Windhaven 27

 

 

Hi, Welcome to Windhaven 27 and a couple story prompts for writers or the curious. This is a long post to catch up what I’ve done between surgery, school, and editing the fourth book in my Blood Justice series, Blood on the Mountain.

If you want to know what school custodians do while you’re all snuggy at home with your pet or spouse check out The Custodian Stories.

I usually write about supernatural stuff or mystery/thrillers. Windhaven might have some thrills, but no mystery, except maybe who survives and who doesn’t, and no vampires or trips to hell.

Windhaven is a survival adventure that could happen any day now. I’m not doing official chapters every post, just whenever.  The numbers are to keep it all in order, sort of, for you and me. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

To start Windhaven from the beginning go HERE

What Ifs?

What if you were a digital genius type with an idea for a commercial website? You spend hours, days coding. While reviewing you work you come to some sections of code you don’t remember writing. But you’re tired, in a hurry and you skip over it. You launch. While checking it’s as you wanted you come across a section that looks like a tunnel, or a wormhole.

You click and suddenly you are looking at the bridge of a spaceship. Think Star Trek. You figure out it’s real. You’re watching a real future ship, and you can interact with it. The crew doesn’t know you’re there, but they feel you, think of you as a Ghost in the Ship. There’s a war going on.

The ship is hit and you’re the only one who can save it. The Ghost Hero!

 

 

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What if a Werewolf lived in a small town surrounded by plenty of forest to run around in when necessary? Nobody knows what he is, but he’s a well known lawyer. He has a client, a woman, charged with murder. Right away he’s attracted to her and believes she’s innocent. Using his werewolf powers he investigates, easily finding another suspect.

Too easy. He asks a cop friend to check out the evidence he found. The cop finds different facts. The lawyer does some research and consults with other werewolves with Witch connections. He secretly meets with a Witch who casts a spell over him. When he visits his client he discovers she is a witch and has bewitched him, and others, and she is guilty. She becomes enraged, tries to kill him with her considerable power. The other witch’s spell protects him. She tries to escape. The cop is ready to stop her, but only slows her down. Outside two witches, cops, who have been searching for her stop her and take her away after making sure nobody remembers what happened.

 

 

To start Windhaven from the beginning go HERE

Windhaven 27

Noah plopped down beside Leigh. “We have some light air sails, don’t we? I suggest we drag one out and set it as best we can.”

By the end of the day they had a small spinnaker up and a South South East course set. All they needed was enough wind to move Windhaven.

They drifted for two days, one, two, three knots, barely any wake. They looked out for the occasional squalls that traveled random tracks across the glassy sea. They’d scramble about dousing the spinnaker then strip and use the brief downpour for impromptu showers while using a tarp to capture water for the tanks.

A day passed with squalls all around them but none coming close, and oppressive heat in the nineties. The next day, worn out by the heat, their attention faltered. They had managed a small awning over the downed mast. Leigh, usually vigilant to the weather, let the stress and heat and the fatigue of surviving the last months lull her into a deep doze.

Something woke her; Maybe a small change in temperature or pressure. Maybe a shshshsh sound that grew steadily louder. Her eyes were heavy, as if a lead weight was attached to each one. She didn’t want to open them; she wanted a few more minutes before she faced whatever woke her. She peeked through her heavy eyelids saw the usual washed out blue sky and distant squalls traveling over flat calm water. A shadow floated over her. Leigh began to wake up. She rolled her head to look the other way just in time to feel the first drops of a massive squall only a few feet away.

A wall of water pushed her down as she tried to stand. A blast of wind hit the sails heeling Windhaven and sending Leigh sprawling. Instantly soaked, she struggled to get to the helm.

“Noah!”

Noah popped out of the companionway instantly blasted by wind and rain.

“Get that spinnaker down,” Leigh shouted as she turned the wheel to head up into the wind.

 

 

 

No need for words, Noah climbed out and holding tight to the cabin top handrails made his way to the mast. Leigh had headed the boat into the furious wind so Noah could dowse the spinnaker onto the deck. Noah let go the halyard and stepped forward to gather in the lightweight sail. He did not notice that a kink in the halyard caught on a cleat, keeping the spinnaker about two thirds up.

Out of control, the bow swung a degree to starboard. As the squall moved across the water the wind direction changed, catching the spinnaker’s starboard side. In an instant the sail ballooned to port, smacking Noah in the face and knocking him back against and over the lifelines.

“Man Over-,” was all he got out before hitting the water.

Like watching a snowy TV screen Leigh had watched Noah. For a few seconds she didn’t connect his scream with the faint image of the sail hitting him. Man overboard? How could that be? Then she heard, “Leigh. Help,” cut through the drum of rain on the deck. The call came from beside her and faded fast.

She jumped to the port side in time to see Noah slide past the stern and vanish into the maelstrom. Before she started cussing her long experience at sea took over. In seconds she yanked the release for the man-overboard gear cobbled together since the big wave: A floating yellow pole, a u-shaped life ring and an iffy strobe light.

“Shit, shit, shit. Thomas! On deck now.”

Thomas was already climbing the companion way ladder.

“Noah is overboard. Take the wheel. We have to stop this bitch or we’ll lose him.”

Not waiting for Thomas to slide over to the helm she spun the wheel and raced forward. At the mast she let go the mainsail halyard to drop the main then yanked the kink out of the spinnaker halyard. The rain beat the thin sail to the deck while the wind tried to blow it overboard. On her knees, Leigh scrambled to gather up the sail while not getting blown overboard herself.

Wind pressure prevented the main from dropping. As the wind swirled it caught the main and heeled Windhaven to one side. Thomas would try and keep them headed into the wind, then the pressure changed, heeling the other way. Every time the wind caught the sail, small in area as it was, Windhaven, big as it was, picked up speed. This made steering easier for a moment, frustrating Thomas as he tried to head up and not move any farther from Noah.

As Leigh finally brought the mainsail under control the sun broke through under the clouds. Suddenly, light to see what she and Thomas were doing. Then the squall, in all squall’s typical perverse way, moved on. In less than a minute the rain changed from deluge to drizzle to drops dripping on the deck.

Thomas asked, “Leigh, who’d you piss off enough to bring that fucker down on us?”

“Must have been you and Noah. Neptune doesn’t like it when you guys piss over the rail. You have any idea where Noah is?”

They stood on what was left of the stern rail and scanned the horizon. With dusk settling fast if they didn’t spot him soon their chances dwindled as fast. Leigh searched with a pair of waterproof binoculars that somehow survived the big wave, but Thomas spotted the flag first.

“There!” he cried out.

Leigh scanned of the port stern. Thirty anxious seconds later, she said, “Got him. Shit, he’s long way away.” The glasses had a small compass that gave a bearing to an object. “Bearing about 345 degrees.”

“You know, there is a slight breeze. We might be able to make a close reach work.”

“I knew there was some reason we had you along, Thomas. Let’s do it. Head up the old boat and I’ll get the main up. I doubt he can swim faster than we’re drifting.”

Minutes later Leigh had set the main sail and Thomas had Windhaven headed 345 degrees. They made slow progress, half to one knot, but it was something. Ten minutes later with the glasses she could easily keep track of Noah. The strobe light attached to the life ring started working so Thomas could steer directly toward him.

Maybe as an apology for beating the crap out of them the breeze increased enough to allow Windhaven to make two knots.

Using a large battery powered flashlight, Leigh guided Thomas to Noah. Just before reaching him Thomas spun the wheel to head up into the now miniscule breeze. Windhaven came to a stop ten feet away.

Noah wore the u-shaped life ring with the opening on the back. The Floating flag trailed five feet behind.

Leigh threw Noah a line with a small loop to grab.

“Have a nice swim?” Thomas asked.

“Get me the fuck out of here,” Noah said.

“Guess not.”

Leigh pulled Noah to a small portable boarding ladder. A few feet from the ladder Leigh’s light picked up a dark shape. “Noah!”

Noah’s eyes went wide with confusion. Then he was yanked underwater right out of the life ring. One hand managed to grab the flag line. Leigh’s light revealed a small shark of about five feet with Noah’s foot in its mouth. Noah kicked at it with his free foot, but the shark did not want to let go as it attempted to drag Noah and the life ring deeper.

Without hesitation, Leigh handed the light to Thomas, grabbed a heavy winch handle and dove in. Her momentum took her right down to the shark where she smacked it on its sensitive nose. Disliking being hit on the nose more than it wanted to eat Noah, with a quick wiggle, it vanished into the now dark water.

A minute later Thomas dragged Noah over the rail.

Leigh threw the winch handle on deck then scrambled onto the deck and dropped to her knees, bent over, breathing deep. “Anyone else want to take a moonlight swim?”

The boarding ladder creaked and jumped. Thomas grabbed it and pulled it aboard. “I think big momma is pissed her baby didn’t get his dinner.”

Thomas wrapped a towel around Noah’s leg as the others caught their breath.

“Thomas,” Leigh gasped.

“I know. Get the first aid kit.”

 

 

 

Chapter ??

 

Noah lay on the end of the settee with his wounded foot hanging over the edge. Leigh knelt on the floor working on the shark’s teeth marks, three wounds about an inch long on each side of the leg just above the ankle.

“This is going to hurt,” Leigh said, not waiting for a response. His leg twitched once as the alcohol ran over the gashes. “You should have stitches, but the doctor has gone home for the night.” Still not receiving any response she looked up at him. “Are you…?”

Noah was crying. Head pressed into the settee corner, his whole body quivered, tears rolled down his cheeks as he struggled to breathe with tiny hiccup breaths.

“Noah, Noah are you hurt someplace else?”

Tiny headshake.

“Cold?” She touched his arm.

He jerked away. Issued a pitiful moan.

“Noah, what’s the matter?”

He barely managed a single word, “Scared.”

“Noah, you’re safe now. Out of the water.”

“Still scared. Coward, always a coward.”

“Coward? No way. With all the shit we’ve been through I haven’t seen any of that shit. You went up the mast. I know that took some fucking bravery for you to do that.”

“Fake, all of it.”

“Bullshit. What do you mean by ‘always a coward’?” She handed him a not-to-stiff-with-salt towel. “You want coffee? Sure you do.”

She could see him from the galley as she made coffee, while wondering in the back of her mind how long the gas would last. She added a hearty dollop from the last whisky bottle in one mug.

Noah curled up on the settee, knees pulled up, hugging himself.

Leigh took a covered coffee mug up to Thomas.

“How’s he doing?”

“He’s freaking out.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen that. A first timer in a big storm doing what needs to be done on a scary deck then they get down below and safe. That’s when the fear hits.”

“I think this is more than that. He’s calling himself a coward.”

“That’s not the way I see him.”

“Me neither.”

“Get him to talk about it.” Leigh throws him a look. “What? Psyche 101. I wasn’t always a boat bum.”

Leigh chuckled, patted his cheek and returned below.

Noah sniffled and snuffled and wiped away the remaining tears and his nose. He wouldn’t make eye contact with Leigh.

“Drink this.” She has to bump his hand to make him take the doctored mug. A couple minutes later the tears have stopped though the sniffing has not. He still won’t look her. “Noah. Noah!” He glances at her. “Tell me about this coward bullshit. I know about the tree, but there’s more to it, isn’t there?”

Noah tightened up, eyes searching for a way out. It took him half a minute and a long sip of coffee to speak.

“When I was thirteen and my brother was fourteen he slipped on some rocks, hit his head and fell into a river. I saw him floating away. I should have jumped in after him but I was too afraid. I tried yelling for help, but it came out as croak.”

“Could your brother swim?”

Shrug. “He was on the swim team.”

“And you?”

“Not so much.”

“What happened to him?”

“He swam to shore about a quarter mile down.”

“If you had gone in the water could you have helped him?”

“No.”

“You might have drowned?”

“Maybe….” Shrug. “Probably.”

“That seems smart, not cowardly. What did you do.”

“I ran along the shore, helped him out of the water.”

“That was good.”

“He called me a coward for not jumping in the water after him.”

“That sucks. You should’ve pushed him back in.”

“He kept calling me that. Told my parents….We used to be close, but after that….”

“That was one instance–.”

“My wife called me that. One time some drunk guy said nasty things about her as we walked past and she wanted me to beat him up. He was just some guy. Who cared what he said about someone he didn’t know shit about? But she called me a coward.” He sipped his coffee. “Six months later we were divorced. The last thing she said to me was, ‘Pussy.’” Noah’s jaw clenched and he turned away, staring at nothing.

Leigh took his mug and refilled it, handed it back. “Noah why don’t you–?” Noah interrupted her and she realized that he needed to get it out of his system.

“I’d already started writing by then. Guess it wasn’t a manly enough job.” A wry smile crept over his lips. “A few months later I sold one of my books to the movies. So I bought a boat.” He chuffed at that, shook his head while peering into the past. “That title of ‘Coward,’ still lingered. I could only sail with friends who were experienced sailors. I sailed it singlehanded once. I had convinced myself I was too scared to do it again. Soon I couldn’t go with anybody. I lived on this nice boat and I was too scared to use it.”

“What about the races? Red said you were an excellent helmsman.”

“I was–.”

“You are….”

His expression slipped into a scowl as he shook his head in wonder. “For some reason I’m good behind the helm. I liked it because I could keep my feet on the deck. Did he say he had to practically kidnap me? Just like here, the last one picked. Those races were short. I could hide my chicken-heartedness for that long.” His face bunched up, his mouth twitched as if searching for the correct expression of disgust of himself. A tear glistened on his cheek.

“Christ, Noah. You’re just talking yourself into it. Why the hell did you come on this little trip then?”

“I finished my last book and had no idea what to do next. I should have sailed to Mexico, but I was scared to go and didn’t have any body to go with and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.” He sat up and squared his shoulders. He flashed her an insincere smile. “I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t a coward. Those were shorter races with experienced crews. This race a big difference – it’s dangerous, you know. You see how that’s working out.”

“It’s working out fucking great. Stop putting yourself down. Whatever you were before you’re not him anymore. So suck it up, take a nap and be the brave, and frustrating, son of a bitch you are now. Finish your coffee.”

 

XXXXXXXXX

 

Noah was surprised as he went over the rail. Once in the water terror took over as he watched Windhaven passing by and he saw nothing to grab on to. Relief came next when Leigh let go the man overboard gear.

Though the rain pounded him as he climbed into the U-shape float he thought No Problem. He thought they’d bring the boat around and pick him up in a few minutes. His no problem thoughts turned to concerned thoughts when Windhaven zig-zagged away from him, quickly vanishing into the obscuring downpour.

The rain beat down on his head with a sizzle sound like a frying steak, making it hard to think. The hard rain threw up a foot high barrier of mist that blocked his view in all directions. A few minutes later, like switching a fan from high to medium to low to stop, the rain moved on, taking the obscuring mist with it.

Disoriented he spun around and watched another squall passing north of his position. A spin again and he spies the big squall going away with Windhaven inside. Suddenly he felt what it meant to be utterly alone literally a thousand miles from anywhere and his boat out of sight, swallowed by a freak squall and never coming back for him. His chest seemed to cave in and his body trembled while he desperately searched around and around for some hope.

Finding none, Noah pulled his legs up and breathed slow and deep until his heart slowed and he could think. Strangely enough he wasn’t scared then, as long as he didn’t dwell on the possibility of a sea monster reaching a tentacle up and dragging him down. Supposedly one could last three days without water, but he had a whole ocean of saltwater around him, so maybe four days if he pushed it. He wondered if floating for four days was worth the infinite chance of being rescued. Well, the saltwater would probably make him crazy before that and he’d do something like throw his arms up and slip out of the u-shaped float to go visit the monster waiting below.

He thought about thinking about his past, but really the only notable thing was some success as a writer: That first published book, first bestseller, the movie sale. Otherwise a fairly unnotable life. That done, he thought he might as well move instead of just floating. He could barely see the remnants of the big squall so he started paddling backward, the easiest way, in that direction. Except for the trailing flag he had no way to tell if made any progress.

Occasionally he glanced over his shoulder, though by then the squall had disappeared into the approaching evening. The sun dropped closer to the horizon and he wondered if he’d ever see it again. Then he looked back and saw… something. A flash of white. He looked back at the yellow sun, was it playing tricks? Looking for the white it had vanished, along with a small surge of hope. Settling back into the life ring he stared at the horizon. Oh well, just a trick by the sun and clouds.

“God damn it!” Noah really didn’t want to die a prolonged death out there. “Just a damn trick.” Nevertheless, he looked again.

It was there! The white sail grew smaller then slowly larger. He caught a glimpse of the boat. Big sailboat, little mast. Windhaven coming for him. He resumed paddling, this time with purpose.

Windhaven’s progress was slow, but making way toward him as he paddled toward them. The sun set as Thomas maneuvered Windhaven within feet of him.

“Have a nice swim?” Thomas asked.

“Get me the fuck out of here,” Noah yelled as Leigh threw him a line.

“Guess not.”

While Leigh pulled him closer Noah felt water pressure against his legs. He concentrated on Leigh and the boarding ladder she’d lowered. A few feet away he felt a strong swirl of water on his legs. That got his attention. Then, pain around his ankle and a half second to grab a breath before the shark pulled him under.

Still gripping the tether between the flag and the life ring he kicked at the shark with his free foot. The hungry fish ignored him and tried to drag him deeper, but it fought against the floats Noah clung on to.

Then another body entered the water. Heart pounding, Noah forgot he was running out of breath as he watched Leigh dive down to the shark and smack its nose. The beast didn’t like that and with a shake of its head sped into the dark water, leaving a cloud of blood behind.

Dazed, out of air, Noah stared at Leigh gripping his arm, pulling him to the surface. He gasped for air, flailed about for something solid to hold on to. Leigh guided him to the ladder and pushed him up as Thomas pulled.

Noah spilled onto the deck, coughing, blood pounding in his ears, blood polling around his foot. Unable to move he watched the winch handle fly up and clatter on the deck.

Leigh rose in sight and kneeled on deck bent over, breathing deep. “Anyone else want to take a moonlight swim?”

The boarding ladder creaked and jumped. Thomas grabbed it and pulled it aboard. “I think big momma is pissed her baby didn’t get his dinner.”

“Too bad.” She shot Thomas a look.

“I know get the first aid kit.”

Breath back, heart slowed, Leigh said, “Come on Noah let’s get you down below so I can patch you up. I can’t run this boat with two one-legged crew.”

