Callie Book II (title to be determined)
In the newest book I'm writing, Callie continues working on her flight ratings, developing her Krav Maga skills, and gets ready to head off to Business School in Massachusetts. After two young girls she's been mentoring die from drug overdoses , Callie delves into the seedy underbelly of the Dark Web and goes after the people who sold them the Fentanyl laced poison that caused their deaths. Hoping to publish this in June of 2022.
From Chapter 5
They didn’t see me on the side of the road as they fishtailed onto the unpaved road, and I actually had to whistle sharply to get their attention. The driver immediately locked up his brakes and the passenger looked backward at me through his open window as I walked out into the open from behind the palms where I’d left Velocitá. The passenger looked completely befuddled. Despite that, he leaned back in and said something to the driver. I watched as the taillights went briefly white as he shifted past Reverse into Park and shut off the engine. It was silent for three or four seconds before both doors opened on squeaking hinges and the two of them emerged. One, was a pencil of a man, the other, a mountain. They both started walking towards me with completely stupid, lecherous looks on their faces. Subconsciously I pinched my left arm against my body, immediately feeling the reassuring presence of my steel baton beneath my leather coat.
“Why are you two morons following me so closely and endangering my safety? When I pulled out into traffic in front of Dick’s I wasn’t even near you guys.”
Both men stopped dead in their tracks at my question and exchanged a look of complete consternation, as if I were crazy. The skinny passenger spoke first although it wasn’t an answer to my question but instead an observation to his fat friend.
“Did you hear that, Ben? The little cunt thinks we’re “morons” and wants to know why we were following her.”
I looked closely at the one who’d spoken. He had greasy hair that hadn’t been washed in days, pimples mixed in with about four days of beard growth, and pupils that were so dilated it was a wonder he could see out of them. He was wearing a filthy, lightweight, canvas coat with sweat stains under the arms and grease stains down the front. Despite still being ten feet away from him, a rancid stink preceded him. Reflexively I looked towards the front of his pants to check for urine stains. I didn’t see any but instantly regretted my glance. Noticing where my eyes had looked, he smiled, revealing one of the worst sets of teeth I think I’ve ever seen, and then grabbed his crotch.
“You like?” He asked delusionally in what I imagined he thought was a more intimate tone.
“Please…” I scoffed.
As he spoke, I noted that his fat friend Ben, was slowly moving farther to my left side as they closed on me, in a transparent attempt to reduce my flight options.
At his question I immediately thought back to the time that my first boyfriend Christopher, in the middle of trying to rape me, had asked me almost the same question. That was right before I shattered his nose and face with two headbutts and then put my foot so far into his crotch that he was still probably looking for his family jewels. I could have done something similar to the skinny one at that moment, but didn’t. I continued to hold his stare noting that he also had an involuntary twitch. Taken in combination with his wide-open pupils, rotten teeth, and otherwise sad physical condition, it pretty much confirmed my suspicion that he was most likely a tweaker and high as hell.
What are you doing, Callie? The “watcher” in my head asked.
I decided in that moment to name the voice in my head. I would call her Connie, short for Conscience.
Ben moved slightly more to my left and closer. The skinny one edged towards me two more steps.
“Your options are getting fewer with every step you take towards me.” I said out loud to both of them. Was that me, or Connie? Probably Connie.
“Did you hear that, Ronny? Our options are getting fewer.” Ben asked his partner.
“I heard her, amigo. I’m trembling in my boots but also thinking that you and I are both about to get really lucky. She’s just a little bit of a thing.”
They both continued to close on me.
What are you doing, Callie? Have you lost your mind? Connie asked.
At that point, the one named Ben was just two feet from me and Ronny just three. Ben slowly lifted his arm and reached out to grab me. I didn’t resist him in any way. I could have done virtually anything I wanted to him in the seconds before he actually touched me, but I did nothing. I didn’t move at all as he wrapped first one arm and then the other around me from behind and pulled me into his chest. It was surreal and almost intimate in that I’d allowed it.
Why are you doing this, Callie? Connie asked. It goes against everything Eva’s taught you and against who you are as a person.
I mentally shrugged off her criticism quite aware that Connie, while sounding like an impartial observer of my thoughts, was not really. The best way I can think to describe what was going on in my head was to liken my brain to a partitioned hard drive where one side of my brain or sector, if you will, was running Windows while the other side was running Linux and both sectors had complete administrative permission to observe the other. Bottom line, I didn’t really need to be having this conversation in my head at that moment, as both Operating Systems were perfectly and instantly aware of each other. I would sort all that out later. Right at that moment, I simply had to take care of business.
