|HOW IT ALL STARTS
"Christ died for you; save yourself." The words clung to the gray mechanical hum of the city street as it drifted, like smoke, up through the open windows.
The one-room apartment was furnished with two faded, olive-green vinyl, kitchen chairs, a three-foot round table, a coffin-sized single bed and a three-drawer dresser with a thirteen-inch T.V. on top. Heat and noise from the dry cleaner below made it necessary to open both windows, which let in more heat and noise. At full volume the old T.V. could barely make itself heard above the urban thunder. So the bed, T.V. and dresser were crowded together in a far corner while the table and chairs occupied space directly beneath the windows.
The only link between the two piles of thrift shop furnishings was the room's occupant, Mick Baker. Today he sat on the edge of his bed staring at the T.V. screen, oblivious to the heat, noise and faint offer of spiritual redemption. His eyes had seen a dazzling array of images for the past few hours, but all he could remember was a single Old Spice commercial. His brain was stuttering. The 30-second spot kept playing over and over. The tall, blond, Viking guy and his brunette centerfold girlfriend were crashing through turquoise waves. Smiles as bright as sunshine radiated happiness as their sailboat slid steadily toward Paradise.
Who ever knows what causes someone to take bold action? The mountain climber starts with his first step, but isn't that footfall preceded by a decision to act? The moment of decision gripped him like a child's hand around a doll. He rose, switched off the screaming box and walked out of the room.
He didn't ask directions of any driver on the four busses he took to reach his destination. It wasn't necessary. Although he hadn't been there before, he knew where he was going.
None of the people looked quite as perfect as the T.V. models, but neither did they have the matted hair and crusted clothing that seemed so popular in his neighborhood. They were clean. The streets were clean. Everything was clean and it all smelled clean. It felt clean. After a few minutes, he began to like it. The television had communicated a message the same way nature tells salmon to swim upstream and birds to fly south for the winter. His fate took on the soft comfort of the sheets, overdue for washing, from which he had lifted himself an hour earlier.
The Old Spice sailboat dancing between rolling waves re-appeared in his mind. His feet carried him from dock to dock looking for the boat. After a few hours of exploring, only three people had shown any interest in talking. Two were boat workers and had no worthwhile advice on hitchhiking a sailboat ride. The third guy was standing on the deck of a 50-foot surgically clean, white fiberglass and stainless steel sloop. It was Doctor something. He coiled lines with surgeon-like precision and didn't seem much interested in contributing to Mick Baker's instinct-driven destiny.
Directly across from the top of one gangway was an office with a sign that said "Yachts of Luck, Brokerage and Sales, Biff Jensen, Broker." Biff greeted guests with a handshake and a smile reminiscent of a game show host. The young guy looking back at him looked oddly like John F. Kennedy Jr., dark, curly hair, athletic build and a face he would have loved to sic on a reluctant, female boat buyer.
They were great friends until he discovered Mick's purpose was to sail for free, not to buy a boat. Biff remained cordial although his manner took on a distracted chill, quite different from the warm, bubbly embrace Mick had experienced seconds earlier. Despite having withdrawn a great deal of his affection, he was still willing to help the younger man. He handed over a note with a slip number and explained that one of his workers was about to leave on a mission.
When Mick arrived at the boat, Jose was about to cast off the last dock line. Both hands were busy so he wedged the burrito into his teeth like some fat, white, Vaudeville cigar. The boat was a 1965 plywood cabin cruiser and Jose's mission was to take it out three miles and pump its holding tank, the nautical equivalent of a cesspool. This first opportunity to feel sea spray in his face was tempting, but not exactly what Mick had been dreaming about all day. He handed Jose the dock line and watched from the corner of the dock as the old vessel putted away in a cloud of smoke.
Not far from Biff's office, another weathered sign gleaned authenticity from a one-legged, plastic seagull and a border of rotting hemp line. Like many pseudo-nautical decorations, the sign took advantage of the similarity in appearance between neglect and genuine seafaring decor. Chipped and peeling paint spelled out Battened Hatch. A flickering neon Budweiser sign in the window was the only clue to what kind of business resided below the sign.
It took a minute for his eyes to adjust to the darkness and his nose to accept the beer and smoke fumes that either rose from, or settled like a gauze film over every surface in the bar. A bartender stood talking with three salty looking middle aged men at one end of the fake driftwood bar. His foot rested on a sink drain.
