[I had hoped to keep this one short, but it looks like it’ll stretch out to three or four chapters. Sorry. Anyway, hope you enjoy…]
Sitting at the Bandit’s inside chart table, Henry Taggart looked over the ship’s instruments and compared their readouts to what he’d just encountered on a quick run topsides. Writing in his logbook as he spoke, he was still cold and suddenly growing more concerned: “Noon + 22 min. Wind now out of the northwest at 35, gusting to 50 knots, outside air temp 30 degrees Fahrenheit, sea temp 42 F, I’m guessing wave height at 8 to 10 feet with a few 12 foot growlers. Position now North 67 13 by East 12 21 12. Have to decide now whether to try for Reine and hope for a wind-shadow or change course and head for Bodø, which is the safer option if the weather deteriorates. BBC weather vague, Norwegian forecasts are for gale force conditions and small craft warnings have just been posted in Bodø. Lots of small boats out, a couple of Maydays already, teaching Rolf radar navigation.”
He heard Rolf yell-out ‘Hang on!’ and he just had time to look up, see a 15 foot wave breaking ahead and he grabbed the chart table with his hands and braced with his knees as Bandit lifted and rolled with the wave. He felt Rolf correcting, then Bandit was surfing down the back of the wave and he looked at their speed, grinning as it slipped into the 10 knot range.
“Yowza, we’re havin’ fun now, ain’t we, girl…?”
Another even taller wave loomed and Bandit plowed through this one, sending a wall of green water over the foredeck and he saw Rolf grinning as he ‘Woo-hoo’ed’. Taggart shook his head, ran out a quick course on the chart-plotter…
“Rolf?” he called out, having made up his mind
“Make your course 7-8 degrees.”
“7-8, got it. So…Bodø?”
“Yup. I don’t want to shoot that harbor entry in a gale.”
“Okay,” he yelled, just as Bandit climbed the face of another twelve footer.
“How you doin’ up there?”
“Man…this is great!”
He looked at the boy and grinned, shot him a thumb’s up. The kid was steering well, already a natural sailor, and he’d stopped worrying about him two days before. Still, the boy was new at this and he’d never sailed in a gale, so Henry remained the patient teacher but let the kid have at it.
He put his logbook up and slipped back into his heavy weather jacket before he climbed back up to the cockpit; Rolf was grinning but he looked cold. “Go below, get some coffee and warm up.”
“Good job, Rolf. Really good.”
The boy beamed as he made his way below.
Taggart adjusted his course north a little, to 75 degrees, hoping to account for any unexpected drift approaching a lee shore, and noted they were now on a broad reach and that the Bandit was really screaming now, surfing waves and hitting a solid nine knots over the ground.
He heard something on the radio but lost it over the howl of a gust and bent down to turn up the volume…
“Mayday-mayday-mayday…this is Jonmeri Three, taking on water and two people in the water…” Taggart wrote down Jonmeri’s position and just then saw a red flare arc up into the sky not too far ahead. He pulled his binoculars out of their case on the binnacle and scanned the horizon, but the wave action was too frenzied; he picked up his radios mic…
“Jonmeri, this is Time Bandit. I have your flare and am a mile south of your position. Say again, you have people in the water?”
“Jonmeri, Jonmeri, we are sinking fast…will have four people in the water…life jackets, no raft…please hurry…repeat, please hurry!”
“Jonmeri, Time Bandit, try to shoot flares when you can. Will be there in about fifteen minutes.”
Taggart put a man overboard marker on the chartplotter; the computer would begin to account for drift and adjust his course…
“Time Bandit, this is Coast Guard Bodø, please advise, do you have Jonmeri in sight?”
“Bodø, Bandit here, I saw their flare, have their position plotted, I am now point seven eight miles from their last known position…”
“Bandit, Bodø here, all our helicopters are engaged but we will send a boat to your sector.”
“Bandit, understood we are the primary search vessel at this time. Will advise progress at ten minute intervals.”
When he looked up Rolf was by his side, already scanning with the binoculars when another flare went up.
“Okay,” he said, “I see people in the water.”
