“Gibson, what in Poseidon’s fury are you doing?!” Graham barks at the young man fumbling to un-cleat the main halyard.
“Aye, sir!” the youth quickly cries with an uncertain look on his face.
“Gibson, it wasn’t a yes or no question! Stop what you are doing this instant!”
“Aye, Sir!” he yells and jumps away with his hands in the air as if he had touched a hot stove.
Graham turns to face Zac. “Mr. Parker, what was my command?”
“Belay the main topsail sheet, Sir,” Zac answers confidently.
“What does that mean? Use words our pathetic Mr. Gibson might understand.”
“Tie off that line with the red tracers,” Zac points to the white and red rope dangling loose above the line Gibson had been trying to untie.
“Good,” Graham nods, satisfied with a reasonable answer. “Mr. Wilson, what would have happened had Mr. Gibson been successful in his folly?”
Wilson, a stocky square built man in his early forties with a shaggy beard and ponytail, shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders.
“Of course not. Fuckin’ dense. The whole lot of ya’. Skip means to set sail next week and only half of you have the basic commands down and none of you have a lick a’ common sense.”
I glance at Gibson’s line and trace it out. Almost instantly I recognize not only what would have happened but what could explain Gibson’s confusion. “Chief, the mainsail would have dropped and since the topping lift is loose, the boom would have also dropped. An unsecured boom can result in serious injuries and damage.”
“Thank you Jane, at least one of you has been paying attention.”
“Oh, one more thing, I don’t think Gibson realizes that a ‘sheet’ is a line and not the sail. I think he thought your command meant to secure the mainsail.”
“Enough. That’s enough. I’m done for the day. I need a stiff drink before I try to convince the Skipper that leaving next week will be suicide. Jane, you have the conn. Get the gear stowed and see to it that Gibson knows his damn vocabulary for tomorrow.”
Graham spins on his heel and marches across the deck of the schooner and disappears over the gunwale into a dinghy to take him to shore.
“You heard the man, let’s get her put to bed,” I yell and watch aa the men scurry off to drop the sails, secure the lines, and wash the decks.
It had taken little effort to convince Skip to let Zac join us. He had said a young moldable mind with a strong body would be a welcomed asset aboard his ship. That night, Cook called a community meeting and gave Skip the floor. That’s how Gibson came to join us. We spent two awkward nights in an uncomfortable alliance with Cook and then made the trek back to the edge of the field where we had left our 4Runner.
On our way back to Port Clyde we looped around through Liberty and nearly ran over Wilson and Carr as they jumped in front of us with their arms waving. Skip had nonchalantly rolled down his window and asked them if they had any plans. Immediately, they began begging for a ride. They said they would go anywhere and do anything as long as they could get in the SUV. They even offered up their weapons and what few supplies they had on them. Moments after the door shut a herd zoms burst from the trees and filled the road around us. Skip calmly shifted into gear and left the monsters without even leaving them a snack.
With all the seats full, Skip called it a successful recruitment effort and turned us toward the coast and our new homeport. Once in Port Clyde, he took us to an old captain’s house at the top of a hill that overlooks the harbor and now serves as the pub and general meeting hall. He introduced us to those that were around, dropped a bottle of wine and bottle of scotch on the table, lit a joint, took a drag and passed it around. He told us to have a good time because the work would start tomorrow and then he disappeared.
The next morning, Graham woke us before the sun rose and moved us aboard our new home which was moored in the harbor. She is an 80 foot twin masted schooner that goes by the name of Delirium. For three weeks we saw neither hide nor hair of Skip while Graham trained and drilled us in the operation and maintenance of our new charge. Our hands became first raw and then calloused from handling her lines. We learned to work as a team and take care of our ship. He taught us to sail the little dinghies and eventually we released Delirium from her mooring and took her for short sails just outside the harbor.
At the end of the second week a storm blew through and Zac and Carr both got horribly seasick. Graham just shook his head. How could they ever hope to sail the great blue if their stomachs could turn while at moor in a sheltered harbor.
At the end of the third week Skip reappeared out of the fog with three more recruits and announced that we would sail within a fortnight. The men all stared at him blankly; only Graham and I knew the implications of his words. We had learned much, but we weren’t ready and there was no way we would be ready in only two weeks, especially with three new crewmembers. I knew it. Graham knew it, but all he could do was drive us harder and push us further.