Thank you for your valued interest and also for taking the time to read this excerpt. Enjoy it!
Chapter 3. The Atlantic!
The morning dawned on Ellentari, and on deck the excitement was palpable. Nobody had slept much and one by one, they had risen and dressed within ten minutes of each other. Gathered on deck, a moist November wind ruffled Connie’s hair. She looked alert and full of energy despite only about five hours sleep.
‘I couldn’t sleep, I’m too excited I suppose.’
She smiled at Toby as he came and stood next to her on deck.
‘Me too. I thought I’d make some tea and sit on deck until the sun rose. Like some?’ he asked.
She nodded. Toby climbed down below to the galley and filled the kettle. The slight phut and smell of camping-gas rose from below decks. Galley sounds reached Connie: mugs rattling and the fridge box door being opened and closed.
Richard walked along the deck and stood at the front of the yacht. The tapering bow was gently rising and falling with the motion of the teal-coloured water. He gazed out in the direction of the harbour wall entrance and paused, to lean against the stainless steel guard rail. A salty, fishy smell wafted up to him from where the water sucked and gurgled. After a few minutes, he walked softly back to the cockpit and looked at Connie and smiled, the skin crinkling around his blue eyes. He was so excited; he could hardly catch his breath.
‘Well today’s the big day.’
She smiled back and hugging herself, shivered slightly. ‘I feel just like a child at Christmas. You know getting up early before anyone else has stirred, and knowing that today was going to be very special. Nobody else was up as early as me, except Daddy, and he and I would sit and drink tea – mine was very milky. We would sit and whisper with our toes turned to the fire that he would relight. We ate chocolate biscuits, a special treat then, and waited until the other sleepy heads woke up and started screeching ‘Merry Christmas’!’
Richard was surprised at this picture of her early childhood. She was always a very reserved private person, sometimes almost superficial. Her eyes glowed warmly in the half-light and she looked up at the lightening sky, neck outstretched long and tanned. She was quite pretty in an unusual way and her smile never failed to make him feel good even after their fourteen years together.
‘Tea’s up. Who’s for a bacon sandwich then? I’m making,’ Toby reappeared with three steaming mugs and broke into their moment.
‘Thanks,’ said Richard. ‘It’s a good idea to have breakfast now. We’ll do a few last minute safety checks and ease her out from her berth. No wind to speak of, so it should be dead easy.’
The engine coughed into life and gently rumbled as Richard took the wheel. Toby and Connie eased the mooring lines and stood ready to fend off if the wind caught her. Richard drove her out of her berth and Ellentari slipped from the Santa Cruz marina and ghosted out beyond the harbour walls. The familiar chug of the seventy-five horse power diesel engine had rebounded loudly in the marina confines until they were clear and able to set her sails. Coasting along in the gentle early morning breeze they swiftly brought in and stored the fenders and mooring lines in deep deck lazarettes.
‘You do realise that we won’t need those for another two to three weeks don’t you?’
‘English Harbour, Antigua, West Indies, first stop!’ they all chorused together. Tenerife to Antigua, nearly three thousand nautical miles as the seagull flies. How exciting!
Within hours the crew of Ellentari were experiencing the Atlantic at its best. A dark indigo-blue sea with the slightest of swells was gently buffeting the starboard quarter.Thereafter each day the sun rose not long after the pearly dawn. A glimmering ball of seemingly dripping gold casting its long reaches across the sea. Sea birds had followed them until they were too far from land and now they only saw the occasional wing above the little crested waves, dipping and gliding above the surface hunting for a glimpse of moving silver. The days became hot, the decks smelling that beautiful warm smell of clean wood reminiscent of a sauna room. They were happy, relaxed and settling down to shipboard routine.
They knew the voyage could take them anything up to a month depending on the wind and sea conditions.