“How’s our heading?”
“Come left a little. Maybe five degrees…”
Taggart adjusted course and sheeted in the sails; bandit heeled a little as she bit into the wind and as they crested another wave he could see little yellow specks mixed in with the spray and spume.
“Big wave!” Rolf yelled, and Henry turned into the face of it, held on as they crested and began surfing down the backside…he watched in disbelief as their speed hit eleven knots…so he sheeted in the sails a bit more, trying to get every bit of speed he could from her.
“How will we get them on board in these waves?” Rolf asked.
“We furl the sails upwind of them, let the wind blow us down and we get lines to them, pull them to the platform.”
“Is that what we use the MOB system for?”
Taggart nodded. “I’ll handle that while you take the wheel.”
Rolf shook his head. “I don’t know, Henry. I’m not sure I know what to do?”
“Well, what makes you think I do? You just have to trust your instincts, and then learn to follow them. Now…you take the wheel, steer to the left of their position in the water. I’m going to rig-up two extra lines…”
“Rolf? You can do this.”
“What about the sails?”
“Don’t worry about those yet. I’ll help you when the time comes…” Then he shook his head, picked up the mic. “Bodø, Bandit here, we have sighted people in the water. ETA five minutes.”
“Bodø here, people in the water received, five minutes out.”
Taggart dashed aft and rigged lines, readied his two MOB canisters, then went back to the wheel. He could see two people clearly now and guessed they were about two hundred yards ahead, but no one else was visible…
“Okay, head up a little more. I’m going to roll up the main…”
Taggart pushed a button, rolled the mainsail into the mast and cleared the lines, then saw they were almost beam-to the survivors in the water…
“Okay, turn dead into the wind!”
Rolf turned the wheel and Taggart rolled the storm jib onto the second fuller, tossing the excess line into bags attached to the wheelhouse so they wouldn’t trip on them.
“Alright…Rolf?…just back down like we practiced…ride the wind…that’s right…you’re doing perfect…perfect…I’m going aft…keep it steady…”
He dashed aft and fired the first Man Overboard canister towards a woman in the water, the second at what looked like a small child…the woman looked lethargic, hypothermic, and there was a good chance she wouldn’t be able to get the harness to her chest…but the little girl just managed and he pulled her in quickly…
Bandit was riding the wind now and quickly passing the woman…who appeared comatose…
Taggart grabbed the girl and carried her to the cockpit, then looked at the lines in the water before he started the engine. “Rolf, head aft and pull in all the lines…we don’t want to wrap the prop…”
He slipped the engine into forward and throttled into a wave, keeping an eye on the woman while he navigated the waves…
“Henry! Two more over there!”
He turned, saw where Rolf was pointing and saw two people waving frantically.
“Rolf, get ready to take the wheel!”
When the kid was next to the wheel Henry looked at the woman in the water; she was face down now, near death and he pushed the throttle to the stops…
“When we’re abeam, I’m going in, am going to get her to the platform. You drop the throttle into neutral and come aft, help pull us aboard, and note a heading to the other two…”
“You’re going to what?”
“I’ll be tied to the boat…don’t worry…I’ve done it before. Just get the prop into neutral so we don’t hit her with it…”
He ran aft again but grabbed the boat hook just in case, and as they came to her he just managed to snag her and pull her to the platform. Rolf was there in an instant and helped pull her aboard, then they muscled her to the companionway…
“Try to get them below, put them in my cabin, turn the heat to high…” he said as he powered up and turned for the remaining two survivors.
“Bodø, this is Bandit, we have two on board, one unconscious and unresponsive, going for two more still in the water.”
“Bodø, received, two still in the water, two on board. We have medical personnel on our boat.”
Henry saw a flash of yellow, then a flare went up and he tracked in on it; Rolf came up in tears.
“The woman, I think she is dead…” he wailed.
“Take the wheel! Two more, just ahead.”
He dashed below, went to the little girl; she was shivering but alive so he turned to the woman. She was cyanotic but her pupils reacted to light; he removed her jacket and felt for a pulse – and when he couldn’t find one he started CPR. Two minutes later he felt a strong heartbeat and put the woman under the blankets on his bed and dashed back to the cockpit.
