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Sailing & Boating Short Story's

San Juan Islands short stories
Keeping anchored

If you find yourself at this page, don't be alarmed, the Sailingthesanjuans website is where you have landed.  This page is simply some scary nautical (or not) stories at the very end of the postings.  To get back to the business of the site, simply click the heading at the top, or the home button on the bottom, or click on any of the many titles on the sides.  Or you could scroll down and read some stories. The stories are about boating and are set in the San Juan Islands.

Fueled by imagination, time to write, and drawing a little from real-life experiences, I have jotted down some quick stories.  They are more or less truthful except for the obvious deviations from reality.  

Coast Guard boat:
This is an excerpt from a rather long rescue mission story.

Hearing powerful high-speed motors throttling back they all turn to look just in time to see the fast-response boat from Bellingham dropping off plane outside the cove.  Holy **** says Mack, there’s someone you don’t want chasing you. That big deck-mounted Gatling gun could empty this cove in seconds, and when I say empty I mean send us all to Davy Jones. All eyes are on the Coast Guard boat as it idles into the cove.  Bristling with antennas and electronic gear, its bright coast guard colors, and obvious weaponry demand respect and instill a little fear. 

Tom notices Tracy eyeing his printed flower gloves, and then says in his best pirate voice, “arrrgh, the wives bandages, I normally don’t use gloves.  Everyone laughs and they spend ten minutes with small talk, including one of the children asking a crewman if he had ever shot anyone with that big gun, pointing to the deck-mounted machine gun. A simple no was the answer.  As is always the case, talk came around to the fast response boat and its capabilities.  Some of the questions were deflected as top secret or unknown which thrilled the children but truly disappointed the adults.  The crew was very forthcoming about rescue equipment and pointed out their mission was also to protect the country from enemies, intercept ships, and chase down smugglers. 

A single chirp from the pilothouse radio alerts the crew; Tracy says “Let’s go boys, it's back to business.”  The Coast Guard vessel trying not to leave a wake idles slowly out of the cove, but once in the channel between James and Decatur islands, Tracy guns the triple 400 hp motors for a few seconds causing the craft to churn up a steep wake and then the 33 foot vessel leaps forward faster than anyone would have thought possible. Turning a 180 that Indy cars only dream of, he stabs the throttles again just as they hit their own wake. With lightning acceleration the huge RIB launches itself clear of the water, skillfully backing off the throttles while airborne Tracy urges them open again as the boat's stern lightly touches down, in seconds they are up on plane and clear of the island.  "Holy ****" Mack says again, “I told you, you don’t want one of them things chasing you.”



     As the two-boat flotilla makes its way north in Rosario Strait the fog thickens, and soon land shapes and forms less than two miles distant are not visible anymore. Sailing is not possible, there’s not a breath of wind, it seems like the fog surrounding them has taken away the wind, their sight, and their senses. Except for the gentle purring motors it is deathly silent. The little boats move closer together trying to stay in view of each other as the fog thickens even more. They motor along at 3 mph, but when the speed of the northward flowing current is added, they are probably making over 5 mph. Mike has previously determined he would follow a compass course of 300 degrees magnetic. This course would keep the boats pointed in the right direction and as long as they kept making forward progress they would eventually make it across the strait. The current is constantly pushing them north, so it is important they get across fast or risk being swept past James Island, their destination. As the fog thickens the two families feel more and more isolated. The laughter and joking give way to quiet as the seriousness of their situation becomes apparent. Mike is wishing he had radar, Rosario Strait is traveled by commercial vessels that not only could run them over but their wakes present a danger to small boats as well. The two boats squeeze closer together, they don’t want to lose sight of each other in the fog. Mike calls Tom on the radio and says to be sure to keep a course of 300 degrees if they become separated. About once a minute the kids ring the boat's brass bell. Ringing the bell keeps the kids occupied, plus fulfills Coast Guard regulations to sound a warning when navigating in fog. Tom’s family does the same. Hearing the bells is reassuring to them but does nothing to combat the unrelenting whiteness, Another hour slips by and the tension on board is taking its toll, the kids have gone below to stay warm and dry. Mike and Tom and their wives are standing at the helms in the boat’s cockpits, all of them are dripping wet from condensing fog. Everyone speaks in hushed tones saving their sense of hearing for the deep throbbing sound of an approaching ship's diesel engine, or the unique moving splash of an on-rushing bow wave. Sometimes they think they may hear the crash of waves on a nearby dangerous rock or reef. Keeping a constant eye on the GPS and compass is their only assurance of a safe passage.