As far as Richard was concerned the boat was as near perfect as she was ever going to be. Everything that he could think of had been serviced, checked and replaced where necessary. Richard knew that he was quite a taskmaster and anyone who didn’t realise the importance of good planning and preparation would even consider him pedantic. However, he was not concerned with what anyone thought of his running of his yacht. Richard had taken delivery of a new life raft, plenty of emergency flares, both short and long wave radios, and a special receiver for weather forecasts. He had also invested in a satellite telephone and an EPIRB that would flash their latitude and longitude position if activated in an emergency. Heaven forbid, he thought that they would need any of this equipment but it was better to be safe than sorry.
Ellentari was a forty-five foot sloop with a deep fin-keel. Her hull was white with a double blue stripe running along under the toe-rail and the rigorous sea tests had pronounced her as a well-found yacht and extremely comfortable to sail and live onboard.
Now Tenerife was far behind and they had quickly settled down to shipboard routine. The conditions were kind; cloudless sunny days not yet too scorchingly hot, balmy soft-aired nights spent watching the amazing Milky Way with its numerous shooting stars. They had good steady breezes giving them an average of six to seven knots and seas that were for the most part perfect, no huge waves or swell. Occasionally the wind would die away and they would slow down to a ponderous two or three knot speed. Then, the boat would develop a roll in the Atlantic swell as she rode up one long wave and then slipped down into the following trough. When the boat really slowed down they would rig a safety towline behind and take it in turns to take a swim off the stern, keeping a sharp lookout onboard for any sinister fin following their wake. The swims were exhilarating and refreshed both spirit and body.
The days seemed to slip away and no one seemed to experience any boredom. There was always plenty to do. Books were read in a day or two, meals to cook, crossword puzzles; Richard took his guitar up forward and lost himself in his music.
Connie was steadily turning a wonderfully lustrous shade of gold and loved nothing better than lazing in the cockpit book in one hand and a cold juice in the other. Work seemed such a dirty word and belonged back in cold, depressing and dreary England. Sighing in contentment Connie turned over onto her stomach.
‘Can you rub some suntan lotion onto my back please Toby?’ She asked sleepily.
Toby was very happy. He relished the idea of triumphantly arriving in Antigua and then spending the next five months on Ellentari as she weaved her way down the necklace chain of colourful Caribbean islands. He remembered a couple of eventful holidays spent in Jamaica and Barbados and looked forward to visiting Guadeloupe, St Kitts, Nevis, St Lucia, Dominica, and the tiny gems of The Grenadines.
Toby had come to terms with his banishment. He had been careful not to let Richard and Connie know the real reason for his six month leave and knew that he had actually done very well out of it ironically and he was enjoying the time spent in Richard and Connie’s company.
He rubbed lotion over Connie’s smooth skinned back. Especially Connie’s!
Connie he was particularly fond of, which he found rather perplexing. Toby enjoyed most women’s company but, he still regarded them as if not exactly inferior to men, certainly not quite equal. Connie he treated with much more care than he usually did most of the others.
His careless behaviour to his past lovers bore clear evidence to this. He enjoyed chasing women, bedding them and then ditching them when he was bored. Apart from that he didn’t have a lot of use for them per se. He just didn’t care enough for anyone more than himself.
So, it was to his surprise that he was drawn to Connie and enjoyed being in her company. Perhaps she was more immune to his very obvious charms and didn’t fall for his usual sexual innuendo. A very confident woman, she would listen to his carefully rehearsed, well practised string of patter and then with a mischievous glint to her eye skilfully manoeuvre the conversation around to her own advantage. He playfully suggested, she teased. He never missed the opportunity to openly flirt with her and Connie appeared to enjoy the thrill of being in charge and on top. It was fun and the time passed miraculously.
The sun had climbed over a light blue sky and a sea shot through with sparkles. The yacht ran sweetly in her groove just before the wind. The song of the sea was running down her side and in the soft creak of the mast and boom. They had had a few hours of doldrums, the yacht lying melancholy with limp, idle sails in a damp oppressive heat under a cloudy sky and rolling on a smooth swell with only a capricious breeze ruffling the surface of the oily-sea. Most nights the heavens were lit from rim to rim with pinpricks of stars, held by the black warm velvet. The bloody moon rose until most high and, it seemed like the heat emanated from its imperfect globe.
