Hard Rain, Black Skies, Episode 5, Odysseys in Paradise

Another light rain fell. Rich used a bristle brush with a long handle to scrub the remains of flying fish that had accumulated on the deck and cabin roof. Their stench invaded the pilothouse.

It rained two or three times a day. At least a couple of times the droplets nearly formed into sleet. His monotony quelled by writing about the episodes in the Strait and reading a Hammond Innes novel, The Land God Gave to Cain. The title based on Jacques Cartier’s 1580 description of the north shores of the St Lawrence. “Jacques never experienced Patagonia or the Strait. If God gave Labrador to Cain, for certain he gave Patagonia to Nimrod.”

“Is there a place like that, where I can find refuge?” Rich wondered. “Or will it be the opposite; Paris, London, Los Angeles; a place to blend in among the throngs of the forgotten? Perhaps an island alone and forgotten by even the adventuresome soul. It is strange how one’s life can be altered by a fleeting thought. What if I only waited another day before deciding to miss the bus, would the feeling have passed? Life is nothing more than alterations. To think of it as planned or predestined seems unlikely. No one could have thought of this eventuality for me. Is a river really a good metaphor for life? The sea is better. It is open. To curse the sea would be to curse life itself. To curse the sea would be to curse God. The sea has power and strength beyond imagination, yet God confines its boundaries, depths, and movements. Reverential fear.”

On the seventh day from the exit of the Strait, Rich calculated to be about 100 miles from Quellon. He changed course to 20 degrees. After holding steady for five hours he scanned the horizon through the binoculars for the Chilean coast.

Rather than the coast, what captured his attention, a dark front raising from the sea from the northwest. It appeared as though the Devil himself brushed heavy strokes of black paint against the brilliant blue.

“What comes with it?” Rich thought. “It can’t be good.”

Unable to determine whether the sudden chill over him might be due to a sudden temperature drop or a reaction to what loomed, Rich retreated to the closet in the cabin and slung on coat and rain gear. He reefed the sails before the seas became troublesome and changed course to heave-to. He started the motor and allowed it to run for a moment to make certain it would be ready if needed.

Surprisingly, it seemed as if someone left a door open, a gust of wind rushed in from the northwest. The canvass of the pilothouse snapped and slapped like a flurry of gunfire. Zeke pranced nervously on the bench and barked at the invisible Devil.

Soon, the darkest clouds Rich had ever seen separated the sea from the sun. Lightning flashed and hurled from angry gods like javelins dashing into the sea.

Zeke leaped to the floor and bounded next to Rich whose attention was held by the movement of clouds and for rogue waves. The seas picked up and rampaged like boiling water. Rich held steady, into the wind and the waves. He started the engine to maintain direction.

“I have never seen it this dark during the day,” Rich said. “I would swear there is no sun behind those clouds.

And then as if someone suddenly poured water from a bucket overhead, rain as if a waterfalls poured heavy and steady. And if that seemed not enough, it poured harder. Rich thought it to be a phenomenon, nothing like this could have ever happened before. “This is destructive rain.”

The windshield wipers uselessly swayed back and forth. Rich turned them off. The certainty presented itself that water was being taken on, Rich switched on the bilge pumps.

The Odyssey held steady and proud.

“I hope to be The Odysseys equal,” Rich said to Zeke, “because that’s what it will take. A vessel is only as good as her captain and a captain his vessel.”

For nearly an hour the clouds emptied its supply onto the sea. And an hour later it was as if nothing happened. The darkness now dipped into the sea behind them and the waters abated to normal.

“I hope to never see the likes of that again,” Rich said to Zeke, “but if it should occur, we will be fit to the task. All this excitement has kind of made me hungry, what say you?”

Corned beef hash and eggs—for Zeke too.


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