      Peering deeply into the white mist ahead of them Mike spots what appears to be a wall of white water or surf breaking on a beach. For a second he is in disbelief, how can they be headed for disaster? What has he done wrong? He quickly scans his depth sounder and GPS, the boats have 40 fathoms below them and they are in the middle of the strait. Suddenly, in a flash it comes to him, now in shock and scared witless it dawns on him that they are headed straight into a huge tide rip, a tidal bore; the incoming tide they are riding at 2 mph is meeting the outgoing tide. The recent minus tide must have created a monstrous opposing force and now they are heading right into the face of a six-foot over-fall created by one flowing mass of water flowing into and under another mass of water flowing the other direction. Any boat or anything unlucky enough to get caught in this breaking curling wave will be rolled over and over until finally released as scattered debris, floating flotsam, shattered dreams, another Rosario Strait statistic. Headlines will read Hapless Inexperienced Boaters Succumb to….. Snapping out of his shock, Mike swings his boat around and Tom also seeing the wall of water follows him. Both boats are now fighting the current but their little auxiliary outboards pushed to full throttle are unable to hold their own, and can't make headway against the incoming tidal rush. Precious minutes tick by and the current increases as they are dragged slowly backward, ever closer to the massive tide bore. Mike has read about tide rips in Rosario Strait sometimes extending across the entire 4-mile wide width. There seems to be no escape from their desperate situation. Trying to run away from the tide rip isn't working, they are steadily dragged backward towards it. In just a matter of minutes, the battle will be lost. It’s no longer quiet, and no one is whispering, for above the whine of their motors the ever-present thunderous roar of the curling breaking over-fall eerily beckons to them. The women have gone below, and the children wide-eyed in the little cabins are trapped and helpless unable to do anything but wait for their uncertain future to arrive. The skippers, their two boats running very close together in thick fog are not talking on the radio, Mike is at a loss for what to do, no amount of preparedness or planning can undo their predicament. The over-fall is only about 50 yards from them and getting closer. Mike decides letting the water crash into the cockpits would spell certain disaster, it would be much better, even survivable perhaps, to turn around and take the massive wave head-on, the high bows piercing the water, their enclosed cabins shedding the tons of green sea sure to crash upon them. He keys his microphone calling Tom. When Tom answers, Mike says, he’s going to turn around while there is still room and hit it straight on. Mike then yells for Jan to close the hatch and hang on. Inside the cabin Jan and the children, their life jackets secure, brace themselves on each side of the mast post ready for the ride of their lives.

    Having no good choices, but to batten down the hatches, keep everyone in the cabins, and trust their boats to carry them safely through, First Mike and then Tom turn the boats once more towards the menacing wall of water quickly bringing them squarely face to face with nature’s awesome power. The current giving them a final kick causes the remaining distance to close unbelievably fast. Tom is white-knuckled steering his boat; there is no turning back now. Fran peers out from below the cabin hatch looking for support in Tom's face. He yells he loves her and to hold on. Mike sees the over-fall appear to double in height as they close the final few yards, he can hear the thunderous roar of the breaking wave sweeping out of the fog and now directly in front of him. At the last second, to avoid being washed overboard he grabs a line and attempts to tie himself to the safety grab bar. Why, he thinks didn't he do this earlier. His thoughts race, what if the boat and his family survive, but he doesn’t, what will happen to them? In his haste, he leaves the loop open, and the line falls uselessly to the deck. He grabs the line a second time, but when he looks up it's too late, all he can do is hold on and hope he is not torn away and lost overboard. In an instant it is over, the two boats hardly feel the wave as they ride up and over. Tom and Mike are both shocked and speechless, they see now that the tide rip over-fall was only one foot high or less; hardly much of a ripple even for a rowboat. Their eyes and senses have been tricked by the dense fog and their own wild imaginations. In pure white pea soup conditions, they have had no depth perception, nothing to compare or judge what they were seeing, and no way to tell distance or determine height. The supercharged adrenalin rush is over, everyone is now relieved and talking about the close call and how fooled they each were. The thick fog has taught them a deep appreciation and respect. With things back to normal everyone on both boats gets back to peering into the dripping mist, watching and bell ringing, the fog has given them a lesson they won’t soon forget.

