Call of the Sea

I am out on the ocean afraid for my life. Sunset is just about done now, the sky has darkened and clouds obscure the rising moon. The humidity has thickened with the onset of nightfall. The shipping lane is a half nautical mile away off of our starboard, a fierce wind is blowing across the port bow as the sailboat pitches and rolls in the swell of the waves. Jack the owner and skipper has gone below to sleep and I am left alone for the next four hours on the night watch.

I am dressed too warmly for this subtropical climate but I know that a fierce squall is coming and I need to protect my itchy sunburned skin from the pellets of rain. I squirm around trying to keep my foothold on the deck and still keep a tight grasp on the wheel with both hands. I’d prefer to be sitting along side the gunwales but then I can’t see over the top of the cabin. The tether gives me six feet of room to roam but I feel compelled to stay here with my eyes glued to starboard. Please, please I think to myself don’t let a freighter cross our path.

I think about being out here in this vast ocean. Nothing but water and more water, strong winds and big waves. Relentless motion. We are a good three miles off the eastern seaboard and I think for the thousandth time that this trip was the biggest mistake of my life so far. I have enjoyed the days we have made landfall but they have been few and far between. Thank goodness only a few more days before I leave this vessel and fly home. I’m itching to get out of here in more ways than one.

I realize I haven’t been concentrating on the job at hand as the sailboat takes a sudden turn to windward. In my reverie I hadn’t even noticed the rain which now was starting to come down in sheets. I turn my head and I see some objects moving in the air. Many somethings. Oh wow, flying silver fish. They are landing on the boat. I feel my body tense up as a dozen or so make contact with me and flop down onto the slippery deck. Eww, I step on a few trying to keep my balance as the boat starts to round up and the sail flops uselessly. The boat slows down and stalls and I know I desperately need to have Jack’s assistance at the helm before we broach and are swamped.

Jack clambers onto the deck from below and wrestles the wheel from me as a large wave shoulders itself over the side picking both of us up and slamming me against the bulwark. I’m stunned and disoriented but still tethered by my lifeline. I don’t see Jack anywhere on the boat. Has he gone overboard? I know I need to make a MayDay call on the VHF radio before it gets waterlogged and stops working. I hope and pray there is a freighter nearby to come and save us.

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