Salty in deep thought stood beside the wheelhouse watching the western ski. Dark foreboding clouds gathered in huge clusters below the horizon that seemed to erupt from the sea.
Rich climbed the ladder to the wheelhouse and stood beside Salty. “Do you think we should shove off today or wait until tomorrow?”
“It is fit or it is not,” Salty said. “We will castoff as soon as Patrick arrives.”
“Looks like we won’t have to wait long,” Rich said. “I think I saw his car through the clearing.”
Patrick parked his car next to George’s house, walked to the Rumrunner, and climbed aboard.
Patrick climbed the steps to where Rich and Salty stood beside the wheelhouse. “Good morning, gentleman,” Patrick said.
Rich and Salty replied with a Maine, “Mornin’.”
“It looks like we will get wet today,” Patrick said. “This will be a good test for her.”
“Indeed,” Salty said, “Let’s get underway. Rich, toss the lines.”
Rich dashed down the steps and jumped from The Rumrunner. He unloosened the lines and tossed them on board to Patrick. He jumped back aboard and Salty started the engine. Rich and Patrick climbed back up the steps and gathered in the wheelhouse with Salty as he slowly steered from the pier and nosed toward Antigua.
Salty pushed the button to start the generator. He scanned across the panel of gauges before him. “Everything is up.”
“That’s good,” Patrick said.
“Rich, serve some coffee,” Salty said turning to an electric coffee pot on a small counter. “Cups are hanging below in the cabinet.”
Soon the sea began to spray over the bow and a steady rain beat against The Rumrunner.
“Patrick,” Salty said. “Take the helm while Rich and I give her a once over.”
Salty and Rich climbed below deck. Salty flipped the lights on to check the hull’s integrity. Salty ran his hand over the deck beams, keel, and framing. He pressed his ear against them and sighted them at the same time.
“Let’s walk the deck,” Salty said and they climbed to the deck. They walked around and checked the truck. They entered the passengers’ cabin and looked around.
“What do you think, Salty?” Rich said.
“I think you could be a ship builder someday,” Salty said. “And I think those people back in Barbuda did one heck of a job. Look at the little things they did. You can’t buy that.”
Rich and Salty returned to the wheelhouse.
“Baptism by fire?” Patrick said.
“She’s holding sound,” Salty said.
Two hours from Barbuda Salty radioed the office of Latimer Wright.
By the time the entrance to St. John’s Deepwater Harbor appeared the bad weather moved far to the east.
Waiting at the pier alone stood Latimer Wright. Salty slowly moved the vessel along side the pier. Rich leaped unto the pier and Patrick tossed the lines. With The Rumrunner secured Wright stepped aboard.
Wright walked to the hull’s hatch. “I see you have her loaded. How did she handle the seas?”
“She bounced a little, but for the most part cut through the waves,” Salty said. “She handled as she should.”
“Open the hatch,” Wright said.
Rich opened it and handed Wright a flashlight.
Wright acted as if he didn’t see the flashlight. “Close the hatch.”
“Don’t you want to inspect the hull?” Salty said.
Wright reached inside his breast pocket and pulled out a thick brown envelope. “It’s all in here. It’s been inspected and passed with flying colors.” Wright shook everyone’s hand.
“We’d hate to turn around and head back so quick,” Salty said. “Could we buy you lunch?”
“That would appear to be a bribe,” Wright said. “However, if I were to buy that would be altogether different.”
They had a two hour meal at a nearby restaurant and talked about boats. Wright spoke in reverent terms of his father of whom Salty reminded him. “He was a generous man to a fault. He was a common man to his credit. He was a brilliant ship builder to his employer’s good name.”
Wright paid for the meal and walked with Rich, Salty, and Patrick as far as the pier.
He studied Rich’s face. “I seem to have seen you before. It may have been in Bermuda or was it someplace else. I really can’t be sure. It might be best you return to Barbuda and leave very quickly.”
“Why would you advise me to do that?” Rich said.
“Men who build honest ships choose honest friends,” Wright said..
“Thank you, sir,” Rich said. “Your words have not been wasted or misplaced.”
The Rumrunner motored swiftly towards Barbuda.