Monday, September 3, 2012

Breaking Anchor - Part 30 of 44

© 2012 by Henry Melton

Chapter 30 -- Reprisal
Tommy smelled bacon before he heard anyone stirring. He dressed hurriedly and opened the door. Marilu smiled at his appearance. The sizzle of grease over the burner sounded wonderful.
“How long until breakfast?”
She waved the spatula in thought. “Oh, ten minutes, maybe.”
“Great. I’ve just gotta check a few things.” He went up the steps.
Dawn had put the town into silhouette, and he could see a couple of early boaters making waves as they pulled out of the Macatawa Bay into the lake proper. No one had come close in the night, and no one was paying them any attention.
It’ll be even easier after we get done this morning.
He’d left the book of charts up at the helm, and he wiped it clean of the dew before looking carefully through the pages.
I wish there was a deserted little island or secluded cove, like we had back in Kentucky Lake.
But on this part of Lake Michigan, it was nothing but smooth shores, and every harbor was a river or lake entrance that was now populated. I’ll just have to make do.
But the chart gave him a rough place to head.
With a real flame to cook over, breakfast was wonderful. Microwave had limits.
“Who are the best swimmers here?” Tommy asked, once he demolished a second order of pancakes.
Marvin looked puzzled. “I can swim. So can Bree. Why do you ask?”
Tommy patted his mouth and held up one finger. He went into his bedroom and came back with a two foot long cardboard mailer.
“I found this in a storage area underneath the deck.” He pulled it open and carefully slid out the contents, a large decal. “Reprisal” it said. On a separate decal in smaller letters, “Detroit, MI”.
Tommy laid it carefully on the facing bench. “It seems Nick had been thinking ahead. He must have ordered this set before the troubles. This is why he scraped the Marissa’s real name off the hull. It’s a fake name that can be easily installed.
“Now that we suspect that the company has photos of the ship with no registration name painted on the sides and stern, the best thing we can do is put these in place as soon as possible.
“But it’ll take two or three of us, and at least one of us has to get in the water while it’s applied. I can swim, but I’m not an expert.”
“I’ll do it,” offered Bree.
“No. I’m the one.” Marvin grinned at his daughter. “I’ll need you fresh to rescue me afterwards.”
They sailed up the coast about four miles, anchoring far enough off shore that it wouldn’t be obvious what was going on, should a curious farmer haul out his binoculars.
There were three sets, four decals in all. The port sign went on the stern. The name only went on the bow.
It went smoothly. Tommy and Bree hung the decals over the side, keeping them oriented properly, while Marvin, bobbing in his lifejacket and shivering from the cold, applied the brush to smooth the decal into place.
“Let’s get you below and warmed up,” Marilu said, holding out the towel as they helped Marvin back onto the deck. He nodded stiffly. His skin was covered with goosebumps and he hurried below.
“Good job,” he said to Bree. “I guess it’s up to us to raise anchor and head out -- unless you want to change first?”
She was in her bikini and the life jacket for the job, and the cool morning breeze obviously had given her a little chill as well.
But she shook her head. “I’ll steer. I hate the winch. It scares me.”
He nodded. Wise to stay uncomfortable around powered rotating wheels and gears this far from emergency rooms.
They were underway in minutes.
“I’ll handle the wheel. I’ve got this sailing thing down.”
Tommy smiled, and let her drive for a bit. Thirty minutes or so later, she adjusted the sails, gaining another half knot on the speed.
She looked back at where he sat. “You don’t have to baby-sit me. I know what I’m doing.”
Her skills hadn’t been his concern. He’d been thinking about the equipment he’d seen last night, down in the hidden parts of the ship. That and enjoying those parts of the view unobscured by white bikini and orange lifejacket.
They were beyond sight of land, and the clouds of the past couple of days had dissipated. It was going to be a nice warm day, but the winds were still relatively steady, otherwise he would have objected to the way she’d trimmed the sails.
“You know, there’s still a lot to learn about sailing.”
She tilted her nose a little higher. “I know more than you think. I’ve been reading those sailing magazines you have on the shelf below. There’s nothing else to do on this trip.”
He was pleased, but he didn’t want to show it. Those magazines were a little old, but sailing advice didn’t age much.
Maybe it was time for a training exercise.
