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53: Getting found out

When the chips are down
And the game’s been played
What comes into force
Are the moves you’ve made
If you’ve bluffed it out
And you’ve strung along
Or you’ve stayed the course
And your hand is strong
When the last call comes
There is no doubt
From choices made
You’ll be found out

Sea ran rowdily away from Shalisa Creek Bay, tossing up white, windblown waves which were caught by Wind and sent frothing in a northerly direction.

     This was not Tide’s venue of Beach, sheltered by Cliff. This far-reaching and seemingly endless uncontrolled space belonged to freedom-loving Sea, to be done with as it pleased. At the moment Sea was deciding that it would show anything and everything on and in its vast watery plane just who was master here.

     Mankind aboard any man-made device launched into this violent and shifting body of saltwater were quickly made aware that their much vaunted boasts of having conquered Sea were foolish in the extreme. The feat of shoving off from land regardless of weather, in a container which floats, being propelled in certain directions which may or may not be the ones a skipper aims for, and finally ending up at the destination desired from the outset of this venture might be considered some sort of conquest but—conquering Sea—never!

     It still rolls wild and free.

     Taking the helm of a vessel and turning its bow out into a rough sea with weather kicking up requires enormous and wary respect for such an unconquered spirit. In spite of this caveat, ever since the first time a human Fool fell into Sea, flailed about, clutched at a straw which turned out to be a floating tree, and discovered that this material—if hung onto long enough—might eventually take human and tree ashore, mankind has been launching great schemes of ‘conquest’ across the surface of oceans, but the conquests were not of Sea itself. They would seem to be more of a tribute to humanity’s own foolhardiness.

     It is possible that magic might at first have been attributed to this piece of floating Nature with its marvellous power to remain lying on water without sinking. Not only that, but to carry with it a frightened and desperate creature clinging on to it would undoubtedly make for a long-lasting bond of admiration and friendship between the two, instigated by the one most frightened.

     Such it still is when skipper and wood move away from shore, each helping the other to move across Sea and reach a distant land. The randomness of choice as to which shore the wood might eventually bump up against having been curtailed somewhat by a human now calling himself Master, who attempts to influence the outcome of this venture, Wood and Fool find themselves cooperating, floating about on Sea. This process, now called ‘sailing’, has become the art of heading for a chosen spot indicated on a chart and actually getting there—most of the time.

     Master, and Tree now rearranged from its original shape to be called Boat, quickly found their relationship more than a mere matter of crossing a body of water. Humankind, having acquired the habit of cogitating on everything, began to understand that passage across Sea was not in Master’s hands alone. Boat certainly had something to do with this—something to say, you might say.

     It was found that Boat had a personality. Boat had to be taken care of, trusted, coddled, coaxed and talked to. Just as Master trusted the love he left behind on shore to be true, so the relationship with Boat became something of the same nature. Boat needed caring for, and attention, just as woman did. If Master mistreated Boat with uncaring neglect, laziness, sloth, and a cold, grudging attitude, or cowardly meanness, Boat would undoubtedly let Master know just what was thought about this state of affairs, and so Boat became ‘she’!

     It seemed that ‘she’ was also often wiser and more knowing in the ways of Sea and Wind than Master, and might bridle at a wrong demand made at a bad time, broaching to when a clumsy or unknowing hand on the helm gave her an order impossible to obey. She could dance around in circles when inexperienced hands had not turned her bow straight into Wind for raising sail or, if the exercise of tacking was not done smartly enough, she could hang the boat ‘in irons’, with sails held useless by Wind cutting across both sides of them.

     In Master’s view she could become petty and refuse orders seemingly for no reason at all, but there was usually a very good one for this disobedience—broken gear, badly set sails, too much sail aloft, too little sail, badly set up rigging, ignorant handling by Master or crew. It seemed there was an endless list of demands to be met before ‘she’ was at last made happy.

     In spite of all these faults and more attributed to her, it was found that when it came down to it Boat was a faithful, hard-working and lovable friend, and surprisingly capable in her own right. Boats have been torn from their moorings and weathered storms, to be found serenely floating safe and sound after the storm was over. They have made their way ashore alone, to rest on sandy beaches, relatively unharmed. They have been abandoned, presumed to be sinking, and have surprised their owners by turning up—not sunk.

     It has been rumoured that, left to their own devices, boats do better without a frightened hand at the helm than with one. Human error has been cited as the cause of many disasters at sea.

     The skipper of the yawl TJUTELA was quite aware that Sea outside of Shalisa Creek Bay did not behave in the same laid-back fashion as the friendly waters sheltered within the arms of the cliffs he was leaving behind, but he wasn’t overly concerned with this weather he found himself in. He had been through worse.