Rosario Strait Tragedy:
 This story is a sad tear-jerker, Please don't read it to your children.  And I have left out the middle and surprise ending. If you want to read the middle and end, e-mail me and I will e-mail it back to you.

“Hang on,” yells Tom to his children, Jacob and Wendy, leaning against the mast, “We're going to tack, prepare to tack,” he yells down the companionway to Sandy.  “Helms a lee,” yells Tom as he swings the tiller hard over.  Fourwinds turns and heads up into the eye of the wind, and the sails luff while her bow carried by its momentum moves over to its new heading.  Before the sails fill, before they see it coming, before they feel the huge first gust, they hear the far-off low whistle signaling the coming of the Banshees, then with a much closer shriek the calm is broken, and Fourwinds is in trouble.

The first eerie whistling sound alerts Mike, and he looks south.  Less than a mile away the once smooth gentle swells of Rosario Strait have become steep waves with white caps.  He knows white caps form when the wind is around 10-12 mph, but further south he sees the tops of waves being blown off and spray is whipping across the surface indicating 30 mph+ winds, and beyond that, so much water is in the air that visibility is zero. The land Jan pointed at moments earlier is gone. The fast-moving micro storm has swiftly moved up the Strait and will be on them in minutes.

“You kids get below right now—hurry!” Yells Mike.

He grabs his radio mic to warn Tom,

Fourwinds, Fourwinds—Tom, get everyone in the cabin and drop the sails right now and hurry.”  Then Mike leans on the tiller and forces Bluebelle into the wind and pops the main halyard line clutch.  The main sail drops smoothly to the boom. Seconds later he lets fly the jib sheet and begins pulling in the furling line wrapping the headsail neatly around the forestay.  The whistling has increased a hundredfold; it’s been less than a minute, and now the wind sounds like the wailing scream of a thousand Banshees announcing the arrival of untold miseries handed out to mariners around the world. Some say that each time a mariner perishes at sea another banshee is added to the winds wail.  Others say a banshee wail foretells death.

Fourwinds, with sails still flying, is upwind of Bluebelle about a quarter mile so she will be hit first.  Mike is tying the last sail tie around the main, and he looks up just in time to see the first wind gusts slam into Fourwinds.  Oh my god, thinks Mike as he helplessly watches.  Tom hasn’t reduced sail and the kids are still on deck.  On Fourwinds, Sandy has heard Mike’s frantic warning call, but it’s too late.  Tom has slackened the main halyard but the sail does not come down, after tacking she has not yet regained speed and cannot turn back into the wind, Fourwinds stalls, caught in irons, her sails flat to the wind, and her sail slides jam.  The gusts swirl around and Tom doesn’t know which way to pull the tiller to regain boat speed and steerage.  A huge blast broadsides Fourwinds, with all sails flying she is knocked over so far her sails dip in the ocean, her mast almost touching the water. She begins to right herself but holds at a precarious angle, her slippery decks sloping toward the sea, the relentless wind pinning her down. Sandy is hanging on in the cabin where everything has slid off the table onto the cabin sole.  Tom knows he has to somehow release the pressure on the sails but is suddenly alerted to Wendy’s terrified screaming; she has one arm around the tilting mast and is holding onto Jacobs's life jacket with the other.  Jacob is halfway over the edge of the boat with his life jacket pulled off over his head.

 “I can’t hold him,” she is screaming, “he’s too slippery.” 

Trying to get a foothold, four-year-old Jacob is squirming and thrashing causing Wendy to lose her tenuous grip. With his father watching, Jacob slips over the edge and disappears into the water.  Seconds later, arms thrashing, Jacob appears off the stern of Fourwinds.  The buoyant life jacket pinning his arms as it works its way over his head. The Life Jackets floatation meant to save lives is now trapping the doomed boy, his head repeatedly going underwater. 