“There they are!” Rolf said, still upset but pointing out the people in the water.
“It’s okay, Rolf…the woman isn’t dead. I got her under the blankets, she’s fine now. Same as before, okay? Get them abeam, engine to neutral and I’ll pull them in. You okay?”
“Okay. Got it,” Rolf said, trying to smile again.
“You’re doing great!” Henry said as he ran aft, clearing lines as he went. He heard the engine power down and looked up, saw a boy in the water and tossed him a rope. The kid grabbed it and he pulled him in, hoisted the boy up onto the platform. Moments later a middle aged man swam into view and he tossed the remaining line out, pulling this man to the platform and helping him climb up…
And the man hugged him, suddenly crying.
“It’s okay. Your wife is below, so is your daughter. They’re both fine…”
Rolf led them below while he got back on the helm, then the radio.
“Bodø, this is the Bandit with four survivors on board. CPR done on female survivor and she responded.”
“Bandit, this is Bodø…well done! If you don’t need further assistance we need to divert all resources to a cruise ship that just sent out a mayday.”
“Bodø, Bandit, no further assistance needed. We are inbound Bodø with survivors, signing off for now.”
He set the sails and engaged the autopilot, then the Hydrovane before he dropped down to check on Rolf and the survivors; Rolf was making hot cocoa and the four survivors were huddled under blankets so he went topsides. He smiled, satisfied, remembered all the rescue training he’d suffered through in SeaScouts, and that one miserable night on his first Transpac…
‘No time to pat yourself on the back,’ he said to himself. ‘We ain’t home yet…’
There were rocks ahead on either side of the entrance channel, but his chartplotter made the exercise almost too easy. The Coast Guard gave him directions to their pier and he entered the course on the plotter, easing sail as the wind died down later that afternoon. They made the Coast Guard Base at seven that evening, exhausted and hungry, and Rolf was at the bow handling lines as he made his approach to their pier. Medical personnel were waiting there and, about fifty yards away he saw a throng of reporters and groaned. At least two camera crews were filming their approach, and the survivors as they walked off, then the base commander stepped on board…
“Nice work, Bandits!” the commander said, the two camera crews dutifully recording the moment. “If you wouldn’t mind, the press would like to have a briefing and we thought you should have a chance to tell your story…”
“Excuse me,” Henry said, “but what’s this all about?”
“Well, the man you rescued also happens to be a member of parliament.”
“Oh, that’s just dandy.”
“Yes. So sorry, but you know how the press is…”
“No. I don’t, really…”
Britt Bauer was at her mother’s house when the news bulletin first appeared. They watched in slack-jawed horror as images of Henry Taggart and Rolf were sprayed all over the screen and, within seconds, Dina Bauer was on the telephone booking a flight to Bodø while Britt, almost in tears, called a for taxi. Within minutes they were on the way to the airport.
Taggart woke up feeling refreshed – for the first time in days – and he stumbled out to the galley expecting to find blue skies and open seas. Instead, he found Time Bandit sandwiched between two huge Coast Guard ships – though the sky was indeed blue. Flags hung limply and with that he knew the storm had blown itself out, so he decided to crawl up to the cockpit to have his coffee.
But several news crews were lined up on the docks, waiting and ready to pounce, so when he appeared cameras began firing, their strobes annoying but far from troubling…until he realized he was in his underwear and a t-shirt.
“And a Good Morning to you all!” he said, hoisting his coffee in a grand morning salute. “Out doing a little bird photography this morning, are you? Well! Look, over there! A Crenelated Roseate Spoonbill, how rare, how very amazing! Quick, don’t miss it! This is the opportunity of a lifetime!”
And all the cameras dutifully tracked to where Taggart had just been pointing. Shaking this head in disbelief he ducked below and put on his last pair of clean gym shorts and a fairly stinky polo shirt, then crawled back into the cockpit. “Now, what can I do for you gentlemen?” he asked, looking over the assembled reporters. “And lady, I see,” he added wistfully.