     On a broad reach he headed away from land, wanting to get out into deeper water and away from rock-infested shore. His plan, after attaining that, was to make long tacks down the coast to reach his first landing in the small bight he always used on his journeys to and from Shalisa Creek Bay. There he, his shipmates and his boat, would be protected from the southeaster which was not helping their progress toward home. The hefty, steady wind and heavy rain, once more made him pleased that his little ship had an inside helm which meant he no longer had to sit out in all weathers steering by tiller, as he’d had to do with the sloop he had owned before TJUTELA had come into his life.

     As he settled to his journey, his mind was not entirely on Sea alone. Occasionally he gave his necklace of Tranquil Spirit a friendly touch, smiling to himself.

     He was off sailing in another element.

     The soft clouds he was navigating in his head where no wind and rain intruded were more suited to the voyages of dragons and dreamers. His leave-taking of Rose was hugging more than its share of his attention. He hummed to himself as TJUTELA went charging along through the rough water—humming because whistling is considered bad luck aboard shipping, being related to bringing up more wind than is wished for—not that he was superstitious or anything like that, of course. He just didn’t want any more wind than he already had in his sails and if not whistling would help he would not whistle. The gambler in him erred on the side of caution here. Humming was also an old habit acquired from going over pieces of music quietly in his mind in an attempt not to disturb anyone else in the vicinity of his busy and satisfying musings.

     He was not at all displeased with the way things had turned out at the Bay, even if it hadn’t been exactly the way he’d imagined it when he’d planned his butterfly trip. His impulsive last-ditch move on leaving Shalisa Creek Bay had cleared a lot of space in his mental attic. No more doubts, no more waffling, no more dreaming impossible scenarios and putting them off because the time or situation didn’t seem propitious. He had simply been himself and he felt it had been perfect—and he thought Rose had felt the same way.

     He went through those moments of leave-taking from her over and over again, completely wrapped up in the memory of it as he made his way home, happy, elated, and thoroughly content with his world—boat, buddies, business and budding relationship—the latter of which he had been considering how to further for some long time and had now accomplished.

- - -

When TJUTELA had made her way through the Gap and out into open water she knew as well as her skipper did that Sea would show her a different attitude than the one she received when she rested at anchor in Shalisa Creek Bay. She had learned from other such encounters with this unpredictable associate, particularly when presented with such an unpromising day as this one, with Wind, Rain and Sea roistering around. She understood that she would be given little consideration as to where it was she was going or why.

     Had the choice been hers she would have preferred to remain safely hidden in the bay they were leaving, but since her skipper had chosen otherwise, she went willingly along, ready to do her best. If she wanted to make headway south, Sea was making it plain that she and her skipper had better be ready to deal with the prevailing weather and whatever consequences this might have on her proposed sailing itinerary.

     This was immediately drawn to her attention when Sea greeted her loudly with,

     “Hey there! See you’re on your way home now.”

     “Yes, nice to be getting underway again,” she replied cheerfully, but Sea didn’t miss the slight tone of wariness which went along with her words.

     “Good day for a fast sail,” suggested Sea, giving her an energetic and more than friendly push on her starboard side to see if he could find out where the wariness was coming from. “Sorry Wind and I aren’t going your direction right now, but I know you can handle it.”

     “No problem,” smiled TJUTELA.

     Sea detected something just a little forced in the sound of her answer. Bringing some big whitecapped waves her way, he shouldered her briskly, as though in fun, breaking the caps of the water over her decks, then said,

     “Oh oh, I see you got a couple of scrapes or three in your hull while you were around here.”

     “Oh yes, but everybody said there’s nothing to worry about,” returned TJUTELA, shrugging off the remark.

     “That’s good,” Sea told her, “Because Wind and Rain and I are having a bit of a ball out here and it’s a little more rough and tumble than what you’ve been getting while you’ve been sitting around loafing there in the bay.”

     “Have fun,” was the unconcerned reply, as she effortlessly shrugged off Wind and Rain’s efforts to gain entry through her topsides.

     “Oh yeah, we will—you too!” returned Sea, and there was something of an ironic slant to the sound of the last two words which TJUTELA didn’t like.

     She carried on without further comment, setting herself to lifting on the big waves which were being thrown at her, although she knew that Sea was busy now, testing her out.

     It wasn’t until he was closing in on his first landing that the skipper of the yawl began to get the impression that something was not quite perfect with his now perfectly satisfying world.

     TJUTELA seemed to be telling him something. It had gradually drifted into his pink cloud space that her helm seemed a bit heavy and that she wasn’t quite as quick to respond, or as light in the water as she had been at the outset of their voyage. He felt she was lingering in the troughs a bit and not taking the waves as buoyantly as she usually did.

     He dismissed it as probably Sea getting a little more feisty out there in deep water, and figured that TJUTELA was telling him she wasn’t pleased with the change. He turned off the waves a bit to take them a little less broadside and trimmed sail to accommodate the heavier helm.