They had been at sea now for six days and had logged about 875 nautical miles. They had experienced good sailing with very little periods of being becalmed. The skipper was happy with the yacht’s progress. Richard knew that traditionally the Trade Winds kicked in stronger as they approached the western Atlantic, and they could then hope for an even faster passage. They were doing better than he had hoped for.
Today had been particularly eventful. The huge golden sun had swiftly risen in the early morning with a promise of yet another glorious day. Very soon the teak deck had warmed in the sun and the sweet wood smell permeated throughout the open cockpit. Half a dozen flying-fish had been discovered marooned on the forward deck and had soon disappeared into the frying pan for breakfast.
Richard settled down at the chart table, and using his Global Positioning System plotted their longitude and latitude course on the large Admiralty Atlantic chart in front of him. Their progress across the Atlantic could be seen by a series of ‘fixes’ taken at regular intervals daily and pencilled in on the sea map. The miles were being eaten up, Antigua beckoned. He thought about how sailing today compared to when his father had been at sea. Back then, small boats had nothing like the electronic and safety equipment that you could buy now. It must have been almost an entirely different experience, especially during the wartime years. He wished that he had pestered his father into telling him a bit more about his early sailing life. It was too late now of course.
Both the mainsail and the headsail were up and fully laden with a good seventeen knots of wind hard on the starboard quarter. That is, the wind was just behind their mid-ships and on the right-hand side of the boat. The sea state was moderate, and that fantastic deep inky shade of blue that is only seen miles off shore. They hadn’t had any dolphins for company for a few days, but they had recently passed through scores of turtles going the opposite way. One ship had been seen on the horizon and occasionally they would see the telltale slipstream of a jet far above in the brilliant blue sky. The temperatures were now rising; hot during the day and falling back down to a more gentle heat at sunset. It was true what the old sailors used to say, ‘sail south until the butter melts and then turn right for the Caribee.’
Toby had two fishing lines trailing behind the yacht. The boat came smoothly off a slighter larger wave and careered down the other side picking up another half knot. Connie was sitting idly watching him from the starboard teak seat at the back of the yacht. ‘It’s just like a roller coaster ride at the funfair,’ she shrieked with laughter.
‘Yep, only this is more impressive,’ Toby agreed, letting out more line as he did so. ‘Of course you can’t get off though,’ he continued.
‘Get off the ride my sweet.’ Toby looked over to her and flashed a smile. His dark hair and tan contrasted heavily with his expensive dental treatment. He had lost a little weight in the time they had been aboard, and the daily exercise routine he practised on board was tightening up his slightly fleshy body.
‘I don’t mind. At the moment if the conditions stayed like this I wouldn’t care if we went all the way to Brazil.’ She laughed and ran her hands through her hair. ‘Phew, it’s getting hot earlier today though.’
‘You wait until we really near the Caribbean. If the humidity is high then it’ll be stonking. Would you like me to fetch you another cold drink?’ he asked her.
‘Ooh, yes please. I feel so lazy here in the sun. I know I should be doing something creative or cleaning something but sitting here is so much better.’ She smiled up at him as he stood over her.
‘Sitting here watching you turn a darker golden-brown and trolling a fishing line is good enough for me too. And I especially enjoy watching you practise your yoga on the front deck.’ he replied as he took himself down below to fetch their drinks.
Connie smiled to herself. He really was a flirt. She hadn’t known that he watched her when she went up to the forward deck for her daily yoga exercises. Having two men fancying her was a bit of a turn on. Although she knew Richard loved her he was sometimes too quiet and far too undemonstrative. She knew that Toby had loads of women friends and couldn’t remember ever seeing him without some hot beauty attached to his arm. I wonder what he’s like in bed, she mused. He’s probably very good. Still I don’t suppose I’ll ever find out, not with Richard around anyway. She laughed to herself as her mind drifted off to consider sex in the sun, in front of the mast, or lying in the cockpit or stretched over the binnacle. It was fun to play the tart sometimes!