Then came a barrage of shouted questions. The first one he could make out clearly had something to do with the minister’s wife and performing CPR, so he held up his hand and nodded.
“You know, I feel almost certain she enjoyed the whole thing almost as much as I did.”
Which silenced the reporters. For a few seconds, anyway, then the barrage resumed.
Then someone shouted “How does it feel to be a national hero?”
“All in all, I think I’d rather be an Oscar Mayer Hot Dog.”
Dead silence again – because no one got his play on words.
“Ah. No, really, I am not a hero. The real hero here is Rolf Bauer, but he’s still below, recovering. And as soon as the hookers leave his room I’ll have him come talk to you.”
This one brought on a few head-scratches and head-shakes.
“You know,” Rolf said from below, “I don’t think they understand your humor.”
“Why should they? I don’t understand it, either.”
The reporters had turned and were walking away when he noticed that the female reporter was holding firm, was still standing resolutely firm, waiting for a serious answer.
“Yes?” Taggart said. “You want more? I have an endless supply ready and waiting…”
“May I come down. I have a hangover and don’t feel like shouting.”
“Here, here. Spoken like a true reporter. Please do. May I help your legs?” he said, staring at the woman’s legs and high heels as she made her way down to the Bandit. “Uh, I mean…”
“Way to go, Henry!” Rolf said from the companionway steps.
“Get some clothes on, asshole.”
He heard the kid laughing as he went forward and shook his head.
“Please, have a seat,” he said as the drop-dead-gorgeous reporter walked over, her right hand out. He took it, then indicated a seat.
“I should have worn more practical shoes,” the woman began…
“And I, for one, am so glad you didn’t.”
She laughed. “You are like a flyer from World War Two. What is that word?”
“Irreverent, I think, is the word I’m looking for.”
“So, what were you doing out there, yesterday?”
“Sailing, from Bergen to Reine?”
“Really? Why? The cruise ships are much more comfortable, I hear.”
“Damn! Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Someone told us you sailed over from America last month. True?”
“Guilty, your honor.”
“Why do something like that? Especially at your age?”
“Because it’s there, really.”
“What made this rescue so difficult?”
“You mean, besides the howling gale, the freezing temperatures, the mountainous seas?” Taggart said as he scratched his chin, pretending to think. “Not much, really.”
“What about the minister’s wife?”
“We got her below, she appeared to be in cardiac arrest, we performed CPR and she responded. Not much more to it than that.”
“You say ‘we’…who performed CPR?”
“He did,” Rolf said, stepping out into the cockpit. “I missed it.”
“You didn’t miss anything, kid. You did great. None of these people would be here if it wasn’t for you and everything you did out there.”
“Is this your son, Mr. Taggart?”
“Nope, the son of a dear friend of mine. He loves sailing and we thought it would be a good experience for him. And…here she is!”
Rolf looked up, saw his mother and grandmother being escorted across the base towards the Bandit and he groaned. “Oh, God…I am going to get it now!”
“Why?” the reporter asked. “You are a national hero now. Your mother can’t be mad about that, can she?”
“My mother can get mad about anything…and if you know what’s good for you you’ll get out of here before my Grandmother gets here.”
The reporter looked at Rolf, then at the advancing women and thought better of remaining on board; she took off, making her way back up the ladder…
“Goddam, woman, you do have great legs!”
She turned and grinned at Taggart, then disappeared.
“I haven’t the courage to say anything like that to a woman,” Rolf said.
“That’s because you’re smart, kid. Now, about this grandmother of yours, is she a psycho, or what…?”
“Don’t mess with her, Henry. She’s a fire breathing dragon.”
“Really? Ooh, we’re about to have some real fun, Rolf…”
“No Henry! Please don’t…”
Taggart looked at the boy, at the pleading terror in his eyes, and he wondered what that was all about…
The grandmother, he saw, had decent legs too, but the shoes, he thought, would have to go. Britt, on the other hand, looked radiant.
“We better go help the womenfolk down the ladder, kid.”