     Shortly after, Ulf, who had been snoozing down in the saloon, rose, shook himself and came up into the pilot house.

     “Yeah, guys, it’s getting close to packing it in and having dinner, and we’re almost there,” smiled David, reaching out to pat Ulf as the samoyed took his favourite place in the pilot house to the left of the skipper.

     The man’s hand met damp fur.

     “What the heck have you been up to?” he asked in surprise. “You’re all wet!”

     Water of any sort found where it shouldn’t be inside his boat was not good news. Puzzled, he began turning over reasons for this unexpected problem, and the answer he was settling on left him less pleased with his life than he had been before. He put the helm on auto, went down to the saloon, bent over and ran his hand on the carpetting. It was damp. Raising the carpet he lifted the hatch which covered the bilge in the cabin sole.

     Pink clouds vanished. Water sloshed back and forth down there.

     He knew instinctively, without tasting it, that it was not from his water tank, but he put his finger into it anyway with faint hope, and put a drop on his tongue, and tasted saltwater.

     The anxious concern of every mariner who has ever found any unexpected large quantity of that saline solution filling his boat’s bilges went through him. There was enough liquid there to let him know that it had been rolling and splashing around, seeping through the cabin sole, and it was enough to make the carpet damp.

     “What took you so long?” enquired TJUTELA, as anxious as he was. “I tried to tell you. Couldn’t you feel the helm getting heavy? You should have known. I had to send Ulf to get you.”

     “Geeze! I should have paid more attention when the helm got heavy like that,” the skipper told himself out loud.

     “Like I said,” agreed TJUTELA.

     Replacing the hatch he went quickly to the control panel, started the engine and flipped the bilge pump switch, then sat apprehensively at the helm, waiting. If the pump removed the water faster than it was coming in then the helm would lighten and the boat be less logy.

     He sat doing some heavy thinking.

     <Okay. Where’s the leak? Armand checked out the damage we did getting through the Gap and I’m pretty sure he’d know what he was saying when he told me it wasn’t serious—so—what about the hit she took when Howie had her out? Lucy checked it, but would she be qualified to spot a slow leak if that’s what it is?”

     “I told you at the time, when Howie brought me in, but you didn’t pay any attention,” TJUTELA reminded him.

     <Damn! It’s my fault. I was so busy enjoying myself I didn’t bother to go take a look, or have Armand check it for me, just to make sure. So I wasn’t supposed to get in the water—I should have had her gone over by somebody else anyway. Instead I just ignored it and didn’t pay any attention. How long has she been sopping up the sea?>

     “Ever since I got hit in the face, and as you well know it’s no fun,” came the answer.

     <Almost three days now since Howie brought her back. I didn’t notice it before but—I wasn’t looking for it either, because I didn’t even know we were leaking. Has this bashing about we’re getting made the damage worse?>

     “Now you’re thinking,” approved TJUTELA.

     <A leak forward isn’t going to be easy to find, and even if I do find it, how can I stop it out here—and what if one of the other scrapes has maybe been opened by the strain as well? We could be in trouble here.>

     “You got that right.”

     After waiting it out David took up the hatch in the cabin sole again and found that the pump had cleared most of the water. He took a deep breath of relief.

     “It doesn’t seem too bad,” he told the samoyeds, “But that doesn’t mean we’re not still leaking.”

     “I’d quit taking it in if I could,” offered TJUTELA, “But I can’t.”

     They were almost at the bight. He weighed the idea of going over the side to inspect the hull once they were in, then remembered that he didn’t have a face mask. Trying to see anything open-eyed wouldn’t be easy and, in this busy sea which was undoubtedly churning up the bottom of their chosen anchorage, the attempt would be futile.

     Apart from that, he figured there wasn’t much he could do about it even if he could see. A slow leak from a sprung seam was not going to get stuffed easily, either from inside or out, and if the location was the bow, the idea was a ‘forget it’. Crawling around in confined spaces while the boat thrashed about wouldn’t be easy, and he thought that if it happened to be in an out of the way spot he probably wouldn’t be able to pump enough water out to reveal where it was coming from anyway. He decided that he’d time the leak after they were anchored. If the water wasn’t coming in too fast there was probably no panic.

     He was glad when they reached the little bight but, as he set the anchor, there was not the usual sense of relaxation he usually felt when they stopped there for their overnighting. He thought about waiting out the weather at anchor but, when he listened to the weather report, the forecast was for continuing bad weather rather than an easing off. He dropped the idea of that solution. He didn’t want to sit dealing with a leak for two or three days before he could continue his trip home.

     After setting out dinner for Ulf and Gurth in the pilot house he was about to get into the food package the women of the bay had given him, when it occurred to him that it might be wise to set it aside for the next day just in case he didn’t have time to make anything himself. Watching the helm was going to be more important than getting a meal together.