“Do something,” Sandy screams from the companionway, “he’s going to drown.” Her yell is barely heard above wailing banshee winds circling Fourwinds.

“Get the life ring and boat pole,” yells Tom, as he launches himself over the back of the boat. His dive is picture-perfect and would deserve applause in a different setting.  The cold water shock triggers involuntary convulsions, and he barely stifles screaming.  He surfaces one stroke from Jacob and pulls his face to the surface, but in the process, Tom forces his own head under water, now both of them are coughing and gagging seawater.  Jacob is hysterical, but when Tom yells—Close your mouth, and hold your breath—he obeys. Tom is choking but manages to stay in control. He holds his breath and with one hand under Jacob and the other on the life jacket, he manages to shove his son back into position.  Gagging and kicking furiously to stay afloat he manages to click closed the top buckle and tighten all the straps.  His son is now secure, but Tom is struggling to keep on the surface, and so he holds onto Jacob. The buoyancy of the small children’s life jacket is keeping them both afloat.  Hearing Sandy’s cry Tom looks towards the sound and sees she has tossed the life ring in their direction.  Pulling Jacob, he kicks and strokes with his free hand towards the white plastic and canvas ring.  With each stroke they lose ground, the rescue the floating ring promised is quickly being blown away as Fourwinds in the clutches of the powerful storm is pulled further and further from them, taking with it the life ring securely tethered to the rail.

“What should I do?”—yells Sandy, but the shrieking wind and Rosario has stolen any chance of him hearing her.   She is forced to watch her husband and son recede in the distance, helpless and scared; knowing this could end in tragedy.

Chapter Four

 By now the waves are five feet between the tops of the blown-off white caps to the bottom of each lonely trough. The spray is horizontal, in another minute Sandy loses sight of her boys.  Tom and Jacob can still see Fourwinds each time they rise to the top of a wave, and then as the swell passes, they plunge back down, wondering if the boat will be there next time.  The Williwaw wind that knocked Fourwinds off her feet and is pinning her down has conspired with Rosario’s current, to drive her away, and soon they are alone.  They have been in the water just a few minutes and both of them are shivering violently, Tom’s swimming is for the most part ineffective, he can’t stay above water without tremendous effort and he has no energy left, hanging onto Jacob to stay afloat is his only chance for survival, but each time a wave comes over them his added weight is causing Jacobs head to go under water and come up coughing.  “Keep your mouth closed; hold your breath,” Tom repeats, his teeth clenched to stop shaking, and his voice barely audible.

Chapter Five

Mike has lowered the outboard motor back into the water and has been running Bluebelle at full speed since watching the knockdown and his friends go overboard. Closing the gap takes only minutes, but with the big waves they can’t see the boys in the water, Mike is hopeful they are hanging onto a line or the life ring. They have been calling on the radio but Sandy has not responded.  As they approach, Sandy is wildly motioning towards the worsening storm, it’s obvious she wants them to go that way, and look for Tom and Jacob.  When the two boats are close enough to yell, Mike asks if she is sure that’s the direction she last saw them.  Sandy is beside herself and barely able to function.

She screams across the waves while waving frantically, “What are you waiting for, they’re dying.”

“Listen to me—loosen all the sheets, start the motor, and head into the wind at full power to get the sails under control.” He knows there isn’t much chance Sandy will be able to get the sails down and the boat upright until the wind lessons, he just hopes she doesn’t go overboard herself.

Mike and Jan have put on their safety harnesses and are clipped onto their jack lines. They head the way Sandy pointed scanning the waves and troughs, they can’t see much, a person in the water may be visible for just seconds before another wave blocks the view.  The boats are being blown south, literally being sucked into the low-pressure area of the storm, but the current is flowing north, persons in the water will be mostly affected by the current and not the wind, he alters course, and motors Bluebelle at full speed directly into the wind; he’s not sure they are making any headway. It’s been about two minutes since turning from Sandy, a quick glance shows that she appears to be getting the jib rolled up, that’s good he thinks, that will ease the pressure, stand the boat back on its feet and make it possible to get the main down.