“What did we miss here, Ben? Ronny asked. “This is way too easy.”
Ben squeezed me tighter to his body and absently pawed at my left breast with his right hand and brought his nose close to my ear, sniffing me. Ronny closed the rest of the way and crudely grabbed my other breast. I looked down at both of their filthy hands and noted their cracked fingernails and the black grime underneath. The smell coming off the two of them was almost overwhelming and I involuntarily heaved once before switching to mouth breathing.
What are you doing Callie? Connie asked again, although she knew perfectly well what I was doing. I’d let these two Neanderthals into my personal space and had invited them to exhibit their very worst and basest behavior in order to provide me cover and justification for what I was going to do to them next. I could have very simply taken both of them down when they’d first gotten out of the truck. I could have fled and lost them on the back roads. I could have pulled into the grocery store parking lot just 200 feet away through the woods and invited public scrutiny. I could have called 911 using the Bluetooth in my helmet and drawn them right into the hands of law enforcement the same way I had when MS-13 had chased me through downtown Fort Myers months before.
I’d done none of those things. Instead, I’d allowed one of them to call me “a little cunt,” which was not an expression I cared for at all, and then I’d stood still and permitted both of them to treat me like some sort of squeaky toy as they’d touched my body. I might just as well of handed them a shovel to dig their own graves. By my reckoning they’d already dug down about three feet and I just needed to decide whether I’d be content with a shallow grave or whether these two required six-footers’.
Enough Callie. You’ve had your little fun, but it’s gone far enough. Somebody could get seriously hurt or even worse if you continue this game.
I knew Connie was right, but I couldn’t, or wouldn’t stop it yet. Some part of me wanted to know just how bad these two were. Were they as bad as the scumbags who’d sold the drugs to Heather and Laura? I tried to imagine for a second being so inhuman that I would take advantage of two adolescents who’d been through what those two had and being willing to completely derail their recovery for a few dollars of profit. Wasn’t that another form of the rape that those two innocents had suffered at the hands of Diego and MS-13? Were the two dirt bags in front of me also willing to rape a stranger simply because they could?
So that’s what’s going on. Connie aptly noted. And this somehow makes what you’re about to do okay?
“No, probably not.” I acknowledged silently. “But you need to shut up now, Connie. I’ve got work to do.”
Work! That’s what you’re going to call this? Since when did you get into the retribution business, Callie? What gives you the right to entrap people and then physically harm them? Even worse, I can tell you’re taking pleasure in this.
“Someone has to do it.” I thought.
For the record, I do not agree, or approve. And I think you’ll find you’re sadly mistaken if you think you will take away any pride or pleasure from this.
“So noted.” I acknowledged. “And now if you would kindly disappear back to wherever you came from, I’d be grateful.”
I turned my head ever so slightly and scrunched up my shoulders in what I hoped mimicked a shy gesture to put Ben, the big one, at ease. Then I ran my hand up over his and gently intertwined our fingers. He allowed it. I’m certain he interpreted my gestures as naïve acceptance of his advances. He answered by grinding his crotch into my back. I almost vomited at the contact. The first stirrings of guilt started to flutter in my chest. Remember, I’m physically diminutive, but I also run a minimum of five miles a day three days a week, swim several miles on alternate days, work out sparring in Eva’s dojo four or five times a week, and for the past two months had added a weightlifting regimen to my workouts. I was incredibly strong and agile as a result. My Krav Maga skills were at the level of a second- or third-degree black belt. It was time.
I published Callie Awakens in 2021 and it is the first book in my newest published book/series. It's 522 pages. I first thought of writing this powerful young woman back in 1993 when I was working in the oil fields as a Captain and noted that there were no female Captains. I really love the central character of this book and hope you enjoy her.
Callie is a big departure from Maelstrom which can be quite dark at times. It's a thriller for sure, but the central character of this book is an incredibly positive, determined, self-directed, gifted (162 IQ), quirky, teenager from SW Florida who grows up in a poor, highly patriarchal family in the Fort Myers area of Florida. Her father and brothers are shrimpers and she decides at an early age that she is going to become a ship Captain against the wishes of her father and the rest of her family. Her mother, while loving, is unimaginative and uninspiring and Callie's logical life path is dim until she goes to live with an Aunt for the summer on Boca Grande after a significant life event.
Aunt Nancy is strong, educated, opinionated, vocal, suggestive, stylish, independent, rich, and defers to no one. She is the polar opposite of Callie's mother and recognizes and encourages Callie's unusual intelligence and drive. New worlds of possibility are opened to Callie during her summer with Nancy, and the entire trajectory of her life changes.
