Back to SOGGERS’ PATH
LIST all chapters
READ previous chapter
READ next chapter

43: Distressed



When essential things of life are gone—
hot water’s off and the cold is on
the food is good but you hate the chef
music’s sweet but you’d rather be deaf—

And the situation’s out of hand
with the ship off course too close to land
and you’re frightened stiff while to your mind
the skipper’s insane ’cause he’s running her blind

You’ve had more than enough and you want redress
from this manifest list of—cargo—distress


Howard Godwin did not take kindly to becoming forced crew—not that there was much forcing aboard TJUTELA. It was a ‘do what you want to and join in if you will’ sort of press-gang method.

     He chose to do nothing and not participate. He was definitely mutinous.

     It was the idea of having been hauled off without his consent that rankled. He felt that David had no right to do any such thing—in which assumption he was probably correct—not taking into consideration that in his own odd way his brother thought he was doing something for the good of Howard’s welfare.

     Howard wasn’t of the opinion that he needed any help in that direction. He was happily and recklessly roaring down his own path of self-satisfaction and he figured that it was his right to do so and that other people should practise hands-off where that was concerned. After all, he didn’t tell them how to enjoy life—if they even knew how.

     As far as responsible social behaviour was concerned—his surprised reaction to his father when the subject came up had been—’What do you mean?! Am I not behaving socially enough? I can hit a few more parties if you’d like.’

     The explanation which followed was carefully poured into the funnel of one ear and streamed rapidly out the other, as all of his father’s admonitions and exhortations were. His take of things was—’What the hell do fathers know about the scene I’m operating in? They’re all petrified wood—said process happening somewhere very early in life—just after they’ve had a kid or two—at least the ones who stay married.’

     Howard wasn’t into marriage. He certainly didn’t want to end up a deadhead like the vision he had of his father.

     As for David’s ideas about how the world operated, they were simply too weird to be given any sort of serious consideration. Howard had deduced that brother David was totally out of touch with the world brother Howard operated in.

     Non-cooperation prevailed aboard TJUTELA.

- - -

The first night out the unwilling crew had harboured the wild idea of waiting for David to fall asleep so that he could get his hands on the controls, but after thinking that one over for awhile he remembered that David had the keys to the engine, he hadn’t the faintest idea of where to head, travelling at night was not his forte, and anyway, he realised the obvious flaw in this plan—his brother would wake up.

     He abandoned that useless bit of plotting, bunked down and slept solidly all night, tired out from fuming and sulking and all that fresh air he wasn’t used to.

     On the second morning his furious and unwise attempt to force his big brother to turn around by throwing himself overboard without a lifejacket had only resulted in a chilling and tiring swim, after which he had been brought aboard just before he felt he was about to drown.

     This unpremeditated performance had also touched off a serious one-sided conversation from his brother regarding the merits of such idiocy and the difficulties of getting a man in the water back aboard a moving boat again and how fortunate it was that it was calm weather and that Howard was such a good swimmer and that such stupidity could result in... .

     “Yeah, sure,” growled Howard while he yanked off his wet clothes as he’d been told to, having already felt like what it could result in, and not at all giving credit to the skill of the skipper in getting him back aboard, “Fuddle off!”

     David started a pot of coffee instead and then turned to rubbing his brother down so vigorously that Howard thought half his skin had been left on the towel when the job was finished. He drank the coffee, with a grudging acceptance and a thankful, shivering body after putting on the tee shirt, jeans and socks David provided him with.

     The plunge had also done in his bright red hair-tipping which had looked like the perky, fluffy topnotch feathers of a pileated woodpecker when he had started out on this unwanted cruise, but which now gave him the appearance of a somewhat bedraggled young cockerel who had been caught in a rainstorm and hadn’t made it back to the shelter of the coop fast enough, causing ruination of his fine new tail feathers from having dragged them through muddy puddles in his hasty scramble for home.

     The topnotch had now acquired a somewhat rusty and definitely less perky appearance.

     After the ‘man overboard’ equipment had been stowed the sea voyage continued. Howard decided that this captain apparently had no idea of where he was going and had kidnapped his brother just for laughs to keep him amused along the way to a watery nowhere.

     His threat to charge David with abduction and unlawful confinement, was cheerfully replied to with,

     “Hey, good thinking, How. Apart from the fact that a few people heard you saying you’d forgotten the boat race as you came along quietly, I’ll bet Mom and Dad would really be pleased to have me publicly blurting out all the details of why I brought you on this cruise. Maybe two sons gone wrong is better than just one.”

     Howard hadn’t thought of himself as a ‘gone wrong’ son. He was just doing what everybody else’s sons were doing—normal things—normality being a quality manufactured and held in the mind of the owner of same. He was convinced that David was a kook and he himself at least was in his right mind—which he felt was quite different to the way David behaved.

     In that conviction he was quite right. The two were poles apart.