“They’ll be ok,” he yells over the wind to Jan.

“May day, may day, may day, calling the Coast Guard, may day, may day, may day.”  Mike cups the microphone trying to block the roar of the storm.  After what seems like an eternity but is only about five or ten seconds the radio speaker crackles static and booms out. 

“Bellingham Coast Guard, May Day, please identify yourself and what is your emergency.”

 “This is the sailboat Bluebelle, we have gale winds and high waves, we have two people lost overboard, we are in Rosario Strait one-half mile offshore due west of the north end of Cyprus Island, over.”

“Sailboat Bluebelle, do you have the overboard people in sight, how long have they been in the water?”

 “Negative Coast Guard, we can’t see them, it’s been about five minutes.” Mike and the Coast Guard radio operator exchange information about the boats and all the people on board.  Mike had punched the mob (man overboard) button on his chart plotter when the microburst hit them so he had the longitude and latitude where Tom and Jacob went missing.

The Coast Guard “Cutter Terrapin” on patrol in Haro Strait some twenty miles to the west on the other side of the San Juan’s takes the dispatcher's call, and immediately launches off its stern a high-speed inflatable with a crew of six. The shortest and fastest route is through the San Juans where the RIB (rigid inflatable boat) finds short gentle swells and small wavelets, perfect conditions for going fast. The powerful triple engine half fiberglass half inflatable and aluminum craft swiftly skims the surface at over sixty miles per hour leaving hardly a ripple of a wake; ETA to Obstruction Pass is 20 minutes. Once the RIB clears the pass and enters Rosario Strait the large waves and gale winds will slow them, but not stop them. Bellingham Coast Guard also dispatches a helicopter with rescue swimmers; the Helo’s ETA is 10 minutes to the GPS coordinates Mike has given the operator. The Coast Guard Helo crew has been monitoring the deteriorating weather, they know what to expect.  As soon as they are airborne they can see the menacing micro storm between Orcas and Cyprus Island. They fly a few hundred feet above the surface at 165 knots, rapidly closing the distance.


                                              Chapter Six

Sandy is overcome with fear and emotion, she is desperately trying to save her family but is helpless to do anything, she stares into the wind, and the raging windblown seas.  She sees Bluebelle, but Mike's not going the right way, she waves her arm to the right yelling.

“Over there, over there”. It’s no use, Mike can’t hear her and the airborne spray has blotted out any chance of him seeing her waving.

“Mommy, mommy” Wendy tearfully cries out, snapping Sandy’s attention back to the boat and her terrified daughter, are they going to be ok? I couldn’t hold Jacob, the sunscreen was too slippery—I’m sorry.”  Sandy works her way to the companionway, and huddles down  Wendy, and hugs her saying,  “I’m sure Mike will find them, it’s not your fault.” And then she bursts into tears and holds Wendy as tight as she dares.

Sorry to leave you hanging, e-mail me to receive the rest.

This story takes place in a small cove on the west side of Orcas Island

Excerpts from Orca Boy:   chapters one - and when Josh meets Sammie

 “It’s okay guys,” says Josh, trembling, his heart pounding, “we’re not going to hurt you.” He stops rowing and slowly drifts towards the bigger killer whale's snout. 

“My name is Josh; this other fellow is my Uncle Charley.  We live in that big old house up on the hill.  Over there, on the dock, is my Aunt Maggie with the camera, and Sammie and Sadie.   Sadie’s barking brought us to you.”  Josh’s constant patter is supposed to calm the huge animals and bolster his own courage.  So far, the orcas appear to be in control of their emotions.  


The two killer whales have brought an exciting nervous calmness to the cove, and then they both spout—ending the tranquil spell.   They exhale a foul-smelling steamy mist high into the air. Their breath erupts for ten long seconds from fist-size blowholes.  Everyone is caught by surprise. Charley swallows hard and dry; his neck muscles knot and won’t cooperate.  Their guttural inhales sound like the earth herself is drawing breath.