Suddenly, the line trailing from the port quarter went taut and the rod wheel screamed as 200 feet of nylon was whipped out behind the boat. Connie jumped, bewildered for a moment and forgot her daydreaming.
‘Fish!’ she yelled. ‘Toby we’ve got a fish!’ She leapt up from her seat. ‘Slow the boat down.’
Toby rushed up into the cockpit and met Connie coming the other way; they collided with each other and Connie would have fallen if Toby hadn’t put a protective arm round her.
‘Easy my sweet,’ he murmured.
Connie released the port genoa sheet and the sail bagged and flapped with the decreased pressure. Toby was releasing the load on the mainsheet and soon both sails were flogging and the boat’s speed was reduced to a bare three knots.
Richard appeared in the cockpit, a questioning look of concern on his face. He had been forward in the side cabin immersed in the spares locker. What was happening? He hadn’t given any order to slow the boat down. He noticed both Connie and Toby on the back deck, so both crew members were present and unhurt. That was a relief anyway. He then noticed a red-faced Toby at the stern; he was holding the rod in both hands and feverishly trying to reel in at the same time. The strain showed in his bulging arm and neck muscles. Connie watched with interest.
‘It’s a huge one! I saw it jump a minute ago. Look, there!’ he puffed. The iridescent Mahi Mahi leapt four feet into the air way behind the boat. It was desperate to dislodge the treacherous hook from its jaw. ‘Give us a hand will you, it’s bloody heavy,’ he continued, sweat running profusely down his face and soaking his chest.
Connie squealed in excitement as she saw the fish, while Richard hurried onto the aft deck. Together they heaved and reeled the fish closer to the yacht until it was near enough to gaff and haul on board. The fish lay there gasping from the struggle and fight it had put up. Its body was beautiful, glowing with all shades of blue, green and yellow.
Connie held the squeezy bottle of cheap spirits reserved for fishing and carefully poured a little into its gills. The sudden spirit seeping into the fish’s gills caused it to die a quicker death instead of the twenty minutes or so of painful bloody thrashing around on deck. It flapped wetly a few times and then lay still, its eyes glazing over and the beautiful turquoise colours of its skin already fading to a darker murkier blue-grey.
‘Must weigh a good six to seven kilos,’ Toby said looking triumphant, ‘have you room in the freezer?’
‘We’ll have some tonight and I’ll make ceviche for tomorrow’s lunch. I’m sure I have enough space now as we’re eating well into the meat rations.’ Connie replied. ‘Well done! Well done both of you for hauling it in. It looked like hard work.’
Toby grinned and nodded his agreement. ‘I’ll clean the fish for you and cut it up into fillets, OK?’
He swilled the remaining blood from the rear deck after gutting the fish. A lone shark swam stealthily behind Ellentari, it’s grey fin showing clearly in the boat’s wake. It paused, unseen and swiftly snapped at the dumped entrails before continuing on it’s journey.
Richard was reading a weather fax he had downloaded onto his laptop computer. Everything looked fine for their area. There seemed to be a blow some way to the south of them. The winds were strong and were going from a southeast to a westerly direction, but it was predicted to pass in front of them. Storms were not unheard of in November, but usually the weather was benign.
He decided to keep a close watch on it, just in case it crept nearer to their sailing area. It always paid to be prudent. If it did come closer then they could always slow down and let it pass on ahead. He made a few notes and then closed down the computer and stowed it safely away. A mention of the weather report was made in the log and then he decided to join the others on deck. He climbed halfway up the companionway ladder, the hot, bright sun hitting him squarely in the face forcing him to squint. Silently, he took in a scene of Toby quietly massaging suntan lotion onto Connie’s back. Still thinking of the weather report he was slightly mesmerised and didn’t immediately react to Toby’s hand lightly trailing across her browning skin. It was only when Toby slowly slipped his fingers under her bikini top that he realised what he was watching. Startled, he climbed the remaining two steps up into the cockpit. What was Toby playing at?
Toby looked round at the sound behind him and swiftly removed his offending hand. He covered his movement by reaching for the suntan lotion. He didn’t look discomforted in any way; instead he held the bottle out to Richard and drawled, ‘Your job I think old boy.’