“Funny.” Noah sucked air through clenched teeth as the pain grew.

Leigh wrapped another towel around his ankle. “Not so funny if those bite marks get infected.”

Noah barely remembered how he got down below. He did remember hopping down the ladder, each hop a stab of pain in his wounded leg. Stripped of his soaked shirt and wrapped in a towel and a blanket he settled in to the settee. Warm and safe he glanced at the teeth marks and remembered his fear when the shark dragged him under and then the fear he should have felt while alone flooded in.

His heart rate jumped and his chest constricted causing him to moan as he fought for breath. His body shook and tears came. He heard his brother’s voice, “Coward.” His mother, “Don’t be a crybaby.” His wife, “Pussy.” He was a coward and ashamed and what Leigh was saying couldn’t be true.

With both trembling hands Noah sipped his coffee and although he’d never told anyone before he spoke about his brother and his wife, ex-wife, and what they said and he thought about all the things he hadn’t done because he believed he was too afraid. A coward.

Leigh wasn’t having it, “Suck it up!”

Easier said than done. But she did save his life a time or two. Suck it up! That’s what brave people did. Could he do that? Talk himself into being a brave son-of-a-bitch? He sipped his coffee, and closed his eyes, thinking: I’m a brave son-of-a-bitch, I’m a brave son-of-a-bitch.

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Thanks for reading this long post of Windhaven 27. Comments and suggestions are always welcome. dcburtonjr@gmail.com

To check out another sailing tale, Girl at Sea, Click HERE.

My other books can be seen to the right or HERE.

Windhaven 26

Welcome to Windhaven 26 and a couple What if? Story Prompts for writers or the curious. This is a long post with a questionable number of Chapters.  Blame Covid, the end of school, and doing another edit of Girl at Sea, which is continuing.  I hope to be done with that quickly so I can return to Windhaven.

Remember, this is all First Draft. Little or no (mostly) editing has been done. The Second Draft is where EDITING rears its ugly, but so necessary,  head.

If you want to know what school custodians do while you’re all snuggy at home with your pet or spouse check out The Custodian Stories.

 I usually write about supernatural stuff or mystery/thrillers. Windhaven might have some thrills, but no mystery, except maybe who survives and who doesn’t, and no vampires or trips to hell.

Windhaven is a survival adventure that could happen any day now. I’m not doing official chapters every post, just whenever.  The numbers are to keep it all in order, for you and me. Comments and suggestions are always welcome, and preferred.

Cheers.

WhatIfS?

WhatIf your partner stole all the company money and you were blamed for it, your wife left you, your kids hated you and your friends shunned you? You decided to kill yourself by jumping off a bridge. You do and you die. Your body drifts to shore and you wake up. Disorientated, you wander into a bad part of town. For no particular reason some locals beat the crap out of you and you die with a knife in your gut. You wake up. What the hell is happening? You have no money so you rob a store. The cops shoot you. You wake up in the morgue. Now you’re getting it. Escaping, you find a quiet place to sit and think, revenge for all the wrongs, perceived or real, on your mind.

WhatIf you and a couple friends steal millions of dollars from a drug cartel. You keep 2-3 million for yourselves and want to donate the rest to charities. But you can’t walk in and hand them a 100K in

cash. That sort of thing raises questions. You think you’re clever and try to clean the money. But you’re not. Now the cartel killers, the police and the FBI are after you. What do you do? Where do you go? What do you become?

 

Windhaven 26

A grey dawn slowly showed itself. The storm had not abated, though it had held steady at fifty to sixty knots for several hours with wave heights in the twenty-five to thirty foot heights. Leigh and Noah sat together by the helm, cold, wet and exhausted.

“Too bad you didn’t get to that self-steering,” Leigh shouted over the roar of waves and wind.

“Too bad a lot of things,” Noah said. “I have had time to figure it out. It’ll be awesome.”

“I’m sure it will be. Anyway we’re making some miles toward wherever.”

“I wish people would stop saying that: wherever, somewhere, nowhere.”

“Once we get the deck sorted out we need to sort out navigation.”

“Right. Let’s do two hour watches,” Noah said. “Go get some sleep.”

“Soon as I take care of the babies.”

“I already did that. Just kiss their foreheads and get some sleep.”

“Really?”

Noah just shooed her away.

By afternoon the storm had lost its fury with winds down to thirty-five to forty knots. Noah had let Leigh sleep for three hours. She did the same for him. Back on deck, Leigh stayed behind the helm as he worked on the new mainsail.

Taking the ruined mainsail that had been lashed down during the storm, Noah cut off the top twenty-five feet. He had to scramble over the deck as wind caught the remains. He ended up on his ass in the cockpit, grasping a small portion he’s saved as the as the rest blew into the water with a full spread display.

Leigh tried unsuccessfully to stifle her laugh.

Noah gave her a face and moved on. There was no good way to attach a sheet line used to control the sail from the cockpit. He didn’t have the equipment or expertise to add two inch grommet, but he did have the equipment to install several smaller grommets in a multilayered patch. He threaded the smaller sheet through the three grommets. With the sheets run through blocks close to a deck winch all he had to do was raise the sail.

With great fanfare and applause he cranked the sail up. Unfortunately he’d forgotten to secure the starboard sheet.

Fortunately Leigh was quick and grabbed it before it could fly off and wave in the wind out of reach.

Noah retrieved the line from her, ignoring her so-you-call-yourself-a-sailor look.

They both laughed when he almost raised his middle finger at her.

The wind continued to ease. With Leigh’s help he mounted a spinnaker pole as a boom for the new sail. Right away Windhaven took on a new character — Steadier, more responsive to the wheel. Though it flew only a small remnant of sail Windhaven surged ahead, happy to be doing what she was built to do.

The sun peeked out from under the clouds in the east by the time Noah had manipulated lines, blocks and bungee cords into a semblance of self-steering.

They stood together behind the helm their fingers twitching to grab it and correct their course. But they didn’t need to as the subtle change in pressure on the sail when it veered off course turned the wheel.

“It will take some tweaking,” Noah said. “But, not bad if I do say so. What do you think?”

“I’m going to sleep on my next watch.”

“Looks like we picked up a couple three, knots.”

“Now we can get nowhere faster.”

“Leigh, go down below and don’t bug me and my brilliant setup.”

Before dropping down the companionway Leigh gave him a thumbs up and said, “Rube Goldberg would be proud.”

“Thanks,” he replied after she was gone.

 

During the night the wind settled down to a steady twenty knots and the waves an easy five feet. Between minor tweaks to his new toy Noah thought about the navigation problem. He had a pretty good idea where they were, but wasn’t positive. The little handheld GPS hadn’t been giving many reasonable, or complete, positions lately.

So how were they to get home, meaning land anywhere? Home, where Linda was. Did she wait for him? Did she forget him? Did she assign him as a one-night-stand, though a pleasant one, he thought.

How long had it been — months. He tried to figure it out, but quickly found that he didn’t know the date, and wasn’t sure of the month. And, worst of all, he had to think hard to remember exactly what she looked like.

He didn’t sleep much that night on deck or in his bunk.

Noah dozed on his mid-morning watch when Leigh sat next to him, saying nothing and looking at nothing.

“What?”

“I was giving Alain some water and he grabbed my arm.”

“Really? I thought….”

“Me too. He said something.” She looked off at the dark blue water that surrounded them.

“What?”

“Je t’attends, Leigh. Dites Alice et Pauly je les aime.”

“Which means?”

“I wait for you, Leigh. Tell Alice and Pauly I love them.”

“Christ. Sounds like a goodbye.”

“Yeah. He was a good sailor. Good crew. Didn’t like you much.”

“He was a little… aloof.”

Leigh chuckled. “You haven’t sailed the thousands of miles we all have.”

“How’d he become the supreme sailor?”

“Don’t be snarky, Noah. It doesn’t suit you.”

Noah just shrugged and studied his self-steering settings.

“Alice’s father is a delivery skipper. She’d sailed from day one. Alain met her at a yacht party. They hit it off. He’d never been on a boat so she took him sailing.” She chuckled. “He was terrified and seasick, but he liked her so he continued to sail and came to like, then love, it, and her. He did deliveries with her father and raced with her, eventually doing long distance racing. When Alice became pregnant she mostly stayed home, Alain didn’t.”

“And here we are.”

“Go to bed, Noah. You’re getting too cranky.”

“Me? Cranky? Try not to hit something and wake me up.”

 

Below, Noah checked in with Thomas propped up in his bunk, popping Tylenol and Advil, and reading a mostly dry book like he was on a tropical cruise.

“So your self-steering rig seems to work?” he asked.

“Seems to so far.”

“Were you talking about Alain out there? How’s he doing?”

“Not good. I doubt he’ll last much longer.”

“That sucks. He was a good guy once you got to know him.”

“That’s what I’m told.”

Thomas laughed to himself. “Yeah, you guys didn’t quite hit it off.”

“No. No. But I hate what’s happening to him. And I don’t have clue what to do for him short of putting a pillow over his face.”

“Sort of like Red.”

Noah shook his head and blew out a deep breath. “Jesus, I don’t have a clue what to do for him, either. I feel helpless, you know?”

Thomas laid a hand on Noah’s shoulder. “You two are doing the best you can under shit circumstances. You knew what to do for me. Too bad you can’t call 911.”

Noah happened to be looking at the nave station when an idea flashed through his brain, and out again. “I gotta go, man. I’m beat.”

As he walked away Thomas said, “I’m feeling better, Noah. I’d like to go up on deck sometime soon.”

Waving acknowledgment Noah, Noah found his bunk and dropped into four hours of dreamless sleep.

Mostly awake, Noah made some coffee and checked on Alain. “Ah shit, man.”

On deck he gave Leigh her coffee and sat next to her. “Alain’s dead.”

She sighed deep and leaned on him. “I guess he saw it coming.”

“Mmmmm. We can’t leave him like Larry.”

“Tomorrow then. Too bad Alice can’t see him.”

“You know, I think a couple of the cell phones still have a charge. No bars, but the cameras might work.”  

 

Late the next morning the sun managed to break through right when needed. Thomas sat propped in the companionway holding a cell phone with seventy-three percent charge. He snapped pictures as Noah and Leigh carried Alain’s sheet wrapped body along the deck to the lifeline gate. They laid him across, feet over the edge, body propped against the cockpit coming.

Noah asked, “Should we show his face? Will his wife want to see him? He doesn’t look very good.”

Leigh took the phone from Thomas and videoed Alain for fifteen seconds, then handed it back. “We can always cut it if necessary.”

Noah covered up Alain’s long pale face then looked at Leigh.

She sat on the coming half-facing Thomas. She squeezed her eyes shut, glanced at the phone and said, “Alice, I’m so sorry we could not bring Alain home. We did all we could for him. He was fighter, but finally had to let go. His last words were, ‘Dites Alice et Pauly je les aime.’ I know he did. He spoke of you often. I’m sorry.”

“I am sorry, Alice. I’m Noah. I didn’t know Alain well. He could be a bit prickly. But I liked him and he was good crew. Always ready to step up. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Thomas spun his finger – hurry up.

One on each side Noah and Leigh gently slide Alain into the cold gray water.

Leigh swiped away a tear. “Fair winds, Alain.”

They watched him until out of sight.

Face grim, Thomas watched the replay. Nodded okay.

“I hope Alice gets to see that,” Leigh said. She turned and sat behind the helm, head down, arms tight around her, signaling she wanted to be alone.

Below Noah helped Thomas into his bunk. “That sort of sucked.” He glanced in Red’s direction. “I hope we don’t have to do that again. I know Leigh knew him and his family, but she seemed uncharacteristically emotional. Do you think?”

Thomas lay back in his bunk. “You didn’t hear it from me, but she and Alain had a thing some years ago.”

“A thing?”

They were stuck in Marseille for a week for boat repairs and weather. Apparently they were hot and heavy for that week.”

“They were both married at the time?”

“Yep.”

“Now that you mention it they didn’t really interact much.” Noah glanced out at Leigh. She had hands on the wheel, but looked off to the side, attention sometime or somewhere else. “You think she’s feeling guilty, or remembering a special time that will never happen again?”

“I don’t know. I go from hoping she feels guilty to hoping she’s not.”

“Okay, you want to explain that?”

“Her husband is one of my best friends. I’d hate for him to find out. But Leigh is a good friend, too, and I have no doubt she hasn’t cheated since. I mean I can see how it might happen. Thrown together with nothing to do and they’re going to be at sea a long time….”

“Does he know?”

“Not from me.”

“Sounds like a scene from a book.”

“You taking notes? You writing anything right now?”

Noah’s lips turned down into a pensive frown as he too stared off into some other when or some other where, “Only in my head.”

Thomas, his usual observing self raised his eyebrows, and hummed to himself. “Better get some rest, Noah.”

“Huh. Yeah.” He patted Thomas’s shoulder and walked away.

 

Windhaven 27?

Weeks went by. They flew a small jib which helped some with speed, five knots on a good wind day, but caused Noah to almost daily tweak his self steering. Daily he struggled with the handheld GPS unit to get a reasonable position. Some days he became so frustrated he shoved it at Leigh. “You navigate with the damned thing,” then go on deck to walk it off. Leigh could barely suppress a laugh whenever she got a decent reading. 

They fell into a rhythm, standing watches, cooking, looking after Red who would burst into lucidity asking what the hell was going on, why was he still in his bunk, where was Ricky his first mate for years, and complaining about his headache. He made more or less sense for five minutes or five hours before his headache came on strong and he would be in real pain until he lapsed into unconsciousness.

They developed a leak they couldn’t find exactly. It came from the engine room, most likely from under the generator which was knocked off its mounts by the big wave and jammed against the main engine. Noah and Leigh attempted to push, pull, kick, lever, lift the generator but it may as well have been welded to the engine for all their efforts. Ten minutes, twice a day they had to pump to keep the bilges in reasonable dryness.

A storm caught up with them. Not a bad storm, fifty to fifty-five knot winds, not bad for the higher latitudes. But it lasted for almost five days, the mainsail ripped in half destroying Noah’s self steering rig. They had to stand watches constantly. When the storm blew itself out winds dropped to ten–fifteen knots.

Exhausted, it took Noah and Leigh two days to raise a two hundred square foot main. Their daily distance dropped to fifty-sixty nautical miles with two thousand plus miles to go the Chilean coast.

Noah didn’t care. The weather was mild for the Southern Ocean: light winds, some real sun, fifty-five degrees. It wouldn’t last, but they were determined to enjoy the quiet time. Noah and Leigh helped Thomas to the helm where he couldn’t stop smiling to be outside after weeks of pain and boredom. They were afraid to move Red because of his back. All they could do was open some hatches to air out the interior.

Leigh and Noah sat on the cockpit floor head tilted back to the sun enjoying the moment.

After some time Leigh said, “Can we call home and have them come get us after this?”

“Sure, you have any bars.”

“Any day now. You going to call your girl?”

Big sigh. “She’s probably given me up for dead by now.”

“But you haven’t given her up, have you?”

Silence, then, “No.”

“You wondering what she’s doing right now?”

“Yeah. You wondering what your husband is doing right now?”

“I know what he’s doing, and right now I am totally jealous. He’s skippering a fifty-five foot sailboat in the Caribbean for the season.”

“Ha. Warm water, balmy breezes, bikinis and lounging in the hammock.”

“Well, no bikinis.”

“What’s he thinking about your absence?”

“He hasn’t given up.”

“He knows you, so probably not. Couple months from now you’ll walk in the door and he’ll say, “Hi Hon, you’re late for diner.”

“It’ll be take-out from Luigi’s, spinach lasagna, chicken parmesan and the best fresh baked bread.”

“Damn, I wish you hadn’t said that.”

“Me, too. Your girl cook?”

“I don’t know.”

XXXXXXX

Linda stirred the spaghetti sauce she was semi-famous for,  at sixteen she won a pasta cook-off at the county fair, and second place at the state fair. She wondered if Noah would like it. She wasn’t ready to say, “Might have liked it.”

Briefly she thought of saving the spaghetti and sauce so when she saw him again he’d have a good meal to celebrate his homecoming. But she wasn’t that far gone. She’d eat it herself and share some with her wheelchair bound neighbor who knew more about loss than any one person should.

Thirty days tomorrow. Not that long. She’d read several books about people spending way more than that in a liferaft. It could be. Or…, she stopped stirring, closed her eyes and forced a few deep breaths.

Or he’s dead. The boat hit something, something hit them, they had a leak, a big wave swamped them, sending the boat, sending Windhaven, to the bottom with all hands. And so she would never see him again. Never feel him again.

Linda swiped a tear and continued stirring.

Sitting together at the bar it felt right, he even smelled right. She hadn’t been looking for anyone and she sometimes joked about being a spinster. Noah was a surprise. She hadn’t thought of him as more than a one night stand. Since he went missing she had wondered more than once if he, like her, hadn’t realized he was lonely until the possibility arose that he didn’t have to be.

How long had she known him? Thirteen hours and thirteen minutes. Christ, no wonder he’s gone. But he fit. That first kiss on his boat they fit together. She knew it, she felt it, and so did he. And in bed, on her, between her legs, in her, it all… fit.

And now he’s gone. How could she ever find another man who fit her like that? Those jokes about spinsterhood may not turn out to be so funny.

 

XXXXXXXX

 

The next day thirty-five to forty knot winds returned with gray skies and gray water. Twelve to fifteen foot rollers sent Windhaven surfing then falling down the backside then waiting for the next one while occasional cross waves smacked the hull sending cutting spray over everything.

Even flying a small jib and what was left of the main they made five knots, sis or seven surfing. The motion was too much for Thomas so Noah and Leigh stood two hour watches.

Noah had done his mid-morning watch and fifteen minutes of bilge pumping. He helped Thomas to the head, heated some hot chocolate, helped Thomas back to his bunk, checked on Red and wondered if they were waiting for him to die. Most of the time he lay still, eyes bare slits, presumably unconscious. Occasionally he woke up and seemed rational, until the headache made his words slur and then devolve into moans then heart rendering whimpers then an uncomfortable unconsciousness.

“Man, you’re lucky,” Thomas informed Noah. “You get to go on deck and freeze your ass off while I have to listen to his moans and groans.”

“Yeah, lucky me.”