“Hi momma,” says Josh, still shaking a little, “that was impressive up close like that,” his voice barely above a whisper.  “Like I said, I’m Josh, this was your idea to come here for help, wasn’t it?  Do you have names? What do you call each other?  Has anyone ever told you your black and white outfits look formal? You know, like a penguin looks. This conversation is totally one sided, but I need to talk.  I know—you both look like salt and pepper, I’m calling you Pepper, and mom, I’m not calling you salt, you don’t seem like an old salt, you tell me what to call you?”  Josh pauses for his own deep breath; the quiet moment is Sadie’s cue to whimper her concern.


Pepper moves her flipper fin in a circular motion pushing her blowhole and eye back above the surface. She is half resting, half perched on momma orca  ’s outstretched six foot fin. Without constant swimming or her mother’s support, the heavy net and weights tangling her body will pull her to the bottom.  She calmly watches the rowboat drift closer. 


Fifty feet away on the dock, Sadie whines, Sammie rubs her neck soothing her, maybe Sadie senses something, maybe dog and orca   have somehow connected.  Sadie was certainly drawn to the cove, bringing Sammie and Josh running.


The puny little boat offers no protection should the two orca  s suddenly thrash about. Josh rows directly in front of Pepper; with one eye, she watches him pull the oars in, and reach for his hiking stick.  Her left eye is dark blue the other is dark green.  Above each eye is a white eye-patch, nature’s subtle disguise.  She is black on top and white on her belly.  The black and white markings are duplicated on her mom.  Like mother, like daughter, Pepper is a ten-foot version of her twenty-two foot mother.


“Well Charley, so far so good,” says Josh, “It’s okay Pepper, I need to keep from banging into you and your mom so I’m going to touch your mom lightly with this stick, that’s okay with your mom—right?”  Charley holds his breath, he squeezes the edge of the boat with white knuckles.  Josh exhales slowly through pursed lips, and reaches the stick out to momma—he gently pushes. 

 “Oh jeez,” says Josh trembling all over again, “this is scary—pushing on her is like shoving on a piling or dock covered with old truck tires.  This momma is definitely a serious animal.”  The boat rebounds backward.  Momma’s eye follows them; ever so slowly, she strokes her fin on the far side.  Underwater, she flexes her broad tail fluke—Josh freezes while holding the stick hovering over her.

  “It’s okay momma, Uncle Charlie and I are your friends, I’m going to rub this stick over here on Pepper’s back.  He lightly touches the tip of his stick on her back between her blowhole and pectoral fin.  “Would you like me to scratch your back, Pepper?”

He rubs the stick back and forth and wonders what to do next. 


“You really are a brave girl Pepper; let me scratch you a little bit over here by your big back fin.”

Josh slides the stick over the ropes that are cutting into her skin and scratches in front of her dorsal fin.

 “What the heck is that noise,” says Josh, “Pepper, is that you squealing? No, you’re whistling—you sure are.  You like this scratching, don’t you?”  Josh lifts the stick and raps it in one spot like when Sammie smacks Sadie on her haunches as part of a good-dog back rub.  Pepper’s whistles continue with an occasional click sound.


“Josh, I think that whale likes you,” says Charley, loosening his grip on the boat while the strange almost unbelievable sight unfolds in front of him.  “If I didn’t know better I would say Pepper is purring.” 

“Uh, I hope not, I once had a cat that purred when I rubbed its back, but then it bit me.”


The scratching, whistling, and clicks continue while momma orca supports Pepper on her extended fin.  Her gentle fin movements hold their position opposite the floating dock.  His courage showing, Josh experiments and rubs the stick on different parts of Pepper's body.  He carefully shoves and manipulates the area where the ropes are cutting into her thick skin. Except for the clicks, she shows no preference nor displays any pain or displeasure; she tolerates his touching and doesn’t mind the boat bumping against her.  Momma orca is motionless just a few feet away, and except for the occasional tail and fin adjustment, she could be asleep.


Josh and Charley lock eyes, Charley shakes his head, “Josh again—you don’t have to do this.”

“Yes I do, Uncle Charley, now more than ever, I can’t not help them.” He clenches his jaw and with his hand, gently rubs the white patch above her open eye, comforting the small orca.  With his other hand, he wipes his own wet eyes.