     He turned off the engine, rendering the bilge pump inoperative, noted the time, put on the coffee pot and made himself a sandwich. After an hour he checked the bilge. There was water, but not as much as there had been before.

     “I think we can handle that, everybody,” he said aloud with pleased conviction, and was about to turn on the engine to start the pump again when another thought got to him.

     <If I have to keep the engine running all night it’s going to take some fuel and... .>

     He wondered now, if he kept the pump operating, whether he’d have enough diesel left to make it into port should it become necessary to motor more than usual on the final leg home.

     A check of the fuel gauge let him know that there was less than he had figured on—in fact he was low on fuel. Accustomed as he was to having things ongoing in an orderly and regular fashion, he hadn’t even thought of such a problem. Howard had changed that neat arrangement. He hadn’t considered the amount his young brother might have used on his trip with Lucy. Now, whether he wanted to or not, he was going to have to sail for most of the remainder of his journey to be sure he had the engine for pumping the bilge along the way.

     <Geeze! I’d better save fuel by not running the pump tonight. That’s what I get for being careless and not keeping my mind on business when I’m supposed to. I didn’t check things properly before we left.>

     “Yes, and that’s what you get for thinking about another woman all this time, instead of listening to me,” TJUTELA told him.

     <TJUTELA’s been telling me things all this time and I didn’t listen. Well, no use kicking myself over that. If I use the hand pump every couple of hours, I can get a bit of sleep in between and save the engine for tomorrow. That’ll do it—but it’s not quite dark yet. There’ll be about ten hours before we’ll be on our way again. Good thing she has manual as well as electric equipment, but hand-pumping the bilge is an energetic enterprise. I’ve got work ahead. Yeah. Better get out there and start pumping.>

     He put on his foul weather gear, went out to the cockpit with its pelting rain and forceful wind, opened the stern locker and worked the hand pump.

     Glad to be back inside out of the noisy weather he had another cup of coffee and considered his situation. He thought of continuing on his journey, the urge to get home becoming strong, but sailing through darkness for most of it, with a leaking boat, made caution come to the fore. If the leak became worse, darkness was not going to be an ally.

     He was a gambler, not a fool.

     <Guess I’ll set the alarm for every hour and a half and go out and pump. Looks like a long night ahead. If I’d noticed this leak a lot earlier I might have turned back, but I’m halfway now, in between the Bay and home. Nothing to do but run for it as fast as I can tomorrow and get TJUTELA out onto the hard as soon as we’re in.>

     “That can’t be too fast for me,” agreed TJUTELA. “Maybe next time something happens like this you’ll pay attention to me instead of worrying about someone like that idiot brother of yours. He’ll always come out on top while somebody else sinks.”

     David called home and the Bay with a cheerfulness he didn’t really feel, not mentioning the leak because he considered it to be under control, and then settled himself for a night of ongoing work.

     The estimated long night materialised.

     At first the skipper took off his foul weather gear in between sessions of pumping but, finding that getting in and out of clothes took too much time, he simply fell back on the pilot berth and dozed a little until the next session. When morning light finally filtered into the stormy darkness of the horizon David felt as though he’d had two night’s worth of rain, wind and bilge pumping.

     He had a hasty breakfast of coffee, a handful of walnuts and an apple while Ulf and Gurth, unaware of anything wrong except that Friend David had been running in and out of the cockpit a lot all night, ate their breakfast with their usual enthusiasm.

     The weather report was not encouraging. Things were deteriorating, with high winds, continued heavy rain, and wave height increased from the day before.

     He was made forcefully aware of that fact when he took the dogs ashore. Getting them back aboard took effort and timing as he watched the dinghy rising up, then at the crest of the wave he boosted first Ulf aboard, then Gurth on the next wave, then himself on the third. The dinghy took two tries before he got her into the davits. He set short sail and then raised anchor, anxious to be on his way.

     “Okay TJUTELA,” he said encouragingly, for his own benefit as well as that of the yawl, as he started off, “Let’s get home fast.”

     “I’m with you on that one,” she replied as she set herself to face rowdy Sea once again.

     At first the tide at least was with them, and they made good time out into deep water, planning on a long afternoon tack back into home port, but then on the turn of the tide, they were fighting both wind and water. He became aware of tiredness creeping up on him as he yawned and rotated his shoulders to keep himself alert, and decided that he’d better run the engine to spell himself off once in awhile whenever the bilge needed pumping, figuring there was enough fuel to spare for that. He’d had quite enough of running in and out of the cockpit to put pieces of Sea back where they belonged.

     The sound of the bilge pump was comforting and the thrust of the engine helped them to make a little more headway.