“You think he’ll make it? I like the guy and all but I almost wish he would pass. He’s in such pain, I hate to hear him suffer like that. You guys have any ideas to help him?”

Noah shrugged and looked Red’s way. “No. Not a clue except get him to eat and drink when he’s lucid. Otherwise….”

“Too bad you can’t phone home and get a telemed appointment with a head doc.”

Noah sat at the nav station to try and get a lucid reading from the GPS. Phone home. He glanced at the satellite phone hanging from the side of the electric cabinet. Hmmm. He reached for it.

Weeks before the phone had been full of water. Noah shook  out more water as he examined it. He found a small container of small tools in a small drawer. He removed a few screws and exposed the damp interior. The battery came loose still attached to the unit.

In earlier searches he’d found a volt meter filled with water. Maybe it was dried out. He tried it on the phone battery – nothing. The unit had it’s own battery for the OHM meter section. Took it out, tried it. Nothing.

With lips tight and forehead furrowed he stared at the disassembled phone. Now what? He had heard of people putting a cell phone into a bowl of uncooked rice to dry out. They had rice on the boat. Though they had to ration their food he thought a handful could be spared.

The port side suddenly rose up.

“Hang on!” Leigh yelled.

Bang. A waved smacked the hull, dumping Noah to the floor, sending a shudder throughout Windhaven. The cabin top deflected as hard water dumped on it. Spray hissed. Water ran through the companionway.

“Noah!”

“Damn it. What now?” He threw on his foul weather jacket and raced up the ladder.

When he popped his head up he jerked back. During his short time below deck the gray clouds had lowered and the wind and waves had risen. “What the hell did you do, Leigh?”

She threw a finger to the main sail, or what was left of it.

Noah cursed intensely to himself. What was left of the mainsail they had labored so hard to repair and modify had ripped loose from the clew and now flew free – useless and dangerous. The forty knot plus winds had wrapped the sail around the rear shroud holding up the mast. The free end snapped and beat hard against the forward shroud. The top full size batten of the sail had caught the spreader tip which had ripped a hole in the sail.

“Get that thing down, Noah,” Leigh shouted. “The boat is too squirrely. We need to slow down.”

Noah stood with his feet spread looking up and shaking his head.

“Noah!”

Cursing under his breath, he climbed over the coaming onto the side deck. One hand gripped the handrail on the cabin top as he attempted to stay upright and on the boat. Battling the bitter cold spray and water running down the deck he made his way close to the mast. He climbed onto the top and reached for the mast.

“Noah. Clip on!”

Wide eyed he glanced up. With barely a second to spare he snapped his safety harness on a heavy safety wire. A wave smacked the windward side, rolling Windhaven until the mast top almost hit the water. Solid water swept Noah off his feet and flung him hard against the lifelines while near freezing seawater rushed into his jacket like cold tentacles. His lungs froze. On his knees he gasped for breath as he clutched at the handrail.

The water drained away, but he stayed on deck, head bowed. He couldn’t take it anymore. The constant effort was too much for him. Exhausted, frustrated, scared, and hopeless, he just wanted to curl up in his bunk and not care. Let Leigh struggle with the injured and the weather.

Leigh waited for Noah to get up and take the sail down. She knew he’d taken a hit, but the present situation called for action, now. She had enough experience with long voyages and bad weather to know what he was going through.

On her second Atlantic crossing, not the first, that had been too exciting – a milk run from the Med to the Caribbean – she felt the same a Noah. The weather had been rough for weeks. It seemed as if gale force winds were going to follow them all the way to France. They were all wet, tired and bruised. Leigh had looked out a narrow cabin side window. A wave, like a huge claw, seemed to rise up in front of her. The wave crashed like an explosion, sending a shudder throughout the boat. The window she looked out cracked and cold North Atlantic seawater spit in her face.

That was it, all she could take. She curled up in her bunk, knowing the gales would never stop until a bigger wave took them down and drowned them. It was too much. Humans weren’t meant to endure at sea. Especially her. The other crew, all with much more experience, knew what she felt, they’d been there, too. They talked to her, reassured her. Within an hour her natural toughness pulled her out of her despair.

Windhaven couldn’t wait an hour for Noah to pull himself out of his funk.

“Noah! God damn it. Get up!”

Noah continued to grip the handrail, while rolling his head back and forth – NoNoNo.

Leigh muttered, “YesYesYes,” and few other words lost to the wind. “Get up Noah,” she shouted uselessly. She waited for a wave to pass then jumped over the cockpit coaming and ran in a crouch along the deck to Noah.

She yanked his arm. “Noah God damn it I want to see my husband again. You want to see your girl. Thomas and Red want to see their families again. We can’t do that with out you. We freaking need you. Get up and get that damn sail down. Linda wants to see you. Get up.”

Leigh felt a big wave coming. She raced back to the helm just in time to keep Windhaven from broaching.

Noah struggled to stand up. This is stupid, he thought. He had heard Leigh shouting, but what got him up was Linda’s name, not anything the others wanted. Stupid. He didn’t know if she wanted to see him, but he wanted to see her and he couldn’t do that from the bottom of the Southern Ocean.

He used his lifeline to pull himself to the mast. He glanced at Leigh. She stared at him from under the hood of her foul weather jacket like the evil sorceress from a fantasy movie.

He released the main halyard and slowly let the tension off. The sail slipped six inches down the track and stopped. He yanked the sail. It came down a few more inches then bounced back up.

“Noah,” Leigh shouted over the chaotic crashing waves and screeching wind. She pointed up.

Struggling to keep on his feet, Noah backed away from the mast and looked up. It felt like his chest had emptied leaving a cavity that would never be filled. Ignoring the icy spray, he looked down and shook his head. He should have taken an easy cruise to Mexico.

The force of the wind had not only hard-pressed the sail against the rigging it forced it up just enough for the top batten, which helped hold the shape of the sail, to catch on the spreader and for the spreader tip to wear a small hole in the sail. Both Leigh and Noah knew instantly that the only way to get the sail free would be to turn Windhaven broadside to the wind and waves so the wind could blow the sail free.

They also knew turning Windhaven broadside was a huge risk. They’d only have seconds to get the sail unstuck and down before the next fifteen foot wave rolled over. It would take two to take the sail down, but someone had to be on the helm.

There was only one option. While Leigh fought the helm Noah dropped through the companionway. “Thomas. We need you right now.”

“I figured you might.” Thomas leaned against his bunk struggling to stay upright as he struggled into his modified foul weather gear. “We’re in trouble, aren’t we?”

“Yep. The main is caught on the spreader. We’ll have to turn broadside to get it loose,” he said while helping him into his gear.

“Shit. Broadside in this weather? That’s a hell of a risk.”

“Ya think? I’m open to suggestions. Meanwhile you’re on the helm.”

Noah supported Thomas as he pulled himself up the ladder. Once in the cockpit, companionway secured, arms around each other, they made for the helm. Halfway across a wave broke over the side sweeping them off their feet. Together they crawled to Leigh who helped Thomas up and onto the helms man’s seat.

The three sat together shoulder to shoulder, supporting Thomas between them.

Leigh showed Thomas the problem and and had to shout to explain what had to happen.

“Christ, Leigh, in this weather, that sounds like a death sentence,” Thomas shouted back.

“Even with that little bit of sail up we’re going much too fast. The boat wants to round up on its own. If it does we’ll broach, probably roll over and fucking die. We can do this. Just don’t turn up until I signal. You ready?”

“Fuck it. Let’s rock and roll.”

They took a minute to make sure Thomas could steady himself with his one leg.

Leigh and Thomas waded across the cockpit that was continually awash. Before they separated, Noah to the mast and Leigh to the deck where she could grasp the sail to pull it down once it was free, she gripped Noah’s arm and shouted in his ear, “Are you okay with this? We need you.”

Noah glanced up at the offending sail. “I have to say I’m sacred as hell, but like the man said, ‘Let’s rock and roll.’”

“Me too,” Leigh said and stepped over the coaming onto the deck.

Once secured in position, holding tight to the luff, Leigh looked back at the barely visible waves. She wasn’t so much looking at them as feeling the rhythm of Windhaven with the waves. She’d been on watch for a long time. As the wind and waves grew she had become attuned to the rhythm – The rise, the rush of a breaking passing wave, the short relatively smooth trough before the next one. Knew that after every third wave there was a trough two or three seconds longer. Critical seconds.

Six inches of water spilled over the side tried to knock her down. Leigh held tight. She held up one finger to Thomas. All he could do was nod, his arms working the helm to keep control.

Two fingers.

The third wave passed amidships.

Three fingers.

Thomas spun the wheel.

Nimble for a seventy footer, Windhaven snapped to port.

All eyes rose to the spreaders. The sail seemed glued to the rigging and spreader.

As Windhaven slid down the back of the third wave she continued to turn broadside to the coming wave already breaking.

With no warning the trapped sail flapped. Immediately Leigh yanked hard on the luff. Nothing happened. Through the continuous spray she caught the alarm in Noah’s eyes. Together they yanked again and the sail came loose.

Immediately Thomas spun the wheel to starboard. Windhaven began turning, but not fast enough. The next wave was already breaking as it lifted the boat. Before Windhaven could complete its turn to full stern facing the wild weather the breaking wave caught its aft quarter. 

Solid water washed across the stern quarter, slamming Thomas against the wheel. The water filled the cockpit. When it hit the back of the cabin with a thump heard above the screaming wind, hissing spray and roaring water it was catapulted up where wind caught it and swept Noah off his feet and washed down on Leigh.

 Like a bulldozer the water wanted to push the stern back around so it could broach the boat then roll it then capsize it and it and its crew to the bottom.

As Windhaven slid diagonally down the ever rising twenty foot wave, fighting for its life, Thomas, on his knees, clung to the spokes of the wheel spun full starboard. Totally soaked with forty degree water he scrambled to stand on his leg. For a few seconds he saw the biting hard spray knock Noah to down again. The spray continued to Leigh blocking her from sight as a foot of water combined with it in the sea’s attempt to wash her overboard and claim another life.

But the sea was not claiming any lives at that time. At the last moment before Windhaven‘s rudder rose out of the water, she came around stern to.

Thomas, still on his knees, centered the wheel to keep the boat on track.

Noah, soaked, freezing, and bruised had his arms around the mast as the water drained away. He glanced toward Thomas struggling to stand. He felt the slight decrease of the wind and the easing of Windhaven’s motion. By the relaxing of the tension in his gut and the ability to breathe again he felt that maybe they might survive another night.

Leigh, soaked and freezing, lay flat on the side deck with one arm and one leg hanging over the side. The other hand gripped her lifeline stretched taught when the sea tried to pull her overboard. It had saved her life. Breathing deep, she patted the strip of nylon. “Good lifeline. Good lifeline.” She kicked away the folds of the sail that they had partially pulled down. On her knees she hung on to the cabin handrail in the same spot Noah had not too long before. He steadied himself with the mast. When he saw her he threw her thumbs up.

She returned it, looked to Thomas.

He had made it to the helmsman’s seat. He shook his head, let out a wild victory cry and threw her a thumbs up.

She returned the gesture, then, though in the middle of one of the worst storm they’d had – fifty to sixty knot winds and twenty to twenty five foot waves – they all laughed out loud with relief and not a little bit of Tension.

Then they got o work. Noah and Leigh dragged the rest of the sail down and lashed it to the handrail. They considered taking down the small jib, but neither wanted to go forward and fight the wind for it. Instead they tightened up the sheet to present a smaller surface area to the storm.

Thomas confirmed that Windhaven was much easier to control with the main down. The three sat for a few minutes behind the helm, saying nothing, bonding like they hadn’t before, glad to be alive. Noah and Thomas sent Leigh below to get dry, warm and rest. “… and maybe some hot chocolate?”

“I’ll expect one hell of a tip.”

Windhaven 28?

 

The storm abated throughout the next day. At sunset the Southern Ocean treated them to a rare sunset. Leigh and Noah were exhausted. Thomas, too, but in the early morning a sideways wave had tripped him up and he landed on his leg stump. The pain near paralyzed him. The others, mostly Noah, had had to drag him to his bunk. They gave him two vicodin from their small remaining supply.

The almost unrecognizable mainsail still lay lashed to the cabin top. No one could muster the physical or mental energy to tackle some sort of repair. The trusty jib continued to pull Windhaven through the water at five knots, give or take. A descent speed for a small cruising sailboat. With a full crew and sails, Windhaven could do ten, twelve, fifteen knots.

Who cares?

For days they went about the business of survival with little interaction. They fell into a rhythm – who’s on watch, who cooks, who looks after Red? Occasionally Noah looked at the mainsail, maybe picked through it, but just couldn’t work up the will to do anything about it. The same with self steering. Without the main he had no way to rig something up. He did think about it sometimes while on watch, but the miasma that had settled over all of them prevented him from trying out any possibilities.

He’s been forced through circumstances and guilt, whether warranted or not, to be responsible for Windhaven and the crew. Before this opportunity he’d been used to being responsible only for himself. Then he’d met Linda. That brief encounter brought him to think that maybe having someone else in his life might be… pleasant. The possibility of seeing her slightly lopsided smile or touching her face gave him hope enough to lift the hopelessness from his shoulders. If he could just summon the energy.

 

 

Leigh, when not taking care of “chores” spent much of her time lying in her bunk with an arm over her eyes to hide the feeling of hopelessness that had infected them all. She wanted to see her husband again. She loved him, plain and simple. And he loved her. In any year they might, if they worked at it, spend two months total together.

Neither one was ready to settle down to lifelong domestic bliss. Though when they were together in their cozy waterfront cottage, that’s just what they did. Cook, clean, shop together. Breakfast on the deck, walking hand in hand after lunch, snuggling on the couch at night, watching a movie.

Despite her reputation for toughness and competence in any situation, she had to admit to herself that domestic bliss seemed like a pretty damn good idea right then. Together, they were the perfect example of domesticity. Strong and confident. A team. Apart, they were on their own, but with the other always there for support.

She’d come to depend on Noah. His semi-breakdown shook her. She really didn’t want to be the only mobile person on Windhaven. She really did need him, as much as she had ever needed anyone, and that shook her as well. Her husband’s psychic support was always with her, but there, at that time, Noah, and somewhat Thomas, were the team she needed in real time.

XXXXXXX

Linda, too, felt a cloak of hopelessness settle over her. It had been over a month since the last communication from Windhaven. They weren’t ready to declare the boat lost with all hands, but extended search had been called off. Ships were still advised of the situation. Most families had accepted the loss of their loved ones and began to move on.

Not Linda. She just had a feeling. Maureen told her she had that feeling, also. They had become phone friends, talking once or twice a week. Maureen gave her updates on the race. Of the seven boats that started four were still racing. One had been demasted west of Australia, one had a loose keel off of South Africa, one was missing.

“Windhaven would have been up there with the leaders,” Maureen told her.

“Officially they think they’re gone, don’t they?”

“Unofficially, yes.”

“Oh, Linda. Deep down… yes. Do you still have that feeling that all is not lost?”

“Yes, I do.”

“I’ll go with that. ‘Hope springs eternal’ and all.”

Finally, Noah worked up the energy and the will to do something extra.

The four hundred and fifty square foot jib been the workhorse sail for since well before the wave. It looked fine from the cockpit sixty feet away. Noah had been laying on his bunk thinking about everything and nothing when he realized he hadn’t been forward of the mast in a month. That led to the jib that had been the unsung hero who brought Windhaven to its current position, wherever that was. He really needed to find their position, not that it mattered.

But the jib mattered.

Noah rolled out of his bunk and shrugged into his foul weather gear. He could tell the weather by the boat’s motion and sound. The wind was coming up and besides the usual long rollers waves from some far off storm were smacking Windhaven amidships.

He checked on Red still in his latest comma, losing way too much weight, the fingers on his left hand playing an unseen piano. Red was one of the more frustrating problems they had. Neither Noah nor Leigh nor the remnants of the medical emergency book had any idea of how to help him, short of making him eat and drink and changing his sheets. Leigh and Noah were getting tired of it.

Noah Passed Thomas who had pretty much shut down. He was no help at all.

In the cockpit Noah said to Leigh, “We need to check that jib. It’s been months since anybody checked it out.”

“By ‘We,’ you mean you. I hate to admit it, but I’m exhausted. We haven’t done shit in, what? three or four days, and I’m more tired than when we were balls out racing.”

“I know what you mean. I just got tired of laying on my bunk. So, I’m going up to the bow and look around.” He studied the darker gray clouds creeping up astern. “More weather coming I suppose.”

“As always in the Southern Ocean.”

“Yeah. Do you think we’re north of forty degrees?”

“Aren’t you the navigator?”

Noah swung a finger back and forth between them as he said,  “I am one of the navigators. Tomorrow, I’ll take my turn. We really do need to know where the hell we are.”

Safety tether in hand Noah made his way forward. He snapped onto fixed safety lines moved forward and snapped on to another line. He stepped around the main sail still lashed down and tried to ignore the fact that they needed to do something with it, soon.

Forward, he checked the clew where the sheet was attached with a bowline knot, a sailor’s favorite. The sail itself appeared in good shape, dirty, a bit worn, but not bad for thousands of stormy sea miles. The sheet itself was not so good. It had frayed where it rubbed against the clew grommet for all those miles. It needed to be replaced because right then the sheet was one of the most important items on the boat.

To check the outside of the jib Noah ducked under the sail’s foot. The tack, the point where the sail attaches to the bow of the boat, had a few threads loose, was dirty and shiny but looked okay. The shackle that held it all together did not. It was worn and the pin had loosened. Gripping the jury-rigged forestay with the hand holding his lifeline clip, he leaned down to get a better look.

Windhaven’s bow dipped into a wave trough then rose up, fast, and lurched to port while Noah lost his balance and tumbled overboard. In the split second between Noah’s life or death he stretched out his arm and clipped on to the top lifeline.

The lifeline was original equipment on Windhaven. It hadn’t been properly inspected in years. In the tumult of preparing the boat by a deadline it had been missed. One end terminated at a stanchion that made up one side of the gate amidships. A screw on circular terminal held it in place. But, over time, that fitting had unscrewed.

When Noah’s full weight yanked on the lifeline the terminal popped off and began running through the stanchions. The forty-five degree water immediately sapped his strength as it dragged him toward the stern, the loop of wire growing bigger as the lifeline ran through. Once free, if Noah couldn’t grab it and keep it from slipping through his hands, he’d be left behind with little chance of rescue.

