Hard Rain, Gentle Thoughts
A pale red sunrise glowed outside the porthole in the morning. Rich turned away from it, but sleep was over and the day, though early, beckoned his presence. He stood and rubbed the sleep from his eyes steadying himself from the constant roll of the sea.
He prepared a pot of coffee and sat at the chart table studying the charts, waiting for the coffee to percolate. The glass dome of the coffee maker started a slow pulsation and finally a rapid steady beat. Rich waited for it to turn a deep rich brown. He poured a cup and sipped. The aroma reminded him of home and calm winter mornings. He closed his eyes and could almost see the barnyard blanketed and limbs of maples bent heavy with snow. He opened his eyes and stepped up the companionway and into the pilothouse to greet the day properly.
He opened the flap and stood aft. The sun cast a faint glow of shimmery fire red ribbons across the waters. Zeke stood beside him to experience the wonderment that never fails to inspire.
“What do you think, Zeke?” Rich said.
“You say it’s too cold out here.”
“I’m inclined to agree with you. Perhaps breakfast is in order. Dog food or human?”
Rich and Zeke slipped back into the cabin. He lit the heater and prepared breakfast.
After breakfast Rich grabbed the sextant for a reading. Once he knew their position, he hoisted the sails and they bloomed full as if anxiously waiting the night to do so. After about six hours tacking and unfavorable winds he dropped the sails and rested on the bench in the pilot house.
“We are about 40 to 50 miles west of Rio Gallegos,” Rich thought. “As benign as this may be reasoned I will remain her until I go out of my mind or Zeke strikes up a mutiny. If being looked for and not seen it will be presumed I have gone for the cape or headed east for Africa. I’d better secure the weapons before Zeke hears of my plan.”
“I should set a time limit as a goal,” Rich thought. He marked the calendar above the chart table seven days ahead. “That is a good goal, seven days.”
“I shall read and write,” Rich thought. “I will listen to radio and learn how to dance the flamenco. I will teach myself rocket science and astrophysics. That’s my first day. Insanity is already setting in.”
The first three days gnawed at his nerves like a fat. In time he accepted the self imposed exile as a necessary part of his continued existence. Zeke, at times, seemed perplexed, however he was easy to entertain with several hours devoted to learning new tricks.
On the seventh day Rich spun the dial on his transistor radio and found a far away voice, one not heard until this point. His comprehension of Spanish now improved to beyond minimal. The announcer spoke of an unsolved murder in in Puerto San Julian.
“I never considered that I’m a likely suspect,” Rich thought.
“Should I go to Rio Gallegos?” Rich continued. “Going there could risk detention. I could be prosecuted and imprisoned. Wait a minute! Why me? The two guys from the states would be just as likely suspects. And what about the guy who shot him. People may have seen him also. I need more information. I need to understand Spanish better. Should I risk going to shore and being questioned? Is it possible for me to head for the Strait now?”
Thoughts and scenarios played out in his mind over and over. Each one had a possible good and bad outcomes.
“It only takes one mistake,” Rich thought.
He unrolled the charts and studied.
“I’m 400 miles from Punta Arenas. That’s about a third of the way through the Strait – the easiest part. I can purchase my extra gas there. Most importantly, it’s in Chile.”
“What do you think, Zeke, straight to the Strait?” Rich said.
Zeke cocked his head, confused.
“It’s meant to be funny,” Rich said. “You see there’s… Never mind.. We are going through the Strait.”
“Of course it’s not straight,” Rich said and moved his hands to indicate the various changes of direction that have to be made to navigate the Strait. “They sound the same, but the are different. Okay, if you insist on the argument, how many interpretations are there for bow wow or arf?”
Rich hoisted the sails and set a course at 195 degrees.
Very quickly fresh breeze force winds moved in from the south bringing with it pelting rain.
Rich stood near the helm and watched the hard rain bounce and splatter against the windshield. He thought, “This will be nothing compared to what will be faced in the Strait. The currents and winds change drastically and diametrically. There will be no time to sleep or relax while the boat sails. That will be a sure way to end up on the rocks and on the bottom.”
Four hours the rain pelted off and on and the weather cleared slightly. Clouds raced across the sky as if smoke from a distant fire. Through the gray haze of clouds the sun appeared a pale yellow. The winds remained at fresh breeze force.
On the port side a school of whales methodically heaved and plunged northward. One brought himself close and gently brushed the Beyond. Immediate fear rushed into Rich’s brain like an electrical shock. He held tightly to the helm as the boat shook violently. Rich cursed and watched the whale curl away as gentle and unassuming as they arrived.
“What a world that must be in the fathoms below,” Rich thought. “A world of beauty, grace, and spectrum, far more diverse than its earthly counterpart. There exists no hypocrisy, only a brutal and unforgiving truth. It bears no grudge nor issues any vengeance; it asks nothing and gives much, it obeys only God’s commands and rules over all else. Treat the sea as you would God, for no man can contend with either and claim advantage or victory. Even the mighty whale knows his rank; the sea is his master and God is the sea’s master. It is folly for man to think he masters the deep, he only assuages the inevitable.”
“And the sea gave up dead,” Rich said softly. “That is God’s mastery over the sea.”