At the other end, a 50-ish redhead in purple jogging clothes sat slowly turning the filter of her Old Gold a bright shade of red. She sipped something from a glass with a lot of canned fruit stuck on the rim.
The old salts would probably have been a better boat connection, but for reasons he couldn't explain Mick chose a seat two stools from the woman. The bartender asked for his order with a jerk of the head, then padded off like Frankenstein to get a draught beer. Mick's reflection had only one eye thanks to a collection of faded stickers on the mirror. Without much forethought or any real motivation, he turned to the woman and asked, "Come here often?"
It was a dumb question to begin with but it was made ten times dumber by how obvious the answer was. The shapes of her forearms were worn into the edge of the bar. He couldn't make out the faded name stenciled on the back of her bar stool but it was, most certainly, hers.
"Wanna go sailing?" she replied without turning to look in his direction.
Of course he did. That was his only reason for wandering into this increasingly confusing place. He turned away, sipped his beer and sat silently for a moment. Elsewhere, ignoring her might have appeared rude. In this bar, sitting next to this pastel redhead, it seemed quite natural.
Was she for real? She didn't look anything like the centerfold girl but maybe television distorted that reality as it did so many others. What's the worst thing that could happen, he wondered? He didn't analyze the question too thoroughly. The possibilities were too disturbing.
Suddenly it all began making sense, the same way Biblical miracles and the structure of atoms make sense. You just accept it and stop asking questions no one can answer.
He turned to the redhead and said simply, "Let's go." They both finished their drinks and he followed her out the door.
The boat was a Vagabond 47, the kind of sturdy Taiwanese ketch whose ornate, traditional finishings spur images of pirates and explorers. At the time, it just looked big and nautical with a peculiar name; Double Trouble.
He felt a little awkward walking behind her as they maneuvered along walkways and gangways. Mick pictured himself in a kimono, taking small steps. She wasn't big on idle chatter either. In fact, the only thing he was able to get out of her was her name, Helen. Later she mumbled something about her husband the "...worthless S. O. B." dying and leaving her without a sailing partner.
She did open up a little when the time came to get the boat out of the slip. "Stand there. When I say one, pull in a foot of line and throw it on the dock. Then move over there. When I say two..." She went on to give step-by-step instructions. He did as he was told and the floating, behemoth arc slid gracefully away from the dock.
Helen put Mick on the helm and disappeared below the instant Double Trouble cleared its slip. Minutes later they left the flat harbor roadbed and began rolling up and down the ocean's alpine surface. She came up from below with a half-full, crystal pitcher and one martini glass. Transferring clear liquid from the pitcher to the glass looked like something out of an Air Force training film where a flying tanker re-fuels a fighter jet. The boat sloshed around like a sneaker in a washing machine but she never spilled a drop. Rather than risk any spillage, she cocked her head back and gargled down the martini in one gulp. The momentary use of a glass was apparently just an exhibition of proper manners in the presence of a guest.
Instructions were brief and to the point, yet he managed to walk forward and raise the mainsail without injury. At forty-seven feet on deck and weighing nearly four tons, Double Trouble provided a sturdy platform on which to perform death-defying nautical acrobatics. She watched from the cockpit with glass in one hand, pitcher in the other and a steering wheel spoke pressed against each knee. He didn't question his own ability to do the things she commanded. He had no past experience on which to judge his own ability to perform the feats she required.
By the time he stumbled back to the cockpit she had rolled out the jib and turned off the engine. The jib and mainsail snapped full of wind as he settled into a seat beside the binnacle.
"Take this," she said pointing to the wheel. "Don't steer any further to the left than that cooling tower on the power plant," she said just before she, the now empty pitcher, and glass descended the companionway.
He wondered if the alcohol was giving Helen confidence in him he should lack in himself. Maybe he needed his own pitcher of martinis. Perhaps then the unusual weakness in his arms would subside. Years of training had made him nearly invulnerable to physical assault, no matter how fierce or abrupt, but the nervous anxiety he felt at that moment was self-generated. It could silently envelop him and shake his confidence more effectively than any adversary. Mick recognized this opponent and quickly forced it back into the nether world from which it sprung.
After a few minutes the jittery arm muscles and roller-coaster stomach faded. Using the cooling tower as a guide, the boat kept moving along in a rhythm that was soothing and exciting at the same time. This felt a lot more like his destiny-driven image of sailing Out on the water, sea air has a clean, almost antiseptic, smell. Cotton ball clouds and the turquoise sky made him forget the filth he had left and to which he would return.