Besides being a 'brain', Callie is a runner and a swimmer and extremely fit, but she's just 5' tall which leaves her at a significant physical disadvantage in the male dominated world she's growing up in. To help Callie compensate for her diminutive physical stature and to equalize her with her male counterparts, Nancy introduces Callie to an Israeli Krav Maga instructor named Eva who becomes another central character in Callie's life. Callie trains and becomes proficient is this particularly brutal form of self defense.
When she returns home in the Fall to finish her last year of high school, she discovers that young girls are disappearing at an alarming rate in Fort Myers and are being forced into prostitution by MS-13. Callie comes to the aid of one of these girls when she stumbles on an attempted abduction and prevents it, bringing Callie and her family squarely into the crosshairs of MS-13. At this point in the story in a unique collaboration with Wayne Stinnet (the highly popular author of the Jesse McDermitt series), Callie gets some major help from one of Wayne's charismatic and lethal characters, Billy Rainwater.
Spoiler alert: Callie survives, MS-13, not so much..
'Callie' will be a series. I already have the next three books in my head and have created a character that I hope readers will find both exciting and inspiring. In this first 'Callie' book Callie also starts learning to fly and decides to attend a really good business school thanks to her wealthy Aunt's largesse. She will also continue to get sea time for her Captain's license and go on to get her instrument and multi-engine ratings and then her ratings in various high performance jets. I am collaborating with an interesting young woman who herself soloed at the age of fifteen and went on to become the youngest pilot ever rated in both the Lear Jet 60 and 35 at the age of eighteen and worked flying air ambulance rescue missions worldwide.
'Callie' is exciting, inspiring and loaded with action scenes and I can't wait to write the next few books in the series! For updates on Callie and when it will become available go to my Contact Page.
Callie Awakens, Prologue
Esteban Cordilla backed the white, eight-year-old, Ford, Econoline van up to the rollup door in the rear of the building in the industrial area of North Fort Myers. He honked twice. At one time the building had been a respectable auto body shop filled with honest workers doing an honest day’s work. After years of neglect and abuse the building had since morphed into an exclusive clubhouse for the lost, violent, morally bankrupt, uneducated, unskilled, drug addled, thieving, whore mongering, members of MS-13.
One of the cylinders in the van had a bad valve and with each turn of the engine the bad cylinder would add its oil laden contribution into the exhaust mix from the other cylinders resulting in perfect, little, white smoke rings that puffed out of the tailpipe. The door rose several seconds, and he backed in. Once inside, he stuck his left arm out of the window and made a circular motion with his index finger and the door was manually lowered again. He turned the key off and listened as the engine dieseled several times before finally stopping. He shouldered the dented door open, stepped down, and was greeted by his boss.
“You must have found a new one Esteban.” Observed Diego Alturaz.
“Good, that’s good. Let’s have a look.” Diego was casual and relaxed about the contents of the van. Esteban walked to the rear, opened the door, and tipped his hand like Vanna White showcasing a new snowmobile or a television set on The Price is Right. Inside the van on the grease-spotted, metal, floor there was a what looked like a pile of dirty laundry covered by a blanket. Esteban reached in and pulled back the blanket to reveal a struggling, clearly terrified, 16-year-old female. She was bound, gagged, and blindfolded and hyperventilating as she struggled against her bonds. Her cheeks were wet with tears, the crotch of her jeans also wet. The smell of fear and urine was acrid and powerful. Diego waved his open hand past his nose several times.
“Jesucristo, cabrón!” He exclaimed.
Esteban shrugged in response and a small group of gang members shuffled over and clustered around the open door at the rear of the van and assessed the young girl inside with cold, flat, dead eyes. All of them were blind to her terror and they discussed her looks and her body features with less passion than they would some new lowrider with glass-pack mufflers and an interesting set of rims.
The scared, young, girl was filthy and a bit old for Diego’s taste, but he understood the power that providing fresh meat to his troops had.
“Marco.” He called out to one of the gang members peering in the back of the van.
“Go into my office and get that eight-ball of nose candy in the top right drawer of the desk for the boys. Esteban, you bring the girl inside to the rec room, undress her, wipe her down and let’s introduce the puta to her new life.”
Callie Awakens, from Chapter 2
Daddy’s a shrimper and has been his whole working life. He keeps his boat, Damon & Harley tied up on San Carlos Island when he’s not out in the Gulf trawling. It’s also where he offloads his shrimp and fuels her.