The wind had persisted around a steady fifteen to seventeen knots all day, and coming from the northeast. During Toby’s watch from midnight to 0300 hours, the wind freshened and the boat heeled over at a steeper angle. Their boat speed increased and soon they were charging along at a good nine knots. The full main and genoa sails were still up and Toby wondered fleetingly if they had more sail out than was needed. Half an hour later and the wind had gone up a notch. Maybe it’s a good time to reef down, he thought. There’s no need to wake the others. I know what to do. He carefully released the tension in the genoa sheet, slowly letting it slip on the winch. When the sail started to flog he immediately started to wind in the genoa deck line and the sail began to shorten. When it was about two thirds of its original size he tensioned up the sheet. The large mainsail was still causing them to heel over and the yacht’s automatic pilot was finding it difficult to maintain her course. A reduction in this sail could only help calm everything down. Connie hated being heeled over; reducing sail would earn him brownie points.
The night was beautiful, a clear sky with no light pollution. The profusion of stars in the Milky Way was stretched out above his head and, with a gigantic golden moon hanging over the horizon he could see almost as clearly as if it were day.
The boat raced on with the water cascading down the portside deck, gurgling out of the scuppers and over the stern transom. The boom creaked in protest and somewhere a metal shackle started up a rhythmic tempo against it. Wearing his safety harness and lifejacket, Toby moved behind the large cockpit steering wheel and began to prepare the reefing line and mainsheet. The electric winch ground noisily and reverberated through the deck. A figure suddenly loomed at his side. Richard had awoken to the different motion of his yacht and with a quick glance took in the situation.
‘We’re going to have to bring her more head to wind to reduce the power in the sail to reef. It’s impossible at this point of sail. When I say so, take her off auto and bring her around starboard about one hundred degrees, and hold her there until I tell you to turn back onto our right course. OK?’ He shouted to make himself heard above the increased wind.
Richard took over the reefing line. Toby stood behind the wheel and steered by hand, turning the wheel when Richard gave the order. The boat responded quickly and the motion immediately changed; large waves smacked at the bow and more water rushed down both decks. The boat shuddered and bucked with the force of the water as she came to a near stop. The lightened mainsail whacked and cracked as it hit the wind head on. Richard took in a third of the sail and gradually retightened the line securely.
‘OK. Now start to bring her back slowly, I’ll –.’
Bang! The boom shot across to the other side – the wrong side. Toby had turned the wheel the wrong way and had inadvertently gibed the mainsail.
‘No take her back, take her back! Otherwise the headsail will back and we’ll be in trouble,’ Richard yelled.
Toby stood stock-still, confused. The boat continued to turn. Richard reacted by grabbing the wheel and turning hard to port; the boat responded sluggishly.
‘Pull in the mainsheet or we’ll gibe the boom again. MOVE!’ Richard shouted frantically.
Toby woke up from the moment’s panic and flung himself across the cockpit, somehow entangling his legs in his harness safety line in his movement and grabbed the mainsheet with his left arm. Bang! The boom swung across to its correct position, the mainsheet stretching out tautly from its outer end. There was a sudden crack and a scream from Toby as the rope tightened round his wrist and snapped it. He fell down into the well of the cockpit, bellowing in pain, his arm trapped. Richard swiftly put the yacht back on its autopilot course, and bent down to help Toby. The boats’ motion had calmed down enough for him to gently release the tight rope and secure it in the jammer. Toby continued to moan and clutch at his wrist while Richard carefully sat him up on the bench seat. Toby whimpered in protest, completely shocked and dazed.
‘Connie,’ Richard roared. ‘Connie, we need you up here!’
Amazingly she had slept through the drama, her dreams probably only registering less heel to the boat and a gentle slowing motion.
Toby’s face appeared deathly pale in the bright moonlight; an abrasion stood out clearly on his right temple. He opened his mouth to say something and promptly vomited on the cockpit floor. Connie appeared, clutching a thin sarong around her body. Richard filled her in with the last few minutes’ events and she quickly got the message. Toby needed a plaster of Paris splint and an injection of 10mg Nalbuphine hydrochloride analgesic to help the pain.