Helen had been quiet for about a half hour when a loud, dull thud vibrated through the boat's frame. "Everything all right down there," he yelled into the companionway. No answer, but that was pretty much how the conversation had gone up till now. He moved as close to the hatch as possible without loosing his grip on the wheel. A limp hand rested on the floor of the darkened cabin. Great, he thought, she was passed out on the floor.
The power plant wasn't dangerously close, but it had begun to loom larger in the distance. The giant cooling towers and huge metal, cable-toting robots usually gave Mick the creeps, especially after China Syndrome. Maybe the leisurely approach gave him more time to get used to it, but it didn't bother him. Despite the captain's departure from consciousness and his own ignorance of matters nautical, things were OK.
A tiny bright orange splash caught his eye off to starboard. It grew to reveal the orange hull of a small inflatable boat that was jetting sheets of white spray in all directions as it crashed through the ocean's lumpy surface. It moved fast, completely out of step with Double Trouble. In just a few seconds it was in full view, slowing to meet the sailboat. Beyond Mick's view another identical boat converged with the first. Each boat had one occupant dressed in an orange vest. He could see both waving drivers screaming, but it was impossible to hear them over the growing racket caused by sails which he had no clue how to keep from rattling. Mick didn't dare leave the wheel which forced both boats to come up along-side. At that distance he was able to hear one orange-vested man yell, "Restricted area inside the buoys, turn around."
Sure enough there was a line of buoys on either side of the boat and they were well astern. Screaming an explanation would have been futile under the circumstances. That is, if Mick could have explained what was going on, which was doubtful. It was time for the captain to take over so he began yelling into the cabin for Helen. They didn't wait long before screaming, "Sir, turn away immediately or we will turn the boat."
The roller coaster stomach came back. He had no idea what to do except yell louder for Helen. In a minute both inflatables were positioned to leeward against Double Trouble's hull and they began pushing to windward. The sail luffed as the boat went into irons then it backed, filling on the wrong side as the boat continued turning. The only thing he could think to do was turn in the direction from which they had come. The result was a nautical contortion called heaving-to which sailors use to stop a boat in the open water .
The guards then put one inflatable up against each side of the hull and pushed the boat outside the line of buoys. Another inflatable with three Coast Guard officers waited just beyond the buoys. It pulled alongside Double Trouble and one officer climbed quickly and confidently onto the sailboat.
His lantern-shaped head floated on a huge bright orange life jacket making him look like an overstuffed scarecrow built around a post. The Personal Flotation Device and uniform shirt were both adorned with a variety of regalia. Mick didn't understand most of it, having never been in the military. He did know two things, his name was Hayes (it was stenciled on his PFD), and he was the boss.
Mick flashed a warm smile and chuckled hoping the scene would seem funny to Hayes, as he hoped it would to him someday. The Coastie didn't seem to get it. He asked for papers and was told to check with the owner down below. He peered warily down into the cabin. Maybe he suspected booby traps or some creature that fed on Coast Guard officers, Mick wasn't sure. Whatever it was, he must have decided the danger had faded under his gaze. He disappeared below.
After a few minutes he came back on deck with his 45-caliber handgun drawn and pointed at Mick's chest. This caused a whole new sensation. Mick's stomach sent an adrenaline shock wave to his head that, if visible, would have looked something like the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. When it reached his brain, vision became cloudy and all the ambient sound got turned down very low. His knees buckled dropping his body into the seat behind the wheel. If there hadn't been a seat, he would have just fallen.
ROMANCE AND DANGER
Mick and Rhonda shared their first long, passionate kiss while the waves rattled softly on the sand. He moved his hands over her hips, sides and back and found no resistance to his touch. Rhonda's eagerness fueled his growing desire and the kiss began to take on a life of its own.
Suddenly Mick pulled his mouth from hers and turned to look back across the platform toward the stairs. "Did you hear that?" he asked.
Rhonda looked in the same direction. She replied in a confused voice, "I didn't hear anything."
"I'm sure I heard my name," Mick said. He untied himself from their embrace and moved cat-like, half-way across the stone floor. After a few seconds of scanning the shadows for movement he returned.
"Could it be Byron playing with your mind?" she asked.
"I doubt he's thinking about messing with me at this moment," Mick said. The tension that had gripped him eased somewhat as he returned to the spot and pose he had abandoned so abruptly a few seconds earlier.