     Ulf and Gurth seemed to know something was wrong and they gave him a lot of sympathy, except he figured they were just strike-breaking scabs and he didn’t want to be seen collaborating with the other side. He tried to ignore them, which wasn’t easy because they didn’t know he was holding out, and they kept on treating him like he was a welcome member of the crew

     When the boat anchored in the evenings it was always in some out of the way hole in a cliff away from all civilisation and, as he scanned the rocky shores around them, they offered no hope of aid. Better to stay aboard in safety—and comfort—than to try scrambling around unknown wilderness.

     Unlike some young men who had previously jumped ship in years past, and with some reflecting on his cold water effort to gain freedom, he had decided that he wasn’t that desperate anymore.

     After awhile he found that his sullen refusal to do anything at all became terribly boring. His non-compliance simply made him feel like a fool because David just kept on being nice, made jokes which Howard had a hard time ignoring, laughed a lot, made good food—which Howard eventually ate some of because he was famished—played his flute, and was so damned good-natured about it all that the shanghaied victim had decided he might as well co-operate a little—under duress.

     He was getting the definite impression that the pressure tactics he used on his parents and everybody else to get his own way were not going to work on this seemingly iron-willed if somewhat demented big brother of his.

- - -

The fourth morning after leaving home berth arrived, the land displayed on the horizon was still far away and Howard was empty of ideas on how to make the boat turn around and go back where it had come from.

     He took a shower—a nice, lengthy, hot one so that he could think things out, but in the middle of applying the soothing liquid to his anguished self it abruptly stopped being delivered from the shower head.

     David, careful seaman that he was, cut off the water with the shout,

     “Damn it Howie, we’re not connected to the city waterworks! This stuff has to last us until we hit land.”

     His angry response as he wiped billowing shampoo from all over himself was,

     “Well the sooner you run this bloody tub aground the better then!”

     Howard dearly wished for this happenstance. He wanted off. His sneak efforts to radio for help had been foiled because it seemed that David had removed an essential piece from that equipment, and his furtive efforts to turn up a cell phone had produced only amused smiles from his brother when he was caught rifling through things, as he was asked if he’d lost something.

     Howard figured it was locked away in the liquor locker.

     The first day out he’d tried to open that while sulking below, desperately wanting a drink of something more bracing than coffee. He had been feeling definite symptoms of mal de mer, caused more from his previous evening’s carousing than from the motion of the boat.

     David’s voice had reached him, offering,

     “Maybe I could teach you how to pick a lock sometime—not today though. Try some peppermint tea.”

     It appeared that all avenues of escape, or relief with the use of intoxicants, had been well removed from his grasp.

     It was on that fourth day, early in the afternoon, while David was taking him through the paces of tacking the yawl, that mutiny arose in Howard again.

     He was feeling good, really good. His spirits were up, his wit was back and his appetite matched both. He felt cocky and confident of himself in spite of his bedraggled feathers and it was in this mood that his penchant for mischief surfaced again.

     <He puts me in charge of the mainsheet and he thinks I know nothing and here he is blowing off about being careful not to jibe and not to let the boom crash—and all that other stuff he’s always ranting on about. If he’s that concerned maybe he should look after it all himself.>

     Howard decided to take some of the hot air out of his big overbearing brother. He’d heard jokes about people being dumped by the boom and here was his opportunity.

     “Ready about,” came the call.

     “Ready,” returned Howard, and the moment he heard the response of ‘Hard alee,’ he let go the mainsheet—then reached over and released the halyard for the mainsail—which lowered the boom.

     David, who had his head tilted up to check the wind indicator, turning the wheel and his head at the same time, was confronted with an expanse of white sail coming toward him at speed, bearing with it a large, well-shaped, beautifully varnished and weighty piece of wood—a king-sized club.

     His reflex action was to throw up his arm to protect his head and to duck sideways, but the wind was faster than he was. The ‘thunk’ when man and boom came into contact was quite audible. David jack-knifed against the wheel, slid off and fell onto his back in the bottom of the cockpit-well, where he stayed, unmoving, while TJUTELA, surprised by this unorthodox procedure, floundered and flapped, uncontrolled.

     Laughing loudly, Howard quickly raised the head of the mainsail, snapped the mainsheet home curtailing the swing of the boom, and got ready to repulse his brother’s attack.

     There was nothing except the sound of TJUTELA cutting through the water.

     Howard saw David then, lying where he’d fallen, with Ulf and Gurth on either side, anxiously nosing about.

     He hesitated.

     <He’s fooling. He’s going to grab me as soon as I go near.>

     He waited.

     “Div?”

     Nothing happened.

     “David?”

     There was something about the slack lines of the man lying there which brought home to Howard that it wasn’t feigned.

     Sudden alarm rose up.

     “Move it you two,” he ordered the two samoyeds as he bent over his brother.

     There was a red line running from David’s chin, across his cheek and over the corner of his eye, disappearing into his hairline, and it was swelling rapidly into a sizeable weal.

     “I was just kidding,” he breathed, almost in a whisper as he stared at the line puffing up.