     Getting home fast was not in the cards this day. Tide and Wind were against them and the weather continued to worsen. He had to work hard with sail and helm against the force of Sea and Weather for every mile he made toward his destination, and it was slow going. Having to use the autopilot while he pumped from the cockpit also slowed them down. Without a hand on the helm it coudn’t help wandering a bit in such conditions.

     By the time the usual dinner break arrived his energy was depleted to the point of his barely wanting to eat, never mind getting food together, and he was now dealing with a headache. He was glad he’d kept the food package for the last leg home. After taking a couple of pills, he started on the food, grateful that the Bay women had been so thoughtful. The thermos of soup was still quite warm, and it raised his spirits. He gulped it quickly, and swallowed sandwiches and cookies as he managed the helm, standing, to better brace himself against a rising, more raucous and demanding Sea, the noise of which was added to by Rain and Wind. The sound of it all together in a disorganised thumping chorus began to wear him.

     He was finding that TJUTELA now went down heavily at the head when she slid into the troughs of the waves and it worried him. In the back of his mind he knew it must mean that the pumping wasn’t keeping up with the intake of water. Becoming increasingly anxious as his stints of pumping from the cockpit became more frequent, he ran the bilge pump constantly, uncaring now about saving the amount of fuel he had left. As well, he realised he needed the engine to help them make way, and his stints of pumping were in tandem with the working of the engine unit, which removed more water faster.

     Darkness was closing in by the time they were in sight of home port, but seeing his goal now within reach, David felt a surge of ‘up spirits’.

     “Yeah guys, looks like we’ve made it okay,” he told the two samoyeds with a smile—and that was when the engine quit.

     “Now what!”

     “I’m getting overrun is what,” gurgled TJUTELA.

     A glance told him the fuel gauge read empty.

     “Well, looks like it’s sail all the way in,” he revised his bulletin. “That’ll take a bit longer and a lot more work—but—we’re not too far away now, so not to worry. We’re okay.”

     Shortly after that statement the lights went out and he was left in the dim and fading light of oncoming evening, scrabbling with one hand in the locker under the control panel for the future aid of a flashlight.

     “Me and my big mouth,” he muttered.

     Processing this latest happening in his mind, a disturbing answer came to the skipper. He tried the radio telephone. It was dead. There was no electricity.

     <Geeze! The leak’s worse than I thought. It’s hit the batteries.>

     He didn’t want to think about what that might mean, but he did. Hard reality presented itself. He wondered when and how the water had started increasing so much in volume, and just how fast it was doing that. Unhappy scenarios as a consequence of this occurrence presented themselves, the worst of which was—that his boat was sinking.

     Schooled as he had been with the survival routines set out for handling such emergencies in air and sea, reflex responses to this pending disaster took over. He started considering what to take with him in the dinghy, and just how fast he’d have to get it together. He felt the tension rising within himself.

     <Well—we’re damned near there so—guess I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing, which seems to be working for the moment,> was his plan of action. <Better get out there and bail while I steer—maybe ready the dinghy for launching—just in case. Where’s my mobile VHF?>

     Getting his hand-held unit, he checked to make sure it was working . It wasn’t. It was totally discharged. He felt his heartbeat quicken, then told himself,

     <It’s okay, you’ve got the cell ph—oh geeze—I gave the damned thing to Howard before I left!>

     He now faced the fact that there was no help aboard except himself. He was alone with a badly leaking boat in a mad sea with darkness coming on and no contact with shore except for emergency flares. He and his samoyed friends and his boat were on their own, and now boat and friends depended entirely on him.

     “Oh geeze!

     Putting the helm on manual auto he took out the lifejackets for the two samoyeds and told them,

     “Hey guys, I think you’d better get into these—just in case.”

     Ulf and Gurth, surprised, began to get worried vibes from Friend David. Lifejackets? That was just for fun ashore when occasionally they had —practised abandoning ship. They let him fasten them into their emergency gear and watched as he put his own on. He went down to the forepeak and found water just beginning to wash onto the cabin sole.

     At this point he quickly began gathering what he’d need for the dinghy, setting the items by the pilothouse door, at the same time thinking of saving the things he had with him which had always been part of his life. It was when he picked up his flute, then reached for Bjorn Behring to put him in a waterproof bag, that it hit him.

     He was actually in the process of abandoning TJUTELA.

     The thought of losing his beautiful yawl, his faithful fylgia, was harder for him to face than the idea of winding up in the sea in a small open dinghy, with no way to put out a ‘mayday’ as he abandoned ship. The dinghy would probably see them home, but the deserted boat would be left to the violence of the sea with no hope of survival.

     He stood there, feet apart, knees a little bent, bracing himself against the movement of the boat, the trusting samoyeds at his feet regarding him as he held in his hands two other things which were so intricately woven with his life, and ran his eyes over the interior of this floating space which was such a delight to him and had so firmly joined their association.

     He put the flute case beside the emergency bag with its flare gun, then the bag with Bjorn still looking over the top of it, and he straightened up.