‘Hmm,’ he thought. ‘No luggage, so…they aren’t staying long. Which means they’re picking up the kid and leaving. This could be fun. Real fun.’
“Well, what a surprise?” he said as they got ready to climb board the Bandit.
“You can, perhaps, understand our surprise,” the fire breathing grandmother dragon began, “when we turned on the television and heard about Rolf in the middle of a hurricane rescuing people that had been thrown into the sea?”
“Yes indeed,” Henry tossed back, “and you should be very proud of him, too.”
“I don’t believe my daughter expected her son to be exposed to so much…”
“So much what? Life, perhaps? A real adventure, as opposed to, say, a video game?”
The dragon lady was now spitting poisoned daggers from her eyes. “Do you expect me to believe that Rolf wasn’t exposed to great danger out there?”
“Oh, I can absolutely guarantee that he was. I cooked chili two nights ago, with beans, mind you, and our farts were genuinely colossal. And the point here, if I may, is that he was exposed to extremely high levels of methane gas…”
“You are being an ass, young man. We have come here to take him back home with us…!”
Henry looked from the fire breathing dragon to her daughter. “Britt? Care to chime in here?”
“Henry, this caught us both by surprise…”
“Do you want Rolf to leave with you now?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well,” the dragon lady added, “I DO know and he IS coming with us!”
“Gee,” Henry said, “does anyone here care about what Rolf has to say about this?”
“He is too young to…” the dragon lady started to reply, but Taggart cut her off…
“He is too young to what, Madam? To handle this boat in a storm, to help rescue four people about to drown, and then to help take care of these people until we could make port? I’m sorry, but do these sound like the actions of an emotionally or physically incapacitated individual? Because to me they indicate the exact opposite. In point of fact, I think the two of you should be proud of Rolf, but even if you were you wouldn’t be half as proud of him as I am.”
‘That seems to have stopped the old bitch in her tracks,’ he thought – grimly self-satisfied.
“I see,” the bitch said. “I, well, no…I hadn’t taken that into consideration.”
“Rolf?” his mother asked quietly. “What do you have to say?”
“I’m staying.” His arms were crossed, his jaw was thrust forward, and Taggart thought the kid looked like some kind of amped-up Viking warrior…about to burn down an abbey full of nuns.
“Well, that settles that,” Britt said.
And then the fire breathing spoke: “And I also will stay onboard – until this vessel returns to Bergen.”
“What?!” Taggart said, grinning maniacally.
“What?!” Rolf cried, rolling his eyes in desperation.
“What?!” Britt snickered, then starting to laugh hysterically. “You? On this boat, with Henry – AND Rolf?!”
“And WHY NOT!? I am a PERFECTLY competent sailor,” the dragon-lady oncologist said.
Taggart’s eye went from the Dragon to Rolf and back again, red warning signals going off in his mind…like there was something he’d missed before – and shouldn’t have.
“Please, Dr. Bauer,” Taggart said, aiming both barrels at his oncologist, “could you tell me why you think this is necessary?”
“Because I am more concerned than ever that my grandson’s life would be in great peril should something happen to you. I am, therefore, simply looking after my family the best way I know how.”
Taggart looked at Britt and shrugged in defeat; Britt didn’t raise a stink and even Rolf was now lost in thought, trying desperately to come up with something, anything to protest this unwanted intrusion. When he couldn’t he did the same thing any other fifteen year old would; he stormed away from everyone, and his mother took off after him.
And that left Taggart and the Dragon Lady standing together on the pier. A monumentally awkward silence followed.
“Do you happen to have any gear with you?” he said after a minute or so had passed.
“Foul weather gear, gloves, boots, thermal protection…you know, clothes?”
“I can pick up whatever you think is needed in town.”
“No, Mr. Taggart, I don’t think you see. Not at all. You should have never taken Rolf on a trip like this. Sailing in these waters can be a life threatening endeavor, for even the most well prepared adventurists. Bringing a fifteen year old with barely any experience at this sort of thing was wildly irresponsible – of my daughter and you. I intend to see to it that my grandson is well protected out there.”