     <What the hell should I do now?>

     Then he straightened up, cleared himself through the pilot house and down the companionway, jerked open the refrigerator, pulled out the ice cube trays, grabbed a towel and got back on deck again.

     He had difficulty raising David’s shoulders. The ten pounds or so of head with its wealth of hair fell heavily against him. He hadn’t realised what the expression ‘dead weight’ really meant until now, and David was no lightweight. Yanking his brother along Howard leaned him against the bulkhead, turned his head sideways, made a long bundle of ice and towel and laid it along the welt on David’s face. He straightened the unconscious man’s legs and thought some more.

     <Shock or something maybe? Damn! Why didn’t I pay more attention when people have talked about things like this?>

     To reassure himself, he laid his ear against the injured man’s chest, listening to his brother’s heart beating. It seemed surprisingly loud and steady, and the breathing wasn’t ragged.

     “You’ll be okay—just a little concussion,” he said aloud, comforting himself with the useless phrases by the sound of his own voice and not sure as to what the last word he’d used might imply.

     Still, as he sat there watching his unmoving brother and the minutes went by he couldn’t help getting anxious. With Ulf and Gurth looking on, he shifted the towel full of ice a bit, and folded David’s arms over his chest, which made him look too much like a corpse to Howard’s way of thinking, so he straightened them instead.

     That was when he saw that David’s right arm had a large red swelling on it, which indicated that the arm had likely taken part of the impact and fended off some of the force.

     He took a little of the melting ice from the towel, put it on the arm, and waited some more.

     TJUTELA sailed a bit unsteadily on, expecting orders, and Howard began to wonder uneasily just where they were heading. All David had said was that being away from land for awhile would be good for them. He became uncomfortably aware that he didn’t know too much about running this boat.

     <What if the weather blows up or something?>

     He didn’t want to admit it but he was getting close to fear. Horrible words like ‘fractured skull’ and ‘brain haemorrhage’ crept into his mind, although David’s face and breathing didn’t show any of those signs.

     <Maybe I’d better call for help.>

     He was about to head for the radio telephone when he remembered that it had been decommissioned by David.

     <Now I’ve really done it! What if he dies? I’ve killed him! Flares. There have to be flares somewhere. Why didn’t I listen? Maybe somebody will see if I shoot one off.>

     He was about to get up and start looking for some when David opened his eyes.

     Immense relief took over from Howard’s near panic.

     “Div?”

     David pushed himself up on his left forearm, showering tinkling ice cubes around him as the towel fell off his face. He looked at Howard, gazed vacantly off into the distance, looked back at his brother again and then asked in a puzzled voice,

     “What are you doing aboard?”

     Genuine fright took Howard over. He stared, unbelieving, then said stupidly and with desperate hope,

     “Are you okay?”

     “Nope,” returned David, swallowing rapidly. “Outta the way How. I’m gonna be sick.”

     With that he crawled to the coaming, leaned over and began to retch. The sight and sound of it as David gasped for breath, in between violently heaving, was devastating to Howard’s already tattered nerves. He turned his back, screwed his eyes shut and clamped his hands over his ears. When the muffled sounds coming through his defences had subsided he turned around. David was leaning against the coaming, grey in the face and still gasping.

     “Would you,” said the disabled skipper, “Mind throwing—a couple of buckets of—water over the hull? I made—a mess.”

     All Howard could do was nod. He picked up the damp towel and thrust it quickly and wordlessly at his brother who was still drooling a little. He felt sick himself.

     “Geeze! What did I do?” came the next question as David’s hand came in contact with his swollen face while he wiped.

     “The boom hit you,” offered Howard.

     “Something sure as hell did,” agreed David, “How did that happen?” Then, without waiting for an answer, he dropped the towel and got to his feet saying, “I better go lie down. I feel like I’m dying.”

     The last word raked across Howard’s sensibilities. He was too numb to offer help as he watched his brother lurch through the pilot house and down the companionway, then he went after him, as Ulf and Gurth got there before him.

     “Div, where’s the part for the radio?”

     His brother didn’t seem to hear as he stumbled and half fell into his bunk.

     “Div! I need it. Where are we? Give me a heading or something.”

     “Don’t worry,” he was told, “We’re just going around in circles. We’re just off Shalisa Creek Bay some distance out—keep circling—leave ’er alone—she’ll fall off and come back. Wind gets up lower sail. Put ’er on automatic—she’s okay.”

     “Whaddaya mean?” wailed Howard in desperation, “How the hell do I know which way to point this bloody boat to get us in?”

     A pitiful groan was all he got for answer as David folded one arm over his stomach and the other over his eyes.

     “Div, please!” begged Howard, “Stay awake. Tell me what to do.”

     He waited, but only David’s breathing answered him.

     “Agh—sh.. !

     He caught himself, close to tears, then he lifted David’s dangling leg into the bunk, yanked off his shoes, undid the waistband of his jeans, stuffed an extra pillow under his head and shoulders to raise him a little, tossed a blanket over him and went away, back to the cockpit, where he threw himself onto a seat and stared out at the water in defeat.