The cold water took his breath away, paralyzed him. He glanced up at his tether saw that he had clipped on. Then he saw the lifeline slipping out and knew what it meant. Windhaven dragged him through the water. A wave engulfed him. He had to breathe. He emerged coughing, fighting for air, his cry for help a piteously audible croak.

The lifeline ran out of the last stanchion. Noah grabbed the slippery coated wire with cold hands. He finally found his voice. “Leigh! Leigh! Help!”

A wave broke over him, pulling him under. The pressure of the water drug him back. The lifeline slipped through his shaking hands.

Leigh leaped over the cockpit coming and ran down the deck. “Noah! Look at me.” She dropped onto her stomach by the open gate. One hand gripping a stanchion, she leaned half her body over the edge arm outstretched.

Noah, felt the end of the lifeline slip through his hand, leaving him untethered to Windhaven. He rolled over and stretched an arm out to Leigh. Not close enough.

As if knowing this was Noah’s last chance, Windhaven surged toward him. Their fingers touched. Leigh, with only a leg pressed against the right stanchion let go the left stanchion and grabbed the toe rail. Those few inches allowed her to grasp Noah’s wrist. He swung against the hull, one second hanging straight down, the next rising up as a wave passed.

“Grab the toe rail,” Leigh ordered.

On the next rise Noah twisted over to grab a hold. But as he did that he twisted out of Leigh’s grip. Immediately she reached around and pressed her hand on his.

Windhaven rolled to starboard allowing a wave to spill onto the deck. A foot of water swept up the deck slamming into Leigh, doing its best to push her overboard. Her hip and thigh wrapped around the stanchion all that kept her aboard.

“Noah, reach for me.”

Too cold and scared to speak he reached out and they managed a solid wrist to wrist hold.

“Keep hold of the toe rail.”

Removing her hand from his she scooted around with her back to the cabin side and feet against the rail. When the next rail lifted Noah up she pulled his shoulders over the rail. With his free hand he gripped the stanchion and when the next wave, a big one washing up the deck, rose up Leigh pulled him halfway over the rail. Not waiting for another wave she leaned over grabbed the seat of his foul weather pants hauled him on board like fish. They ended up in a jumble, but onboard.

Cold and exhausted, hearts racing they took a minute to catch their breath.

Between breaths Noah, said, “I… thought… that….”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Thank… you….”

“I told you I didn’t want to have to run this boat by myself.”

“Then I don’t have anything to worry about.”

“Then don’t piss me off. Come on, you need to get warm.”

Fifteen minutes later Noah emerged dry and warm with a large covered coffee mug and sat shoulder to shoulder with Leigh. They ignored the wind that took tops of waves and waves big enough for a seventy-boat to surf down.

He touched her hand on the wheel. “You’re shaking. Go and get warm and dry. There’s coffee.”

“You scared the crap out of me, Noah.”

“I know. Me too.”

“Hmm.”

Twenty minutes later she returned with her own coffee mug.

“Don’t do that again, okay.”

“I won’t.”

“Is this the way it’s going to be? One potential disaster after another? We should have our shit together by now.”

“I agree. I mean, we’ve always known what we’re dealing with, but now, I think, we ‘Know’ what we’re dealing with. Almost dying will do that.”

“Right. We need to get organized. I guess we have our routine, but the first project is do something with that main, fix it or chuck it. Then figure out where we are. How many times have we started on that little problem with no solution?”

“I know we’ve fallen into a routine, but what about Red? Is he gonna die? Live? Fall into permanent coma? How the fuck will we feed him, give him water? You have any ideas?”

“No more than the last hundred times you’ve asked me. We’re not a Hospital ship. We do what we can. And what about Thomas? He needs to get his ass out of that bunk and help. Right now all he does is ask for pain pills which are not for any pain.”

“I’ve noticed. So tomorrow, assuming no crises before then, all hands on deck. Shipshape and all that. Just because we might die of thirst, starvation or drowning soon doesn’t mean Windhaven can’t be all shipshape and Bristol.”

“On that happy note I’m going to get some sleep. You and the weather have a good night.”

 

Chapter?????????

 

Noah let Leigh sleep an extra hour and a little. She did for real save his life, an extra hour was the least he could do. When she finally sat next to him she handed over coffee. They attempted to divine the weather.

“So, Mister Navigator, surely we’re North of 40 degrees by now. Into better weather.”

“Don’t you know? You’ve been here before.”

“Back then we were looking for wind. Here, not so much.”

“Larry told me that the South Pacific High may dip down a lot farther this year. Right now blue skies, no wind and calm water sounds pretty damn good.”

“Yeah but we don’t want to get caught there. We could sit for weeks and not go anywhere.” Leigh paused, let out an unhumerous chuckle. “I’m worried about our water. We’re close to a ‘Water water everywhere nor any drop to drink,’ situation.”

“I have to admit I… well, I didn’t want to think about that. But, yeah, that should go on the to-do list.”

“The top.” She yawned. “You okay to stand watch?” She bumped his shoulder. “You did just cheat death.”

He bumped her back. “Well, I had help, so wasn’t that big of a deal.”

She stood. “We’re agreed, then. We really do need to get our shit together, or we’re not going to make it.”

“Agreed. Now go away.”

“Don’t go near the edge.”

 

XXXXXXX

 

“Wake up, Thomas.” A kick to the bunk earned Noah a go-away-grunt from the sleeping lump. “Time to earn your keep.”

“I’m in pain, man.”

“No you’re not. Get up if you want to live.”

Thomas rolled his head to squint at Noah. “What’s happened?”

“Shit happened.” Noah held his thumb and forefinger a nickel’s width apart right in Thomas’s face. “I came this close to dying yesterday. This close. Which you might have known if you were at least semi-conscious.”

“Hey, come on. That freaking missing leg hurts.”

“Thomas, really? You were fine a few days ago. I know about phantom leg pain, but we’re in a fragile situation here. We need to have our collective shit together, which we don’t now. All hands up, including yours.”

Thomas flopped back. “What can I do? I can barely stand.” He held out a trembling hand. “The rest of me isn’t much better.”

“Are you kidding? You did great during the mainsail fiasco. Besides, what are you going to do when the pain meds run out? I didn’t think we had that many.”

“And if I refuse?”

“I’ll have Leigh drag you on deck by your foot.”

Thomas managed a slim smile and eye roll. “She could do it, too. Breakfast?”

“On me.”

 

Thomas sat at the helm with his coffee while watching Noah and Leigh wrestle with the mainsail remains. The first day, between turns at the helm, feeding those who could eat, and taking care of Red, they managed to cut the useable top off the sail, fold some of the remaining material and stuff it into the lazarette hatch.

The second day they managed to mend rips with sticky sail repair tape. As well, they beefed up the one batten pocket.

The third day they spent hand-sewing the repair tape to keep it in place against the relentless wind. Blood spots attested that it was a tough job, pushing large three-sided needles through multiple layers of thick sailcloth. This was where Thomas stepped up as a competent sail tailor, maybe unconsciously attempting to compensate for his missing leg.

 The weather held steady for the days: twenty to thirty knot winds, actual blue sky visible much of the time, relatively calm seas of four to eight feet. During the day it seemed to them that the wind had lost its chill.

This brought discussions about where they were. Noah felt they had probably crossed the fortieth parallel, the official northern boundary of the Southern Ocean.

Leigh, who had sailed the Southern Ocean before, warned him not to let the benign weather fool him into a false sense of security.

“Ha. Calm seas and balmy breezes from now on,” Noah predicted.

“I think you swallowed too much sea water the other day. It’s affecting you brain.”

Thomas said, “His brain was already infected before he joined us. He met this girl and he still came with us.”

“I bet he’s regretting that decision now,” Leigh said with a smile.

“Aren’t we all.”

“Thanks for bringing her up, Thomas. Now all I want to do is go cry into my pillow.”

“Don’t we all,” Thomas said.

That brought a long pensive silence.

Not for the first time Noah wondered what if he hadn’t taken the offer to be a last minute crew. Would he and Linda have hit it off? He liked to think so and if he survived he intended to find out. What he tried not to think about was why he agreed to leave everything that had lately been going quite well to sail in the most dangerous waters on the globe. It took a brave man or woman to do that. Cowards were not asked. Yet he was.

But he wasn’t brave. Everyone thought he was, but JV died because of Noah’s cowardice. He could have, should have, told what really happened that night during the Bermuda race. He persuaded himself that telling wouldn’t bring JV back. He had several chances to tell the truth, but didn’t, and it became easier to keep the truth to himself at each opportunity. He wanted to tell Leigh and Thomas, but what good would come of the telling? He needed their trust. If they survived, he’d tell them. If they didn’t…?

 

“Hey, Noah. You still with us?” Thomas nudged him with his good foot.

“Yes, like it or not, take that any way you want, I am here with no regrets in sight.” As he said Noah knew that to be true.

With the mainsail repaired and modified and with Thomas at the helm the next project was to raise the sail maybe Noah could figure out some sort of self steering configuration.

Surprising them all, the process went smoothly and by the end of the day Noah had, after two plus hours of testing and rigging, a working self-steering configuration.

 After Windhaven steered herself for fifteen minutes Leigh said, Damn Noah. My hero.”

Noah and Leigh sat shoulder to shoulder on the helmsman’s seat. Letting himself smile and enjoy the compliment he bumped her shoulder. “You sound like I did it just for you. Believe me, I’m as tired of those long steering watches as you.”

She bumped him back. “Mr. Humble. Okay, we’ve wasted enough time on this. Tomorrow: Water, food, position, not necessarily in that order. 

“You’re the boss.”

Leigh bumped him.

“And I totally agree. I just love freeze dried everything. I hope we find lots more.”

“You bumped your head at some point, didn’t you?”

That night they all managed to get some sleep. Noah and Leigh dozed in a comfortable corner of the cockpit. Every couple hours they had to adjust the setting, but it was a welcome respite from continuous steering.

A hazy daylight brought some light to the galley. Noah, for some unknown reason, wanted oatmeal for breakfast. He knew they had some, but couldn’t find it. By the time Leigh found him on his knees half into an under seat locker all the storage spaces were open and half empty.

“Oatmeal?” he asked, arms spread in supplication.

“It’s in ahh…,” she said opening a high cabinet. It wasn’t.

Three hours later the three of them had dug out all the food, made a list and stowed it away – Rice, beans, pasta, freeze- dried entrees, pouches and cans. Seventeen cans had no labels. They each bet five dollars then wrote their guesses of the contents on the can. Whoever correctly guessed the most won the fifteen dollars. Despite not having as much food as they would like, they actually laughed as somebody found a favorite or non-favorite food.

Finished, they had oatmeal for lunch.

As they ate Thomas asked, “What about Red? We can’t just let him just fade away, can we?”

All eyes contemplated the remnants of their oatmeal.

Before the silence became excessively uncomfortable, Leigh said, “We take care of him as much as possible. I don’t know if he’ll die or be in this coma, if that’s what it is, forever. If we lift him up, he drinks water or the protein drink. When he occasionally becomes lucid, he’ll eat. Otherwise, we keep him clean and change his sheets and clothes.”

Noah said, “You have any better ideas, glad to hear them.”

“No. Yes. Maybe. He’s been lying there like he’s already dead for weeks. What if we take him outside? Maybe wake him up?”

Noah and Leigh traded shrugs and raise eyebrows.

Noah said, “The only reason I can think of to not do that is his back. We assume it’s broken. If we move him it might make it worse, or permanent. Or, it may not matter at this point.”

Leigh slumped back on the settee. “I agree with both of you. But we have other chores to do right now. Either of you know where all the water tanks are?”

“No.”

“Not a clue.”

“I do so that’s on me. I think we should break out the manual watermaker. You know we ran the boat’s watermaker, which was a good one, when we ran the engine for battery charging. We haven’t been doing that, but we’ve been using water like we have.”

“So no more long soaking baths while sipping our vast store of champagne?” Thomas said while shaking his head at the sacrifices he has to make.

“Sorry, your Highness, from now on it’s a sponge and cold saltwater from a bucket.”

Thomas leaned toward Noah. “I think we should get off the cruise at the next stop.”

“I’m with ya, friend. But, I suppose I ought to look into where that might be and how far it is.”

“Speaking of baths, I guess I’ll check on Red. He’s about due by the aroma in his area.”

Noah sat at the nav station and studied the paper chart of the whole South Pacific Ocean. He looked at their last known position, almost a thousand miles East of New Zealand, and speculated on their present position. Figuring what he thought might be their average speed and what might have been their course, about in the middle between New Zealand and Chile at forty degrees South latitude. Only two thousand miles to go.

He picked up the GPS unit, tapped it lightly to let it know it had to work, and turned it on.

The unit showed nothing but zeros until Noah shook it. He knew exactly where the position on the screen showed — Three hundred miles East of Tahiti. The damn thing had an affinity for the island. Well, Noah would too if he had a choice. Five attempts, shaking, on/off, holding it out the companionway, only took him to places they couldn’t possibly be.

“Noah, can you lend me a hand, and a foot?”

Seriously contemplating throwing the GPS unit to the floor and stomping on it, Noah set it down gently and went to help Thomas.

“I can give you a hand but the foot gonna have to wait. But, whatever you need, Thomas, can’t be as frustrating as that devil’s torture instrument. “According to that damn thing we’ve been sailing through random wormholes to random places, all of which I’d rather be at then here.”

“Great. Well, while you are here help me turn Red over so I can change this makeshift diaper and wipe his ass.” “Grinning, he said, “If he survives and learns of this he’s going to be so embarrassed.”

“You’d never sail with him again.”

“That’s okay. I’m thinking of taking up desert farming.”

“Aren’t we all.”

Noah returned to the nav station and glanced at the GPS unit then, shaking his head, looked away. What the hell could he try next? He thought about taking the damn thing apart and praying over the innards, or…, wait a minute. He slid the GPS over and studied the numbers. “Holy shit, Batman.”

He forced his hand to not shake as he plotted the positions. His chest seemed to expand as he leaned back and took in the whole chart around the little X located at 123.05º W Longitude and 42.55º S. Latitude.

“Hey guys, not that it helps our situation but I know where we are.”

Arms across her chest Leigh leaned against the companionway ladder. Tommy peered over the now useless electronics.

“So?” Leigh said.

“We are literally in the middle of nowhere. That old cliché ‘A thousand miles from anywhere’ has nothing on us.”

“Noah, I could have told you that,” Thomas said.

Noah held up a now dried page from a rescued notebook. “But I know exactly where in nowhere we are.”

Thomas held out a hand so Leigh could help him move around to sit next to Noah. Leigh stood hip to shoulder beside him.

“So?”

Noah stabbed at the tiny X on the chart.

The others studied the chart.

“Shit,” Thomas muttered.

“How far to South America?”

“Two thousand miles, give or take.”

“How far have we come?”

“From new Zealand, two thousand miles, give or take.”

“So what does that mean?” Thomas asked. “I mean how is this going to change my daily routine?”

“It doesn’t.” Leigh squeezed his shoulder. “For now we just keep going. Keep making what miles we can. Been pretty consistent lately, four five knots.”

Noah sat back, arms crossed over his chest. “That’s all good, but what about the water?”

“Not so good, but not too bad. The main tank has about a hundred gallons, one of the auxiliary tanks has nothing because it’s cracked. The other tank has about twenty-five gallons. However, it might be tainted. We have a manual filter and some stuff to pour in that’s supposed to help. We’ll see. I would suggest we get familiar with our manual watermaker which looks like it still works. Taking turns we might get a half-gallon a day.”

“Great. I took this trip to get away from the gym.” His smile vanished and his face tightened as if holding back pain. His voice, too, tightened, any humor gone. “While we’re on the general subject of survival, what about the Pacific high? What exactly did Larry say? That’d take longer to get anywhere, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes it would,” Noah said. He glanced down at Thomas clutching his trembling hands. He glanced at Leigh who had noticed them, too. “Thomas, you okay?”

“Sure, fine.”

Leigh placed a hand on his.

Thomas jerked his head around, looking for a way out, knowing there was none. He slumped back.

“I found some vicodin. Been taking them.”

“How many?”

“Eight.”

“I thought you had been a bit mellow lately,” Leigh said.

“There aren’t any left though, are there?”

Thomas shook his head.

Noah said, “We don’t have any to give you.”

“Yeah you do, but you just want to keep them for yourselves.”

“Thomas, hey.”

Thomas’s anger flared like an explosion. “Don’t, “Thomas, hey,” me. If you knew how to handle a real boat I wouldn’t have to need those pills. You cut off my fucking leg. It’s your fault. Should have been someone else on the helm, someone with some experience. Not a day sailor wanna be like you.”

Leigh gripped his shoulder. “You know better. You were his watch partner. He saved us that night.”

Thomas threw her hand off. “What do you know, damn hot-shot female sailor. You barely talked to him, or me. Go back to your kitchen. You don’t deserve to be here.”

Leigh knuckled the side of his head.

“Don’t touch me, God damn it.”

“You’re the one who doesn’t know shit, Thomas.” She pushed him hard. “Big talker, big drinker. I saw–.”

Near tears, he spat, “Don’t touch me, damn it.”

“I saw you before we left. You–.”

“Shut up. Shut up!” He swung out at her. Missed, and slipped off the seat landing with a jolt on the floor. The anger left as quick as it had arrived. He curled up on the cabin sole, sobbing quietly.

Taken aback, Noah looks to Leigh. Lips tight, she slowly shakes her head. Together they helped him to his bunk where he turned his back to them.

“You sure you don’t have anymore?” Leigh asked.

Thomas nodded and buried his face in his pillow. Leigh and Noah left him and went into the cockpit. After checking the self-steering settings and checking the sea for a miraculous rescue boat they settled onto the cockpit sole.

“What the hell?” Noah asked. “You didn’t seem too surprised.”

“Before we slipped the lines there was a lot of dinners or parties with a lot of drinking. Thomas was always there drinking the most. Working on the boat he always had a beer close. Remember when he whined so much for the pills and we both commented that it wasn’t for the pain anymore.”

“I have to say now that he did seem a bit erratic lately. Well, whatever, what are, or can, we do about it? How many do we have left, three? He won’t be any better off if he had them. It’s not like there’s a pharmacy around the corner.”

“Nothing. He’ll have to work through it by himself.”

