The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 96
The wind on the return trip was more favorable, but Rich didn’t have the luxury of slipping below as he did on the way to the Cape. It was at least 10 degrees colder. His seamanship and verve were put to the test. Rather than ducking into the cabin he warmed and refreshed myself with coffee from a thermos.
The winds from the southwest picked up and with it the seas were becoming more difficult. He gave thought to putting in at a safe harbor along the coast, but wasn’t certain of how much time it would require. He wanted to steer clear of the rocky coast. His seamanship was not good enough to navigate a tight port in strong winds and rough seas.
Rich steadied the wheel with a slip rope and went below to turn on the radio and hear what weather was coming his way. He found the weather frequency and turned up the volume to hear it above the wind, waves it at the , and flapping sails at the helm.
“Fresh gale force winds expected with 10 foot seas…”
That’s all Rich needed to hear. He looped the wheel again and scurried aft. He opened the storage hatch and cast the drogue perhaps prematurely, but he was being overly caurtious. He staggered forward and reefed the sails.
Rich sat at the helm again. The Odyssey seemed to be steering herself. He relaxed to collect his thoughts and review a mental checklist of all things he had read and what Sam taught about sailing in rough seas.
“As near as I can figure we’re fifty miles off Portsmouth heading northeast,” Rich thought. “I may as well be in the middle of the Atlantic.”
Rich was hungry and knew he needed nourishment before the seas were severe. He stumbled below and cracked four eggs and fried them over a gas burner. He made two egg sandwiches with butter. With The Odyssey holding course he stayed below to warm-up and eat. He rested to gather strength and energy.
He heard the winds pick-up and felt The Odyssey rush forward pushed by breaking waves that broke as if showing its teeth. He returned to the deck and tempestuous sea about him.
Rich staggered along the deck again to make certain all was secure. He returned to the helm much in the same way he wobbled afore and set a course to take the best advantage of the wind and move closer to shore.
In time from the west a darkness with billowing clouds rolled toward The Odyssey. The wind picked up and became more ruthless. The waves pushed harder against the bow and the stern slapped hard. Rich kept a steady course until waves began to crash over the port side. He maneuvered The Odyssey into the teeth of the storm and used as much of the storms power to push north. Rich used the sails until he became fearful that it was no longer safe.
He tied a line from the hand railing on the cabin to himself and crawled along the deck. He grabbed tight around the mast with his arms and dropped the sails. The boat began to turn on him. He slid back to the helm and held her against the waves. Again he struggled afore to secure the sails. Suddenly he slipped and had nothing to grab hold. He grasped and clawed for something to stop his slide overboard. He tried to grapple at whatever but his hands were unable to find anything. His legs slipped into the water. He grabbed the rope railing, but the sea seemed to be tugging at him as if being seized by the tentacles of a fearsome sea monster. It was as though he was being pulled apart. Rich, for a moment, thought it was all over, death was imminent. He would be pulled under the violent deep and his lungs fill with salt water; lost at sea. Finally Rich pulled up with all his strength to where the rope was to his chest and he was able to regain more strength by locking his armpits over the top of the rope. He hauled himself from dangling over the edge and crawled alongside the deck. Again he staggered to the helm in order to hold the course. His legs were becoming weak and heavy. The hull crashed into the waves and then violently lifted up, time after time. The boat steadied and he was able to go below for a while.
Rich rested for a moment with his heart pounding heavy. He slipped into dry clothing and sat close to the heater.
In two hours it was over.
The seas had abated to the point the he could venture along the deck and chip away then sheets of ice. He remained tethered tightly to The Odyssey. Soon he lifted the sails and continued his quest homeward.
At nightfall Rich put in at Newagen. He was relieved to be there. He was too tired to go ashore. He brewed a pot of tea with a sardine sandwich. He relaxed satisfied that death had been cheated on that day.
Rich laid in the bunk thinking he’d never get to sleep. Suddenly the sound of gulls awakened him and a glint of the sun crested an island to the east.
Soon Rich maneuvered through a cluster of small costal islands and out to sea again.
By late morning from the port bow he caught sight of Port Clyde - a welcome sign. The Odyssey hugged the shore line and passed between some coastal islands and mainland that was blanketed deep in snow. The beauty was a prodigious display of trees shrouded in thick snow as if dripping with mounds of melted marshmallows and coated rocks looked like huge pillows. He passed by Owls Head to catch sight of Rockland harbor in glorious view - the spires of churches and masts of boats. He called Sam on the short wave and by the time he docked Sam and Katie were waiting.
He had much to tell as they spent some time together until early evening.
Rich drove to the apartment - his fortress, his home. The journey complete - he proved his worth. He pulled myself from the grips of death.
Looking out his window at the harbor, the mast of The Odyssey seemed to stick at the dock like a flag of victory on a conquered battleground. That was probably the moment; he could claim victory and like soldiers who claim it, display their medal, and march home triumphantly. He felt nothing could defeat or dampen his spirits now. He conquered his fears, the sea, and death. There became a reverence for life but also a confidence of self, and awareness of self overcoming the insurmountable. “The most abundant element on earth beckoned my life,” Rich thought, “but I and I alone refused to relinquish. Yet, I was conscious of my own limitations and if the sea were anything more than what it was, if it could react intelligently or had murder as its craving I would have died.”
The radio was switched on. A pot of tea brewed. A lonely book read. A tranquil evening enjoyed.