"I missed you," she said wrapping one arm around him and using the other to place his hand gently on her firm, round breast. Their lips met once again, this time with more urgency.
Mick felt the thrill that every man feels when a woman is about to give herself to him. It felt like the combined comfort and thrill of a campfire flashing sparks of light and heat in all directions. His hands and mouth, his whole body lived only in this moment, in this night.
Yet, somewhere not too far from his sensual celebration, a cooler, darker sensation cast a growing shadow. Hard as he tried, he couldn't push Becky out of the evening's light. He found himself in the grips of a mental tug-of-war. A night with Rhonda or any other woman couldn't break the connection he and Becky had formed. It should have been so easy to just give in to the carnal instincts that had begun to grasp him.
He knew what should be happening. They should be ripping each other's clothes off and making love on the very spot where they now sat. Like a door banging in some other part of the house that wouldn't let him sleep, his conscience kept pulling him back from the brink of surrender. More alcohol would have silenced the noise, but there was none to be had.
At first the sound could have been something else, but after a few seconds it was obvious feet were clumsily negotiating the stairs. Mick loosened his embrace to allow his eyes to focus on the bunker's entrance cut between the stone walls. The roof blocked most of the moon's direct light obscuring details of the two figures that entered the stone monument. Mick knew only that the large, burly shadows weren't Byron and Tina.
He rotated his head and upper body enough to get a view of both men. They separated and each walked toward one of the corner pillars that stood on either side of Mick and Rhonda. Alarms were going off in every part of Mick's body as the silent intruders made a slow and steady approach. If they were just a couple of drunks out for some night air, they would have been a lot noisier and stayed closer together. He hadn't heard anything before they got onto the stairs, except...his name!
Mick's mind went into passing gear. The fog of alcohol and lust vanished with the first pounding of his adrenaline-driven heart. The warrior who never strayed further than his shadow, stepped in to take control. It was like Popeye transforming after a can of spinach. He looked down ten feet to the sand. Hanging from the ledge by fingers would make it only a four-foot fall, something Rhonda should be able to do without injury.
He turned back to look. The intruders were no longer faking interest in the corners pillars. They were coming toward Mick and Rhonda. "Can you make it to the sand?" he asked Rhonda in a frantic, hoarse whisper.
"I think so," she replied turning her head in a flurry of confusion. "What are you going to do?" She asked.
Tough, skillful fighters rarely know how to handle getting hit. It doesn't happen too often. Mick decided to test Kuma's face muscles immediately after the referee signaled them to begin. Standing with knees bent and his left foot ahead of the right, Mick pivoted, loaded up his right leg and released a hammer strike to Kuma's head. It sounded more like the shredding fibers of a splitting log than flesh and bone. The big man's head rotated carrying his body slightly off-balance. The blow had been clean. Mick had wisely altered his no-impact strategy, but his opponent's composure hadn't been shaken the way Mick had hoped. Kuma resumed his stance and growled a smile through a picket fence of broken teeth.
The next two points went to Kuma. First, he snapped a side kick to the ribs that Mick never saw coming. The impact lifted him entirely off his feet depositing his rigid body two feet from where it had started. They both knew there wasn't another person in that gym who could have dealt Mick that kind of punishment. Mick's aching ribs found little comfort in this fact.
Kuma's second point came from a counter punch. Mick hadn't given up on showy moves quite yet. He knew if he could land another difficult kick to the head, he'd get the point and a tremendous psychological advantage. Assuming the stance he had taken before his first kick, he hopped toward the other fighter placing his back foot precisely where his other foot had been. Simultaneously, he cocked his airborne leg and struck out toward his opponent. Knowing Kuma possessed great skill, Mick decided to fake a shot to the mid-section, then quickly land another one to the face.
Kuma was prepared. With lightning speed, he hooked his arm down and around as the foot flew toward him. He barely caught Mick's foot with his wrist. Mick's leg stopped as if he had hit a telephone pole.
He had been counting on scoring that point. It had worked in other tournaments. After the kick landed Mick expected the referee to stop the action and award him a point. In the split second it took him to adjust to the fact the fight hadn't stopped, Kuma threw a counter-punch that landed square and hard on Mick's jaw. His feet flew forward as if they had been lassoed and pulled toward the ceiling. The next thing Mick knew he was lying flat on the mat, unaware for a moment of his whereabouts.
When he stood to face the Japanese again Mick saw him differently. He had come into the fight with the attitude that this was just another easy match. Now, down two points to one in a three point contest, his adversary had proven he was worthy of Mick's full attention.