Noah stared at his thumbs pressing together on his lap. “That’s not so easy, you know.”

Leigh regarded him for a long moment. “That sounds like you have some experience with that.”

His cheeks puffed out as he blew out a deep breath. “You know that Bermuda race I did with Red? Where everybody said I wasn’t to blame for JV’s death, I was brave for trying to rescue him?”

“I know the story.”

“It was my fault, because I was a coward and a liar.”

“Noah, you don’t have to say anything. You’ve more than proved yourself in the last months.”

“I’m glad you think so. I’ve never told this to anybody. I want, need, to tell it.”

“I’m listening.”

“It was a storm. JV and I were on watch, we had to come about, but the sheet on the windward side had got hung up. He told me to go forward and fix it. I was too scared to go. I just couldn’t. JV had some choice words about that, so he went. A big ass wave rolled up the deck and swept him overboard.

“I yelled ‘Man over board,’ then rushed to the deck edge and on my stomach, much like you did, reached out, but he was gone.

“I never told anybody what happened, but I knew, and I couldn’t forget, and it ate me up, and booze did not help. I spiraled down fast. Lost my wife, house and publisher. One day, drunk, I took the boat out for the first time in months. I thought I could prove to myself that I was not a coward. I hit a dock, another boat just leaving, then hit a buoy and almost sank.

“That was my bottom. I tried to stay sober on my own, but eventually got a sponsor. About a year and a half sober now. But it was hard, is hard.”

He dared a glance at Leigh. She, too seemed to be staring into the past. “I was fat when I was a kid. Could not fix it myself. I needed help.” She held her arms out. “Thirty some years thin.”

“And looking good, too, though we’re all getting thin these days.”

“Yeah, well…. So does that story have anything to do with why you’re here?”

“When Red called I said to myself, Hell yeah I want to sail around the world. It would prove to me that I wasn’t a coward. I packed up and got bills and all taken care of and the night before I caught the plane I went to a little Jazz club I like. The bartender knows not to give me any alcohol. While I sat there nursing my Pepsi, I lost my nerve. Who was I kidding that I could do something so dangerous? I was going to call Red when the band took a break.

 “Then in walks this woman. Very pretty, but nobody would say she was gorgeous or stunning or anything. Pretty. I don’t really believe in Love at first sight, or soul mates or even Lust at first sight, but there was something about her.

“The one you talked to during the live streaming. Yep, pretty.”

“She sat a stool away from me. Bartender knew her, told her to have a ‘Have a good trip,’ drink with me because I was going to sail around the world. She knew something about sailing. We got to talking, then spent a very pleasant night on my boat and the next thing I knew I’d forgotten to call Red she was driving  me to the airport.” He spread his arms out. “And here I am. Lost at sea and missing a woman I barely know.”

“As good a reason as any, I guess.”

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Linda liked this guy, John, she sat opposite from in Applebee’s. She had considered sleeping with him, but Noah kept getting in the way. She just couldn’t imagine sex being as good with John as with Noah. There had been another guy, Jim, whom she’d seriously considered, but, no.

It was ridiculous, she knew. Noah was dead, he wasn’t coming back. She had to move on. But, she had a feeling, maybe real or maybe manufactured by her brain, or heart, as an excuse not to “move on” that something might happen.

Maureen at the race office said she had the same feeling about her brother, Ricky. Closure she said. He wasn’t dead until she had proof.

For Linda, Noah wasn’t dead because he was coming back.  

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

For a week Noah talked with Thomas, encouraged him, tried to keep him busy. Thomas had some bad days, but fair weather and long stints pumping the manual watermaker helped keep his mind off what his body wanted.

Noah and Leigh fell into routine, standing watch, cooking with rationing their food supplies in mind, taking care of Red, pumping the bilge. Noah figured out that they were almost on top of 40º South latitude, the Northern border of the Southern Ocean. The winds lightened up a bit and the seas became relatively calmer. But with lighter winds came slower speed, Windhaven rarely made five knots, usually three, maybe four. They needed to make a hundred miles a day, fifty or sixty wouldn’t cut it. Nobody wanted to turn South to find the Southern Ocean winds again.

So they had allowed themselves to fall into a routine consisting mostly of standing watch, cooking, and sleeping. Noah didn’t bother with any navigation. As long as they headed East, what did it matter? Leigh, by far the most experienced sailor, knew they should head South in search of wind, but Windhaven’s easy motion and a deep fatigue persuaded her that sleep was preferable to anything. After all, though it was two thousand miles away, they were headed toward land. They’d get there.

At sunrise days latter, “Getting there” became a bit problematic.

Noah shook Leigh’s shoulder. “Leigh, wake up. We have a problem.”

In a half-asleep voice, she said, “Are you just now figuring that out?”

“Funny. Can you hear the wind? Feel us surfing down the waves?”

“No.” She opened her eyes and studied Noah’s raised eyebrows as she took stock of her very still surroundings. “We’re in the High, aren’t we? Not moving.”

“Seems so.”

Later, Noah, Leigh and Thomas, still feeling the emptiness need but knowing there was no way to fill it, sat in the cockpit, taking in the calm water, puffy clouds, and blue sky.

Leigh said, “More than once in the last months I longed for weather like this. Now that we’re in it, I’m getting scared.”

Noah moved to the stern. Holding the makeshift back stay, he found no wake. “We could be stuck here for awhile. I would think there’ll be squalls with rain. If our watermaker goes–.”

“Don’t say it,” Thomas said. “You’ll jinks it.” Noah Waved okay. “So what do we do?”

“I say we take advantage of any little breeze and head south,” Leigh said. “For all we know the bottom of this thing is only a few miles south. Plus, this High won’t stay down here forever. Maybe it will dip down into the real weather and do something smart, like get the hell out.”

 Noah plopped down beside her. “We have some light air sails, don’t we? I suggest we drag one out and set it as best we can.”

By the end of the day they had a small spinnaker up and a South South East course set. All they needed was enough wind to move Windhaven.

XXXXXXXX

 

Thanks for reading Windhaven 26. Comments and suggestions are always welcome. dcburtonjr@gmail.com

To check out another sailing tale, Girl at Sea, Click HERE.

My other books can be seen to the right or HERE.

Windhaven 25

Windhaven 25

 Hi, Welcome to Windhaven 25 and a couple story prompts for writers or the curious.

If you want to know what school custodians do while you’re all snuggy at home with your pet or spouse check out The Custodian Stories.

I usually write about supernatural stuff or mystery/thrillers. Windhaven might have some thrills, but no mystery, except maybe who survives and who doesn’t, and no vampires or trips to hell.

Speaking of surviving I’ve had my 2nd Covid vaccine shot. Like before, a sore arm and a day of feeling a bit wonky. Get it. You’ll be glad you did.

Windhaven is a survival adventure that could happen any day now. I was surprised by how many Around the world sailing races there are. I’m not doing official chapters every post, just whenever.  The numbers are to keep it all in order, for you and me. Comments and suggestions are always welcome, and preferred.

 

WhatIfs?

WhatIf your partner stole all the company money and you were blamed for it, your wife left you, your kids hated you and your friends shunned you? You decided to kill yourself by jumping off a bridge. You do and you die. Your body drifts to shore and you wake up. Disorientated, you wander into a bad part of town. For no particular reason some locals beat the crap out of you and you die with a knife in your gut. You wake up. What the hell is happening? You have no money so you rob a store. The cops shoot you. You wake up in the morgue. Now you’re getting it. Escaping, you find a quiet place to sit and think, about revenge for all the wrongs, perceived or real, on your mind.

 

 

WhatIf you and a couple friends steal millions of dollars from a drug cartel. You keep 2-3 million for yourselves and want to donate the rest to charities. But you can’t walk in a hand them  100K in cash. That sort of thing raises questions. You think you’re clever and try to clean the money. But you’re not. Now the cartel killers, the police and the FBI are after you. What do you do? Where do you go? What do you become?

 

Windhaven 25

 

“Okay, first let’s get the sail out from under the mast,” Noah said the next day.

For half an hour he and Leigh struggled with the mast and sail. They had to pry up the mast then drag the heavy sail out from under. They unhooked the halyard from the top and spread the massive sail out so it could slide along the mast track.

The wind had kicked up a bit, but they were sweating at the end.

They set up and inspected the rigging hardware and lines they needed for new fore and back stays, and halyards. Noah took his time because when they were done he had to go up the mast. His hands shook and his heart was warming up ready to jump into his throat.

Leigh stood beside him. “Noah, it’s time. We have to get this done now. I think the wind’s going to really pick up tonight.”

Noah stood up straight and took a breath.

“I can bring you down anytime.”

“Right, let’s do it.”

Once Noah was secure in the bosun’s chair, Leigh winched him up with the mast winch. Noah wasn’t sure where to look, up, down or just closed. He held tight with arms and legs. If he swung loose the boat’s rolling would swing him out and then hard back to the mast.

Once at the top he pressed his forehead against the cold metal and visualized what he had to do. Then he did it, focusing on the job and holding on. Once he had installed the wires for the forestay and backstay he attached the necessary hardware and blocks and ran the new halyard lines. All the time he kept his eyes unfocused to anything more than two feet away.

Once the rigging was secured, Leigh called up. “Noah, do you want to come down and take a break?”

Without looking down he called back. “No. Let’s finish this.”

The mainsail track had not broken with the mast. It remained intact so they could slide the sail up the broken section and down the remaining section.

The sail was heavy. Leigh had to winch him up as far she could for Noah to get any leverage. With parts of sail ripped, Leigh had to move back and forth from pulling down at the mast to working the sail up along the fallen mast, to attending the helm.

As they worked the wind picked up ten knots. Noah had to focus on holding on more and more. Over an hour since he went up Leigh pulled the last of the mainsail down the track. Relieved, cold and tired Noah’s attention strayed as Leigh slowly lowered him.

A wave slammed the boat broadside. The boat rolled. Halfway down Noah lost his grip. He swung out ten feet away from the mast. He looked down. His chest constricted his heart, his lungs, he wanted to scream, but his lungs had no air, leaving his face a rictus of terror.

It seemed to him that he hung motionless in the air that all other motion stopped. Unable to move he glanced down at the water. What if the line snapped or he slid out of the bosun’s chair and fell in the water. If Leigh didn’t throw him a life line before the boat left him behind, he would die. The water was cold and there was no way Leigh could stop Windhaven and certainly no way to come back. He would die and leave Leigh on her own and he’d never see Linda again and that scared him more than hanging ten feet in the air.

Windhaven rolled back dragging Noah with it. The mast came at him fast. He reached out to grab it, but the boat lurched and he couldn’t hold on. Instead he swung past, though not as far. Again he seemed to hang motionless. Able to breath again, he glanced down. Below, folds on folds of the ragged main covered the deck, a soft cushion to fall on from not such a great height. Not so scary.

On the next pass he managed to grab the mast. Immediately Leigh lowered him to the deck, to his great relief. He stepped out of the bosun’s chair leaned against the mast to steady himself.

Leigh stood in front of him. “You okay?”

Noah, chuffed. “I’m still breathing, my heart is still beating after a hard workout. I’m okay.”

They stood together taking in everything.

Noah said, “If someone needs to go up again, I’ll do it.”

Eyebrows up, she said, “Good to know. I guess I can go in there if I need to.” She placed a hand on his chest. “We’re partners, right? Share the load and all that crap.”

“Yeah. It’d be bitch to run this operation alone. Speaking of which, we need to get our man overboard shit together. No engine, not much in the way of sails, freezing water.”

“I get it. Put it on the list.”

A wave washed over the transom. Leigh said, “Storm’s here. Better clean up the mess.”

Moving quickly they secured all the lines, stowed the tools and hardware, and bound the old sail. Leigh took the helm while Noah went below and prepared for his watch.

Bundled up in his foul weather gear Noah took the helm as the light noticeably dimmed. The storm built as did the waves. Hunched behind the helm he glanced at one of the few surviving instruments, showing a steady fifty knot wind with gusts up to sixty. Wave heights quickly rose to fifteen feet plus. Noah tensed every time a wave lifted the stern of the boat. For a few seconds his imagination felt the wave rise and rise until it threw the boat out, pitch poling it so it landed upside down then crashing on it, driving it suddenly from the surface to 50 feet, 100 feet down, 1000 feet down, dragging him with it to the bottom. Or the wave would lift the boat up until it was vertical and let it slide bow first down the face, piercing the surface and heading straight to the bottom, dragging Noah down so he could experience his guilt for killing his crew.

While thinking of possible disasters he found the rhythm necessary to keep the boat stern on to the waves. He was as good a helmsman as he said he was. Feeling the boats movement by the seat of his pants he subtly altered rhythm as the waves and wind rose. While rising up under a wave Windhaven might want to broach, turn broadside to the wave which wanted nothing more than roll the boat and drown it. Noah had to anticipate that tendency and steer to port if the boat wanted to go to starboard then steer straight ahead before the boat turned too far. A never ending rhythm.

An hour and a half passed then Leigh emerged in her gear and sat next to Noah. They said nothing for a few minutes until Leigh took the helm.

“Hang on,” Noah shouted, leaning close for her to hear over the roar of breaking waves shriek of wind. “This wind will pick you up and make you fly.”

“There’s hot chocolate on the stove. Get some rest.”

They traded thumbs up and Noah disappeared thorough the companion way hatch.

He stood by the ladder for a moment making the transition fro the outside cacophony to the warmth and relative quiet of the cabin.

Thomas eyed him from his bunk. “Sounds like a bitch of a storm out there.”

“That’s because it is.”

“No extra big waves?”

Noah tensed, jerked his head back as he flashed back to the rogue wave that almost killed them all.

“Sorry. You probably can’t unsee that thing.”

“No. I see it all the time.” He gripped Thomas’s shoulder and went for hot chocolate.

Once he lay down he could let his mind wander. That was not a good idea. Every time a wave lifted the stern he couldn’t help but hold his breath until the wave passed under and Windhaven slid down the backside and he knew that wave was not the ‘Big” one. He then had a few moments to breathe and let his heart calm down before the next and next and next wave. Eventually pure exhaustion took him into a fitful sleep.

XXXXXXX

 

Thanks for reading Windhaven 25. Comments and suggestions are always welcome. dcburtonjr@gmail.com

To check out another sailing tale, Girl at Sea, Click HERE.

My other books can be seen to the right or HERE.

Cheers!

Windhaven 24

Windhaven 24

Hi, Welcome to Windhaven 24 and a couple story prompts for writers or the curious.

If you want to know what school custodians do while you’re all snuggy at home with your pet or spouse check out The Custodian Stories.

 

 

I usually write about supernatural stuff or  mystery/thrillers. Windhaven might have some thrills, but no mystery, except maybe who survives and who doesn’t, and no vampires or trips to hell.

Speaking of surviving I’ve had my 2nd covid vaccine shot. Like before, a sore arm and a day of feeling a bit wonky. Get it. You’ll be glad you did.

Windhaven is a survival adventure that could happen any day now. I’m not doing official chapters every post, just whenever.  The numbers are to keep it all in order, for you and me. Comments and suggestions are always welcome, as long as I’m allowed to not use them without hurting anybody’s feelings.

To start Windhaven from the beginning go HERE

WhatIfs 

What If you were exploring unexplored territory and you came over a rugged mountain summit and saw a flat plain bounded by another mountain range two miles across? The plain was uniformly flat, covered with tall grass. Except for a big tree, a huge tree, a build a two bedroom, one bath, kitchen and deck tree house sized tree. Of course you’d go investigate, even though from high up the mountain the ground seemed to undulate. Probably an optical illusion caused by the wind on the grass.

It’s two miles to the tree, but only four of your party of eight make it close, alive. And somehow you can’t run away, only toward. And when you get close you can’t help but climb a hundred feet up the rough bark and enter what looks like a knot hole. Depending how resourceful you are depends on what happens inside and if anybody gets out.

 

What If you are a vampire and you do something to piss of your Vamp family? They don’t want to be nice to you and cut off your head and be done it. Instead they take you out to sea, tie an anchor too heavy to swim with to your leg and throw you over into a deep channel between shore and an island. Half an hour later you hit bottom. It’s dark even for your vamp eyes, but there is light down there.

Now what? You have two things going for you. You are familiar with the currents and tides in that area, and you are not the first vamp sent to a watery eternity. If you could find others, maybe you could help each other get to shore — and get revenge.

To start Windhaven from the beginning go HERE

 Windhaven 24

On deck, Noah, ran lines for Leigh to go up the mast. Also running rigging for a halyard to raise the mainsail to be and a headsail, too. He began to remove the tattered main sail from the broken mast and boom. Under normal conditions it took the whole crew to remove the huge sail.

Leigh climbed into the cockpit and stood next to Noah who sat at the helm, rubbing his wrist.

“I need one of those vicodin.”

“You’re not hurt enough. Use that brace, Macho Man.”

“A couple Tylenol then.”

Leigh studied the folded and twisted sail. “We have a plan?”

“I though we’d use the top twenty five feet or so for our new main sail. If we rig a forestay we can run a jib and be ready to race.”

“Race to where exactly?”

“If we keep heading East we’ll hit land, eventually.”

“Well, with that exact destination in mind, let’s do this. You’re going up, right?”

Noah looked up. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Same reason you didn’t want to go in there.”

 

XXXXXXXX

 

Ten year old Noah loved climbing the huge Live Oak tree on his Grandparent’s land. The tree soared a hundred feet tall and spread fifty wide. Years ago three boards had been nailed to the trunk reaching to the first branch.

Normally he only climbed halfway up to where two boards had been nailed between two branches. He would sit there and look out across fields to a lake at the base of mountains. Usually he dreamed of climbing the mountains, but that day he imagined the lake an ocean to sail on to distant adventure. He’d seen a pirate movie and longed to be the lookout at the top of the mast. Not halfway up, all the way to the top.

He began climbing. The limbs got smaller, but as long as he stepped close to the trunk they held easily. Maybe fifteen feet from the top he stopped climbing. On the wrong side of the tree to look out over his ocean he reached a foot around to another branch. Without looking down he gazed out to the mountain and lake. A tremendous view, but better if he leaned out just a bit.

The limb he stood on was dying, its bark flaking off, its leaves brown and withered. It gave no warning before it broke.

Noah barely had time to scream before he hit a branch and managed to grasp it as he slid off. Heart in his throat his cries for help went nowhere.

