food that wasn’t a hot dog.
For the next couple of days, Atlantis crawled north, making her best rates of progress in the afternoons, when the breezes freshened. Trevor’s position fixes continued to show Atlantis either inland or right on the coast. He continued to steer fifteen degrees to the right of the wind’s track as much as he could. His reasoning was sound: a course of northeast would bring him to land regardless of whether he was off the west coast, or in the Great Australian Bight.
Just after sunset, a squall to the west caused a sudden rise in the wind, roiling the sea and slamming Atlantis with several strong gusts. Trevor glanced apprehensively at his netting sail as he raced forward to lower it.
Returning to the salon, Trevor squinted in the last glow of twilight to write,
The weather is getting worse. We’re riding abeam and the seas are starting to pound on the wing again, but it’s just a confused sea, nothing like we faced in the Southern Ocean. I have done what I can to minimize it, and I don’t want to deploy the dining table as a sea anchor in case I lose it; I might need it when we sight shore. All I can do is ride it out, hoping for the best.
It was over within an hour, but Trevor didn’t know if the lull was temporary, so he decided to wait until dawn. As the first light of day revealed calm, clear skies, Trevor went forward to raise his improvised sail.
As he fixed the sail in place, he glanced up, his heart sinking as he saw that the frail, sun and salt rotted sheets had torn through in at least a dozen places. The holes were enough to let some wind through, knocking a couple of knots off Atlantis’s speed, which was down to two knots in spite of the breeze.
Trevor walked forward and looked closely at his sail. He could, he knew, take it down and partially patch it, using every remaining scrap of fabric aboard Atlantis, including the tattered shorts he wore. ‘Just great, I’ll be arriving in Australia naked,’ he thought.
Trevor assembled his supplies at the foot of the mast, and then lowered the sail to begin his patching. He used every towel he had, near the edges, mindful of how heavy they would be if it rained. To patch closer to the centers, he tore the three T-shirts in two by ripping apart the side seams, leaving him with long, wide strips of tattered, somewhat holey cotton. He knew they would not hold for long, but they were all he had. He even used a sock to patch a smaller hole.
Glancing down at his shorts, then at one of the remaining sail holes, Trevor hesitated. ‘Maybe I don’t really need to use these; a couple of little holes won’t make too much difference, and I really don’t want to land in Australia without any clothes,’ he thought, and then raised his netting sail, smiling as Atlantis turned downwind and slowly accelerated to nearly four knots, heading north.
Just in case his sail failed again beyond his ability to patch it with his shorts, Trevor began to scour Atlantis, identifying every scrap of ceiling and wall paneling that could be used. It would be a major job, but he felt that he could, if need be, attach the pieces of paneling to the netting in order to give him some sail area.
The skies began to darken, and by noon, it was raining hard, though without the sudden gusts that would force Trevor to lower his frail netting sail. Trevor dashed out onto the open deck, dish soap in hand, ignoring the mild chill, letting the clean, pure rainwater wash over him; his first chance to fully bathe in fresh water in over a month.
Shivering in the wind, Trevor washed his shorts and then carried them into the salon, where he hung them in the remains of the galley to dry. Still dripping, Trevor began pumping out the bilges to warm up, counting the strokes. The leaks were becoming worse by the day, and he already had to pump three to four times a day just to keep ahead of them.
The next day dawned warmer, bright and clear. Trevor, glancing skyward, hoped for sun at noon, knowing that he needed a position fix.
As noon approached, Trevor stood looking at the clear sky, checking and rechecking his watch until it was time.
With measurements in hand, he padded into the salon and estimated his latitude at twenty-nine degrees south, and he was still heading roughly north. ‘Crap, that latitude puts me somewhere north of Geraldton, on what looks to be an uninhabited coast.’ Then, he worked out his longitude, and came up with one hundred and fifteen degrees east. His eyes widened as he drew that vertical line and the map. “Oh, shit,” he muttered. “Either my position fix is way the hell off, or I’m over four hundred miles north or south of where I’m supposed to be, or I’m almost a hundred miles inland in the fucking outback.” ‘I think I can rule out the last one,’ he safely assumed, walking out into the cockpit and glancing around at the empty sea.
I can’t trust my navigation anymore. Most of my position fixes for the past few days have shown Atlantis as being inland or right on the coast. What I know for sure, due to the warm weather, is I’m not south of Australia. That means I have to be east or west of it. I don’t think I could have gone far enough to be in the pacific, so that means I must be west of Australia. The wind patterns I’m seeing match that. So that means that no matter what, Australia is east of us. We need to turn east, because if we keep going north, we’ll hit the southeast trades and those will carry us back out into the Indian Ocean. I have three cans of hot dogs left, so I need to find land, fast.
