Four days at sea confined between 38 feet is like three land years. There were times they talked endlessly and other times the silence was so noticeable that Zeke barked to try to start the conversation.
Towards the end of fifth day the weather turned calm, yet a substantial breeze blossomed the sails.
“You know it’s kinduv a funny thing,” Tommy said, “all the years the water was right in front of me and never once did I take a boat ride on the water. I always thought the time might come, but you know how that works.”
Rich heard Tommy, but his thinking strayed elsewhere.
“Ya got somethn’ on your mind; ya wanna be left alone?” Tommy said.
“No,” Rich said. “The weather seems strange. The mate I started with, Salty…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Tommy said, “the old guy.”
“He always said it is good to follow your instincts,” Rich said. “If something doesn’t seem right, something ain’t right.”
“I know what you’re talkin’ about,” Tommy said. “You’re the captain. This feels like a good day to me. If ya say it’s funny, it’s funny.”
“I’m going below and check the barometric pressure,” Rich said and climbed down into the cabin. He squinted to read the small indicating marks. “It has fallen. I’m going to try to find a safe harbor.”
He sat at the chart table and scoured the coast for the nearest harbor.
Rich stepped back into the pilothouse and to the helm.
“Tommy,” Rich said, “have you ever heard of Puerto San Julian?”
“Never heard of it,” Tommy said. “There’s a lot of things I never heard of, but that don’t mean they don’t exist.”
Rich adjusted the course to southwest and grabbed the sextant. He caught a glimpse of the sun through the gray clouds that looked like flowing scarfs. Below he quickly found their position and came back on deck.
“In seven hours we should be in a safe port,” Rich said. “It looks to me like the storm will be chasing us. I hope we can outrun it to port.”
“Can I do anything to make this thing go faster?’ Tommy said.
“You can jump overboard,” Rich said, “that would lighten the load.”
“I was thinkin’ I could blow on the sails or somthin’,” Tommy said. “Hey, it wouldn’t be a cruise without a comedian.”
Three hours later it was dark and the winds whisked in from the southeast like an avalanche.
“Will the mast hold the sails?” Tommy said watching sail stretch full.
“I’m going to go out and reef them,” Rich said.
“What can I do to help?” Tommy said.
“Stay in the pilothouse and keep an eye on me,” Rich said. “I’ll have a line tied to me, but if I go over, before you help me tie a line on yourself.”
Rich crawled along the side rail and reefed the mainsail and completely folded the foresail while Tommy maned the helm. Rich returned to the pilothouse drenched and cold. He changed clothes below, started the heater, and warmed himself a short while.
He climbed back into the pilothouse.
“You okay, cuz?” Tommy said.
“Got a little chill,” Rich said.
“How far you think we are from port?” Tommy said.
“Three or four hours,” Rich said.
“Are we okay?” Tommy said.
“Sure,” Rich said. “I’ve been in higher seas, we just have to remain vigilant and stay cool.”
“I don’t mind tellin’ ya, cuz,” Tommy said, “I ain’t cool.”
“You look on the outside what I am on the inside,” Rich said. “Hey, Tommy, we’re okay, trust me.”
“Look at Zeke,” Tommy said, “he’s shakin’ like a leaf.”
“He’s cold,” Rich said.
“He’s aware,” Tommy said.
The rains arrived and blew sideways, pecking against the pilothouse windows. Rich assumed the helm and kept an eye on the compass, holding a firm 220 degrees.
“Hey, Tommy, if you want to go below I’ll keep watch,” Rich said. “There’s nothing you can do up here.”
“Yeah,” Tommy said, “I can go below and rattle around like a pinball.”
Tommy staggered below and Rich kept a firm grip on the helm. After an hour he locked it in place and ducked into the cabin to check on Tommy. Tommy laid asleep on the bench with Zeke at his feet.
“You taking care of Tommy,” Rich said.
Rich brought a thermos of coffee to the helm that had been prepared earlier when the seas were just starting to become rough. At the helm and in the protection of pilothouse, Rich huddled in a blanket as he sipped the coffee.
The winds gusted and howled and the fittings rattled and strained without let up.
“Perhaps we should spend a couple of days on shore,” Rich thought. “Tommy is nervous. We can stay at San Julian as long as he’d like. The sea can be overwhelmingly fearsome if you have no reason to be there. Tommy needs a breather.”