A grim-faced Richard was left to clear up the vomit.
Richard was livid. It showed in his face and in the firm set of his jaw.
‘Why the hell didn’t you call me?’ he thundered. ‘You know it’s always difficult to reef a boat this size on your own, and especially risky at night!’
Toby looked slightly abashed. He raised his head and the bruised temple stood out vividly. He had a moustache of sweat on his top lip and beaded perspiration on his brow.
‘I thought I could handle it. We’ve done it dozens of time before,’ he argued.
‘You could have caused a lot of damage and endangered us all, apart from the injury to yourself.’
‘Well I didn’t and as you rightly say the only damage is to me. Now if you don’t mind Captain B I’m officially off-watch and I’m going to bed.’ Whereupon he clumsily heaved himself up with his good right arm and walked unsteadily forward to his cabin. He slammed the door crossly behind him.
Richard was shocked. Apart from the injury to himself, he could have seriously wrecked the boom or mast. Where would that have left them? A thousand miles from the nearest hospitable land, that’s where. He knew the rules about calling for help at night. Richard had made it plain. Nothing was to be done without his say so. There could only be one captain on a boat and his word went.
‘Arrogant bugger,’ he exclaimed.
‘Don’t start. Stop being grumpy,’ said Connie packing away the medication into the well-stocked first aid box. ‘He feels bad enough about this I’m sure. It’s just shock and the pain he’s in. I’ll go and speak to him.’
‘Leave him for now. Bloody jerk. Let him sleep off his petulance. He’s really annoyed me the last few days.’
‘Oh why’s that?’ She looked startled as she looked over at Richard.
‘Well apart from tonight’s little fiasco let me list the things.’ He held up his fingers to count.
‘He left the fridge wide open whilst he was fishing, spilt coffee all over the new Atlantic chart, left the forward heads shower dripping, broke the toggle on the radio, scratched my latest Stones CD, blocked his heads once – no twice now, and scoffed the last of the Bounty bars! He’s just bloody careless and thinks of no one but himself. OK? Isn’t that enough to make anyone grumpy? And now he’s got you running around like the proverbial. No leave him to stew alone.’
‘Oh for goodness sake anyone could have had bad luck. He’s just a little accident-prone. Don’t keep acting like Captain Bligh. You make us both feel uncomfortable sometimes. Even I have to keep making sure I don’t break any of your rules.’
‘I’ve explained there has to be rules,’ he sounded exasperated. ‘Safety is paramount on a small ship and there is only one skipper. It is my responsibility to ensure that my crew and yacht are safe at all times.’
‘I know all that, it’s just that sometimes you –,’ she stopped and shrugged. ‘Oh I don’t know, you’re just a little too intense sometimes. Anyway, I’m still going to look in on Toby, I just want to make sure he’s OK. I’ve just given him a strong analgesic for the pain and to help him sleep. He is my responsibility as my patient. Have a good watch.’
With that she turned round and walked forward to Toby’s cabin. She tapped quietly on the door, and then softly called out to Toby. On hearing a muffled response she went in and shut the door behind her.
Richard stood for a moment and glowered at the closed door. No sound came from within. His blue-grey eyes looked bleak and then gained a steely glint. With a sickening feeling of exclusion and misunderstanding he once more donned his lifejacket and climbed up into the cockpit.
Morning dawned. The sky gradually lightened in the east with streaks of pearly mauve and grey. The rising sun caught the tiny white cumulus high above and fringed the edges with gold. The sun suddenly burst over the horizon and soon the inky black deep was charged with golden bands.
Richard had stood a double watch this night, Connie hadn’t relieved him and his pride forbade him to go below and request her presence on deck. He had moodily sat in the quiet of the cockpit, trying to read or listen to music. He was now a little cold and extremely tired. He needed a hot shower, breakfast and some rest. He presumed Connie had kept her vigil on Toby throughout the night. Apart from his broken arm, she said she wanted to ensure that the bump on his head was nothing.