     “Agh! I can’t do this!” he burst out. “The hell with it! I’m not yelling ‘mayday’ yet. I’m not yelling ‘mayday’—period. If we go under at least we’ll have tried our damnedest not to. TJUTELA, we’re going home. We know how to sail and between you, me, and the autopilot we’ll get there. Don’t give up on me. I’m sure as hell not going to quit on you. We’ll make it. You get us home and I’ll wash your decks with my best brandy when we’re out of this.”

     “Brandy hell!” retorted TJUTELA. “We get home and I don’t want to be made wet with anything for a month—and what do you mean ‘give up’? What sort of coward do you take me for? Can’t you use some magic or something to get us out of this? You’re great at that sort of thing, or ask Tranquil Spirit for help. I’m just a good, wise fylgia you’re supposed to listen to when you’re given warnings and advice, and when you don’t we get into trouble.”

     Magic was the last thing David might have thought of for helping them right about then. He was fully convinced that physical strength applied to the hand pump would be the only thing which could possibly keep them afloat.

     Relying totally on the autopilot for steerage he went out to the cockpit and began pumping furiously, working with grim determination as the pelting rain found its way past the barrier of his foul weather gear, running from his face down his neck, and leaking through the cuffs of his exposure suit up his arms.

     They drew closer to land. Although the autopilot took them in the general direction they wanted to go it didn’t respond as quickly or with as much astuteness as a skipper’s hand, eye and judgement would give to a situation. They were thrown about more roughly than before.

     The closer they got to their goal the clearer it became that once they were at the port entrance the skipper was going to have to take the helm himself.

     <One hand on the pump and one on the wheel—don’t think I can spread myself that far but I’ll bloody well try, and I’m going to have to get her out of the water damned fast once we’re home.>

     TJUTELA noticed that the word ‘if’ was not in the remark. It heartened her. Here was a skipper who would not abandon her unless she sank under him, unlike the others who had treated her so badly.

     She ploughed gamely on until they were in reach of the port entrance.

     At that point David released the autopilot, took the wheel and straightened the yawl away for the run in, kicked the auto in again, pumped, took the pilot off, steered for a space, pumped, then gave himself over to bringing her in to the marina. As they pressed on without the bilge being pumped she began to flounder badly, and he could tell the water was gaining on its entry into the boat.

     At the last minute he made the decision to run her for his floating office, rather than heading for her berth. He flinched at the thought, but he figured if she sank there he could at least get her up again more easily. As they came up to the little barge he released the sheets to let the sails fly slapping wildly in the wind, then scrambled off and threw the mooring lines around the barge bollards, got inside the office, grabbed an electric emergency pump from a cupboard, ran the line out, jumped aboard and set the pump into TJUTELA’s cabin sole scupper, charged back to the cockpit and worked the hand pump some more.

     By now he was extremely tired and knew he wasn’t as swift in his thinking as he would have been at other times. As well, he was getting a bit confused in his decisions. The task of getting the yawl onto the ways by himself loomed as a daunting enterprise. He began to flounder a bit in his mind.

     “How’m I going to get her up—or even over to the lift for that matter. I need help. Yeah. Nobody in sight. They’ve all gone home.”

     The safety of his two canine friends present an immediate urgency to him as they waited to hear his usual words for disembarking.

     “Ulf, Gurth, off onto the barge—that’s the stuff.”

     He left off pumping and jumped after them saying, “Here, lemme get the door so you can get inside and I’ll take your jackets off later—geeze—does the bloody office phone have to start in on us right now?!”

     The reaction to this demand for the attention of a harassed, exhausted and somewhat disoriented man was not logical. Instead of ignoring it and continuing with what he was doing, he ran into the office and snatched up the phone, thereby stopping the aggravating sound of it as the samoyeds hurried in behind him.


     “Ah! You are there at last,” came Yu Ching Li’s calm voice. “Have I caught you at a busy time?”

     “You bet—I just got in and I’m very busy.”

     To the man on the other end of the conversation the tone sounded exasperated, which surprised Li, so he replied,

     “Forgive me. I will call back later when you have had time to do all the things you must when you first come home. I will go now, David, and let you get on with it.”

     “No—NO! Don’t go!

     David caught himself shouting, and made an effort to get control of himself.

     “Sorry Li,” he apologised, as he lowered his voice, “And please don’t go. You’re just what I need right about now, and if you’re not doing anything at the moment would you consider getting over here in one hell of a hurry? I’m all by myself and I have to get TJUTELA up on the ways somehow or other before she founders. We sprang a leak on the way back and it’s got pretty bad and I have to get out there right now and pump her again before she’s gone.”

     “Is it so?!” came the shocked reply. “I am already on the way. Tell me things later. Now I will go.”

