“It is not a boat,” Rich said quietly. “It is a fire. It flickers like a fire. Maybe a boat on fire?”
He continued to peer through the porthole. And the flicker was no more. He sat on the bench and reasoned, “Maybe it was nothing. Perhaps a reflection of The Odyssey ’s deck light on the porthole glass.”
Rich climbed on deck determined to satisfy his concern. He saw nothing from outside the cockpit. He climbed two rungs up the mast and there he saw the flicker again.
He went below and switched on the radio. “Anyone in distress, anyone in distress.” He continued for a minute or more. There was no reply.
Rich flipped on the light above the chart desk. He located his last reading on the map and slowly moved his finger northwest. He noticed something unseen by him before. It was a small unnamed island obscured by the fold in the map.
Rich returned to the helm and pointed the bow toward the flicker. He sailed for an hour and dropped the sails. “Approaching the island during the night might prove unwise,” he thought. “There may be hidden rocks and reefs.”
The morning glow of the sun revealed a low island topped with few trees surrounded by sandy beaches. To Rich, it appeared the quintessential deserted island.
Rich raised the sails and plotted a course to circle the island. He caught a westerly and The Odyssey skimmed the southern coast within a half mile. At the eastern edge of the island, he turned north.
Rich scanned the beach through the binoculars. A small sailboat, perhaps less than 30 feet rested on the beach; the mast snapped halfway down.
Rich blasted the horn three. Through the binoculars, he caught sight of a man waving frantically. Rich dropped the sails, motored closer to shore, and tossed his anchors. He lowered the dinghy into the water, pulled to start the engine, and putted to the beach.
A bearded man with dark hair wearing a shirt with yellow flowers and tan shorts ran toward the dinghy and caught the line tossed by Rich.
“Am I ever glad to see you!” the man said with an Australian accent. “Praise Jesus!”
“How long have you been here?” Rich said jumping from the dinghy and splashing into the surf.
“Two weeks,” the man said. “You’re the only boat I’ve seen. I saw your deck lights last night.”
They pulled the dinghy to shore and tied it to a cabbage tree.
“What happened?” Rich said.
“I got caught in a storm and was too close the island,” the man said. “I couldn’t drop my sails and my mast snapped and the waves pushed me into the beach.”
“Radio?” Rich said.
“It crashed on the cabin floor,” the man said. “I don’t know a thing about them.”
“The name is Rich Larsen,” Rich said shaking the man’s hand.”
“Harrison Drake,” he said. “Friends call me Harry.”
“Well, Harry,” Rich said. “I know how to fix the mast. And I can take a look a the radio.”
“You can sail with me to Pitcairn,” Rich said. “Where were you headed?”
“Easter Island,” Harry said.
“How can you fix the mast?” Harry said.
“It would be a repair,” Rich said. “We can salvage some lumber from your boat and make a splint to reconnect the two pieces.”
“What about floating her again?” Harry said.
“That could be a challenge,” Rich said. “If we repair the mast; and find a good wind from the west, with the sails of your boat, the sails of my boat, my engine, a favorable tide, and a miracle we just might get your boat out to sea again.”
“The boat is heavy,” Harry said. “And even when the tide is in, it won’t float.”
“We will have to use some ingenuity and sweat,” Rich said. “If we have to, we can dig around the boat. If the sea washed it up here, with a little help it can wash it away.”
“You sound like a positive fellow,” Harry said.
“You can sail her to Easter Island,” Rich said, “or back to Adamstown, and there a proper repair or replacement can be made.”
Harry rubbed his beard.
“When was the last time you had a good meal?” Rich said.
“It’s been a week,” Harry said.
“Let’s take the dinghy to my boat,” Rich said. “I’ll fix you a proper meal. If we’re going to hoist that mast back in place, we’ll need two strong men.”
They putted back to The Odyssey and Rich prepared a large plate of corned beef hash and eggs. Rich loaded the dinghy with tools and hardware and they returned to the island and Harry’s boat.
Through a great deal of strain and ingenuity, they positioned the mast back into the place where it had snapped. It fit comfortably like a jigsaw puzzle. Four planks were harvested from Harry’s boat and each cut into four-foot lengths; serving as splints on each side of the location of the break. Rich tacked them in place with finish nails and then used wood screws to secure them. They used extra rope to bind it further.
“There you go, Harry,” Rich said twisting the rope tight; stronger than the original. “If it breaks, it will have to break elsewhere. The next port I’d strongly advise to replace the mast or have a proper repair. This is temporary.”
“What now?” Harry said.
“Wait for the tide and see if we can dislodge her,” Rich said.
Harry’s demeanor and countenance changed in a moment.
Rich smiled. “What’s wrong, Harry.”