He looked down, straight down eighty feet, a hundred feet, a mile, all the same to him. High enough to fall, to die. He didn’t want to do either, ever. His cries for help produced none. Hands tiring, he had to do something.

Blood pounding in his ears, tears streaming, he slid a hand a few inches toward the trunk. The other hand followed. A small secondary branch prevented his first hand from sliding. A small moan escaped as he realized he’d have to let go to move closer.

Desperate not to let go, Noah attempted to swing a leg up and over. His heel caught, but that little extra pressure caused the branch to break. His scream abruptly stopped as the branch swung down, slamming him against the trunk. He threw his arms around the tree, gripping hard, face pressed against the bark, for minutes before his pulse and breathing slowed.

To the right another branch, thicker, healthier, offered safety. He reached a foot over. A minute later he sat on the branch, still hugging the trunk. More minutes later he tested loosing his grip then made the mistake of glancing down. Too high! Too high!

He swore then and there, as solemn an oath as a ten year old boy could make that he would never leave the ground again.

XXXXXXX

“Seriously?” Leigh said. A quick chuff. “We make a fine pair. Don’t you have a sailboat? Didn’t you ever go up the mast to repair something?”

“There are professionals for that.”

“Well, we’re the only freaking professionals here. You know what you want to do up there and you’re stronger than me, a little, so you are going up.”

“Leigh, Jesus, I….”

“Noah, you aren’t going to make me say it, are you?”

“Say what?”

“I did it so-.”

Hand up he said, “Stop. I got it. We need to do something with this sail first.”

The main sail slides were still attached to the standing part of the mast and also the fallen section. Where to start?

They studied the problem for a few minutes.

Noah asked, “How’s Red?”

“I don’t know,” Leigh said with a sigh. “You know he could slightly move his toes before, but that fall fucked up his back for good. The bleeding has slowed, but there’s obviously brain bleeding. He’s incoherent most of the time, but he has short periods of clarity, sort of. He mostly complains of the headache and asks where Ricky is. His temperature is up, too. Ninety nine point eight. That’s how he is.”

“Alain is no better. He’s pale, hot, struggling to breathe, and stinks of decay and shit. It seems obvious that a lung infection is killing him. He needs a massive dose of antibiotics, though he may be too far gone. Beside we don’t have any antibiotics left, right?”

Leigh’s silence did not escape him.

“Right?” Still silence. “Leigh, what?”

“We have one vial of injectable antibiotic.”

“We do? That’s what Alain needs. I thought we used it or lost it.”

Leigh paced the cockpit, two steps, return two steps. “So did I. I found it yesterday under the table. I don’t even know if it’s any good.”

“That just means it loses its potency, right? That’s what he needs though, the heavy duty stuff.”

“What about Red? I think he has an infection coming on.”

“You think? We know Alain has an infection. Don’t you want to give it to him?”

“Of course I want to give it to him. I know his wife and kid. You think I want tell her he died because I didn’t give him the drug? What if we do but he’s already too far gone? What about Red? What about if Thomas needs it again? What if one of us gets hurt or sick? What if we… fuck… waste it on Alain? We have to think of everybody. Do you really think one shot is going to fix him?”

“I don’t know, Leigh. You have a point. But we might not ever need it. Alain needs it right now. Do we just stand around and watch him die?”

“Do we stand around and watch Red die?”

“What about his wife and kid? Don’t they–?”

She moved face to face to him and poked his chest. “Don’t you dare try that on me.”

“Sorry. Sorry. That was shitty.”

Arms tight around their chests they turned away, walked in tiny circles until Noah said, “Okay, if I wasn’t here, it was strictly your call, what would you do?”

“Fuck, Noah.” Standing still, stared at nothing. Finally she raised her head, threw her shoulders back, and said, “I’d go clean Alain up so that at least he could die clean.”

They spent two hours with Alain. They stripped him, stripped the bunk, cleaned him head to toe, washed and cut his hair, shaved his face. All the while they talked to him, about what had happened since the wave, what they still needed to do. Leigh talked about his wife Alice and son Paulo. Noah told him they had a job for him adding new rigging at the top of the mast if he didn’t do it, Noah would have to.

Leigh gave Noah a gentle elbow in the ribs and a smile for that.

While cleaning Alain they sat him up. He seemed to breath easier so they propped him up. They managed to get him to drink some water, downing a vitamin pill and eating two crackers.

While Leigh finished making Alain as comfortable as possible, Noah cooked a simple meal. They had to hand feed Red. He ate, but was clearly not there. The headache had gone away.

Noah, Leigh and Thomas ate together. They discussed their thoughts about Alain and Red, coming to no consensus. The talked of what had happened, but mostly about what needed to happen if they had any chance of surviving.

Get some sail up, make best speed to the East, begin rationing food, pray if you had mind to.

XXXXXXXX

Thanks for reading Windhaven 24. Comments and suggestions are always welcome. dcburtonjr@gmail.com

To check out another sailing tale, Girl at Sea, Click HERE.

My other books can be seen to the right or HERE.

Windhaven 23

Hi, Welcome to Windhaven 23 and a couple story prompts for writers or the curious.

If you want to know what school custodians do while you’re all snuggy at home with your pet or spouse check out The Custodian 1

I usually write about supernatural stuff or  mystery/thrillers. Windhaven might have some thrills, but no mystery, except maybe who survives and who doesn’t, and no vampires or trips to hell.

Speaking of surviving I had my first Covid vaccination recently. A sore arm and 10 minutes of feeling a bit wonky the only side effects so far.  Looking forward to #2.

Windhaven is a survival adventure that could happen any day now.  I’m not doing official chapters every post, just whenever.  The numbers are to keep it all in order, for you and me. Comments and suggestions are always welcome, as long as I’m allowed to not use them without hurting anybody’s feelings.

WhatIf?s

 WhatIf? a woman, possibly with a questionable past, died. She is in Limbo, waiting to find out where she’s going, when a demon takes a shine to her and kidnaps her and takes her down into Hell? Not being a poor me type of woman she fights and gets away from the demon, but she’s still in Hell. She has no choice but to venture into Hell proper to find a way out. She wanders through the different sections, sometimes she has to fight her way through, sometimes she gets a helping hand from a Soul Retriever (some blatant promotion there,) sometimes she’s able to help a soul. Eventually she makes it out of Hell in a dramatic way.

WhatIf? you are trapped in a high-rise building, being pursued by a ghost, demon, monster, your ex? Are there other people in the building, or is it strangely unoccupied? Through flashbacks you come to realize that whatever is after you has a reason to be after you. What did you do in the past to warrant such a pursuit? And what will it take to survive, if you do – if you deserve to?

To start Windhaven from the beginning go HERE

Windhaven 23

 As he knelt on the wet floorboards Noah said to Thomas, “We had a bit of a leak on deck. It took two of us to fix it so there was nobody at the helm for a few minutes. We went off course for a little while. Don’t know how we can win this race by going off course like that. In any case it’s all good now. I managed to rig some self-steering that will keep us going straight for about five minutes.”

With Leigh pumping on deck and Noah inside the water level in the bilge dropped noticeably. Noah sat back on his heels and rolled his shoulders. “How’s the pain?”

“The pain is great, having party, dancing the happy dance on my knee. Me, not so much.” Thomas’s voice rode the rising anger as he spoke. “It’s all good until I want to move even a little. I expect my leg to be there, but a pillow or sheet or one of the posts of this fabulous four-poster bed I have might hit the leg that isn’t there and the pain goes through roof and I have to stay still because I don’t have any fucking leg there!”

“Thomas, I’m sorry, we….”

“I know. I know. You had to cut my fucking leg off to save my fucking life. But you know Noah, sometimes when the pain is a bitch and there’s no pills, no relief, I wonder if you did me a favor.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Stop with the sorrys, will ya.”

“Right. But you’re alive and there is some hope.’

“Hope? Half the crew is dead or dying, three are useless, we have no sails, no engine, no communications, we don’t really know where we are except thousands of miles from any fucking where.” He slumped back on his bunk. “Sorry, Noah, I don’t quite feel the hope.”

“You should. By tomorrow we will have some sail up and be able to make some miles. That little GPS unit occasionally comes up with a position that make sense. I know you hurt, but you are getting better.”

“I know you guys are doing the best you can, but it fucking hurts, man. What I need more than hope or a ra-ra speech is two of those good pain pills. It’s making me crazy. I can’t move I can’t do anything and it’s frustrating as hell. Seriously, man, I do think about dragging myself up on deck and taking a jump.” Thomas’s body tensed and he let out a piercing soul breaking scream.

Noah gripped his friend’s shoulder. “I’ll get the pills.”

A thump and an equally loud outcry stopped Noah.

“Ricky, Leigh! Leigh where are you? Larry. Thomas.”

“What the hell? Red.”

Noah ran to the amidships area. He found Red sprawled on the floor, twitching and cursing. He had a small gash leaking blood on his forehead.

“Red, Red, stop. Let me help you.” Gently Noah helped the captain roll onto his back.

“Noah, what the….” He coughed for a minute, a hacking cough that left his voice rough like it had to slip over sandpaper. “What the hell is going on here? Where’s Ricky?”

“I’ll explain when we get you back in your bunk. Leigh, where are you?” he shouted.

“Right here. No need to yell.”

“You sure about that? Help get him up.”

Red stopped questioning, moving on to a pitiful moan. Together they lifted him up to his bunk. His body trembled as he held his head. “Headache,” he grunted unnecessarily. “Leigh, where’s Ricky? … happened to me?”

“He doesn’t have a clue,” Noah said.

“I know,” she whispered. She gently turned the captain’s head. She didn’t need to say anything, they both saw the blood leaking from the hole in Red’s head. “We need to rebandage that and I don’t think Tylenol will help that headache.”

“I’ll get them. Thomas is in real pain. I’m getting some for him, too.”

“Noah, we’re awful low on the strong stuff.”

“Yeah, but he mentioned crawling on deck and jumping.”

“Jesus. He’d better get well quick because when they’re gone….”

Noah blew out a deep breath. “What can we do for Red?”

“Really, I don’t really know. Keep the blood off the pillow, feed him some pills, wipe his ass? Any ideas?”

“Antibiotics?”

“Probably won’t hurt. But the way this cruise is going we might need them. There’s not much left.”

Noah squeezed her shoulder. “I’ll get’em. You can explain stuff to him.”

Listening to the water sloshing about the bilge, Noah made his way forward to the medicine cabinet. Noah wasn’t squeamish about medical issues. He’d seen a couple nasty crashes, watched his leg be operated on as a teenager, but he’d never had aspirations to be a doctor.

He trembled as he leaned, head hanging, hands against the counter and, unbidden, his mind replayed Thomas’s amputation. He couldn’t believe did that, or drilled a hole in Red’s skull. He wanted Red and Thomas and Alain to recover, but at the same time he wanted all the medical stuff to stop. It wouldn’t, though. He was trapped on a disabled boat that nobody, including himself, knew the location of. He had no choice except to carryon on and do what he could to help them all survive, and, he realized, not let Leigh down. And what would he say to Linda if he didn’t keep on keeping fucking on.

Deep breaths calmed him. He raised his head, sighed deeply, and searched for the meds.

Noah stopped beside Alain, still except for the barely perceptible rise of his chest. He was pale, thin and stinking. They had to change and clean him soon. Noah looked down on him hoping for a movie moment when his eyes popped open and he said, “Hi Noah, what’s for lunch?”

Noah bowed his head; he knew it was unlikely Alain would ever wake up. There was nothing else they could do for him. “Sorry, Alain, we don’t know what to do.”

As he passed Leigh he handed her the pain pills and a bottle with two tablets in it. “That’s it for the antibiotics. “How you doing, Red?” Noah asked, though it was plain the way Red held his head and clenched his jaw that pain had the upper hand.

“Hurts,” he said without relaxing his jaw. “Can you save the boat?”

“We’re doing our best. We’ll get you home.”

Noah exchanged a glance with Leigh, squeezed her shoulder and moved on to Thomas.

“Take these,” Noah said. He held up Thomas’s head and held a glass to his lips. “Make’em count, there’s not many left.”

“Why, you need me to run about on deck for you?”

“We can always use an extra hand.”

Thomas managed a slight smile. ”That’d be funny if it wasn’t funny.” He settled back on his bunk in anticipation of the pills kicking in. “You going to get up some sail?”

“What we can. This boat doesn’t go well on idle.”

Thomas’s voice turned dreamy as the pills began to kick in. “Yeah, got to speed up to get to nowhere.”

“Somewhere, Thomas. Somewhere.”

Thanks for reading Windhaven 23. Comments and suggestions are always welcome. dcburtonjr@gmail.com

To check out another sailing tale, Girl at Sea, Click HERE.

My other books can be seen to the right or HERE.

Windhaven 22.1

Hi welcome to Windhaven 22 and a couple story prompts for  writers.  I did a lot of sailing back in the day, though nothing as extreme as Windhaven. But I do know that things can go bad real quick. Most sailors won’t experience a rouge wave, but they do exist. Windhaven was very lucky to have survived, despite the damage, and injuries, and deaths.

Speaking of surviving I just had my first Covid vaccination. A sore arm and 10 minutes of feeling a bit wonky the only side effects so far.  Looking forward to #2.

 

If you want to know what school custodians do while you’re all snuggy at home with your pet or spouse check out The Custodian 1(of 4)

I usually write about supernatural stuff or mystery/thrillers. Windhaven might have some thrills, but no mystery and no vampires or trips to hell.

It’s a survival adventure that could happen any day now.  I’m not doing official chapters every post, just whenever.  The numbers are to keep it all in order, for you and me.  Comments and suggestions are always welcome. as long as I’m allowed to not use them without hurting anybody’s feelings.

WhatIfs?

What If you are kidnapped and buried in a makeshift coffin with air and some water like on TV. You’re freaking out. You’re even more freaked out when something digs through the bottom and takes you down. When you finish really freaking out and find yourself safe you realize the entities (you chose what they are, worm people, insect people, mutant moles, demons, bogeymen, corporeal or ethereal) are not going to eat you but need your help to save them from, you choose, (oil drillers, miners, archeologists, natural damage caused by Global Warming, or other underground creatures.)

You find that you can do that, and then you do. As a reward they give you a bunch of colored stones suspiciously like rubies, emeralds, or sapphires. They also help you catch the kidnappers and let them feel what it’s like in very close quarters.

!!!!!!!!!

What if you and a partner are doing a space walk for routine maintenance on a good sized space ship, though with a small crew. A small meteorite swarm hits the ship. Your partner is killed, much of the ship is disabled, many of the crew are dead. Only one can move about, but her legs are useless. Worst for you is the airlock is damaged. You can’t return that way. The one crew you can talk to reminds you of an emergency airlock a long way forward on the other side of the ship with no handholds or tether points.

You take your  partner’s tether and let him float away. With two tethers you can almost make it, but not quite. You stretch it out. Another swarm cuts the line, but gouges the ship’s skin allowing you a handhold. From there it’s 15 meters of free floating to safety, if meteors or fear don’t get to you first. And if the inside crew can make it to the airlock to open it.

To read Windhaven from the beginning Click HERE.

Windhaven 22

Leigh breathed in deep and lowered herself into the lazarette. Noah was right, she probably could stand up, if it wasn’t for all the stuff stuffed in there haphazardly. Nobody had looked in there since well before the Wave hit. Noah made no comment and she offered none when she tied a line around her waist and handed him the free end.

She took a last look at the sky and clouds, sucked in another deep breath, climbed over the inflatable, an extra sail bag she didn’t know was there, but should have, spare lines and rigging, and two totes filled with whatever.

As she climbed over she concentrated on reaching the narrow space into which her mind absolutely knew she wouldn’t fit. The ceiling and the bulkheads closed in, the light dimmed. She had to close her eyes tight and breathe – in through the nose, out through the mouth. In, out, don’t think about it.

But she couldn’t help but think about it.

XXXXXXX

Eight-year-old Leigh was on vacation by the shore with her family, Mom, Dad, brothers Terry and Jimmy and sister Gail. She was the youngest, Terry 13, Jimmy 12, Gail 11. Leigh had been an unexpected surprise.

The kids were walking along the shore, goofing, somehow pirates came up. Maybe they buried treasure in the sandy cliffs, or had a lookout spot. It was decided to dig a lookout cave to spy on gold laden ships, or the people walking the beach.

With four of them digging the work went quickly. They piled in, but it was a tight fit, not deep enough.

“Leigh, you’re the smallest, dig some more in the back.”

“You’re in the way, Terry.”

“Okay, okay. Come on guys, give her some room.”

Pleased to be useful instead of ignored as usual, Leigh dug in like a puppy after a treat. The others were encouraging, then silent. Leigh continued to dig, ignoring the sand dripping from the roof. Then she noticed the light dimmed.

She stopped digging and looked back toward the entrance. All that remained was a narrow strip of light. “Hey, you guys, where are you?” Reaching the light was steep, the sand soft and shifting. She could barely breathe, the sides closed in, her hands shook as she scrambled for the thin line of light.

“Hey, Terry, Gail, help me.”

Then the ceiling caved in covering her legs, holding them tight, trapping her. She worked her legs madly, but the sand only grew heavier. It pulled her down as the sides closed in pushing the air out. She breathed fast and deep, but there was not enough air. “Help,” she cried, though it came out as a whisper. Sand clung to her tears.

Panic set in. She kicked and clawed at the sand getting nowhere, sobbing “Help, please help,” with a raspy voice nobody would hear.

Heart hammering, lungs pleading for air, Leigh curled into a tight ball as despair settled over her like a cold blanket. She was going to die there, alone; nobody would know where she was, nobody would care, nobody would look, or remember her.

Somehow the despair tamped down the panic. Acceptance of death soothed her, though it didn’t stop her sobs. Hours, or minutes, later she realized that by curling up, she had mostly freed her legs. She began to think, and move, though she had to keep her eyes closed to the closeness that surrounded her.

Slowly she moved her legs, kicked them free of sand. Pushed down, her body moved an inch toward the light. She reached a hand up, clawed some sand down. Reached and kicked together, moved another inch. Slowly, eyes closed, she turned onto her stomach, then to her knees. One hand then two hands scraped at the sand. Head down, terrified, she let her eyes open for a quick glance up. Yes, progress.