At that moment she appeared in the galley. She too, looked tired and dishevelled.
‘I’m going to make Toby some breakfast. Would you like some?’ she asked.
‘No thank you. What I really want is some sleep. So if you don’t mind I am going to bed. Do you think you could stand watch for a few hours at least?’ He watched her carefully.
‘Sarcasm doesn’t become you Richard, of course I can. Go to bed. I’ll call you if I need you.’
She turned away and started the makings of breakfast. The bacon smelt delicious as Richard closed his cabin door.
‘Men,’ she thought. ‘Why are they so childish sometimes? Talk about melodramas and amateur dramatics!’
For the rest of the day everyone suddenly developed either very good manners or sat with extremely long silences. Connie stood her watches and devoted a lot of her time to Toby. She was forever fetching him cold drinks, snacks, medication and meals. He had ventured out into the salon but Richard’s all too apparent forced good nature soon had him scuttling back to the confines of his cabin. Richard had decided to bite his tongue and say no more about the matter sang-froid. Toby took the easy way out.
At present, Connie was closeted in Toby’s cabin, as Richard knew she would be. Injection time again it appeared. There was a little laughter from behind the closed door and then silence.
Richard gritted his teeth and chewed the end off his pencil in anger. He had just finished taking a fix and he now wrote the yacht’s position in the ship’s log. He had written a full report on the accident and was still very tired and needed a cat nap. He wished she would come out and he could go and have a sleep. Surely he wasn’t going to have to go and get her? I bet there wasn’t any lack of discipline during Dad’s time on board he thought to himself sourly.
The cabin door opened, and Connie slipped out smiling at Toby over her shoulder. He heard Toby say something and she let out a slight gasp and then a low laugh.
Christ! She actually giggled like a schoolgirl Richard thought.
Connie walked through to the salon, the spent syringe in her hand.
‘What are you playing at?’
Connie coolly studied her husband. ‘I’ve no idea what you’re talking about but, I think I can guess. Stop looking at me like that. He’s hurt and feeling sorry for himself. Can’t you understand?’
‘Hhmp! I understand that I need to sleep. It’s your turn now.’ Richard got up from the chart table and stomped off down into their cabin.
By day nine, Toby considered that he’d probably wrung every last bit of sympathy out of the situation and calmly announced that he could resume his watches. He sat in the cockpit under the sun awning, sure of himself now and acting slightly cocky. Richard remained annoyed from his overall behaviour, but knew that they still had a long way to go and peace had to reign on his boat. An argument, annoyances, niggles and character traits all became way over the top if you let them in a closely confined boat. It was much better to let things settle down. Let everything blow over and try to get back to something like a status quo. After all, Antigua was what, a week away? As soon as they arrived Toby could see a doctor and then he was off the boat as far as Richard was concerned. He could do what he liked, but he was sure he’d have to fly home. Richard’s responsibility towards him would then end and he could start enjoying being alone with Connie again. He was sure they could get back to the normal loving relationship they had had before Toby had arrived and upset things.
Richard was surprised how much the past few days had annoyed and unsettled him. He’d always felt Connie and he had a good, trusting and happy relationship. He didn’t understand Toby’s aggressiveness and Connie’s seeming indifference to her husband’s feelings. Richard spent more time on his own, playing his guitar or reading. The boat claimed a lot of his time too as he maintained the yacht’s equipment and keep a beady eye on the weather. The weatherfax had now changed the status of the ‘blow’ that was forecast into a late season storm. Thankfully, it was not one of the huge catastrophic hurricanes that regularly beat down on the Caribbean islands and Florida during the summer season. According to the data Richard interpreted from his laptop computer it still looked like it would pass them by and they would remain unscathed. He’d get another weatherfax a bit later on that day, and if necessary change the boat’s course if they were in any danger of running into bad weather.
What with Toby’s injury and his wife’s surprising behaviour and now this nearby storm, life wasn’t quite as good as when they had first left Tenerife.