 Using the hooked pole, he reaches into the water underneath Pepper and snags a piece of net.  He pulls the snarled mass to the surface.  With his Leatherman tool lanyard securely looped on his wrist, he slices into the netting.  He saws the serrated blade through a seaweed-encrusted line. He hooks more gobs and cuts through fifteen or more lines before coming to an extra heavy rope holding a lot of weight. It takes both him and Charley to pull the taught rope to the surface.  Josh braces himself up on one knee and leans out over the ten-foot orca  .


“This is horrible Pepper, how the heck can you swim with all this junk hanging from you?”


The knife cleanly separates the stretched rope and hundreds of pounds suddenly sink to the bottom of the cove.  When the weight falls, Pepper, Charley, Josh and the rowboat all rebound at once.  Big momma’s huge supporting fin snaps upward like a catapult unleashed, lifting and tilting the boat.  Charley falls over backward in the middle of the boat and rides it out, but Josh’s precarious position is impossible to recover from, and he sails over the side flopping onto Pepper's back.  Her dorsal fin trips him up and he slides into the water between mother and daughter. Sadie jumps to her feet barking her alarm.  Sammie pulls her down clamping a hand over her muzzle quieting her. Maggie yells Josh’s name.  Charley with the boat hook still in his hand pulls himself up and looks for his nephew.


“Oh my god,” says Charley, eyes wide, fresh adrenalin replacing stale fear.

“It’s okay Pepper,” says Josh, “It’s okay momma, just a little mishap—everyone remain calm.”


Josh has slipped between the two killer whales, one arm resting on Pepper, the other forced upward over the much higher mom. 

“Charley, you aren’t going to believe this, I’m kneeling on her fin.  I’m going to climb over Pepper and get back in the boat.” He crouches, ready to stand and straddle Pepper, but when he stretches for the boat, he doesn’t quite make it and falls on her again.  With both arms, he pushes off ungracefully rejecting sitting on her.  He lands with a flying crash back in the rocking boat.  The two orcas watch but remain motionless, unlike Josh and Charley their emotions and fear are still in check.


“Oh boy,” Says Josh, able to breathe again, “I thought that was going to do it, and we would be smashed to bits, or big momma’s tail would toss us over the dock.”

“Are you okay,” says Maggie, “what happened, did the big whale hit you?”

“No, everything is fine,” says Charley, “we just got off balance.”


Getting back to work, Josh says. “That last cut released a ton of weight, but it didn’t loosen these two tight ones around her body, we have to keep fishing for hanging lines.” 

In the next fifteen minutes, Josh and Charley manage to make another dozen cuts, removing a lot of netting and line but no more significant weight like the gob that threw him into the water.


“Okay, we’re almost done, this is the one digging in, I’ll slice—what the!!    This rope has a wire inside of it, it’s dulled my knife, I can’t cut it.”

“I should have told you, that some of these fishing nets are made with a thin wire cable in the top line.  It’s ultra-strong and doesn’t stretch,” says Charley.

“It’s also killing Pepper, we have to get it off somehow, but I can’t cut it or even reach it without cutting into her blubber.”

Chapter two:

Yesterday—on the ferry

“Hi!—Hellooo...... I said Hi!—”

“Oh . . . you’re talking to me?” Oh geez, you dweeb, what a dumb answer.

“Well yeahhh,” she says while twirling her sun-streaked hair around a finger.  “Do you see anyone else on the top deck of this ferry boat?”

“Well when you put it that way, just me I guess.”  Wow, she’s kinda pretty, her blue eyes sparkle—think, think, say something not too stupid, offer her a tic tac.

“My name is Sammie, what’s yours?” She looks straight into his face, he holds her stare for a second and then looks down.   His legs shake, his chest quivers, and his head swims.  She lets go of the hair twirl, setting the ringlet free, and starts another twist.  She tilts her head trying to make eye contact again.  His face flushes and his cheeks burn...

Excerpt from Death Watch:

The scene is somewhere off Cuba.  The sinister Bela is dead, after attacking Marissa he gets finished by a great white shark.  Kings Ransom is dead in the water, having fouled her propeller in an abandoned net.