Unconsciously she glanced sideways, saw how close the wall was, how it arched over her, ready to fall, ready to trap her, smother her, crush her. Eyes slammed shut, her body tensed while she fought panic. Breathing slowed, became deeper, there was air plenty of air.

Starting over, one hand then the other, knees inching forward and up she moved. Within minutes the light brightened on her closed eyes. Deep breath, eyes slowly open, the narrow strip of light wider. A minute later Leigh tumbled out and slid down the sandy slope to level beach. On her knees she searched for her brothers and sister. Nobody. Shouted, “Terry, Gail, Jim?” Nothing.

Leigh sat back and sobbed out her relief, disappointment, loneliness, and finally, anger.

Without a backward glance at the Pirate Lookout, Leigh took her time walking back to the house they had rented for a week.

“Where have you been?” her mother asked. “It’s almost dinner time.”

“Nowhere.”

“Yeah, that’s you, nowhere girl,” Terry, always the jokester, said, though his smirk was pure meanness. He sat backwards on a straight backed chair.

She’d considered what to do when she saw him, the smirk decided her. She went up to him punched him as hard as she could. The blood flowing from his nose was quite satisfying.

XXXXXXX

Holding herself together she reached the corner with the space she needed to reach into. With no hesitation, hand with the wrench first, she squeezed into the space, her face hard against the hull. Holding the wrench on the nut she said, “Ready!”

“Okay.”

Gripping tight she felt Noah turning the bolt from the deck until the nut dropped off. She placed the wrench on the second nut. “Ready.”

A minute later the nut dropped off. Finally, she could return to open spaces. Taking  deep breaths, she let her eyes open, just in time to hear a heavy thump, see the port side rise, and the inflatable boat, the sail bag, totes and miscellaneous stuff slide over and pin her in the corner.

The inflatable pressed her against the hull. The sail bag on top of that loomed over her, inches away. Couldn’t move, couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe – eight years old again.

Her body cringed as she fought the fear and the panic rising within her.

“Leigh, are you okay?”

With supreme effort not to scream, not to cry, to fake calmness, she said, “Noah, please get me out of here. Please, now.”

“Okay, let me get the boat on–.”

“Noah.” Begging, pleading, she didn’t care. “Please. Please.”

He must have heard the tears streaming down her face, her heart pounding, pounding, her desperation, the effort to not thrash about in total panic.

“I’m coming, Leigh, right now.”

She felt the tug of the line around her waist which calmed her. The sail bag slid away. She dare open one eye. Noah dragging the totes away, tossing coils of line brought some relief. She wasn’t alone, someone was there to help. Noah grunted as he drug the inflatable back. Gently he tugged the line around her.

“I’m here, Leigh. I’m here.”

He reached out to her. She gripped his hand and didn’t let go until she looked straight up at the sky. For a moment she leaned into Noah and whispered, “Thank you.” With a hand on his shoulder she scrambled out of the lazarette on to the deck and grabbed the helm. She was still on watch, after all.

While Noah patched the hole Leigh sat hunched by over the helm shame dripping off her like dark rain. But as she thought of the situation she straightened up, held her high. She was well know, even famous, in the sailing world. She was known as a tough, savvy, skilled sailor. She had raced around the world twice, crossed many oceans, and would be welcomed in any crew. She had a husband who loved her as she was as she loved him. And what of her siblings? Terry stupidly dead in Iraq doing a stupid prank. Jim an addict with jail and rehab time, not strong enough help himself. Gail trapped in a loveless, probably abusive marriage, not brave enough to get out even with Leigh’s offered help. Leigh squared her shoulders, I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Ten minutes later after Noah patched the hole in the deck, he sat shoulder to shoulder with her. Staring ahead or up, they were silent for some minutes.

“You okay?” Noah asked.

“Yeah.”

“Good, because I need you.”

Leigh bumped his shoulder. “Me, too.”

From below came Thomas’s shout. “Noah, what the hell is going on up there?”

“So much for our moment of quiet,” Noah said. “Guess Thomas is feeling okay.”

“Okay enough to go up the mast?”

“Sorry partner, that’s all you.”

Thanks for reading Windhaven 22. Comments and suggestions are always welcome. dcburtonjr@gmail.com

To check out another sailing tale, Girl at Sea, Click HERE

My other books can be seen to the right or HERE

Windhaven 21

Hi welcome to Windhaven 21 and a couple story prompts for  writers.  I did a lot of sailing back in the day, though nothing as extreme as Windhaven. But I do know that things can go bad real quick. Most sailors won’t experience a rouge wave, but they do exist. Windhaven was very lucky to have survived, despite the damage, and injuries, and deaths. 

I usually write about supernatural stuff or mystery/thrillers. Windhaven might have some thrills but no mystery and no vampires or trips to hell

It’s a survival adventure that could happen any day now.  I’m not doing official chapters every post, just whenever.  The numbers are to keep it all in order, for you and me.  Comments and suggestions are always welcome. as long as you know that I may or may not follow them.

WhatIfs?

WHAT IF there’s an air leak on a spaceship. The crew can not find it. The air refresher unit has been incapacitated. The Captain notices that one crew member, their technical engineer, is not searching. Just sitting, smiling.

“You’ll never find it,” he says.

So the crew has to figure out why he did it and where he might create the leak with only a few hours to do it.

Turns out his wife left him, took his money and kids. On the ship he felt underappreciated and nobody liked him. He was pretty much of an asshole.

What If, back in the time when it was a big deal for a young woman of means, especially lesser means, to come out to society, one girl, Harriet, did not want all that pomp and circumstance. At that time a girl’s first priority was to marry well, preferably up. Harriet did not want to marry somebody chosen by her parents or society, she was too smart for that.

A large amount of money, jewels, gold, coin was stolen from the Queen. Harriet took it upon herself to find the thieves and money. Well most of the money. Surely a finders fee was appropriate. The Queen was dazed and amazed. And Harriet’s secret career as a Queen’s spy or Private Detective was born.

XXXXXXXX

To start Windhaven from the beginning go HERE

Windhaven 21

The New Zealand Long Reach Search and Rescue plane left Auckland at 4am in order to reach the search area at first light. The two women and two man crew took turns napping as they covered the first thousand miles. Around fifteen hundred miles the captain began the descent to about a thousand feet. All eyes focused horizon to horizon in any direction of the ocean expanse. A thin cloud cover kept the water grey except for the lines of white caps. For an hour and a half they flew low and slow while they scanned the surface, searching for any sign – a boat, a body, floating cushion. They flew a grid search expanding the edge with each 180° turn.

Two hours out the copilot said, “Fifteen minutes until turn around, Sarah.”

To the two crew searching from amidships, Sarah said, “Ten minutes until around, mates. Find me something before then will ya.”

“Yes, ma’am O Captain,” was Henny’s cheeky reply.

Eight minutes later Joe the copilot called on the intercom, “Henny, starboard side, two o’clock, something. Maybe a mile out.”

Henny raised her binoculars while Ngarra joined her search. “There,” he called out. “Three o’clock. A life raft?”

Henny said, “Got it. Orange life raft. Turn ninety, Sarah.”

“Don’t loose it.”

Sarah swung the plane ninety degrees to starboard. “Got it. Going lower and slower. Get pictures.”

They passed barely a hundred feet above the surface. Henny photographed the large orange life raft. “There’s writing on it.”

Ngarra had his binocs on the raft. “Christ, it says Windhaven.”

“Any sign of life?”

“No. Come around the other side. Looks like the flap is open. Maybe we can see inside.”

“Hang on, coming around.”

“Anything?” Joe asked, knowing the answer.

“Got a good look inside,” Ngarra said, resigned. “Nothing but a foot of water.”

“Worth another pass?”

Henny and Ngarra caught the other’s eye, shook heads. “No.”

“Right. Joe, mark the position. Time to go home.”

XXXXXXXXX

Windhaven 21

Noah poked his head up out of the companionway. He stood on the ladder and scanned the weather. A smudge of sun, grey clouds, grey water, 20 knot wind, 40 degree temperature – same old same old. Leigh, encased in orange foul weather gear, looked at him from under her hood and a red watch cap pulled down far enough to cover her eyebrows.

“What?” she asked.

“We have a leak.”

“Of course we do.”

“The bilge is full.”

“I thought the boat was wallowing a bit. Know where it is?”

He pointed to where the mast hung over the edge.

Leigh pointed at him then the fallen mast.

“Right.”

Noah climbed over the mast to the starboard deck. An odd wave bumped the starboard side, knocking Noah off his feet. He tipped toward the deck edge, not a problem if the lifelines were intact. They weren’t. Thinking fast, he threw his legs over the edge, dropping hard on his ass on the deck. He reached back, groping for a rigging wire before another wave washed him into the cold ass water. He took a minute  to force his breathing to slow until his heart returned to a more or less normal rhythm.

Stupid. Stupid. If he went over in this water his survival chances were much worse than fifty-fifty.

“Noah! God damn it, what’s the matter with you? Clip on. Don’t you dare leave me to run this boat by myself.”

Noah clipped his lifeline to the rigging wire and pushed to his feet. His butt hurt, but he deserved it.

“You okay?”

“My butt hurts.”

“You deserve a spanking for that stunt.”

“I know. Just drive.”

He had to get down on his knees to see the problem. A lifeline stanchion had been knocked over by the mast and ripped two bolts through the deck leaving a two inch by one inch hole. Plenty of room to allow water inside every time washed over the deck, which was often.

He could see the problem, but couldn’t get to it because the mast lay over it.

“We have to move the mast to get to it,” Noah said once back in the relative safety of the cockpit.

“You want me to pick it up, or you?”

“I’ll go finish my nap. Call me when it’s done.”

“That’s gonna be a long nap.”

“Oh all right, I’ll do it. You can pump.”

Five minutes later he had a heavy line around the mast that led to one of the massive sheet winches on the other side of the cockpit. While Leigh, using an entirely inadequate boathook pole, attempted to lift the mast up, Noah cranked the winch. To clear some deck hardware, the mast only had to come up four or five inches. The boathook could manage almost one. The mast did not cooperate, until a large errant wave slapped the starboard aft quarter, jarring it loose. With the winch line tight enough to play a tune, mast jumped a foot sideways stopped by what was left of the electronics bridge. It would go no farther.

The sudden wave bump and mast jump caught Leigh by surprise, making her sit down hard on her butt. After a cuss word a second for ten seconds she struggled to gain her feet. Noah, grinning, offered a hand. “Don’t you say a word, Noah. Not a word.”

Noah chuffed.

She hit him with the back of her hand. Cracking a smile, she said, “Asshole.”

Noah inspected the hole. It wouldn’t be hard to fix if he could remove the two intact  through the deck bolts. Then he could place a small piece of wood with a lot of caulking over the hole with a couple screws to hold it until the caulk set. Not pretty, but effective, which was all they could hope for.

With the wrench in hand Noah lowered himself into the large lazarette hatch at the stern of the boat. He climbed over a jumble of spare lines and rigging, a rolled up inflatable boat, gas and diesel cans, cleaning supplies and several folding chairs. He reached the hull and scrunched into a space between hull and rubber boat. With a flashlight he quickly found the leak. Then he swore revenge against all boat designers and builders.

The leak was a bit more than an arm’s length between the hull and the back of the starboard cockpit storage space. It was too tight for him to fit. Reaching out with the wrench, he was six inches short. And there was no room to go under so he could reach up. The only way he could think to get the wrench on was to get Leigh to squeeze in far enough.

“No,” she said.

“Leigh, it’s the only way to effectively fix the leak. Remove the stanchion base and caulk the shit out of a wood block covering the hole. Stuffing it with rags or some shit isn’t going to cut it. Which you know is true.”

“I’m not good with small spaces.”

“Neither am I, but pumping the bilge ten hours a day is going to get old, real fast.”

They both watched a wave sweep over the deck.

“I’m not that small.”

“Unless you can get Alain up, it’s you.”

Leigh glanced back at the open hatch.

“It’s not that small. You can almost stand up in there.” Noah sat next to her, shoulder to shoulder. Staring ahead at the  open ocean, he said, “I know you don’t want to do this. I don’t blame you. But with all the other shit we have, this is something we can fix. Five minutes down there and done.”

“You know I hate you.”

“I figured. I’ll get the wrenches I need. You can start thinking up curses for the person who designed that little space.

To start Windhaven from the beginning go HERE

Thanks for reading Windhaven 21. As this is all first draft comments and suggestions are welcome. Use either the comments below or directly to dcburtonjr@gmail.com

Girl at Sea is another sailing tale. Check it out HERE.

Cheers.

COMMENTS

Windhaven 20

Windhaven 20

Welcome to the Twentieth Windhaven post. I started the WhatIf? part quite a while ago. Feel free to use one of the story prompts. I’d love to know what you do with it.   

I finally sent the 4th novel, Blood on the Mountain, in my Blood Justice series to the publisher. Out of my hands for now. 

If you’re reading this before Dec 31, Smashwords has an end of year sale going on. My books are included – https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/DavidBurton 

Don’t forget to check out Girl at Sea.

To start Windhaven at the beginning click HERE.

All the parts of Windhaven are first draft with very little editing. Comments and suggestions are welcomed.

 

WhatIfs?

What if a woman, Jane, sold her ability to change into any other woman to men, or women, who had a secret crush on another woman who they had no chance with. When the customer got tired of her, or got caught by their spouse, she changed back to herself. But WhatIf? She fell in love with her client and didn’t want to leave? How far would she go to stay around? If the guy went back to his wife, how sure could he be that it really was his wife and not Jane. If Jane, what happened to the wife? Or, in the course of her usual business she’d probably hear some secrets, what might she do with them?

 

 

 WhatIf? Two teenagers, Joe and Jane, meet at a boarding school at the start of Thanksgiving Holidays. Jane has no place to go and Joe has no place he wants to go. They decide to go to NYC for the break. They get a cheap hotel, separate beds, and have a good time for two days.

One morning they discover by the next room’s door, a new baby wrapped in bloody towels. The door is unlocked, inside they discover the horrible bloody body of a teenage girl, who obviously died in childbirth. They of course call the police and eventually are interviewed on TV.

Back in their room a man barges in wanting to know where ‘it’ is, and why did they take it. They haven’t a clue what he’s talking about, but he doesn’t believe them. He punches Joe, knocking him down then grabs Jane by the neck hits her, holds a knife to her. Joe smacks him hard with a lamp. He doesn’t get up, ever. They go through a more rigorous time with the police. His dad hires a lawyer. Eventually they are allowed to leave. They get on a train to Philadelphia. His dad waits at the station, but they never show up.

Where are they, and what is ‘it?

???  ‘It’ – Proof that the father of the baby is the father and he wants to care of him/her, but his family doesn’t want that.

Or – Proof of the father, but he does not want that to get out.

Or – she stole money/secrets/something, or knows where it is, and somebody wants it back.

Or – ?

 

 

 To start Windhaven from the beginning click HERE.

   Windhaven 20

 

Linda entered her classroom, sat at her desk and stared at a notebook containing the day’s lesson. The nineteen students watched her in silence until one girl, Jasmine, quietly asked, “Is he still missing?”

“Yes, Jasmine, still missing.”

“Just like my Daddy.” Jasmine’s father had gone missing a year ago. She and Linda shared a sad hope-for-the-return-of-the missing smile. “If he’s sti….If he’s out there they’ll find him. Both of them.”

One of the boys said, “I liked him on the boat. He seemed pretty cool.”

“He did, didn’t he?”

“Are they using satellites?” another boy asked. “They can find anything.”

“They’re working on it Timmy. It’s a big ocean.”

“They’ll find him. Satellites can find anything,” he said with youthful enthusiasm.

“I’m sure they will. If I hear anything, you all will be the first to know. Okay?”

The class’s lackluster “Okay” held little anticipation of good news.

XXXXXX

Lunch time in the teacher’s lounge Linda sat with her best friend, Ginger, a petite, African American woman who kept the fifth graders in check with her good looks and piercing eyes that not even the baddest bad ass (they thought) student hiding in the back of the room would dare defy. Ginger had a soft spot for Linda because she’d lost two husbands and had some idea what Linda was feeling. Also, she knew that Linda, though soft spoken, and heartbroken at the moment, had a steel spine.

“No word?” Ginger asked while supportively rubbing her back.

“No.”

“It’s been a week. Is that good or bad?”

Linda glanced at her friend. “What do you think?”

“Yeah. This guy Noah made a big impression on you in what, twenty-four hours.”

“More like twelve.” A smile slid onto her lips. “He was the One, Ginger. Is the One. Come and gone.”

“Honey, you thought that before.”

“I know. But I’m no naïve twenty something who doesn’t listen to her friend’s advice anymore. He’s it, my friend.”

“And if he’s lost?”

“Still it.”

XXXXXX

Linda had thought she had The One once before. They’d met at a beach party, when she was twenty and you could have beach parties. Steve, handsome, oozing charm, successful, how could she not fall hard for him? There were vague rumors from her friends about him, maybe his charm wasn’t as real as it seemed, maybe his supposed success came at the expense of others.

But Linda didn’t listen, didn’t want to hear it. She knew Steve was the kindest, gentlest man ever, he took care of her, his  occasional bursts of anger were at others, never her. Three months later they were engaged and she spent most nights at his house.

Friends organized a bachelorette party, a wild night, and she bubbled with giddy anticipation. She dressed at Steve’s place, ready to walk out the door. Steve, who hadn’t been informed about the party, came home and demanded to know where she was going and with who. Not happy, he said he’d planned a quiet night at home with her and strongly insisted she’d better be back and check in with him by eleven o’clock.

Taken aback for a moment, she thought he was joking. “No, I don’t think so. Equality, remember? You were out all night at your bachelor party, so I’ll be back when my party is over.”

He wasn’t joking. He grabbed her arm. “No, back by eleven, that’s enough. And I don’t like you hanging out with those girls anyway. They’re not good for you.”

“Ow. That hurts. Let me go. And some of them have been my friends my whole life. They’re good for me. So I’ll be back when I’m back. Let go of my arm.” Linda tried to peel his fingers off her arm.

“Stop it,” he said, definitely, not joking. “I think you need to stay home.”

In a second, all her friend’s warnings flashed back through her brain. She looked him in eye and said, “No,” and tried to yank her arm loose.