I’ll give it one more day, then I’ll re-rig the sail forty-five degrees to Atlantis’s centerline so we can sail crosswind to the east. It’ll be slow and very awkward, and I’ll have to stay at the helm continuously, but it’ll take us east.
The fear that Joel’s old, damaged watch was running fast returned to haunt Trevor. He stared at his wrist, studying the watch for several minutes, trying to figure out his problem. He knew that, when he’d found the watch, he was mainly south of where he’d been attacked, and at that time the watch had seemed accurate, in spite of the time that had passed since Joel had damaged it on Samos. That led Trevor to wrongly assume that the watch was running just a few minutes fast at most, and thus his guess was that he was close to Australia’s western coast. He was wrong about the watch – it was only twenty seconds fast – but it didn’t really matter; the Equation of Time situation was having precisely the same effect as a fast watch, and Trevor was off only by the amount; he was assuming a few minutes, instead of the actual equivalent of sixteen. He was right that he was paralleling the cost, but he was still further out to sea than he believed.
Trevor’s map showed a string of islands off Geraldton, but due to the scale, they appeared only as a row of dots roughly forty miles to the west of the mainland, running parallel to the shore. Those concerned Trevor greatly; he had no idea if they were inhabited, and the idea of beaching there and starving to death or dying of thirst so close to safety made him shudder.
Trevor again studied his map, seeing that the coastline of Western Australia above Geraldton had very few towns. ‘There’s a lot of it that’s uninhabited, so even if I get to shore on the mainland, I might be no better off.’ With that thought, Trevor began to plan.
Trevor set down his pencil, wishing that he had an anchor of some kind. Casting about with his mind, he tried to think of something heavy that could be used as a makeshift anchor. The engines came to mind, but he lacked the tools to remove one, and any kind of line long enough and strong enough to be of any use. His gaze fell to the map, and he thought, ‘If I can make it into sheltered water and beach Atlantis on sand, she’d survive, no problem.’
Trevor tapped his finger on the map. “Shark Bay would be perfect... if I can find it,” he said.
Shark Bay is a vast area of sheltered water formed by twin peninsulas jutting northwest from the coast. The mouth of it points north and is sixty miles wide. Within its confines, Trevor believed that he’d find placid waters and gentle sandy beaches largely free of surf.
The problem was that, given his jury-rigged sail, Atlantis could only steer on a track of at most twenty degrees either side of the wind, and even that required constant manning of the rudders. Winds, Trevor knew, often bent around a headland, so he had good reason to hope they would in this case. The problem was that he’d need to approach the outermost cape closely, within a handful of miles, in order to have any hope of making the southerly course change into sheltered waters. If he could do so, he’d be in one of two long, narrow bays that run south by southwest for nearly seventy miles. Somewhere in there, he hoped, he could find help, or at least a place to safely beach his beloved Atlantis. He dimly remembered hearing about Shark Bay being a renowned diving and boating area, and knew that any such large, sheltered area would be popular for yachting. If he could make it into Shark Bay, he would likely find help. If...
Staring at Cape Inscription, which was shown but not named on his map, Trevor sighed, feeling his spirits fall. ‘To do this, I’d have to make landfall within a few miles of that cape, and I have no idea how much I missed Réunion by, and I don’t know for sure why I keep plotting my position as inland! I sure as hell can’t trust a position fix showing me in the middle of a desert, so I could miss the cape by two hundred miles. Or more.’
Confronting the stark reality, Trevor shrugged. ‘I can try, and even if I miss, maybe I’ll find sheltered water or help before I wreck.’
The dangers were many; Trevor lacked a nautical chart and thus he had no knowledge at all of the countless reefs and other obstacles he’d face if he made it into Shark Bay. However, that was the least of the dangers he faced; if he missed Cape Inscription and continued north, he’d find himself moving further and further away from coast, which angled northeast north of Shark Bay. A further danger that Trevor knew was the wind patterns; he was entering the region of the southeast trades, which would blow Atlantis northwest, out into the vast reaches of the central Indian Ocean, a near certain death sentence due to his lack of food and Atlantis’s deteriorating condition. Even rigged to run across the wind, the southeast trades would put Australia forever beyond Atlantis’s reach.
A further danger lay closer still, though Trevor was blissfully unawares; Atlantis was currently offshore of the Zuytdorp Cliffs, an incredibly hazardous stretch of coast. For over a hundred miles south of Steep Point, this inhospitable coast menaces unfortunate ships with a hostile shore: massive waves from the open sea smashing into the base of the deadly cliffs.
Trevor’s bid to make Shark Bay, based on navigation he knew to be faulty, was perilous, and in many ways it was his last and only hope.
© 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