     After a short while, as nothing happened and TJUTELA carried on, seemingly able to manage the situation better than he could, he began to take hold of himself.

     <Don’t be such a damned fool. It’s not that bad. He’ll probably be all right now. He just needs sleep. As for where we’re going—around in circles? That sneaky bastard! He’s been circling outside a home base all this time, knowing exactly where we were while I didn’t have the faintest idea. Well I’m not that stupid and helpless.>

     He faced the bow and looked at the sun lowering to port—west. That meant they were heading north at the moment. He figured Shalisa Creek Bay had to be somewhere off to starboard—how far he didn’t know, but he was going to find out.

     <So I don’t know how to sail the boat. I damned well know how to run the engine.>

     He got up and headed determinedly for the chart table, reassured himself by seeing the name Shalisa Creek Bay on the chart, north and east, and tried to figure if it would be best to hang a sharp turn or hit it at an angle. The closest port had to be that way somewhere because David had said they were just some distance from the bay—going around in circles. That was the way he decided to head. He’d worry about landmarks when he saw them.

     He was about to leave the chart table and proceed with that plan in mind when he saw written in the margin of the chart the letters GAP and below them some numbers with degree and minute notations. He puzzled over the letters.

     “Not GPS. What? Global—air positioning—he’s a pilot—don’t think so. We’re on the water. Gee Ai Pee—GAP—Gap?—Oh yeah! That must be the directions for the Gap he’s always yapping about. Good stuff. I can just stick this in the GPS and we’re home!”

     Delighted with this piece of good fortune he headed into the pilot house, activated the GPS and keyed in the coordinates, well pleased with himself. Then he looked in on David and decided there was nothing else he could do for his brother except let him sleep.

     The samoyeds lay like two concerned guardians—Ulf on the cabin sole, head on paws, Gurth on the foot of the bunk, gazing at the face of the man lying there. As Howard came up they gave him what he took to be aggrieved looks, as though they knew who had precipitated this crisis.

     “Damned loyalists,” muttered Howard, and left.

     Back on deck he lowered sail clumsily, snatching at them to prevent them from blowing into the water, fighting with them because he hadn’t turned completely into the wind to set them luffing enough. He bundled the sails over the booms and tied them into ungainly lumps, then went to the wheelhouse.

     <Damn! Where’s the ignition key? On David?>

     Down the companionway again. He looked at his brother’s face, feeling as though those steady grey eyes would open and reprimand him even from a coma. He hesitated. There seemed to be something wrong with rifling a man’s pockets when he was helpless. Then, determined, he leaned over and started going through them, coming up with two keyrings holding all sorts of keys while Gurth gave him a look of intent which unsettled him.

     “Hey, come on Gurth,” he told the samoyed, giving the alert dog a few pats to calm him, “I’m his brother—you’re just his pet.”

     It was a good thing the two dogs didn’t really understand those last words or there might have been a loud and vigorous argument. They were of the opinion that they were brothers too.

     David muttered something.

     “I’m doing this for you,” Howard said, to quiet his guilt feelings, “And I need help as much as you do. More, maybe.”

     Before he went on deck again he put his ear once more to his brother’s chest.

     “Get off!” the man lying there protested with a weak push.

     Startled, Howard backed off, but somehow that reaction and the unfaltering beat of David’s heart made him feel better. Up in the wheelhouse he tried keys until he found the one he was after.

     The engine woke smoothly.

     “Okay TJUTELA, let’s go find Shalisa Creek Bay,” he said, exulting in this small bit of success.

     He changed course to starboard and, implementing David’s suggestion, set the automatic pilot and went to make himself some coffee, which he wanted badly. He was tempted to try the keys on the liquor locker which hadn’t been opened during the whole trip, but his conscience won out. He told himself that getting drunk was about the worst thing he could do right now—David needed help.

     After ten minutes of motoring, during which he remembered to douse the coaming and hull with some water, he left the yawl on automatic and went below again. David had turned over onto his side. He seemed to be asleep now, not so comatose looking. There was better colour in his face—the left side of it anyway.

     Howard lingered in the cabin, feeling comforted. There was a flute case sticking out of a bulkhead holder. He lifted it out, opened it and ran his forefinger along the length of the instrument. His brother could take this silver cylinder of sound in his big hands, set his fingers on the stops, breathe into the mouthpiece and out of it would come, not just a representation of the notations of a score he followed but something of his own sunny spirit which made his music so captivating to those who heard it.

     Howard replaced the flute, closed the case up and put it back, wishing that he had learned how to do something like that.

     He went back to the wheelhouse after extending an invitation to the samoyeds to accompany him, which was refused, then out to the cockpit, staring out over the water at distant land getting closer as he leaned on the taffrail.

     Running his fingers idly over the smooth varnish, he noted the beautiful grain of the wood beneath its thick protective cover. He began to look around and actually see this boat which he’d always thought was a silly obsession of David’s. It really was a lovely thing. All of it so well put together. So beautifully finished. So well kept. He considered what it would be like to know how to handle sail the way David did—to be able to take this vessel all the way from home along the coast to Shalisa Creek Bay—alone.