My relationship with him has always been difficult. He’s a hard man who’s been shaped by a hard life. I wouldn’t call him a violent man but on more than one occasion growing up I’ve seen him use his fists to underscore a point or mete out justice as he sees it. I get all that. That’s not what bothers me about him. What bothers me is that he’s always treated me differently than my brothers. I was just six years old when I first noticed this. Back then I would silently watch his eyes during dinner as he would listen to my brothers endlessly prattle on about their juvenile exploits and adventures. His attention was always rapt, the pride and approval in his eyes plain as day. He’d stare at those two like every breathe they took was some sort of precious miracle.
When I’d try to get his attention, he’d briefly look over at me for a second, but then immediately shift his gaze and attention to reconfiguring the peas on his plate or some imaginary bit of debris in his water glass as if he’d suddenly remembered I wasn’t important and that the chances of me saying something that was remotely interesting to him was impossible. I hated how that made me feel then, and I still hate it today. Sometimes, in frustration, I’d make non-sensical motions with my arms or silently mime words at him testing whether or not he even saw me. His complete lack of interest in me or my life was palpable. I could have quoted scripture, in tongues, from memory while juggling 5 balls and I doubt he would have looked directly at me. Granted, my physical world was incredibly small at the age of 6 and not terribly interesting, but wasn’t I just as much of a construct of him and my mother as my brothers were? He hadn’t ignored them. Couldn’t he have feigned some tiny interest in me or my life? I would have done anything he asked of me, but he never gave me a clue as to how I could gain his love and approval. Ninety percent of the time he just calls me ‘girl’ which kind of says it all. That’s the box he’s always put me in as if my sex alone determined how I was to be treated.
Mam’s a little better and usually calls me Callie like I’m a real person, but she’s no ‘champion of women’s rights’. She’s always sought and embraced the invisibility that I resist.
She’s a good woman, but not in any way an inspiring one. I can’t remember anything special that she’s ever done, or her having anything special that I wanted and her willingness to so readily accept second class status as a ‘woman’, without complaint, baffles me. I discount her for this and many of my memories of her are cloudy or not there altogether as a result. I know she was always physically present for me as growing up but I’ve either forgotten or blocked many specific memories.
When I look at her, I want to feel as though we’re players on the same team and that we have a soul connection. I want to feel gushing gratitude, gentle love, and deep awe for her principled ways. I don’t feel any of those things though, just a sense of sadness that she may never have dreamed. Maybe the problems are with me.
Part 1 From Chapter 5
Below, Ryan lay curled up in the aft quarter berth directly below the starboard side of the cockpit, alternating between the coma his body craved, and the half-awake/half asleep fitful rest his mind would allow. Lying there, he kept thinking of Tory. No matter the depth or difficulty of the distractions that he’d faced in the weeks preceding their departure, the moment his mind was not specifically focused, challenged, or otherwise directed, it invariably wandered to her and the children, much the way water seeps into a hole dug at the ocean’s edge. Sweet, mysterious Tory: fiercely independent and self-sufficient, yet tender and vulnerable at the same time. To date, their physical contact had been limited to small passing touches and their intimacy to a close familiarity that came from working closely towards a common goal. He’d been content to just be with her and savor the dichotomy of her personality rather than rushing into an intense, short-lived, sexual experience that was the norm for him.
He also knew that she was completely devoted to Jan and Willy, a relationship that was almost symbiotic. The three of them came as a package deal. He also suspected, from the way she jealously guarded and protected them, and the way they seldom left her side, that there was more to their family history than she’d chosen to share with him so far. He wondered if the roles were reversed whether he would have been up to the challenge of raising two children alone and slid gratefully back into his comatose state without an answer.
On deck Tory fought an increasingly strong windward helm with the waves frequently washing down the leeward side of the deck. The anemometer now indicated a steady 24 knots of breeze with gusts to 28. Tory was suffering from a false optimism and paralysis that often afflicts helmsmen on dark nights; if they wait just a little longer, the wind will calm some and it won't be necessary to wake everyone to reduce sail. If you’re skirting a passing squall it’s often possible to change course and trim slightly and accomplish this alone, but she did not yet have the experience to differentiate between a passing squall and an approaching front line, nor did she have the confidence to alter course and trim sail on her own. If she’d gone below during the previous hours to look at the barometer, she would have seen that the pressure was falling, rapidly, indicating more than just a passing squall. But she hadn’t.
