All water based activity had fizzled to a halt. There was no fishing and no work while we impatiently waited for Hurricane Frances to brush past.
Only a handful of vessels, all old classics and well traveled, rested at anchor near us. There was Joe, the semi retired locksmith and veteran who cruised in a small sloop, and a resourceful guy named Guy. Tommy, a retired ex-smuggler who lived up to the term ‘old salt,’ lived aboard a wooden pilot sloop.
Our unique little group waited out the weather, keeping an eye on each other and on the roiling, agitated skies. We were under a tropical storm warning and the suspense was almost antagonistic.
“Maybe we should’ve hid,” Bill radioed with his marine VHF.
“Too late now,” I responded. A cold wind ruffled my hair and Angel
rocked in the building seas. Lightning’s serrated flicker repeatedly flashed in the distance. Thunder boomed. Low, dense clouds with torn edges raced overhead. Wind began to shriek through my rigging and someone’s halyard clanked nearby. The sky shattered.
Tightly clinging to the wooden handrails, I peered beyond the companionway. Despite being shielded by Angel’s
windshield-like dodger, rain managed to splatter my face. Through the haze of pelting rain, I watched Bill’s boat nearby.
bow thudded over the wind blown waves. Captain Bill was clinging in Defiant’s
cockpit, likewise watching Angel
leaping in place. After a short time I thought I heard Bill shout over the storm. I could only make out a few words.
“HEY! Look—“ Bill waved at me and pointed toward his boat’s bow. “HEY, a water—OH!” Both sailboat and captain momentarily disappeared behind a twisting mass of water and atomized spray. Like a child’s plaything, the big ketch spun in a half circle.
Then, the boat was shoved on her side, hissing vortexes of spray whirling around us. There was no sign of Bill. As if pinned by an invisible, giant hand, Defiant
lay there, tilting precariously. I entertained the strange image of her mast banging into my own boat’s leaning hull.
Suddenly immune to gravity, Defiant’s
three boat fenders rose straight into the air, leashed by their ropes. What appeared to be towels and pieces of fabric took flight and disappeared into the howling, wet chaos. The unseen hand released the hapless ketch. She bounced upright, nose snapping around to point into the wind’s eye. The waterspout, a tornado at sea, had moved onwards.
Wet hair porcupined every which way, Bill reappeared. Unable to be heard over the winds and thunder, I frantically waved at him in an are-you-okay?
gesture. He patted himself then spread his arms in a wide shrug.
Later I’d learn that Bill and his boat were undamaged except for an angular bruise on Bill’s leg and some lost towels and articles of clothing. The waterspout that bowled Defiant
over had been a small model. Anything larger and Bill would’ve been stitching a new dodger. After the weather’s deranged theater, our steadfast little group at anchor heaved a collective sigh of relief. No one’s anchor had been up-rooted. Everyone was in place. But we couldn’t get back to work just yet...
excerpt from the true adventures in Sail With Me and Odd Jobs