     He got up, went over to the wheel, took the boat off auto-pilot and steered it himself, trying to gauge, the way David did, how to deal with the waves.

     Sea and TJUTELA approved of this move. Boat and water began to cooperate with his efforts. He and the yawl worked together, turning and twisting and cutting an erratic course as he tried his hand at bringing her to port and starboard.

     TJUTELA, quite willing to give this uncertain hand on the wheel a fair go, tried her best to behave as she should, even when the waves were hit a bit too square on, and she wasn’t quite sure what was happening with all this twisting and turning and circling as Howard tried to get the feel of the helm under his hands. Attempting to keep her steady on the compass heading he had chosen, he found he was pretty good at that. Finally he made an arc to bring her back to the compass heading they had held before he had taken it off automatic.

     A feeling of exhilaration came over him while he stood at the wheel as he and the boat played together. A certain inner surge of accomplishment welled up. Here he was, alone and in command of a boat, just like he imagined David must feel whenever he went out by himself.

     The sun shone down with a pleasant warmth while Howard, engrossed in his new game, began to realise what it was like to be in charge, not just of a boat but of himself. Not just allowed to take the wheel of his father’s power cruiser, not just a runabout—a real little ship—by himself.

     There was not the authoritarian voice of his father telling him not to do this or that, making him feel that he knew nothing and wasn’t to be trusted. No big brother giving instructions in the process of trying to teach the untutored and unwilling hand aboard how to the sail the boat. Howard’s mulish attitude had made David seem to him more like an oppressor than someone trying to help him learn something.

     A small spark from David Godwin’s independent ways ignited in Howard as he stood, feet apart, swaying with the motion of the boat—Sea, Sun and TJUTELA encouraging him to be himself.

     It felt wonderful.

     <So I don’t know much about it. Everybody messes up at first don’t they?>

     Hands gripping the wheel spokes, standing the way David did, in command of this beautiful little craft, something of self and pride came over him. He could do this. He imagined having Jan there with him, impressing her with his skills and confident handling of everything and every situation which might arise. She’d see how great he was and quit making eyes at all the other guys.

     <Captain Howard Godwin—cool!>

     Savouring the feeling of being helmsman in his own right, he lifted the binoculars out of their holder and peered ahead. Scanning in the direction they were moving he saw a strange shifting grey mass off there in the distance, looking rather like low cloud on the water. As he watched, the horizon seemed to dissolve and disappear, with only the top of a cliff sticking up in the sky.

     His nerves jumped.

     <Oh fuddle—bloody fog! What am I supposed to do with this? Turn around and run for it?>

     “How’s it going, skipper?”

     Absorbed as he had been, Howard was startled out of his thoughts when David appeared from the pilot house followed by the two samoyeds, happily waving their tails.

     ‘Self’ was jerked rapidly out of his exciting daydream and brought back to being on a boat with his eldest brother—the one he had almost killed—which wasn’t cool.

     “Hey—you feeling better?” he asked with a smile, genuinely pleased to see David upright.

     “Some—except I have this bloody headache.”

     With a dog on either side, David sat down on a cockpit cushion, not asking Howard to surrender the helm as he enquired,

     “Tell me—just what the hell did I do?”

     “The boom hit you,” Howard told him again, not looking at him as he put the boat back on automatic.

     The one eyebrow which was able to do so shot up on David’s face.

     “The boom?!” he echoed, incredulous. “I’ve never been careless with the boom.”

     “Are you sure you’re all right now?” asked Howard, still concerned but also hoping to divert the conversation from its present course.

     “Yeah, I think so.”

     David sat there, thoughtfully, making Howard uneasy.

     “Must have been because I’m not used to having someone else aboard,” was the conclusion he came to at last, “What were we doing? Coming about?”

     “Yes. You said—don’t you remember?”

     “No. Last thing I recall at the moment is lunch.”

     “Going down or coming up?”

     “Is that a joke?” asked David with a little laugh.

     “Well—you must remember barfing over the side.”

     “That I do. How long have I been out?”

     “You’ve been asleep for about an hour or so.”

     Howard was relieved. If David couldn’t remember, then he was home free. Used to getting out of things as easily as he could, he certainly didn’t want to be in difficulties about this. There was no point in stirring up trouble now. Maybe later—if David started to remember—he could think of something.

     “Oh,” said David, still not too cogent in his own thinking, “That long? So where are we now?”

     “Somewhere outside of Shalisa Creek Bay,” returned Howard with some satisfaction, “But we’re not going around in circles anymore. We’re heading straight for it, I hope, if your calculations on the side of the chart are right.”

     “They’re right,” he was assured and then, somewhat off the subject, the observation was made, “You swiped my keys.”

     “I thought I’d better,” Howard defended himself, “I can’t sail TJUTELA, but I do know how to run Dad’s power boat. You didn’t look so good and I couldn’t find the cell phone—you hid it—and I couldn’t use the radio because you disabled it.”