The first indication Ryan had that something was wrong was Tory’s scream as Parthenia rounded up into the wind. The wind spilled from the sails, the boat came quickly upright out of her 20-degree heel and the sails started luffing, the crisp Dacron luffs of both the main and the jib cracking back and forth in the escalating wind. Ryan woke up immediately and launched himself out of the bunk to the companionway stairs and slid back the hatch not knowing what to expect on deck. He quickly assessed the wind, sea and sky and knew they had to head off the wind and reduce sail immediately or run the risk of shaking the rig apart. The blackness on deck was total except for the instrument and compass lights and the phosphorous kicked up by the boat pounding into the oncoming waves. Conditions had decayed dramatically from when he’d turned the helm over to her at midnight and he cursed himself for not having acted on the harbinger of high thin clouds that had been moving in as he went below. He should have taken a reef before going below.
He rushed up the companionway ladder into the cold night air and yelled to Tory to turn the boat away from the wind and pointed downwind. Bending over the genoa winch he started to ease the sail out as the boat started its turn downwind.
“What's your course now?”
“185 degrees,” she yelled back.
“Take her down another 30 degrees.” Tory continued to turn the wheel and watch the compass. Ryan slackened the mainsail along with the jib as they came off the wind. Within moments the boat was moving through the water once again at a good clip with the wind now aft of the beam. Once Tory was settled on the new course Ryan climbed up behind her and stood on the lazaret hatch with one hand gripping the backstay. From this vantage point he could see how well she was able to steer the new course he’d given her and better assess the overall conditions. He also knew it must have scared her the moment they rounded-up into the wind and he wanted to reassure her that things were again now under control and that she was doing a good job.
She steered the new course with rigid determination, convinced that she’d almost killed them all. He watched their course for several moments and then leaned close enough so he didn’t have to yell.
“Why didn't you wake me earlier before the wind increased so much?”
“I did! I stomped on the floor over your head for almost five minutes like you told me to, but you didn't hear me!”
He leaned down and put his arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry, I must have been really out. We'll work out a better system in the morning. Can you stay on the helm for a few more minutes while I get on a harness? We’re going to have to get back on course and I need to reef the mainsail to do that.”
Tory nodded yes, and Ryan went below to get a safety harness and flashlight. He also wanted to check on Willy and Jan who were both anxiously peering over the webbing wall he’d rigged to the outside edge of their bunk up to the cabin ceiling to keep them from falling out of the bunk they were sharing. “You guys OK?”
Their two shy, tousled heads nodded yes. “Is Mom OK?” Jan asked.
Ryan smiled down at both of them reassuringly. “Yeah, she's fine. The wind just got a little stronger since you went to sleep. I’m going to take some sail down so we can be more comfortable.”
He got into his safety harness then reached behind the companion-way ladder to the central switchboard and flipped on the overhead spreader lights. Instantly the mast and foredeck of Parthenia were illuminated. The lights would make his job of reefing the mainsail easier. The downside was that Tory would have to concentrate harder on steering an exact compass course as the bright light would ruin her night vision and make compensation for wave action more difficult. He reached over the cockpit combing and clipped onto the lifeline that ran fore and aft along both sides of the deck. Before heading forward he explained to Tory what he was going to do and what was expected of her. “The most important thing for you to do is keep a steady course and stand ready to make adjustments when I yell them back to you. Ready?” She nodded and he stepped out of the cockpit onto the deck and crab-walked up the windward side holding the cabin roof-rail as he went. He used extra caution as he moved. Tory had learned a lot over the previous days, but he knew there was little chance that she’d be able to manage the boat alone and less that she could return to find him if he did fall overboard in the current conditions. When he reached the base of the mast, a cold, stinging rain started and quickly soaked him. Still dressed only in his underwear he muttered an expletive as goose bumps quickly rose on his near naked skin and he bent to untie the main halyard and lower the mainsail several feet to the first reef point.
Tory looked up from the compass every few seconds to check on his progress. When the rain began and started pelting her in the face and eyes, she lowered the visor on her foul weather gear another inch. “What the hell am I doing here?” she wondered. When she’d originally asked Ryan if they could all accompany him, she’d had visions of soft trade winds, hot sunny days and exotic fruit drinks in tropical, out of the way anchorages. This was anything but that. She trusted Ryan and his judgment, but the natural forces present were intimidating and underscored their total isolation from the outside world.
Ryan realized they’d have to head back up into the wind several degrees as the main was still too full to pull the tack of the sail down far enough to slip the reefing ring over the hook on the gooseneck. He yelled back, “Tory, bring her back up into the wind 10 degrees.”
