He purchases a thirty-one-foot Tahiti ketch, the Sea Witch, from fifty-eight-year-old Helen Davis, an experienced sailor. After learning that Rodger has little experience sailing, Helen volunteers to become the boat's skipper. A widow, Helen seeks adventure and has always desired to travel to Tahiti.
As Helen teaches Rodger the intricacies of sailing, they begin to form a relationship far deeper than skipper and mate. On their runaway adventure to Tahiti, Rodger and Helen must navigate not only the threats of the sea and the weather, but also the details surrounding his failing relationship with Irene. With their new crew member, a stray dog named Bilgee, Rodger and Helen hope their love can survive the impossible.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.85(d)|
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Come Away With Me
By Harry McIntyre
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Harry McIntyre
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRodger McCauly sits slump-shouldered in the chair beside Dr. Smith's desk as he lets his doctor's proclamation sink in. "A year to live, if you take care of yourself." Why did I let this happen? Why didn't I come to him sooner when it was treatable? And just when I was planning retirement to pursue my lifelong dream of sailing to Tahiti.
"Where do we go from here, Doctor?" Rodger asks lifting his chin off his chest and looking directly at Doctor Smith.
The doctor, a kindly, soft-spoken man, looks at him sympathetically, "Go home, Rodger, and get your affairs in order, do what's most important to you, tell your wife and your family about your predicament. I'll be available at all times, and we'll know when it's time for you to be hospitalized. Tuberculosis isn't an easy ending, but with medication and hospice sevices, we can keep you reasonably comfortable and not communicable.
* * *
The taxi wheeled past the entrance sign to the Des Moines, Washington marina, and screeched to a stop. Helen Davis jumped out, leaned down to pay the driver, and then hoisted a bulging sea bag across her shoulder and headed toward the dock. Even at middle-age, she had a spring to her step, and a body language that shouted "I'm in charge."
At the end of the dock, a Tahiti Ketch, Sea Witch painted across her transom, bobbed gently in her moorage slip, and beside her, a still handsome, but gaunt, middle-aged man waited. His seaman-type clothes still had that "new look." His blue, loose-fitting turtleneck shirt made him appear even thinner. Sailor dungarees, needing to be washed a few times to lose their shiny look; a Greek fisherman's cap, not having developed a proper crush and lacking a sweat-line at the brow, completed the faux sailor image. A briar pipe hung loosely from his lips as he watched the woman's descent down the gangway, the woman who sold him the ketch, the woman who will be his skipper for the voyage to Tahiti.
Rodger arrived early, as he wanted time alone with the Sea Witch; time to get acquainted with his new boat before setting out on what would be his biggest and last adventure. Rodger let his gaze slide over the thirty-one foot ketch, its white hull trimmed in navy blue at the waterline. The two masts rising above the deck, stained mahogany and set off by white sails flaked on their booms. The hardware, all in good repair, and all lines nearly new. A classic boat built by a real craftsman. She's obviously been well maintained with a lot of nautical miles left in her.
It all began when Rodger saw the Tahiti Ketch for sale in the Seattle Times. Maybe it had to do with the fact he had just come from his doctor's office where he'd been told the tuberculosis was getting no better, that he had a limited time to live, a limited time to do all the things he had wanted to do with the rest of his life. The advertisement with its reference to a Tahiti ketch brought the painful thought he would never realize his life-long dream of sailing to Tahiti. But why not, he asked himself? This just might be a boat I could single-hand. He responded to the advertisement.
At their meeting, Rodger had been surprised to discover the boat's owner was a woman; one obviously quite knowledgeable about boats and sailing. It didn't take long for her to realize, Rodger was not. "I don't think you have the experience needed to pull this off," she'd cautioned once he'd confided his plan to her. "I'm afraid you couldn't handle this craft by yourself. It's not a single-hander for an amateur"
Rodger's disappointment was immediate and keen, but he accepted her assessment. Disheartened, he turned to leave when she stopped him. "Look, Rodger, buy my boat and I'll throw my skipper services in free; I've always wanted to sail to Tahiti."
"I may not survive the journey," Rodger reminded her.
She'd passed it off with a wave of her hand, "That we're going to die is a given; how and when is the unknown. My late husband, Clyde, used to say, Death is the sugar of life. It makes each day we live that much sweeter. Let's just do it." The determined set of her jaw told Rodger the decision had already been made as far as she was concerned.
* * *
He now watched this woman approach, a woman he scarcely knew. A small twinge of misgiving stirred within him. If only my family understood, he thought. If only they could have been here to wish me Bon Voyage. A nervous attempt to light his pipe sent him into a spasm of coughing. He leaned against the gunnel of the boat until the coughing subsided. The doctor had said to get plenty of fresh air. If fresh air is what it will take, I'll certainly get my share in the next few months.
"I see you beat me here," the woman said as she paused beside the ketch, and then slung her seabag aboard. "Ready for the big adventure, Rodger?"
Rodger glanced across the bay; its surface ruffled by a gentle breeze, the blue sky laced with marestail clouds, and a morning temperature in the sixties prompted him to say, "This is a great day to start our voyage ... yes, I'm ready."