     “Um—that was stupid of me,” admitted David, “But you just plug the bloody thing in. Figured you wouldn’t notice.”

     The two stayed in silence for a moment as Howard considered what lay before them. This was not the beautiful, magical picture of the place he had occasionally heard David vocally rhapsodising about. This was fog—damp, uninviting and to his mind, scary. He didn’t like Fog. He’d been caught in it driving on his way home one evening and had skidded off the road. He had cursed Fog roundly and loudly, not at all taking any of the blame for driving his car after partying and going too fast. He’d had to walk the rest of the way home.

     He considered this unsavoury situation as they closed on the shifting grey mass, while the thought that he was going to be stuck in this unfriendly envelope of vapour for who knew how long got to him.

     Wanting help on the subject of what he should do next regarding their progress toward it he said,

     “There’s fog up ahead.”

     David was brought abruptly out of his own lethargic fog.

     Having been idly gazing at their wake astern he turned toward the bow and saw Fog ahead, almost capping Cliff and they were much closer than he wanted them to be.

     <Geeze!>

     “That’s Shalisa Creek Bay you’re looking at,” he told his brother in a quiet voice, trying to keep sudden concern out of it, “And I think we’ve hit the Gap.”

     “Oh—yeah—what I headed for. Looks great—like nothing and nowhere,” was Howard’s unenthusiastic reaction.

     David made no reply as a warning ripple went through him. He tried to get himself together.

     “How fast have we been travelling, Howie?” he asked.

     “Well—I don’t know—three-quarter throttle maybe.”

     This told David nothing.

     “You happen to recall what the coordinates were when I got hit on the head?”

     Howard gave him a surprised look as he answered,

     “Hell no. I was too busy trying to wake you up.”

     “Turn off the motor for a minute, will you?”

     “What for?” asked Howard, puzzled by this odd request.

     “Just—turn it off and let her drift. I want to listen, and feel the water.”

     The helmsman gave his brother a bewildered look and turned off the motor. He earnestly hoped that David knew what he was doing and wasn’t slightly off his head from the whack the boom had given him, while his own outlook was becoming as grey as the fog ahead.

     As the boat lost way David watched the wake arc as the boat was taken by the tide. He had figured on staying out another night and entering the Gap on slack tide the next day, so he had given only casual thought to it on this day’s run. He looked at his watch, trying to remember, trying to calculate just how close they were to the Gap, trying to recall where they had been when he’d had his collision with the boom.

     <Out for an hour or so? Less—or more?>

     He knew that Fog always hung in close to Cliff and Gap when playing around the peninsula. He could hear, in the distance a faint sound of rushing water. From that sound he knew Tide was on the way in and he speculated as to whether he was too late to turn back. If he turned now and they were too close they could be forced against Cliff.

     “I think I’d better take the helm Howie,” he said at last.

     Feeling once again very much like the shanghaied sailor, and with the pleasure of doing things by himself removed, not knowing his brother’s reasoning, Howard retorted resentfully,

     “Of course. Here—take it. I wouldn’t want to wreck your nice toy with my stupidity.”

     Surprised at this sudden turn in his brother’s mood, David told him,

     “It’s not that, Howie. Your navigating has been so good that you’ve taken us straight into the Gap and I hadn’t figured on hitting it today. Tide’s running fast and it’s a bloody dangerous piece of water to get through, particularly when Fog is standing there. I just happen to know it reasonably well.”

     “Yeah, sure, Lord Know-It-All. Go ahead and be your usual superior self,” returned the younger man, simply dropping his hands and stepping angrily away from the helm.

     David got up quickly and took over, trying to focus his thoughts in his aching head. He turned the engine back on, flipped the motor off auto-pilot, looked at his watch again. Tide was definitely on the run in.

     Howard had been all too accurate in his navigating.

     Eyeing Fog and checking the compass, the skipper weighed his choices—it was Cliff or Gap. Tide had them firmly gripped and was sucking them in toward the bay. He ran his eye from the tip of Cliff to the place where Waterfall hid, then followed the dim line of land traced against the sky back to midway where he thought the natural marker would be and saw a vague depression against the skyline. It seemed that they were at least lined up for the entry. Hitting mid-channel blind was the risky part.

     Hoping Guardian would see what was coming, recognise it for what it was, and would restrain herself from exacting toll for miscalculations caused by the mischievous help of Tide he made the decision.

     He committed himself to navigating the Gap.

     “Put your lifejacket on,” he told Howard, “And hand me mine and get Ulf and Gurth’s from the locker you’re sitting on.”

     “What’s the matter?” enquired Howard, feeling alarm rising at this order.

     “There’s a chance we may hit the reef, so just sit tight until we’re through, because I’m not joking when I tell you Fog and Gap are not to be fooled around with.”

     “So why are you fooling?” Howard asked, “Just turn around or use the GPS.”

