The winds blustered intense from the southwest around 20 knots.
Rich grabbed a flashlight and combed every inch of the deck making sure everything battened secure and reefed the mainsail. He strengthened the pilothouse. Two hours later raindrops bounced from the canvas top of the pilothouse and droplets dotted the windshield.
The winds increased to 30 knots.
Rich sailed on with the certainty The Odyssey’s mast could sustain at least 40 knots, but that was the limit. The wind picked up plenty of spray, at times washing over the cabin’s roof, However, he remained dry within the pilothouse.
“How can Salty sleep in this?” Rich thought.
Soon the sea became so high the bow dipped into the waves and splashed high against the windshield.
“What have we got goin’ on here?” Salty said stepping up into the pilot house.
“We got some weather,” Rich said. “Glad to see you’re up.”
“Let’s reef the sail,” Salty said.
“I did it a couple of hours ago,” Rich said. “And secured everything on deck.”
“Good seaman,” Salty said.
By 8:00 AM it should have been bright and sunny, instead the day laid shrouded dark and gray. From the southwest the sky rolled near black and lightening magically danced from cloud to cloud.
“It doesn’t look good,” Rich said.
“If the winds pick up to 35 knots we should drop the sails,” Salty said.
Rich checked the wind speed on the helm’s housing. “Is 34 close enough.”
“I’ll get ‘em,” Rich said.
“Tie a line on,” Salty said.
Rich tied a line around his waste and Salty secured the other end to a stanchion. Rich dropped and wrapped them snug.
Rich opened the flap to the pilothouse and entered drenched.
“I’m going to change,” Rich said and headed to the forward-quarters.
The wind and waves intensified. A dread fell over the sea. It was like a rolling and tempestuous graveyard. It was like the gray pallor of a dead man’s skin.
Rich and Salty sat quietly in the cabin each alone with his own private thoughts and fears. They bobbed and dove into the sea helpless except for the integrity of The Odyssey. It heaved and rolled side to side. Everything in the cabin swayed and collided.
“We’ll be okay,” Salty said. “She’s a good boat and you made her better.”
Rich forced a smile.
“To be honest, mate,” Salty said, “I’ve never been in storm equal to this.”
“I rode a storm last winter coming back from the Cape,” Rich said. “It was nothing like this.”
Rich staggered violently to the companionway and into the pilothouse. He checked the wind speed and went back below.
“70 knots,” Rich said.
“We’re in a hurricane,” Salty said.
“I’d sure feel better if we weren’t 350 miles from land,” Rich said.
“Times like these one must believe in something more than his boat, himself and abilities,” Salty said. “Do you believe in god?”
“Yes,” Rich said, “but no more today than a month ago.”
“There seems to be times when we have a greater need,” Salty said.
“If god would step in and save me now, I’d wonder why he left a child die in a fire a thousand miles away,” Rich said.
“I’ve always wondered about things like that,” Salty said. “My belief has never been able to move me beyond that. I’ve talked to ministers about it and the only person that ever said anything that made sense to me was a man who worked at the boatyard for a couple of years. He said we worship god because we love him and there in no alternative. If evil is done to someone god will correct it. God can cure and resurrect. He’s like a wealthy father who wants his children to love him not for an inheritance only, but because he is a good father. Good fathers don’t give their kids everything. He wants them to work for him and any reward is not based on the work, because all of us have varying degrees of skill, but because he is loving, caring, just, and merciful.”
“Those are good words, Salty.”
Lightening flashed beyond the portholes like fireworks and thunder crackled like a falling tree. The sound echoed furious and dreadful. The wind howled like some lonely and distant sea demon searching for lives to nettle and drive to insanity.
The storm lasted for six hours. The wind calmed, but the sea remained turbulent. Rich was still as close to god as before, yet grateful as never before. He stepped alone to the stern of the boat and quietly thanked god.
Rich and Salty hoisted and trimmed the sails and continued the course to Bermuda.