His head jerked back, his lips twisted. With a quick strike he slapped her, threw her down on the bed. In seconds his expression lost its angry twist and became conciliatory, apologetic, even loving. He sat beside her, took her hand.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. I love you and only want what’s best for you. I think you should stay home tonight. You don’t want to get into any trouble before your wedding. Maybe order a pizza. You’d like that wouldn’t you?”

Linda forced a smile. Nodded. All those warnings swirled around in her head, chased by her friends’ “I-told-you-sos.”

“It’s alright. I know you’re looking after me. And yes, I would love a pizza.”

Later, when the pizza delivery kid rang the doorbell Linda said to Steve, “You sit, I’ll get it for you.” At the door she picked up her purse and coat, handed the kid twenty dollars and kept on walking.

Six months later The One went to prison for almost beating his new fiancée to death.

 

XXXXXXX

 

Two days later Linda stayed at school late grading homework when her cell phone rang. She had no desire to talk to anyone. Pushing the device away she inadvertently glanced at the caller.

Rhode Island.

Rhode Island. Her heart jumped, she couldn’t breath out. Was this the call she’d dreaded, or the one she longed for? She stared at it for two rings, then, afraid she’d miss the call, snatched it up. “Hello.”

“Hi. Is this Linda Truby?”

“Yes,” she said, wary. Inside her head – Hell yes it’s me! Tell me good news.

“My name is Maureen Davidson. I’m calling from the round the world race headquarters. We haven’t spoken before. You are wondering about Windhaven and Noah Wells.”

Linda had to suck in a deep breath to say, “Yes.”

“I’m calling all the families to update them on the search. I’m sorry to say there is no news, good or bad. The search has not ended. One of the other racers is diverting to where we think whatever happened, happened. We’ve been able to get NASA to task a satellite to search the area for three days. Nothing yet. Also, Australia is planning a long range, low level flight. They’re very good at that sort of thing.” Before the silence grew too uncomfortable, Maureen said, “Ms. Truby? Linda? Are you there?”

“Yes, yes, I’m here. Tell me, Maureen, for real, what are the real chances of finding anyone alive?”

I worked, occasionally went out with a few friends, occasionally got laid, had no interest in men.”

“Then you met Noah.”

“Yeah. Twelve hours, that’s all I knew him before I drove him to the airport and watched him fly away and started wishing he would come back.”

“He seemed like a good guy.”

“He was… is. And now there’s a good chance I’ll never see him again. All I can see ahead is me wondering what might have been.”

“But not a hundred percent chance. We’re still looking. Those Aussies are very good about search and rescue. Are you following the website?”

“Haven’t for a couple days. Guess I was afraid of seeing the search had ended.”

“Could be good news.”

“I know. But, I guess my optimism is waning.”

“That crew on that boat is a very resourceful lot. I wouldn’t give up just yet. We update every day. Keep checking.”

“Okay, thanks for calling.”

“You’re welcome. I don’t know if I should tell you this, but one of the crew on Windhaven is a good friend, and my brother is on another boat. If you feel the need to talk with someone who knows what’s happening, call me.”

Linda hung up and tried to ramp up her optimism with little success. She shed a tear, said something good about Aussies, and continued to grad papers. “Linda, I saw on the paperwork when Noah put down his contact information you were the only name. At first, he put down friend then he just looked somewhere and then changed it to girlfriend. He had no other contacts, no family, no business. I know it’s not my business, but is that correct – girlfriend?”

Linda sighed, slumped back in her chair. “You know, I don’t know who I am. Before I met Noah I was just a regular thirty-something woman with a regular life. Not happy or sad, just existing. I lived alone with no particular desire to live with anybody. I worked, occasionally went out with a few friends, occasionally got laid, had no interest in men.”

“Then you met Noah.”

“Yeah. Twelve hours, that’s all I knew him before I drove him to the airport and watched him fly away and started wishing he would come back.”

“He seemed like a good guy.”

“He was… is. And now there’s a good chance I’ll never see him again. All I can see ahead is me wondering what might have been.”

“But not a hundred percent chance. We’re still looking. Those Aussies are very good about search and rescue. Are you following the website?”

“Haven’t for a couple days. Guess I was afraid of seeing the search had ended.”

“Could be good news.”

“I know. But, I guess my optimism is waning.”

“That crew on that boat is a very resourceful lot. I wouldn’t give up just yet. We update every day. Keep checking.”

“Okay, thanks for calling.”

“You’re welcome. I don’t know if I should tell you this, but one of the crew on Windhaven is a good friend, and my brother is on another boat. If you feel the need to talk with someone who knows what’s happening, call me.”

Linda hung up and tried to ramp up her optimism with little success. She shed a tear, said something good about Aussies, and continued to grade papers.

Windhaven 19

Hi All,

Happy Thanksgiving,

I’ll be back working on Blood on the Mountain tomorrow. It’s the fourth, and last? book in the Blood Justice series of contemporary vampire thrillers.  After that I’ll be working full time on Windhaven. Post by post.

Please check out Girl at Sea. You’ll like it.

For more about my other books and stories Go Here.

WHAT Ifs–

What if you were a God and you found out that your wife, a goddess more powerful than you, was having an affair with a mortal, a sorcerer no less. You had to be careful, the god council had already censured you for your unforgiving conduct toward mortals. You decide to go after the sorcerer, but he’s a bit more powerful than you thought. And your wife is suddenly being very nice to you. She suggests you and she go on a vacation together to a little out of the way place of your godly world. You readily agree, but when you get there you begin to think maybe it wasn’t such a good idea….

 

What If a sort of down and out guy gets out of prison and goes into a bar. There he meets a Femme Fatal who has a plan if he’ll go along, money and her. All he has to do is help her kill her husband. Of course he agrees. She arranges for him to get into her house, quite a mansion, at night. He gets in and heads to the study where he finds her dead. Her husband, a judge who got him out so he could kill the wife,  has killed her.  Now he plans to kill the guy and blame him fore the murder. But the guy is not as dumb as he acts. He gets away. Now what, his only options are run or figure a plan to ruin the judge, and get the money he’s owed.

 

 

 

To start Windhaven at the beginning Go Here

Windhaven 19

Dirty gray cottonball clouds rolled toward them from the West. One didn’t have to be a weatherman to know a storm approached. Already the wind and waves announced the coming tempest.

Noah and Leigh each breathed deep and set about doing what they needed to do. They had to put away their concern about Thomas, Red and Alain and take care of the boat, without it, nobody survived.

The approaching weather allowed no time to climb the mast and set up permanent rigging. Leigh tied a small block to some eighth inch line and threw it over one of the spreaders. Noah retrieved the block and used the small line to pull up a larger line. They repeated the action with the same block over the other spreader, keeping a loop in the middle. To that loop they attached a larger block with heavier line and raised that to the spreaders. With that in place they raised a small storm sail.

Now they had some speed that would enable them to have some control of the boat. Without control, even though they had steering capability, Windhaven would likely be forced sideways to the waves, or broach, or she’d equally likely be knocked down, with the mast horizontal, the top in the water. The boat and crew were much less likely to recover from that.

The end of the race. Period.

In full foul weather gear and a thermal mug of coffee, Leigh took the first watch as the sun set behind them. Wave heights grew quickly – ten, fifteen, twenty feet. As the wind increased the waves became steeper and closer together. The small sail gave Windhaven some speed and maneuverability. Leigh used that to keep stern on to waves doing their best to capsize and sink them all.

Once she got the rhythm of it her mind was free to wander a bit. Harvey captured her thoughts. She could use his warmth and touch as night fell like a door slammed shut.

Leigh met Harvey Roberts at a going away party for Harvey and his team the night before they left for a one month trek to Patagonia. Harvey owned Climek, a hiking-climbing equipment manufacturer. He loved to test his own equipment.

A friend, who was a complete homebody, said Leigh would meet other crazy adventurers there.

Theirs was a classic movie cute meet. Leigh was not listening to a ho-hum story about getting caught in the rain a mile from home. She noticed him across the room, staring out a large window. She knew exactly what he was thinking – Let me out of here. A loud laugh drew his attention. He turned and saw her staring at him.

Their eyes caught. He smiled, amused. She smiled, shrugged – What are you going to do? He cocked his head, sent her a crooked smile. The deal was done.

Or not.

The crowd blocked her view. She had to move clockwise to get around the hall to him. Harvey did the same thing. Neither found the other – Guess they weren’t interested. They wandered to the bar for a forget-about-him-or-her-drink. They ran into each other’s smiles. Okay, maybe they were interested.

The next morning Harvey left on his trek. When he returned, Leigh was on a sailboat halfway across the Atlantic. They did get together, off and on, long enough to get married.

Just the thought of snuggling in bed with him warmed her, despite the cold-ass waves breaking over her. It helped her endure.

Noah did not sleep much. He expected to hear that roar, the sudden cut off of the wind, and the sudden rise of the boat as another monster wave tried to finish what that first one started. An uneasy sleep finally overcame him, but it did nothing to calm his fears.

He was on watch. He heard the growing roar of water mounting into a huge wave. The biggest ever. The stern rose and rose and rose until Windhaven’s bow pointed straight down. Noah cranked the wheel left right left right, hoping to break the waves hold on the boat and pass underneath. The tactic didn’t work and Windhaven fell down the impossible wall of water into an impossibly deep trough.

Tethered to the boat, Noah had seconds to decide whether to unclip his lifeline and live a few minutes longer on the surface or stay attached and allow Windhaven to drag him under and die a slightly quicker death.

Though the boat was vertical he still stood behind the wheel, boots planted to the deck. Windhaven’s bow speared the black water. In slow motion, Noah watched the dark water swallow the seventy-foot boat, dragging him along.

 The cold water paralyzed him. He held his breath, attempting to stave off that inevitable icy intrusion down his throat. Looking up, the wave seemed to be frozen in place, waiting for him to drown.

He looked down into the depths. Fish circled, waiting for him. Big fish, ugly fish, hungry fish with needle teeth and a red glint in their eye.

But then a light appeared. A fish? A big, bright fish? A person? A mermaid? Linda, a mermaid? She reached out, took his hand. “Come with me, Noah. I can save you.” Her naked upper body emitted a soft luminescence, her lower scales were a swirl of green, blue and yellow. An angel?

Somehow, he was untethered from Windhaven. He looked down, saw bodies float out of the companionway – Leigh, Red, Thomas, Alain, Larry. Each one extending an arm, an accusing finger.

“Come, Noah. Forget them.”

He turned to her, so good to see her. He couldn’t wait to hold her, feel her warmth again. He glanced up at the surface could he hold his breath long enough get there?

But she didn’t pull him up, she dragged him down. Her beautiful smile had become a needle-toothed grimace, blonde hair now black and tangled, her multicolored tail became a dull black and red and orange.

“Come on, Noah,” she said with a mock cheer. “You drove the boat and crew right down into the water. You deserve to be with them, sinking down down down into the mouths of those deep, dark monsters.” She yanked him close, face to face. “Don’t worry, it will hurt.”

“No,” he screamed. “I tried to save them. I didn’t want to hurt them. I….” Like an icy blade water forced its way down his throat as he sunk toward the waiting monsters.

“No!” Noah thrashed in his bunk, “No, Linda no.”

A wave smacked Windhaven, shaking him awake. His denials died in his throat. His heart thumped in sync with his rapid breathing. His eyes popped open. After a few minutes he settled back and wondered what Linda was doing.

 

Windhaven 18

Windhaven 18

Looking for Beta readers for a vampire thriller (4th in the Blood Justice series.) Interested – dcburtonjr@gmail.com

Don’t forget to checkout Girl at Sea, a different coming-of-age story.

Girl At Sea is a beautiful, dark, but ultimately triumphant book about recognizing evil that exists within some people, but also accepting the goodness that can be found through genuine friendship, lovers, and family. Only then can the albatross fall from our necks and we can truly be free. ” Julie Sara Porter — full review here.

Or – Fear Killer , a different psychological thriller.

WhatIfs –story ideas.

What if a woman from the future shows up to prevent the assassination of a president. After the present president was killed the VP became a cruel and greedy dictator who destroyed the country’s democracy and forced millions into poverty, and became her father.  Working with rebels they created a time machine to send her back. She teams up with an FBI agent who believes her. Together they are able to stop the assassination, meanwhile falling in love.  The thing is, if the killing never happens, she never exists. Will she just disappear? How deep is their love of country compared to their love of each other?

What if

What if a male vampire and a female Immortal hooked up and fell in love? How would their story play out? Maybe the vamps hate the Immortal. They can’t kill her so what do they try? What if a male Immortal is obsessed with her? Would he team up with the vamps to do…? Maybe the couple would move away. Could they have a baby? Maybe adopt an abandoned/abused kid. Maybe the obsessed Immortal tracks them down, discovers the kid and forms a demented plan to make the woman fall for him.

Talk about love that will never die.

 

Windhaven is all first draft. Be kind.

To start Windhaven from the beginning go HERE

Windhaven 18

 After Noah managed to go below and get some rest, Leigh stayed on deck. She walked the long cockpit surveying the damage, thinking she’d start to clean up, but quickly abandoned that idea. Up forward she wandered the deck with a flashlight, inspecting the damage, all the while shaking her head and muttering “Fuck, man. What the fuck? Are you shitting me?” The muttering and shaking kept her from thinking that they were totally alone, with thousands of miles to go and could expect no help. Though she had a reputation for being tough and competent and optimistic, she was scared and beginning to doubt herself.

She barely knew Noah. They had been on different watches, but he seemed to be competent and level headed. That was good, she would need him. Deep down she really thought she could survive and get the boat to safety. Taking care of Thomas was another thing. That, she could not do alone.

XXXXXX

By mid-morning they had made little progress sorting out the night’s disaster. They had secured the boom and some of the rigging so they could move around. The steering still worked, though the wheel had a large dent. The extra compass had not been found.

They made a plan to put up some sail. Putting the plan in action necessitated someone had to climb to the spreaders and rig some lines. Because of Noah’s injuries it had to be either Leigh or Leigh.

Hands in pockets, they stood side by side, gazing up at the mast remnant.

“We can throw a line over the spreader, pull up a block with a line in it and I can winch you up. Easy.”

“Yeah, easy.”

Neither one made a move.

“You know there’s something else we need to do. Not easy.”

Noah blew out a breath. “I know. It’s just… that… I can’t see myself doing… that. Cutting through. It’s very possible he’ll die on us.”

“I know, but if we don’t….”

It took Noah a minute to say, “I’m terrified to do this.”

“Me too.”

Noah shut his eyes tight. He didn’t like the visions he saw. Eyes open, he turned to Leigh.

She followed suit.

He gripped her shoulders, she held his arms.

“It has to be done,” Leigh said.

“Now,” Noah said.

They touched foreheads, taking courage from each other.

 

“Thomas?” Leigh said.

Thomas lay still, eyes closed, breathing shallow. “Are you the Grim Reaper now, Leigh?”

“I hope not,” she said, all serious. “We need you to climb up what’s left of the mast.”

He reached out and took her hand. “Before or after you cut off my leg?”

“Jesus, Thomas. Were you eavesdropping again?”

“Didn’t have to. Knew it was coming.”

“Right. Well, now’s the time. Take these pills. They should knock you out.”

“It’s going to hurt, isn’t it?”

“At some point, I expect so.”

With some difficulty, he swallowed the pills one by one.

“Noah?”

“He’s collecting the… tools.”

“I’m here, Thomas.” He took his friend’s hand. “You know what’s happening?”

Thomas gave a weak squeeze. His voice a rough whisper, he said, “For another ten minutes. You’ve been a good friend, Noah. Know this is hard on you. Nice knowing you.”

“We can talk about that later. It is and will be nice knowing you.”

“Right. Thanks for trying.” Thomas sighed and slipped into unconsciousness.

“We didn’t just kill him did we?”

Hands washed and gloved, scalpel and hacksaw retrieved from boiling water, bungee cords and quarter inch line for a tourniquet, and curved needles and thread for stitches gathered, Noah and Leigh gathered themselves and started.

Leigh held the scalpel over Thomas’s leg six inches below the knee. Her hand shook slightly. Noah gently held her hand and nodded – let’s-do-it.

Leigh, her hand steady, made the first cut across the bone. Then she cut through the flesh and muscle and tendons. No hesitation now. Slicing, slicing down to the bone, reaching under to cut up, reaching over to extend the cut all the way around. After a short burst of blood the tourniquet held the blood to a slow seep.

Noah pulled the flesh down so she could get completely to the bone. Once the bone was exposed, their expressions grimly neutral, Noah took the hacksaw while Leigh pulled the flesh tight to the knee. Noah, as if sawing a pipe, cut through the Tibia then quickly through the smaller Fibia.

The now free leg dropped away. Both of them breathed deep tension releasing breaths.

Leigh held out the scalpel.

Noah gingerly moved the dead leg away then with the scalpel made a deep incision in the left and right side of the flesh below the knee. The top and bottom flaps overlapped the bone stubs by an inch. When pressed together the bones were completely covered and the there was a closed seam all the way around.

“Is he still alive?” Noah asked.

“So far.”

“Should we release the tourniquets a little? Make sure there’s blood to the end?”

“I don’t know. Probably. A little.”

Leigh held the flaps together while Noah loosened the bungee cord then cautiously loosened the line tourniquet.

“Shit. Come on blood,” Leigh muttered.

Nothing happened for a few seconds that felt like minutes. Then, a few drops seeped out. Leigh loosened her grip. “That’s it, blood. Come on out.” Once blood colored the whole fleshy seam she tightened her grip and Noah tightened the tourniquet.

“Okay, let’s sew it up before I throw up,” Noah said.

“Fuck, man. You and me both.”

Noah held the skin together while Leigh sewed the two parts together from one end of the cut to the other. Her stitches weren’t pretty, but they did the job.

Shoulder to shoulder they watched as the skin gained a little color and blood oozed out the very end. “Doc,” Noah said, hand on her shoulder, “I can’t believe we actually did that.”

Leigh leaned against him. “Do you think he’ll survive?”

“I don’t know. I say we pour alcohol on it, clean up the blood, bandage it and get some fresh air. That’s all we can do.”

Fifteen minutes later from the cockpit they surveyed all the work needing to be done, searched for the sun in the thickening clouds and shared one of the few remaining beers. With little ceremony besides a few words from Noah they consigned Thomas’s leg to the sea.

“Weather’s coming,” Leigh observed.

“Of course it is.”

Thanks for reading. Suggestions and comments are welcome.