     “We can’t turn back—Tide has us, and GPS is useless here. It’s hands on through the Gap—and I’m not too sure we’re exactly on line with the marker.”

     “Oh fuddle it!” Howard breathed, doing as he was told for once.

     Ulf and Gurth, surprised at being hustled into their flotation vests, both scrunched themselves down in still heaps on either side of the pedestal.

     Now, as the cool greyness surrounded TJUTELA a tenseness took the younger man over. Ditching in water wasn’t a walk home affair in his mind even if he could swim for shore. The idea of the boat hitting rocks was an even worse line of thought.

     He shut up and sat tight.

     Tide was in a hurry. Beach was waiting. Guardian had to be satisfied first. Having to carry a sailboat in was not his concern. He shrugged the problem off and headed swiftly for Gap.

     As she was hustled along TJUTELA had the feeling that she was a bit off course and not exactly in the middle of the passage. She waited hoping that her skipper would notice, but when he didn’t she gave a bit of a push to the rudder, letting him know by the sudden force that he’d better pay attention to her.

     David felt the helm become stiff, and grimaced.

     <Which way—port or starboard? Where are those greedy, sharp-toothed companions Guardian wants to feed? Not with us please!>

     A slight scraping sound along starboard came—and went. He tried to see in his mind those rocks which he had viewed before from high up on Cliff at low tide. The largest one to starboard, another farther on at an angle to port, and Reef itself everywhere. Figuring he had grazed that large starboard tooth he eased slightly to port, trying to balance direction with that of Tide’s insistent push.

     Crunch!

     David decided it was crucial—he wanted help.

     With an instant easing of the helm to starboard he called aloud,

     “Spirit of the Gap, it is TJUTELA and her skipper David who come. We ask for safe passage as you have always given before. Grant it one more time and we will try never again to tempt you and your companions with our recklessness.”

     At that moment Tide hit the hidden rock to port, hurled itself against it and was turned back on itself. The yawl lurched a little to starboard, thrust away from disaster as the tide turned over and away, forcing her sideways from the danger.

     She slid into clear water as Tide, intent on his own hurried entry, carried the boat along and threw it forward.

     David held his heading, there was another slight scraping sound astern, then the skipper felt they were sailing straight and swift past Cliff and into Bay, just a little out of control.

     TJUTELA cut suddenly from Fog into sunlight as two men, two dogs and a boat saw themselves safely inside the bay, blinking in the light and feeling the warmth of Sun.

     “Our thanks!” called David as he corrected his sideways course to steer away from Cliff.

     “Who the hell are you talking to?!” queried Howard, stiff with tension, and a bit concerned for his brother’s sanity.

     “Talking to myself, with you around,” returned David, giving vent to a little of his own stress.

     Looking back to where they had just been, seeing the force of Tide, with Cliff’s towering head held high above Fog, Howard exclaimed, shocked,

     “We came through that!?

     “Fortunately,” David replied with a shaky little laugh of relief, “TJUTELA’s on the right side of Guardian.”

     “Wherever that is. Hope to hell we never get on the left of it,” muttered Howard, just beginning to get the full impact about the serious risk of running the Gap with Tide at full bore.

     “Think we scraped more than a little paint off TJUTELA’s hull,” speculated David as he cut the engine back, “Hope she won’t be too mad at me.”

     Howard, relieved and getting past the point of shaking, took his nerves out on David.

     “Hey man, I’m mad at you. What the hell are you trying to do—kill us? If you’d told me about this bloody Gap bit I wouldn’t have headed for it.”

     “I wasn’t around to mention it,” was David’s defence. “We can take our PFDs off now. We’re safe.”

     “Bloody well hope so,” came the comment.

     “Here—take the helm—and give me my keys,” said David shortly as he shrugged out of his lifejacket and walked away from the wheel.

     This abrupt order given in a tone of authority made Howard comply without question. He fished in his pocket, brought out the spare keyring and hurled it at David who caught the jingling bunch one-handed before it went overboard.

     With an indignant shake of his head the skipper went below. He reappeared very shortly after with two glasses and a bottle, poured, and handed one to his brother.

     “I don’t know about you,” he said, “But much more of the kind of action we’ve had on this whole trip and I’m going to go look for a dark cave and stay there for awhile. Slow her down some more and run us around in a wide circle before we drop anchor. I need a drink.”

     A bit confused at this request, having expected he knew not what, Howard looked at the glass thrust into his hand and objected,

     “You shouldn’t have any—you just got hit on the head.”

     “That was a couple of hours ago and if I’m going to have a headache I’m damned well going to enjoy getting it,” was the reply, “Watch where you’re going—you’re heading for the barge—deep water’s that way.”

     Howard slowed down to a mere ripple of progress, circled—and circled again—as his brother sat there, apparently thoughtfully engrossed in some introspection which had nothing to do with anchoring.

     As he got into the second circle he asked, with a bit of anxiety in his voice, as he watched his brother sitting there, legs stretched out, glass in hand, dog on either side and eyes out somewhere out on the water,

     “You gonna drop anchor soon?”