She instructed Rodger to go below and start the small diesel engine. It would get them out of the marina and into the shipping lanes where current and wind would launch them on the first leg of their journey.
Rodger responded dutifully and soon returned as the engine idoled smoothly. Uncleating the bow and stern line, he pushed them away from the dock, and the Sea Witch was on its way to Tahiti.
Standing at the tiller, Helen remarked, "In these light winds we'll use the mainsail and the engine until we get to Point-No-Point. Then we'll douse the engine when we pick up stronger winds at the tip of the Kitsap Peninsula and add the jib and mizzen sail. August is the best month for these waters, and crossing the Pacific Ocean should be a great adventure. By the way, can I call you Rod or Rodg instead of Rodger? That sounds so formal."
"Sure, just call me Rodg; nearly everyone does. Is there anything that I should be doing? I want to pull my weight and be a good First Mate even if you do have to teach me everything a First Mate should know."
"Well, you could make the skipper a cup of coffee. There will be plenty to learn and do later on, believe me."
Rodger went below to the small galley and lit the gimbaled, oil-burning cook stove. By the time the coffee was ready the salon was a toasty warm and begun to feel like a place two compatible people could share the eating, cooking, and lounging, all basically in the same space. Sleeping was another thing. He would sleep forward in the v- berth and she would sleep here in the salon on the hide-a-bed divan.
Rodger carried the two mugs of steaming coffee up the stairway to the cockpit to find Helen lost in reverie. Stopping short he studied her for a moment. She's attractive; at her age, the auburn hair is probably tinted, but it sets off her green eyes well. Her ruddy complexion gives her a bit of an Irish look. "You're lost in thought," Rodger ventured.
"Yes." Helen's cheeks flushed, "I ... I was here on the Sea Witch, but in my mind Clyde was at the helm."
"Oh," offered Rodger gently, "that's easy to understand. I hope this trip will be all right for you."
"It will be, I just need a few days under my belt to get past the what-ifs. By the way, Rodg, you can bend on the jib and hoist it. The wind's picked up earlier than I expected, then you can shut the engine down and raise the mizzen sail."
"I can shut the engine down, but how do you bend on a jib?" asked Rodger as he carefully handed Helen her coffee.
"I keep forgetting what you don't know. Take the tiller and my coffee cup and I'll show you how to bend on a jib." Going forward to the bow with the sailbag in her hand she shouted back to Rodger, "Hold the course at 320 degrees while I fasten the metal hanks on the forward edge of the sail to the forestay. Then I attach the halyard to the top of the sail and run it up the mast and cleat it off." She stepped back with hands on her hips, "That's called bending on the jib, and now I'll raise the main sail and the mizzen sail that are already in place resting on their booms."
She retrieved her cup of coffee from Rodger before taking over the helm. "Notice the sails are luffing or in shore lingo flapping. We're headed directly into the wind, so I'll fall off the heading about 15 degrees. Now, take each of the lines connected at the bottom corner of the jib, main, and mizzen sail and run them right-hand around the wenches located on the gunnels." Rodger took the lines, following Helen's instructions. "Tighten the winches and see what happens."
"Ah ha! The sails have filled with air and stopped flapping or I guess I should say luffing?"
"Notice the boat has picked up speed as the sails draw air."
"Wow!" Rodger could feel the boat surging forward, like a gazelle set free. With the sudden silence of the engine, he now was able to hear the lapping sound of waves on the hull, and the sound of wind in the rigging and sails. "This is great."
"I agree! Now, let's do something about lunch."
"Give me your empty cup, Skipper; I'll go below and prepare it." As Rodger took out the ingredients to make sandwiches, a spasm of coughing overcame him. He sank weakly onto the nearby divan to regain his composure. As he sat quietly he thought how intelligent is my decision to run off without any more explanation than the one page letter I left Irene. Given the circumstances of my health, I tried to explain my need to fulfill this dream. However, I did tell her I'd call from my first port-of-call to answer any questions she might have. There will be questions as this has been my big secret, but I didn't want to give her a chance to talk me out of it.
Ours hasn't been an ideal marriage, but I've always been a good provider for her and our three sons. They're adults now seeking their own pathway through life, and there are the seven grandchildren who will satisfy her need for family. Actually, she's been running our mortgage company quite nicely since my health problem, and Junior has stepped into my job. So, all in all, everyone seems to get along without me very well ... almost too well. Of course they'll grieve when I give in to the tuberculosis. But I need this adventure! It may shorten my life, but so what? It's not like I'm making this trip alone, but I wonder why I was reluctant to mention in my letter the skipper is a woman?
This fact brought him back to the moment. Finishing the two sandwiches, he added a couple of bottles of beer and chips to the tray. Climbing the steps to the cockpit, he placed the tray within Helen's reach, "I hope this meets your expectations, Skipper."