Tory put her hand to her ear signaling that she hadn't heard his instruction and he pointed with his hand in a windward direction which she understood. Gradually she steered Parthenia back up into the wind until the main started luffing again. He held his hand up for her to stop. She assumed correctly that this was the new course he wanted her to maintain and returned her focus to the compass. After securing the new tack point on the reefing hook, Ryan grabbed a winch handle from the deck box at the foot of the mast, tightened the halyard again and turned his attention to the second half of the reefing operation which entailed winching in all the excess sail at the rear or “luff” end of the boom and bringing it down tight. He did this, then standing for a few moments at the base of the mast, looked forward and sized up the sea and wind again. “Better to take another reef,” he thought, and reached down to lower the mainsail yet another few feet and again took up halyard tension and winched in the excess luff. He then started to work his way back to the cockpit on the cabin roof using the reefing ties as he went to tie up the excess sail now hanging uselessly below the boom.
Tory watched as Ryan worked. He’d been in such a hurry to get on deck and reduce sail that he hadn’t put on any clothes before coming on deck and was still dressed in only his underwear. Tory smiled and critically appraised him in the harsh lights of the spreaders. Ryan was only about 5-foot-10, but he was incredibly fit and it showed in the striation of every muscle as he went about his work. He had large shoulders with lean defined deltoids, a hard, flat stomach, good pecs, sculpted ass and truly great calves, she mused. Tory didn’t work out but, in the weeks, leading up to their departure she’d noted his routine of running several miles every other day and lifting weights at the local gym at least three times a week. It showed and his dedication over the years had left him with an enviable physique for someone half his age.
“What am I thinking,” she said to herself. “Here we are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in a raging storm, and I can’t keep my eyes off this guy.”
He looked back towards the cockpit several times as he worked and was aware of her appraisal. He was nearly naked and as he climbed down into the cockpit suddenly felt exposed and self-aware in his wet briefs. He tried to cover his discomfort. “Let's head back up to our original course and I’ll trim as you bring her up.”
Tory nodded with a smile and slowly brought the boat back to 162 degrees.
“What are you smiling at?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing,” she chuckled gently and pointedly averted her gaze in a direction away from him.
Ryan turned serious again. “Can you stay at the helm just a bit longer so I can go below, check our position and maybe get on some clothes and foul weather gear?”
Tory sputtered then laughed before nodding. Ryan went below, plotted their position on the chart and then looked up to the barometer to note it in the log. He looked at the earlier barometer notation from three hours earlier. It had fallen substantially in the short period. He also checked the wind speed again on the anemometer and noted that it had risen to a steady 30 mph and was now gusting to 35. ‘This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better,’ he thought and went forward to dig the small storm jib out of the sail locker. In all the years he’d owned Parthenia and the dozens of trips south he’d made, Ryan had only had to use it a handful of times. On the last occasion, the wind had peaked at 72 knots with seas as tall as the masthead and at the height of that storm they had taken a knockdown and the three-burner stove had broken free from its gimbals and nearly killed a close friend who was asleep in a bunk across the cabin. The heavy stove had shattered his friend’s shoulder and caused considerable damage below before they were able to wrestle it into a corner and tie it to the mast. The next day they had him airlifted off the boat by the Bermuda Coast Guard.
With that in mind and before going back on deck, he made a thorough check around the cabin to make sure everything was stowed and dogged properly, including the lids on the battery boxes and the heavy propane stove in the galley. He hoped they didn't have a repeat of the storm he’d endured several years ago because it was sure to terrify Tory and the kids, but he’d every confidence in Parthenia’s ability to weather anything short of a hurricane. After checking on the children, he pulled on his foul-weather gear, grabbed the storm jib and climbed back up the ladder into the black night.
“Tory, I’m going to replace the No. 3 with a smaller storm jib.”
She looked up at him. “Do you really think we need to?”
“The barometer has fallen a lot over the last few hours and there’s a good chance it’s going to get worse. With us shorthanded I’d rather make the effort now while I can still work the foredeck. Can you hang in there for another 15 minutes?”
She was shivering from the damp and cold and dead tired, but she nodded yes. Ryan snapped into the lifeline again and grabbed several sail ties and started working his way forward, dragging the bagged storm jib behind him. The seas were breaking over the bow with increasing frequency and he knew it would take longer than usual to get things squared away. He secured the storm jib to the base of the mast, then worked his way back to the cockpit and had Tory bear off the wind some more and eased the sheets accordingly. He figured they’d probably take less water across the deck on this point of sail and went back forward to drop the No.3. Manhandling it to the deck, he rolled it forward to the bow, tied several sail ties around it, unclipped the hanks, then dragged the whole sodden mass back to the cockpit. Normally he would have dropped it through the forward deck hatch, but with the seas they were taking decided against it. One good-sized wave through the forward hatch could take them straight to the bottom. He rested for only a moment before heading forward yet again; this time to hank the tiny storm jib onto the forestay and to raise it. The only sail reduction left was to take a third and final reef in the main or lower it altogether. As they came back on course he felt a little foolish because their speed had dropped from 7 knots to just 3 knots and they were now underpowered for current conditions. But experience told him he’d made the right decision and he decided to wait things out and see if the storm developed over the next few hours. He set the Aries self-steering vane, turned and put his arm around Tory. She was still shivering. “Are you hungry?”