     “I’ll get around to it.”

     There was silence between the two.

     David was rummaging around in his head for an explanation for his inexplicable and inexcusable handling of the boat which had almost brought them to disaster, except for the fact that he had awakened barely in time to avoid it. This last struggle with Tide and Gap had finished the lowering of his good spirits to an almost non-existent level, a process which had been going on through four days of stand-off with Howard.

     Feeling guilty and responsible for all the problems they’d had from start to finish of this ‘cruise’, he was thinking that instead of becoming closer to his brother he had driven him farther away.

     He knew now that it had been a mistake to think that they could have a pleasant sail to Shalisa Creek Bay. Expecting Howard to get over his snit and enjoy the little voyage up coast certainly seemed to have been an idiotic misconception on his part.

     The ‘man overboard’ emergency had made him realise quickly that his young brother was going to pull all sorts of dangerous tricks just to annoy him. It came to him now that Howard had quirks in his character which he hadn’t suspected existed before this impulsive move to show him a different world than the one he’d been wrested from. He wished dearly that earlier on he had suspected behaviour worse than he had been aware of.

     He sat, going over the process of that calamitous tacking which had lost him an hour or more of critical time, and memory began to return.

     <’Ready about.’ ‘Ready.’ ‘Hard alee.’>

     Hard indeed. Sail and boom and then nothing. Howard had not explained what exactly had happened. The boom coming down like that meant the head of the sail had been released. Confusion about the lines?

     The more he thought about it the more he felt that it hadn’t been. The running lines were arranged to prevent that from happening accidentally. He had seen to that. They were set apart and the main halyard had to be reached for. He came to the inevitable conclusion that some part of the gear had failed.

     He finished his drink, still trying to figure it out, looked at Howard then and asked,

     “Did the head of the sail drop?”

     “I’m not sure Div,” returned Howard, not looking at him, “It all happened so fast. The boom hit you and—I just ran to help you and get ice for your head.”

     “Ah. Something must have come loose,” surrendered David, not wanting to accuse his brother of incompetence, although the averted eyes and the way the words were delivered made him sense evasion.

      He’d had four days and nights of stress with little sleep, keeping watch over everything because Howard didn’t seem to understand the importance of things getting done when they had to be. Wind and Tide wouldn’t wait for a fractious crew to get with it. His head ached. He was extremely tired and a little disoriented. He didn’t want to deal with the problem right then. He told himself he was imagining things. He decided to give Howard the benefit of the doubt.

     <Something went wrong. Enough. I’ll check out the gear later.>

     “Okay,” he instructed, “When we get to the top of the circle head toward the barge and we’ll set the anchor.”

     As he stood on the bow after the rode had run, engine idling, Ulf and Gurth on either side, waiting out the time when he’d be sure the anchor held, disillusion took him over as he thought of the four days they had spent together.

     <What can I do to help a kid like this? Maybe I’m a bit late sticking my oar into his life. Maybe I should just back off.>

     He looked shoreward, wondering if anyone was watching them wondering what they were doing running around in circles, and there were the twins—with Rose.

     This was not the arrival he had anticipated when he and the butterflies by his office had connected.

     Breathe deeply in, hold it, breathe forcibly out.

     It was a sigh of disappointment, not just about Howard but for the loss of his own bright image of what might have happened had he come alone.

     <What kind of fool am I? There I was all fired up and I had to go throw water on it with Howie.>

     “We’re good,” he called back to the cockpit, “Shut her down. Let’s lower the dinghy.”

     He took the vests off the two samoyeds, telling them,

     “Okay guys, hop off and have fun.”

     Delighted at not having to wait for the dinghy the two samoyeds wasted no time leaping over the side and swimming for shore, as David walked aft and readied the dinghy for lowering.

     Tide, having paid his dues, was lavishing his attention on Beach, and the impact of his actions as he hit the shore echoed softly around the bay. The sound of it reached into the skipper of the yawl, beginning to soothe his mind into thoughts of peaceful time ashore.

     “Geeze—I’ve sure been looking forward to this,” he murmured trying to let go of the tension from their unprecedented entry into the bay.

     Howard didn’t answer. Regarding the people coming down to the shore he wished for another drink.

     <Damn! Stuck with a bunch of noisy kids and dogs and old geezers and grannies. How the hell am I going to get through this? No smokes, no tokes, no drinks, no women, no parties—no nothin’! Holiday in hell, that’s what.>

     He wasn’t sure he could handle this other world his brother was so intrigued with. It was totally different to his own, but since he was being dragged into it, seemingly without hope of reprieve, he waited while David lowered the dinghy and prepared to board, expecting the worst. He thought of not going ashore, but decided that unless he wanted to be seen as a childish sulk, there was nothing for it but to disembark and take what came.

     Having settled the little boat in the water David watched his young brother get into it, jumping heavily down, foot off centre, rocking the dinghy into dipping its rubbing strake seaward and back.

     As he lowered himself lightly in without a rustle and took the oars he also was hoping for the best.