"It looks scrumptious, Mate. Take the tiller after you open your beer, and I'll freshen up a bit before I dive in." Helen rose from her place by the tiller to go below, "We're on a heading of 330 degrees, so stay as close to that as the wind allows. If the sails start luffing, just fall off the heading a little until it stops. We must sail off the absolute direction of the wind by at least 15 degrees to keep the sails full. You'll get the hang of it pretty soon," Helen added with a grin as she disappeared down the hatchway.
Rodger sat at the back of the cockpit with the tiller in one hand, and a beer in the other. Surveying the shoreline, he marveled at the beauty of Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula. He had spent most of his life in this part of the Northwest and had walked some of these very beaches as a young man. The location of the homes that were spaced along the shore was usually determined by by the height of the ground behind the beaches edge. If the bank was low, older houses appeared sprinkled with a few new, larger homes. If the bank was high, evergreen trees prevailed.
Naturally, the best property was built on first and development had started here about a hundred years ago. The newer homes on choice property usually meant a cabin had been torn down to accommodate the new home. Rodger had played with the idea of a retirement home along this stretch of beach on the Kitsap Peniinsula, but that was before his doctor's proclimation.
Foot-high waves now predominated the surface of the water that were created by the 10-knot wind coming directly out of the north. The boat lay over noticeably and was picking up speed. Slowly moving the tiller, he could feel the boat's response and thought, It's as if I had a living, cat-like animal by the tail.
This sailing is far different from any of my previous boating experiences. At the end of my arm is this pulsing, surging, dynamic thing in rhythm with the water and the wind. Sailing is so wonderfully different from power boating, I can hardly believe it.
Helen appeared in the stairwell, "Well Mate, how do you like sailing on a day with good wind, lots of sunshine and the temperature in the 70's?"
"Where has this been all my life? I just love it!"
"Good, because you're in for a whole lot more of it before we get to Tahiti." Sitting down beside Rodger, she turned her attention to lunch, "This sandwich is excellent; I'm glad you know your way around a galley, I can take or leave kitchen work. We'll trade off of course, but it's nice to know there are some decent meals in store when I'm not doing the cooking." After taking a swallow of beer she continued, "I assume you were able to get the list of supplies I gave you."
"Yes, but it took some doing over the past few days. I got everything on the list; even salt water soap. There's a lot of preserved meat aboard, but I'm hoping we will have fresh fish now and then."
"Oh we will, with any luck, but you have to be prepared for the worst. Clyde and I were out two weeks once and never caught a fish." Helen stood and walked toward Rodger, "I'll take the helm now while you eat your lunch."
Rodger exchanged places with Helen. "Really?" he replied. "I had no idea fish were that scarce."
"They didn't used to be, but that was before the dams on the spawning rivers and tributaries were built. Also commercial pollution and large trawler boats sweeping the bottom took a great toll. Japan and Russia can take credit for much of that carnage."
"What a shame, but maybe we'll luck out. I'd really like a more varied diet than canned meat." As Rodger sat eating his lunch, he let his eyes scan the passing scene. "The wind picking up, the waves higher, and hull speed seems to be increasing."
Helen smiled, "You know Rodg, you're talking and acting more like a sailor even in this short time. In fact, you even look more like a sailor with some color in your face. Even your eyes look more alive."
"Wow! Maybe I've missed my calling all these years. Perhaps I should have been a sailor instead of a mortgage broker."
"So that's what you did for a living, sounds like something I'd have no interest in. But what do I know about the banking world? I was a physical education teacher before I married Clyde."
"Really? Do you and Clyde have children?"
"No. I was the typical old maid schoolteacher. I didn't marry until I was nearly fifty and beyond my childbearing years. Clyde and I only had ten years together, but he taught me to be a sailor. I only sold the boat because I couldn't comfortably single-hand it, and there never was anyone to crew for me; I'm enjoying this as much as you are."
Helen stood at the tiller basking in the comaraderie of the moment, "Look, there's Point-No-Point ahead to port, and by the looks of the water up there, I'd say we're in for a stronger wind as soon as we round it. The wind often blows down Admiralty Inlet like liquid flowing in a funnel, and the current can run up to four knots."
"You don't look like an old maid school teacher, Skipper," replied Rodger refusing to give up this intimate conversation. "I'd say you look more like a mature athlete of some outdoor sport: perhaps sailing, swimming or skiing."
"I'll take that as a compliment, Rodg, but don't emphasize the word mature too strongly; I'm not ready for the scrap heap yet. I figure I have ten active years left in me; then I'll play at the sedentary life." Helen stood a little taller obviously enjoying Rodger's compliment combined with the glorious weather and the joy of sailing once again. She had missed the smell and soft sting of salt-laden air hitting her in the face as she stood at a tiller with a deck beneath her feet.
Even though the sun felt good on her skin, it wasn't shortsleeve or tanktop weather yet. That would come when they were a thousand miles farther south. They'd be off the coast of California and into warmer weather by then, and shorts and polo shirts or tank tops would be the uniform of the day. For now it were long pants and long sleeve shirts, perhaps with a sweater or windbreaker in the late afternoon or early evening.
Excerpted from Come Away With Me by Harry McIntyre Copyright © 2010 by Harry McIntyre. Excerpted by permission.
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