Slowly, he got to his feet. He stepped over to a storage bin and pulled out a lifejacket.
“You know, I don’t think anyone really learns all there is to know about sailing. It takes a long time, and even then, there’s always a little something more that can bite you.
“Did you read those little stories about ‘This Month’s Shipwreck’? It’s often something simple that gets the sailor in trouble, and surprisingly often it’s someone who’s been sailing for years.”
Bree hunched her shoulders, as if getting ready to let him have it. He raised his hand. “I can see you’re learning fast. Going from nothing to being ready to sail the ship single-handed in just a couple of days is remarkable.
“In fact, I think maybe it’s about time for the man-overboard lesson.”
She frowned. “What’s that?”
He shook the lifejacket. “This is me.” He tossed it easily over the railing. It splashed into the water.
“Man overboard!” He pointed to the jacket, rapidly receding, bobbing in the wake. “Go rescue me.”
Her mouth dropped open. “What?”
He glanced at the GPS, memorizing the co-ordinates, just in case. He plopped down on the bench, folding his hands behind his head and looking up at the sails.
“Help. Help. I’m drowning.” He smiled.
She looked back at the little patch of orange, her face strained. “What do I do?”
He shrugged. “I’m not here.”
She was frozen at the wheel.
“Help help, I’m drowning.” He mumbled.
She stared at the wheel and the controls, as if she’d never seen them before. She turned the wheel to port, but the sail caught more air, and the ship began to heel alarmingly. She corrected.
The life jacket was barely visible.
She turned to starboard, and the sails began luffing. Their speed dropped quickly. Tommy could tell that they were going to stall out unless she adjusted the sails.
But Bree was confused, turning the wheel even more.
He tried to keep a straight face. She snarled at him.
“What’s going on?” Marvin came out of the hatchway.
Tommy just smiled. Bree pointed at him angrily, “He’s being mean!”
Marvin looked to him.
“Training scenario. I fell overboard.” He looked at his watch. “Over a minute ago. I’m back there, watching my ship sail away.”
For punctuation, he repeated, “Help help, I’m drowning.”
Marvin looked to Bree. “Go get him.”
She glared at the both of them, and took a deep breath.
The ship was stalled out in the no-go zone, pointed upwind with the sails flapping uselessly. She turned the wheel, but it did nothing.
Tommy raised his arm and slowly, deliberately looked at his watch.
Bree struggled with the unresponsive ship for a moment, and then sagging, asked, “Help.”
He shook his head. “I’m not here. I’m back there freezing to death.”
Marvin moved around. “Here, let me.”
Bree moved aside, and he repeated a lot of the things his daughter had tried. He managed to get the sail to catch some wind, but it was at the wrong angle and they started drifting backward, stern first. Waves hit the transom and splashed high, getting them all wet. The rudder was at the wrong angle, and the ship began to heel again.
Tommy grabbed the rail. It was alarming, but it would take much stronger winds than these to put them in any danger, so he just gripped tight, and held on.
Marvin let out the main sheet and let the sail flap.
He looked to Tommy, but received no hints.
“Okay. Enough of this!” He reached for the switches and began dropping the sails.
“How do you turn on the engine?” He fumbled, looking for an ignition switch. Finally, he applied the throttle, just as the sails came down, and smiled broadly when the prop started turning.
“Where is ‘Tommy’?” he asked his daughter.
“It’s a lifejacket. Back there, somewhere.”
With power, and control, and no danger of turning the ship over, they turned about and started hunting.
Since Bree had stalled them out so quickly, they hadn’t gone very far, but even so, they had to hunt. Neither of them knew exactly which direction they had been traveling. Marvin checked for signs of their wake, but in the chop, it was too late to see it.
Bree offered suggestions. She had some sense of which direction the wind had been in when he had ‘gone overboard’.
Eventually, as they cruised back at less than a walking pace, Bree shouted. “There it is!”
Marvin turned to port and told her, “Grab it.”
He steered close to the lifejacket, and she held onto the railing with one hand as she grabbed with the other. They were going too fast, and she lost her footing as the water tugged at the jacket. She went down on one knee, barely hanging on.
Marvin abandoned the wheel and grabbed her.
Wet and triumphant she dropped ‘Tommy’ on the deck.
“There! Are you satisfied?”

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