He nodded. “Commendable. I appreciate your sincerity.”
“What? Are you being sarcastic?”
“No, not at all. I appreciate your point of view, especially as you don’t know me well, nor do you have any real idea of what Time Bandit is capable of.”
“Time Bandit. That is a preposterous name. How did you come up with that?”
“Well, my did had a boat he named Bandit, and one of my favorite movies was Time Bandits…”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“I’m not surprised. It was kind of a little known classic.” He turned, looked at Britt and Rolf fully engaged in a heated argument. “Too bad,” he said. “This didn’t need to happen.”
“Of course it did.”
“Well, we need to leave this pier as soon as possible. The Coast Guard was nice enough to let us stay here last night, but we need to move on. Would you go get Rolf and let him know I’m going to start the engine, let her warm up for a minute. You and your daughter need to decide what the two of you are going to do.”
“I told you. I’m coming with you.”
“You know, I don’t want to make too fine a point here, but you haven’t exactly been invited.”
She turned on him with fire in her eyes, then she softened somewhat. “You are absolutely correct,” she said as she walked off towards Britt and Rolf. He thought he could see steam coming out of her ears as she walked, surely not a good sign…
“Funny woman,” he said as he returned to the Bandit. He got the diesel going then went below to take his meds, slamming down a bottle of water in the process, then he went topsides and started the process of leaving by untying the ‘spring lines’ and coiling those ropes. Next he checked that the sails were ready to go in case of engine failure, and the anchor ready to deploy in case nothing worked, and by that time Rolf was hopping back on board.
“I think I’m leaving now,” the boy said, frowning.
Both women were standing on the dock now, looking up at Taggart, the Dragon Lady relishing her triumph.
“Sorry to see you go, son. You’ve been a helluva a mate. You better go down and get your things.”
Rolf disappeared below and Taggart turned to the Dragon Lady; she stood there waiting, waiting to be invited aboard, waiting to bend Taggart’s will to her own.
He stood there, smiling, not saying a word…until Rolf came topsides with his duffel.
And still he remained silent, though he stepped closer to the boy – who came and hugged Taggart, hard. Taggart simply kept his eyes boring into the Dragon Lady’s eyes, tearing her to shreds before her family…
Then she gave in. “Rolf? Put your things down below. Mr. Taggart, would you at all mind if I accompanied you and my grandson for the return journey to Bergen?”
“No, please, be my guest,” he said too graciously, extending his hand to help her aboard…
Which she refused. She put one hand on a lifeline stanchion and pulled herself up, lost her balance and fell into the water.
“Man overboard!” Taggart yelled at the top of his voice, causing several nearby servicemen and women to laugh and begin clapping. He then jumped down to the pier and helped her out of the water, then up on deck, then he helped Britt up and got her to the cockpit. “Rolf? Time to cast off some lines. Forward first, I’ll use the aft line to pivot on, so start coiling lines and cleaning up the deck, and I’ll cast off the aft line.”
Which left Britt and her drenched mother to look on and observe how easily Rolf moved about the little ship, and how he had taken to life with Henry as a teacher. He did not disappoint, either. They left the base without issue and motored into Bodø, with Dina heading below to dry off. An hour later they pulled into a marina for an overnight stay.
“Rolf? Take your grandmother into town, see that she gets everything she’ll need for about two weeks on board…”
“Two weeks?” the Dragon Lady cried. “Aren’t you going back to Bergen?”
“Indeed we are. After about ten days in the Lofotens.”
“Of course, we may decide to spend more time out there, depending on what we find.”
“Will you need to call your office and let them know?” he asked, a twinkle in his eye.
“No, that won’t be necessary. I told them I would be away for at least a month,” she said, the twinkle now in her’s.
“Ah, I see,” he said as she and Rolf walked off to do her shopping.
“I told you, Henry,” Britt sighed. “She sees everything, the future most of all.”
He shook his head. “I’ll have to pull out the chessboard. See what’s what…”
“You will lose.”
“First time for everything, darlin’.”