     The phone went dead, and the sudden silence made David grin as he put it down, telling the two waiting samoyeds,

     “Hey guys, help’s on the way. That’s one man who knows when to shut up and move it when he has to.”

- - -

Yu Ching Li regarded the man who was half reclining on the old couch, hair a wild tangle, two days growth of beard shining in the firelight, darkness around his eyes, an obviously bruised face in the last stages of recovering, and waited for David to start the conversation. He was aware that the younger man was experiencing a reaction, a letdown from a tense situation which had been going on for some time, and that the uncharacteristically quiet, almost lethargic behaviour was part of it. He had also noted David taking a glass of water and swallowing some tablets, murmuring something about having a headache, before he took out beer, mugs and a dish of nuts, which was his usual friendly offering when they got together.

     Li watched the beer disappearing rapidly, as the younger man swallowed his mugful, then said, “Boy, do I need that!” as he reached for another can.

     Then, after some quiet moments, running his hand through his hair to push it away from his face, he smiled and went on with,

     ”It sure was a lot easier getting TJUTELA up with you along.”

     “It did go well,” agreed Li, “With the two of us working together. TJUTELA let me position her very nicely for the pull out. You were quite right in believing that putting her on the ways by yourself would have been a difficult operation in this weather.”

     “I guess I’d have made it somehow since I really didn’t have much choice, but I sure do thank you for getting here so fast.”

     “Fortunately, there were no traffic police around,” laughed Li. “I did not mean to bother you when I phoned, knowing you always call us when you come in, but it was the silence from you which had us wondering. You had told us an arrival time much earlier than this, and Edith phoned me to ask if she should perhaps become worried as the weather was so bad. I tried to assure her that tide and wind were not in your favour and had undoubtedly held you back, but I myself was becoming concerned when I tried to contact you several times, both by radio and by cell phone and there was no answer.”

     “Sorry about that—my stupidity,” David told him. “I didn’t call earlier because I was just too occupied keeping TJUTELA going and I didn’t have the radio on—too distracting. When the electrics went out I found my mobile VHF had a dead battery. I figure Howie had been using it to call home and Jan and anybody else he could think of while we were at the Bay, and I left the cell phone with him when he asked for it before I took off so I was incommunicado after that.”

     ”Ah, that explains it entirely.”

     “Must have been dragon ESP or something which made you phone me when you did,” suggested David. “It sure was the right moment.”

      “It was indeed favourable,” agreed Li. I simply felt compelled to call you at that time. Forgive my asking but—how is it that you have this headache? I realise that the trip in was quite demanding, but it is not in your nature to have headaches. Has it to do with your injured face?”

     “Oh—that. I got hit with the boom.”

     The surprised tone in Li’s voice was unmistakable as he asked,

     “How could this be? You are a careful seaman, always.”

     “Yeah—well—this trip out it seems I was off my mark. I was trying to teach Howie how to come about and—I don’t really know how it happened but—the topping lift came loose somehow, dropping the boom and, with the wind we had at the time, it came at me.”

     “This was a hard blow then?”

     “Enough,” admitted the younger man, “But Armand looked me over. He told me I’d probably have headaches for awhile if I got stressed and—yeah—I got stressed!”

     “This is quite plain,” Li laughed softly. “I am glad it was nothing more serious. It is surprising also that TJUTELA should have a leak. You have kept her so well. Have you thought about what might have caused it?”

     “About three things,” confessed David. “Howie was on the helm while we were on our way to the Gap, and he didn’t know how dicey it can be to hit it at the wrong time. We got caught by the tide and—you know how the fog plays around there—so—we collected a couple of dings from the rocks as I was getting her in. Then the day before I left—I let Howie take her out on a jaunt and he kind of dinged her again.”

     Li knew that he wasn’t getting the full story. Being told that Howie had been in charge of the yawl at such a critical time, and that David had actually let his brother to take TJUTELA out by himself, did more than surprise him. The yawl was David’s darling and such things had never happened before. He was also sure that David would never have allowed anyone to bring the yawl that close to the Gap when the tide was running unless he himself was not able to take the helm.

     Also, when David had phoned from the bight he hadn’t mentioned a leak, and the older man now suspected that the omission of that information had been deliberate in order not to alarm anyone. David had been away for some time and a leak made at the beginning of the journey would surely have been noticed and taken care of before the yawl skipper headed home.

     “You went through the Gap with the tide running—and in a fog?!” he asked at last, trying to keep the concern out of his voice.

     “Yeah, but I didn’t do it by choice,” returned David. “We were there, and it was either get her through or hit the rocks. Well—we scraped a bit—but I got her in.”

     “You amaze me that you are always managing such difficult things!” exclaimed Li.

     “Desperation seems to grease the gears in my head,” grinned David.

     “I think it is your very independence which helps these things along. And when was it you discovered the leak?”

