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#1 Jan 17, 2021 3:31 pm

New Historian

Another "incoming!!" yarn

This one's pure fiction, from The Great Grenadian Novel, which I started about 20 years ago, but ....

    Between New Zealand and Australia lies the Tasman Sea, a cantankerous and sometimes treacherous body of water known for sudden southerly storms called busters, which come howling up from Antartica without warning. We listened to the long-range weather forecast and figured it was as safe as ever to begin the crossing. For the first three days we had a beautiful northeasterly wind at 15-20 knots, and we flew along under main, mizzen, trysail and poled-out genoa. Then the barometer started to drop, and we listened with alarm as the weather forecast warned of a rapidly developing low pressure system coming up from the south - a buster. It caught up with us that night during Mike's watch.  I awoke just before Mike shouted for me to get on deck, where I felt the sting of the ocean and saw the jib flapping about wildly in the rising wind.

    Even in the darkness I could see the menacing squall line swiftly bearing down on us.  This was to be my first experience of a real storm, and it was going to be a bad one.  I felt the hackles rise on the back of my neck. Never mind the bravado, I was scared shitless. Fortunately we were far out at sea, so didn't have to worry about reefs or other boats. While Mike disengaged the wind vane and hand-steered a course, running with the wind, Cecile and I rushed to batten down the boat and secure all loose items.

       The wind picked up to a howl and the seas rose up in steep, confused waves, which crashed over the decks. With the wind rising so rapidly we had to get the mainsail down in a hurry. Cecile released the main halyard as I grappled with the wet flapping Dacron. With the pressure of the wind from astern, the mainsail would not budge, despite my frantic attempts to control it. I felt the wind pick up, and knew that if the sail didn't come down in a matter of seconds, it was going to burst open or, worse yet, roll us over. As I freed the topmost batten from the spreader and started to inch down the mainsail, I heard Mike scream.

    'Incoming!'  I turned in horror as a solid wall of water rose up over Desire, spuming and vicious in its majesty, poised to smash this fragile contraption, which had dared to challenge the anger of the ocean. Lightening flashed, the scene froze in my mind forever.

    'Oh fu......'  Before the word could come out, tons of ice cold Tasman Sea cascaded onto the decks of Desire. CRACK! was the last sound I heard, before I was washed overboard, trying desperately to grab the starboard guardrail. I failed. As my fingers slid off the slippery rail in the swirling madness of water, I knew I was dead. I had foolishly neglected to secure my lifeline, and there was no way that Mike and Cecile would find me in this sea, if they themselves managed to survive and turn the boat around. They say that in moments of impending death, your life flashes before your eyes. Bullshit. What flashed before me was my death: like this? Frozen and alone? I saw my mother's face, and felt strangely at peace.

    The sound I had heard was the mast crashing against the water.  I looked in horror as Desire lay on her side, water pouring in through the main hatch. Already the boat was being carried away from me as I fought to keep my head above an avalanche of angry water. Another wave came behind and I felt myself rise up, so that I was looking down on the boat, lying stricken and abeam in the water. The second wave threw me forward, almost against the stern of Desire. As I flailed about helplessly in the water, I felt something slimy across my back. The overboard rope! Many long-distance cruisers habitually tow a long line attached to the stern, just in case someone should fall overboard in the middle of the night.

         We had tied ours on at the beginning of the voyage and had forgotten about it. I thrashed around to find it, for at the speed Desire was travelling it would be gone in an instant. I found it, and struggled to get a grip on the seaweed-covered rope. Fortunately I had tied knots in it when I had laid it out, so many weeks previously. I remembered joking to Mike: 'Imagine the poor bastard, trying to get a grip on the last knot as the boat sails away into the night'. Little did I know that poor bastard would be me! I got a grip, and clung on for dear life.

    Desire was still lying on her side, but as the heavy keel exerted a righting moment, she slowly rose from the water, shuddering and rearing up like a wounded buffalo. Amazingly, the mast was still standing. Throughout all this drama, Mike had remained lashed behind the wheel, fighting like a deranged Captain Ahab to maintain some semblance of control over the boat. Cecile had also been washed overboard, but unlike me she had been wearing her safety harness and was busy clambering back on board. They had seen me go over, but were each caught in their own battles for survival. I inched myself forward along the slimy rope until I reached the stern, and climbed onto the self-steering gear. As I collapsed into the bottom of the cockpit, wide-eyed and heavier by about a gallon of seawater, Mike looked down at me.

    'Where the fuck have you been?' he said, smiling. My death and resurrection had happened so quickly I was still in a state of shock. I stared at him dumbly then I realized. There's no time for melodrama, just get on with it.

    'Went for a dip.' I grinned sheepishly and sputtered to my feet.

Last edited by New Historian (Jan 17, 2021 3:47 pm)


#2 Jan 29, 2021 11:56 am


Re: Another "incoming!!" yarn

" This one's pure fiction  "  lol
.... beginning   of the great novel .
" you've got to write short stories  NH   ..... and little plays.  Don't waste your descriptive talent , dryly , go for the action and tension in the short story.
... Ask the JA for any help you may need . After the Mandingo jealousy , say you are a new man.


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