With only a fifty or so mile passage to Reine, Henry waited for perfect weather, and with virtually no night to speak of he sailed on the tide, at four in the morning, choosing to let Rolf and Dina sleep while he motored out of the town and into the main channel. The diesel, of course, woke Rolf…who dutifully came topsides and helped clear the deck of lines and fenders. With almost no wind out, Taggart decided to motor until they were well clear of the rocks and islets that lined the channel, then he set a drifter and cut the motor, enjoying the hours long sunrise with his coffee.
Making no more than 3 knots, by midday they were just past the halfway point and now the sea looked like a giant piece of glass stretching off to infinity. “How fast she changes,” he said, recalling the storm just a few days before.
Dina made perfect little sandwiches of cucumber and smoked salmon for lunch, a far cry from what Henry usually made at sea, and he enjoyed watching her move around down below. She would, he said more than once, have made a wonderful wife…for someone with the balls to keep her from running all over everyone.
It was warm out now – being not quite 60 degrees F being considered warm in this part of the world – and Dina came topsides wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and he found that – whenever she wasn’t looking his way – he was staring at her, not quite believing what he saw. She was cute, incongruously so, and it just didn’t compute. Fire breathing dragons weren’t supposed to be cute, were they?
The breeze piped up, an honest little wind began filling in from the southwest and Time Bandit heeled to starboard, her bow wave started to gurgle a little, and she sat in the sun, leaning back and, he saw, jutting her breasts out just a little too much…
‘Ah,’ he thought, ‘the game’s afoot…’
He turned away, pulled up an info page on the chart plotter, looking intently at the harbor chart for Reine. He next looked at the inner harbor chart, saw the little marina there used VHF 9 for inquiries so he called, made a reservation for a few nights, then pulled up the chart for the channel entry, studying buoy placement and limiting depths. With all this info at hand, he plotted waypoints all the way to the marina, turned on the autopilot and went below to get a Coke.
“You can’t just get up and leave the wheel!” she cried.
“Well, who’s steering the boat?”
She looked at him quizzically. “The what?”
“Doc, all the way across the Atlantic I probably steered for less than an hour. It just isn’t necessary, unless you want to. This thing steers where you tell it too, it makes changes in heading…”
“Show me,” she said, crawling over to the wheel and then looking at all the instruments clustered there.
“What have you sailed before?” he asked.
“The Folkboat? You are familiar with this?”
“Yup. You might find the navigation equipment on Bandit a little more up to date than what you’re used to.”
“I can’t recognize anything here, except the compass. Could you teach me?”
“I could, but I’m curious; why do you want to learn?”
“These things interest me.”
“Sailboat navigations interests you?”
“Yes, very much. I learned to reduce sights, all of it, the last time I sailed.”
“You’ve done celestial?”
“Yes. I loved it. Reading Bowditch, everything about it.”
“Who did you sail with?”
She looked away. “My husband.”
He felt real anger simmering just beneath those waves, so decided to change course a little, try a new tack. “What did you think of sailing the Folkboat?”
And she seemed more than a little grateful he hadn’t asked the next, most obvious question, even as she turned to meet his question. “Small but nimble. Nothing more than simplicity itself, really.”
And that was all it took, in the end, for common ground to emerge between these two disparate souls. He talked navigation and she listened. She talked about sailing in and around Oslo, about wanting to sail more before a bad marriage and her all-consuming career changed everything. He talked about sailing in Newport Beach and Mexico and sailing across the Pacific on two Transpacs.
And the oddest part of this equation was to be found in Rolf’s eyes. He sat and listened to all these varied experiences and for the first time in his life began to see all the possibilities out there, just waiting. Henry knew the signs all too well: the faraway look in the eyes, the slow turn to look at the horizon, maybe wondering what was on the far side of a dream.
So, within the confines of a little sailboat all kinds of dreams and regrets took form that afternoon. Dreams that would shape for the rest of a lifetime, regrets that would inform the most consequential choices looming just ahead, like a rocky bank rising out of the fog.
(c) 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | The next chapter should drop in a week or so, and thanks for dropping by.