     “It started before we hit our first landfall yesterday. The sea was pretty rough, so I figure the strain must have forced one of the places she got banged. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad just then.”

     Li decided not to enquire further about the leak, figuring that David would give him the full story later. Instead he remarked,

     “It is interesting that your young brother remained behind. We at first heard that he was not very happy with his trip, but it seems he has found the Bay very acceptable after all, since he has not returned with you.”

     “Oh yeah. Not so much the Bay as a very acceptable young woman he met and kind of got smitten with. He wanted to make time with her and I was leaving too early for his itinerary.”

     “I wondered what had changed his mind,” smiled Li, “Since the messages Edith was getting were not too promising before. I am glad he has at last found something different than his previous social life.”

     The silence he got from the younger man conveyed doubt about that statement. Neither one pursued the subject of Howard Godwin’s new interest and quietness fell between them again.

     “I’m so damned happy we made it back,” David said at last, still coming down from the experience he had just been through and needing to talk it out. “I admit there was a point just as we got close to home when I was afraid we’d go under and—I can’t thank you enough for showing up the way you did. My brain was almost to the point of not functioning, to say nothing of the rest of me. Two days of fighting the weather and then having to pump her all night and day—hope I never have to go through anything like that again.”

     “You have managed everything admirably,” Li told him comfortingly.

     “Yeah—well if I’d handled it the way I should have before we left I wouldn’t have had all this trouble. It was my carelessness which got us into it. TJUTELA depends on me to be responsible for her. I should have checked her out before we left and made sure that all the damage was under control and everything else was in order but—I didn’t have my mind on things like that. I had a hell of a headache for awhile at first and Armand wanted me to stay ashore where he could keep checking on me, so I left Howie aboard to look after things. Knowing Howie as we do—I guess you can imagine the results. Anyway, I just let go of things and tried to enjoy the Bay like I’d planned when I left here—and I just kept on enjoying, right up to the time I shoved off. Bad mistake.”

     “It is understandable under the circumstances,” offered Li.

     “When I started for home,” continued David, “I just operated on the supposition that TJUTELA was in good shape for the return trip as always, but I learned long ago that there’s no such thing as a pretty sure bet. I forgot, and took things for granted, and put all of us into a situation that just about ended in disaster. Yeah—I was lazy and careless about things, and neglectful of my fylgia, and she found me out. I let her down and we damned near paid for it in total.”

     The reference to ‘fylgia’ let Li know that the struggle to reach port had not been only about the skipper himself surviving this trial by sea. His thoughts had been for his boat as well.

     “You are often very hard on yourself,” Li tried to comfort him, suggesting consolingly, “One is not always at fault in everything, and we cannot always be in control. Your omissions of care were understandable because of your injury and other circumstances. Things go wrong sometimes of their own volition, and bad situations arise unexpectedly. Allow me to tell you what I believe your fylgia has found out about you. I think she now knows that you are strong and brave and loyal, and that you will not desert a friend when the need presents itself. You will keep trying until the very end to have a successful outcome for any emergency the two of you may ever meet.”

     A grateful smile came into the face of the tired man on the couch as he said,

     “Thanks Li. You always have had an insight and understanding of things I get down about. I sure didn’t see it that way. Makes me sound kind of noble for the moment, until I pull my next goof.”

     “It has all ended well. Let me drive you home now where you can relax and get some sleep.”

     “Oh hell no!” exclaimed the younger man. “I’m not letting Gram see me looking like this. She’d treat me like an invalid for a week after. I’ll sleep here and clean up in the morning. Besides, I have to give Ulf and Gurth their dinner—they didn’t get much along the way—and I have to close TJUTELA up against the weather.”

     “Give me the care of these little things for you,” offered Li. “I will see that Ulf and Gurth have their dinner. Do not worry anymore about TJUTELA. She is safely ashore, and I will make sure that she is well set up for the night, then I will leave you to catch up on your rest. Let go of the helm now and get some sleep which you have not had for some time.”

     David put down the empty mug he had been holding tightly to as though it were a needed support and with a thankful smile surrendered ‘the helm’.

     Leaning back on the couch and closing his eyes, with the effects of intense stress, medication and beer now taking him over, he agreed,

     “Thanks Li. I am totally wiped out. We’ll get together tomorrow when I’m more awake and I can explain things better.”

     “That is good,” said Li, and went to get dinner for the two samoyeds who seemed almost as tired as their Friend.

     Scanned carefully by Li and secured against the weather, with her vents a little open to allow air to circulate through her damp interior, trickling water from the leak in her bow, TJUTELA settled in for the night, as tired and worn out as her skipper, but just as thankful as he was that they had made it home together, while Wind and Rain and Sea continued their games which were so much fun for themselves, but so dangerous for small boats, and seamen who haven’t given all the care they should to their floating friends.