“Not for food, but I could drink something warm and I’d like to check on the kids.”
“Ok, we’ll both go below and I’ll make some coffee. You can change into warm, dry clothes.”
Tory pointed nervously to the Aries self-steering vane. “Can we really trust that thing to keep us on course?”
“For short periods on this point of sail, but I have to overhaul it when we get to Bermuda. I think it has a lot of salt built up in the gears.”
Tory nodded, but really didn’t understand the self-steering vane. Ryan told her before leaving that it would make their lives simpler, but it had been temperamental and ill-mannered since the first day and she didn’t trust it.
Ryan went below first, dragging the wet No. 3 jib up into the forward cabin. Then he started a pot of coffee in the coffeemaker and knelt down and petted Clifton as Tory explained to the children what it was like up on deck. When the coffee was ready, he filled two mugs and after passing one to Tory, sat down at the single side band radio to listen to the high-seas weather forecast. Tory clambered over the webbing into the large bunk the children were sharing and read them a story as she drank the hot liquid. Clifton made his way over to Ryan's side of the cabin and curled up at his feet under the chart table.
The high seas forecast for their area east of the Gulf Stream called for winds up to 55 knots from the northeast and 25-foot seas. A gale center had formed up off the coast of Hatteras and would pass directly over them during the next 12 to 24 hours. Ryan compared the broadcast position of the low with their position and realized there was a good chance they’d face much steeper, breaking seas as the wind built. He was glad he’d made the sail change when he had. Clifton whined several times as he made his 4 a.m. log entry and after Ryan finished what he was doing, helped him up the ladder and into the cockpit after attaching a lead to his collar. Once outside in the enclosed area of the cockpit Clifton gave him a disgusted look and lifted his leg against the inside. Not a fire hydrant, tree or wheel rim, but after eight straight hours below what's a dog to do? Clifton climbed back up to the companionway entrance and let Ryan help him below again.
The wind increased steadily over the next two hours and Ryan watched with dismay as it rose past 45 knots. He found he had to trim the sails every few minutes to keep them full because as it increased, it was also clocking around to their beam. As the wind increased, so did the seas, and it was a wild world he beheld as the sun slowly rose out of the east. By 6 a.m. it was gusting to 55 knots and even with the wind behind them, a storm jib and three reefs in the main, they were overpowered.
“Tory, I need you up on deck!”
Tory was feeling seasick after laying in her bunk below. With all the hatches and portholes closed the air was fetid. Normally quiet below, the noise and violence of the storm that raged outside easily penetrated Parthenia’s hull, making sleep impossible except for short catnaps. Sleep was also made more difficult by their excessive angle of heel and the jarring crashes that shuddered through the boat as waves slammed into her side. In many ways she felt even more tired than when she’d come below from her earlier watch just from the physical effort of trying to stay in her bunk. She was awake when Ryan called down to her and got out of her bunk, opened the hatch several inches, and peered out. Ryan was back at the helm with his legs spread wide for balance and head slightly down to deflect the wind and spray.
“How’re you doing?”
He smiled before replying. “It's getting pretty bad up here and I need you to take the helm while I take in the rest of the mainsail. Do you feel up to it?”
She didn’t but nodded her head yes anyway.
“Good. Get on some gear and don't forget your harness,” Ryan yelled above the maelstrom.
She went over to Jan and Willy’s bunk to check on them and let them know she was going back on deck. “We have to get some more sail down. You doing OK?”
Jan nodded. “I guess.”
“This storm can’t last forever. We’ve been through worse stuff on shore anyway right?”
Jan knew what she meant and just nodded.
“Good. Keep an eye on your little brother and I’ll be back below as soon as I can. Love you.” Tory leaned over the nylon webbing that kept them from falling out of their bunk and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
“Love you too, Mom. Be careful.”
Tory had taken longer than she meant to with Jan and rushed into her foul weather gear and safety harness. She knew if she stopped too long to think about what it was like on deck she might lose her nerve and when she finally slid back the hatch and crawled out into the cockpit, it was worse than she’d imagined. The wind had risen another 5 knots to 60 and was starting to blow the tops right off the waves. “What do you want me to do?” she yelled nervously.
