Sunday, March 14, 2010

The safest harbour

Millie sighed and bobbed unhappily in the briny sea next to the broken down jetty near the miserable little sea-side village of Brae. Her mast paint peeled in the blazing sun, her decks dull and spattered with the ruminations of seagulls, she eyed the forlorn little street that fronted the harbour above. No one came by to gaze out over the sea. No one stopped to cast a rod for a lazy afternoon of fishing. No children shrieked or shrilled with the joys of discovery from ocean depths. There were hardly any sounds in the street. It was as if it were a ghost-town with nary a ghost.

Millie recalled days long since gone when the town was a busy little port, with sweet girls in pretty frocks watching from the street above, for their fisher boyfriends to come in from a long days haul. She remembered how she felt after a long day out in the wild ocean, near-to-bursting with fish in her hull, coming in to moor at her little place by the jetty. The feeling was one of relief and utter exhaustion from a job well done.

The harbour was now almost abandoned except for the occasional visitor who scurried more than paused to take inventory of boats, and nets and then spin the wheels on their terribly posh cars out of the village of Brae back to the big city to frown and mutter at the costs of keeping "such rubbish" such as the likes of Millie. She felt so utterly abandoned.

The ropes that tied her to the moorings on the jetty were rotting away. She could feel the swell of the ocean deep below her keel, telling her that something was changing. She was frightened and did not know what lay ahead.

One morning the sky broke dawn in shades of red and gold so vivid that Millie woke from her sleep with a terrible trembly, burly feeling deep in her hold. Something was not going to be right today - she could feel it. The sky changed colour, everything became tinged in a kind of unearthly green. Even the clouds had bright green linings to them that had to be seen to be believed. The day went very quiet. Birds stopped ruminating from aloft. The town above ceased even the few noises it did have during a normal day. Things seemed deathly quiet. The horizon switched to a menacing blackness, with angry marching clouds galloping and fuming their way across open seas towards the village of Brae.

The Storm hit sometime around noon. Violent winds battered the few miserable boats in the little harbour so that some released their moorings and were cast adrift to an angry sea. Millie squeezed her eyes shut to brave out the vicious attack of wind, sea salt, sand and flashing lightening. She tried not to think of her mast standing still tall and bare to the open sky but sail-less being struck by one of those brilliant frightening bolts of power. Her own moorings suddenly released her to the mercy of the raging sea. The little harbour became a death trap for many of these unmanned boats. Some were dashed against the rocks and were scuppered. Some capsized to become bobbing hulls and nothing more and others again were thrown though the mouth of the harbour to be beached further along the coastline.

Millie however, seemed to be held by some unseen hand and her rudder, flapping wildly as it was, kept her from the rocks or from capsizing. She was however, cast out from the harbour into the wide and violent ocean to ride impossible waves for an interminable night of pain and gut-wrenching fear.

Silence reined once more and Millie found herself, alone and exhausted, but mercifully intact, on a wide-blue ocean. The gulls soon shattered the surreal calm with shrieks of joy at a place to rest on their journey to land.

"Where am I?" she asked the gulls aloft.

"Half way!" said most of the gulls inscrutably.

Millie cried. Half way to anywhere was nowhere to "Somewhere" and right now, as much as she was just a little bit glad to be free of her entrapment in that sullen little harbour, she was quite terrified at what lay ahead. Drifting in a quartering sea, she believed she was quite possibly, going to be alone for a very long time until she sank beneath the waves to the bottom of the ocean. Closing her eyes to sleep off her exhaustion and belay her fears, she let herself drift, not knowing how or where the whispering winds would take her.

She awoke with a start as she felt a feeble tug at the Jacob's Ladder on her Port side. She'd not realised that the ladder had become loosened in the storm and had been dragging through the ocean along her side for how long she didn't know. But here it was again... a gentle insistent tug. She felt it grow a little stronger and more determined.

A man's arm hooked itself into the sodden rope rung of the ladder and he clung there, a mixture of shock and relief plastered against his storm ravished face. The planking on which he had lay from a vessel torn apart by the storm was sinking beneath him as he hauled himself with the last of his strength, slowly, up the ladder to her deck. There he lay on his back for a long time dazed and confounded.

Millie's heart ached for the man. She could not tell if he was alive or dead. She wanted very much for him to be alive! Someone to steer her, guide her through this blue desert would be a godsend of unspeakable miracles! She willed the man to be alive!

Many hours... perhaps days... later he awoke slowly, his mouth parched and his joints aching. He stretched himself slowly, checking if he was still indeed alive and not a ghost on a miserable little boat in the middle of an enormous sea. He sat up, holding his head in his hands as it throbbed wildly in pain. Dehydration! He must find water and soon. Knowing boats as he did, he eased his way to the old cockpit. He searched but could not find a waterbottle. He went below deck, staggering and slightly unsteady on his feet, his eyes affected by too much salt and sun. Below he found old tin cans in the galley and a knife - a miracle really. He also found sail cloth and with the determination of survival hauled these treasures above as best he could. The sail cloth was heavy and he cut a section away from it to take to make a way of turning sea-water into potable water he could drink. A simple case of using the sun and the wonders of evaporation. Using utensils from the galley he made a filter with the piece of sail cloth, scraping away some of its greasy coating with the knife to bare the pure linen underneath. Hauling up seawater he set it into the contraption and very soon, the salt crystals formed on the topside of the cloth while underneath the water dripped into a panniken clear and drinkable. He spent most of the day sipping at and in turn hauling water this way. Each sip he seemed to grow stronger and more alert.

Finally he slept above deck near his water making device, the sleep of a man in determined recovery. Millie was so proud of him. Her little heart entranced at his strength of will and his determination to survive no matter the odds. She vowed to be like him and mustered her courage to face whatever lay ahead.

.... tbc (though given my track record on finishing stories like this? we shall see)

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