It took a few seconds before his eyes focused and he saw only one of everything in front of him. The ref brought them together and began the fight again. Before the referee's Japanese grunt to resume was even out of his mouth, Kuma threw a side kick to Mick's face. Mick was still stunned and not at all ready for a quick, strong, well placed kick. There wasn't enough time to step back and deflect the kick in good form so he just lifted his right leg and allowed himself to fall to that side and roll quickly to the edge of the mat. The kick came close enough to cause wind to rush by Mick's cheek but it didn't connect.
He scurried back up to his feet but Kuma was on him like a cat on a wounded sparrow. The Japanese champion threw a kick, a punch and a kick in less time as it would have taken to say the words. Mick blocked, blocked and blocked, all the while stepping to the side with uncertainty. He was on the run. He couldn't even counter punch or kick. There was barely enough time to get out of the way.
A few more seconds of the onslaught and Kuma would have found the opening he needed. But this wasn't the way he wanted to win an international masters tournament in the United States. Only a clean point would gain him the true honor of being world champion. That was how he wanted to be remembered at this tournament, not as the guy who chased his opponent around until he wore the man out. So he assumed a front stance and waited for Mick to stop and gain his composure.
Mick had begun to breathe through his mouth, a sign of fatigue he discontinued as soon as he caught himself doing it. He was angry with his performance. For the first time in a long time he was getting beaten. The short rest gave him a chance to devise a strategy. All of Kuma's kicks had been from his left leg indicating he may have had some weakness in the right. If Mick moved to his right he might find the opening he needed to score another point. It would probably work only once but that was O. K. He would worry about the last point when the time came.
It went as planned. Neither of Kuma's right limbs seemed to have the control of their counterparts. Mick threw a side kick to the ribs that landed without opposition. He also turned up the volume enough to cause his adversary pain without drawing a foul call from the judges.
They faced off for the last time. Whoever scored the next point would walk away with the championship. They each believed they were the better man which made this the purest kind of competition. There wasn't a sound from the crowd louder than a breath. All eyes watched the two gladiators square off in their final clash.
They circled, measuring one another with a few probing kicks and punches. Each man showed his skill, using strong, basic techniques. This wasn't the time for show-boating. Kuma changed stance and in the microsecond it took Mick to mirror his actions he launched a front kick aimed just above Mick's belt. It came in as Mick was just about to plant his feet in the new stance causing him to slip sideways and onto one knee. The kick grazed his side and Kuma followed it with a low side kick that, because of his kneeling position, caught Mick in the chest hurling him backwards.
A dull pain flooded Mick's torso. His entire frame shook under the force of his opponent's kick as his ears filled with the crowd's pent-up cheers. He got to his feet a little slower than before, first one foot then the other. His head was ringing and a strange salty taste filled his mouth. He wondered if it was fear.
That kick would have been the final point but the referee determined it wasn't a clean hit and the fight resumed. Mick hopped from foot to foot trying to regain the quickness which he wasn't sure he still had. They squared off again. Mick moved to his opponent's weak side and was somewhat surprised that the Japanese did not change stance to present his left arm and leg. This was just the opportunity he needed. There wouldn't be another.
He swept a blow to Kuma's calf using his front foot. It had little effect other than to throw the Japanese slightly off balance. His hands went up involuntarily working to regain his footing and Mick released his most powerful roundhouse kick on the area where the ribs meet above the stomach cavity. It buckled Kuma slightly at the waist but he managed to remain standing, stunned and trying to keep from collapsing.
Mick had won but somehow that wasn't good enough. His pulse rang a speedy drum beat in his ears. He decided to finish this fight in style.
SAILING AND THE SEA
Wind strength continued to build slowly. Using the spinnaker was a gamble, but the extra speed could get them to a safe harbor more quickly. Murray had calculated twelve hours between weather systems. That would have put them in the vicinity of Great Exuma Island. Shallow water and small islands could make landing there a little tricky, but Murray knew the way.
They had left Nassau at 2:00 p. m. . By 6:30 they had covered over fifty-five miles. Murray was convinced it was a world's record. Sustained winds were now over twenty-five knots.
Approaching darkness added another level of uncertainty. Murray was really the only one among them who knew how to walk the tightrope between optimum speed and disaster. If he turned the helm over to one of the other men the boat would probably round-up, collapsing the spinnaker and possibly cause injury, damage or both.