“The same as last night,” Ryan shouted back, “First we’ll come up into the wind some and I’ll trim as we go. Hold the course I give you and I’ll go forward and get the rest of the mainsail down. We’re starting to take some waves in the cockpit now so make sure to clip your harness onto the binnacle and keep a good grip on the wheel!” Tory hesitated a moment building her courage.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be fine as long as you’re clipped in,” Ryan yelled, sensing her nervousness.
Tory took a deep breath, eased herself the rest of the way into the cockpit, and clipped herself to the binnacle.
“Wait a minute for your eyes to adjust to the darkness,” Ryan shouted. She did as he suggested and braced herself next to him for a minute or two before reaching for the wheel.
“I’ll be OK now.”
Ryan nodded and turned the wheel over to her. She immediately started a slow turn back into the direction of the wind. He prepared to move forward. The turn increased the wind coming over the deck and now instead of running with the waves, they’d be going into them again. They started taking large swells over the bow that roared down the deck. Ryan tried to time his departure from the cockpit to move forward between the larger sets of waves. When he judged the time was right, he gripped the starboard lifelines in one hand and the cabin top rail in the other and crab-walked quickly forward. He stayed low to reduce the body mass he exposed to the oncoming waves. Despite his caution, twice his feet were swept out from beneath him leaving him hanging precariously by his arms. The waves would then slam into the cockpit combing, become airborne and drench Tory in spray and backwash. The cockpit drains at her feet quickly became overwhelmed at the volume and before long Tory was up to her knees in water, the cockpit full of hundreds of pounds of seawater. She watched Ryan struggle down the deck and realized with new and sudden clarity how totally dependent she and the children were on him. Her faith in him and his abilities had been complete to this point, but the scale of the forces present in the howling wind and hissing waves was eclipsing that trust. For the first time, Tory felt truly scared and was weak-kneed as she watched him work his way forward to the relative safety of the mast. Everything was out of scale. The boat which had seemed so large and strong out of the water, now felt hopelessly inadequate. The wind, which had been their silent ally only hours before, now threatened to tear their sails and capsize them as they climbed to the top of each wave and were exposed to its full fury. The seas were mountainous, each wave thousands of tons. Her thoughts turned to the life raft still securely lashed forward of the cabin house. The thought provided little comfort with the knowledge that it was only about a twentieth the size of Parthenia when inflated. She turned her head forward to check on Ryan’s progress, but even breathing was difficult as the wind and spray tore at her face. The next time she looked up Ryan had reached the relative security of the cabin-top behind the mast and was facing aft towards her. His face was in shadow from the overhead spreader lights, but it almost looked to her as if he was smiling. He stood there for several moments with his arm hooked around the mast getting his breath and at one point tilted his head back and looked up the mast. His face was momentarily illuminated, and she could see that her earlier impression had been correct. “What on earth was there to smile about?”
Ryan let off the main halyard and brought the sail down the last few feet. Immediately the boat’s motion through the water was smoother and more upright. After tying the halyard off to a cleat on the mast he began working his way aft along the cabin roof holding onto the boom and wrapping sail ties around both it and the excess sail to secure the loose, hanging sail material. Anything left unsecured would flail in the high winds and eventually tear if were not tightly tied. Parthenia’s motion through the water was much smoother after the sail reduction and Tory breathed a short sigh of relief. The storm continued to batter them, but she felt they had regained some measure of control over the boat.
Ryan stayed on the windward side of the boom using it to lean against as he tied the sail material to the boom. Normally a simple operation, the seas they were in made it far more difficult than normal. Compounding this was the lack of any mainsail aloft. The boom was now free to swing from side to side as they rolled in the troughs of the waves. If there had been another crew aboard, they would have taken up the excess main sheet slack before Ryan tied off all the reefed sail. But there wasn’t and he instead hung on to the heavy boom as best he could as he worked his way aft. As he approached the cockpit he leaned over the boom to tie the last sail tie and smiled down at Tory conveying that the job was almost complete.
Tory smiled back nervously. Suddenly a large irregular swell slapped the side of the boat causing a pronounced and unexpected roll. When the wave hit, Tory had her eyes glued to the compass. Rather than looking up immediately in response to the boats shudder, she instinctively ducked her head in anticipation of the wall of water she knew would follow. One came, as she’d expected, and she kept her head down for a few extra seconds as the water washed over her and into the cockpit. When she did finally raise her head, Ryan was gone.