Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The safest harbour 2

The Safest Harbour 1

Next morning the man woke stronger and ravenously hungry. He scanned every corner of Millie's hull and upper decks for items he might fashion into fishing hooks, spears and other meat gathering devices.

The gulls aloft, were nonchalant, not realising the man's intentions. His spear, thrust with an expert eye through the breast of a young gull, scattered the rest in shrieking horror.

The man did not have a way of cooking the bird but he stripped it of its feathers and then used the meat as bait for his fishing rod made from line and hooks found in the stern. Fish could be eaten raw - gulls could not. Millie was so proud of him! She admired the way he worked so efficiently. She admired his wisdom and clever thinking. She all but forgot her predicament of being so lost at sea in her fascinated observations of the man and his labours.

The man did indeed feast on raw fish that day. He made faces and threw up over Millie's sides a few times, but in the end he ate and it was better. He sat in Millie's cockpit and pondered what to do. He tested her rudder and was surprised to find it had survived the storm and she could be steered. Somehow, he had to get that old heavy sailcloth up from below onto the deck to work it onto the gear and catch the winds. It would be difficult work. He looked at his hands, bleeding in places from working ropes and hooks, blistered and peeling on the backs from the sun. He was determined to survive and this little boat was going to help him - no matter the cost!

It took nearly two whole days of hard labour - in between running to check his fishing lines and eating raw fish - for the man to get the sailcloth up onto the deck. Finding an old box of line and tackle stashed deep in the hold, he fashioned gear that would take the sail almost half way up Millie's empty mast. By day three, the man was ready to haul the sail aloft but found it so heavy he struggled against it for most of the day. He almost gave in and then an idea came to him to leverage the sail lines around the large spindle in the stern. The spindle had once been used to let trolling line out to sea.

The man spliced and cut line into other line to lengthen it enough to reach the spindle. He fastened the line to the spindle and prayed this approach would work to raise the sail. He bent at the handle, pausing briefly and speaking the first words Millie had heard from his lips "C'mon girl! Don't let me down now!". She clenched her eyes shut and willed the spindle to work with all her might. The handle turned, creaking and squeaking. The line strained and the man held his breath fearing his splices might tear apart. He turned the handle slowly and slow centimetre by centimetre, the sail was hauled up to fill with the westerly breeze. Millie could feel her keel shudder as her rudder started to flap with the promise of speed.

The man locked down the handle on the spindle when he could turn it no longer. The sail was up high enough to fill with breeze and move the little boat across the ocean. A running ocean current gathered pace beneath Millie as if in answer to her impetus. The man raced to the cockpit and grasped the tiller in his blistered, bleeding hands and tacked Millie with the wind. She was moving! Zigging and zagging across the ocean heading for "Somewhere".

For five nights and five days, the man tacked Millie. At night he scanned the horizon for the North star and fixed his sights on it as if it were a lighthouse showing the way. He slept with his arm draped over the tiller during the day and moved Millie towards the star by night. On night number five, Millie saw a real lighthouse. Her little heart fairly leaped out from within her. The man whooped and hollered and danced a merry jig on the deck. He guzzled the precious water he had collected and threw the rest of the rotting gull carcass over the side in celebration!

At the break of dawn on the fifth day, Millie entered the narrow head waters of a beautiful harbour. The waters were calm and deep. Dolphins chattered and giggled beside her as the man steered her towards the town on the other side. As they got closer, Millie could see that this town was so very unlike Brae as to be almost alien. The streets bustled with people and cars. The esplanade that followed the shoreline was peppered with people walking, running, fishing and chatting. There were young lovers on seats kissing in the morning sun and children shrieking as grandfathers dragged fish from the sea with their rods. There were boats lined up in a small marina, gleaming and loved. Millie felt suddenly embarrassed at how shabby she looked but the man, sensing her thoughts, patted her deck and said "You are the most wonderful boat I ever owned", with a catch in his voice that held a reverence and pride. Millie sobbed. She cried out all the fear, trepidation, and grief of the past week into the harbour depths and soon felt so light and airy that she thought she might start to fly.

A patrol of boats came out to greet Millie and the man. When the sailors all heard the man's story, they slapped him on the back and wrapped him in blankets and poured whiskey into panniers for him to drink. News travelled as if on wings back to the people on the shore. Soon, a large crowd gathered at the pier to welcome Millie and the man and cheer their amazing survival against the odds. The man thanked the sea patrol men and made a simple request.

Six weeks later, Millie could hardly believe how her life had changed. The man had requested only one thing in exchange for his story of survival and hope. Millie was now gleaming with new paint, polished decks and equipped with new sails. Her hold had been cleaned and her keel scraped. She was fitted with the latest nautical equipment. Her old spindle was oiled and now spun as lazily and easily as a spinning wheel. She had all new line and her anchor was rust free.

The man? Ah... well he shone too. His hair and beard were trimmed and clean. His hands were blister free and the wounds of his ordeal were healing over to become scars to be borne with pride. He stood tall and even handsome. His eyes sparkled with intelligence, wit and good humour and he longed to be out on the ocean again, fishing - making a living.

Millie found herself being taken out to sea once more. This time as a working boat. Her decks were scrubbed every day. She was given opportunity every day to earn the man and his helpers an income. Together they became a team. Nothing fancy. Just a solid working team. She was owned by someone who cared about her - loved her even. Millie's heart swelled with such happiness and joy that she practically near glowed; for Millie had found the secret to a Good life: she'd found the safest harbour of all. Companionship.


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