Murray had used his best judgment. With one storm passing and another due right behind it, prudence would have dictated staying put until both storms had moved through the area. His boss told him to have the boat in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, five hundred-fifty miles south, in four days. At a conservative two hundred miles per day, it would take three days. They had only one spare day. If the storm took a half day to get there and lasted more than a day they could never meet the schedule. He decided to use what he could of the time before the second storm hit to shorten the distance they had to travel, making best use of the available time.
As the wind speed indicator crept steadily above twenty-one knots, he began to evaluate the wisdom of that decision. He suspected Anton knew what was coming and how it would affect this kind of vessel. The other two men would find out soon enough. There was no need to alarm them prematurely.
Dousing a 4,000-square-foot spinnaker in over twenty knots of wind is like wrestling a circus tent to the ground in a hurricane. If there were any hope of the wind subsiding, he wouldn't have put the crew in harm's way. As it was, the captain knew darkness and the certainty of continued wind increases would only make matters worse. He called the crew on deck for a spinnaker take-down.
Veins in his neck swelled and cooked to a deeper red as Murray strained to make himself heard over the nagging wind and belligerent sea. Screech, the weakest of the three, was stationed just down inside the companionway. His job was to gather and stow the huge mounds of nylon sail cloth as it was passed to him by the other two men. Mick and Anton sat on the deck, each tied into a thick nylon webbed harness, which was connected by an eight-foot tether to a jack line that ran along the deck from stern to bow. Their job was to wrestle control of the sail from the wind and pass it to Screech. Spinnaker take-down was really a job for four or more people but Murray had to steer and there were only three men left.
Murray had rigged two lines, the halyard and spinnaker sheet, around winches and led them to his position at the helm. From there he could steer and release the lines, setting the massive sail free and, with luck, into the waiting hands of his crew.
A spinnaker has three corners, each with a line attached. Precious's forward motion was due mostly to the wind in the spinnaker. The three lines were the only attachment points. As a result the sheet and halyard that Murray had to release were stretched as tight as bow strings. If not for the mechanical advantage of large winches and deck hardware, a man stood no chance of overcoming the force of nature's fury.
"Everybody ready?" At top volume Murray could see that no one was able to hear what he said. Mick gave a quick jerk of the neck forcing his chin up and down quickly, the universal visual cue for "what?" Murray asked the question again by pointing to the sail. After turning to check with Anton, Mick shot a raised thumb in the captain's direction. As always, Screech's input wasn't necessary.
Murray turned up toward the wind to collapse the sail. In doing so, the rhythmic, rolling motion they had settled into quickly gave way to hobby-horsing as the waves began to crash into the boat's side.
As wind no longer blasted into the spinnaker from behind, it began to collapse. The large, round balloon shape became an increasingly violent, undulating giant. It took on the character of a renegade hose, jumping and thrashing its fierce energy in all directions. The sound of spinnaker cloth deflating reminded Mick of a bull whip cracking into a powerful P. A. system. The deck shuddered under Mick and Anton's asses as the mast and rigging quaked with each snap of the sail.
Murray released the guy, which further deflated the sail and brought its lower-most edge within reach of the two men on deck. They reached up, leaning outboard, but trying to keep their body weight concentrated over the deck. It was like trying to balance on the wing of an airplane.
The boat turned further up-wind. More sail cloth came into reach. It became difficult for Murray to predict exactly when the next wave or gust of wind would hit the boat. He tried to keep the flailing spinnaker blowing backward but occasionally the boat would turn away from the wind, partially filling the sail and straining the grip all three men now had on the renegade spinnaker.
It was coming slowly, perhaps a quarter of it had been brought down into the cabin when a huge wave turned the boat ninety degrees. A gust of wind re-inflated the spinnaker. Mick and Anton were lifted from their seats on the cabin top as the sail cloth they were handling blew out into the black night. Each man loosened his grip in time to avoid following the sail off the deck.
Screech wasn't quite as lucky. The part of the sail he had subdued and captured in the cabin still had some life left in it. Like a huge game fish that begins thrashing as a fisherman reels it to the boat, the sail suddenly began to fight. It streamed out of the companionway like line off a fishing reel.
Screech had been using a bear hug to gain control of the sail. When the gust hit, he instinctively tightened his grip, fighting back harder. He flew out from his spot down below so fast only Murray was aware he had left their company. Screech's high volume babbling didn't start until he was suspended above the water, beyond the earshot of anyone on board.