            “It’s a mess down there,” says Freddy when he surfaces, “it looks like a big ball of net, The propeller is completely covered and there is a fine cable my knife can’t cut.”

            “I’ll find a wire cutter, you do what you can.” Says Jake. Ricky gulps a lungful of fresh air and drops below the surface a second time. Nic overheard everything, so Jake makes eye contact, shakes his head and makes for the engine room where he hopes to find a cable cutter. Seth is working on getting the transmission into neutral when Jake appears.

            “Any luck”

            “Good you’re here, I need a hand; I can hold it with this bar if you’all can pull on the shift linkage.”  Jake hesitates a moment then begins to trace cables and wires,

“Which one is it?”

“I think it’s that one right there.”

Jake grabs the heavy lever and tries to move it both ways,

“It's jammed up tight, go ahead and put pressure on the shaft.  As Seth moves the propeller shaft with the monkey wrench and cheater bar, Jake pulls on the linkage to no avail. 

“Try the other way, this isn’t doing anything.” As soon as Seth reverses the wrench and relieves the pressure, Jake easily slips the transmission into neutral.

“Got it, she’s free to turn now. We need to find Ricky a cable cutter, any ideas.”

“Right there in the tip-out bin,”  says Seth. “Grandpa used to say…”

“Hold it,” Jake cuts him short and points up and towards the door while bringing his finger to his lips.

“Oh, I was just going to say that I’ve been told that all sailing ships must have cable cutters in case they need to cut the rigging loose in a storm.”

Inside the bin are miscellaneous large and small bolt and cable cutters.

“Here’s a small, curved jaw cutter, it’s perfect and even has a lanyard ready to go.” Jake leaves Seth to put away the tools he had dug out and enters the passageway half expecting Nic to be there and question him about Seth’s almost slip-up.  He had already decided he would cover for the sudden change in conversation by saying he was in a hurry to get the cutters to Ricky, but thankfully Nic had not followed him.  At the aft end, Ricky is sitting on the generous swim step catching his breath, as Jake approaches his thoughts momentarily drift to the second transponder beacon he had hidden under the platform.

“Here’s a hooked cable cutter Ricky, is this what you had in mind.”

“I think that will work, but there is a lot of net,” says Ricky as he slips his wrist through the wrist loop.  Ricky has one tool on each wrist, the looped lanyards making sure he doesn’t accidentally drop a tool to the depths below.

Before Ricky drops off the swim step, Jake adds. “Seth got the transmission into neutral, you should be able to rotate the propeller now.”

“Ok,” and with a little jump, Ricky is gone again. Marissa and Jake are alone at the back silently contemplating the new predicament and ongoing issues with Nic.  Marissa simply thinks Nic is some sort of crazy Balkan state nut case up to no good whose association with Bela has ruined any chance of an acceptable explanation for his actions. Jake on the other hand knows Nic is a cold-blooded criminal in the midst of an international operation. Both now concerned with getting Kings Ransom moving again

Suddenly Nic's voice interrupts the calm, “Raise the sails, we must get moving again.”

“No,” yells Marissa, “We can’t sail with Ricky down there.”

“He can hang on, we will only be moving slowly.” Retorts Nic.

“No I won’t let you, he will die under there.” Nics pulls the familiar Luger from his waist once again, but before he points it or says another word, Marissa walks toward him yelling.

“I won’t let you, you can shoot all of us, and then who will run the boat? Are you going to shoot the only crew you have?  Marissa stops an arm’s length from Nic, he never does raise the gun and point it at her, and now she is so close he is afraid she might cause him to accidentally shoot her.  All he can do is stare her down.

“If you want to get moving so bad, why don’t you find a way to help Ricky.”  Marissa continues her confrontation.

Face to face, Nic stares at Marissa for a good long time, he wants to shoot her right then and there for opposing his authority in front of another man.  Her heaving breasts and slender tan waist excite him. He wants to drag her into his cabin tear off her clothes and show her who is in charge.  Marissa’s defiant eyes do not miss the lusty look; it’s always the same look and the same look Bela had the day she and Ricky killed him, feeding him to a shark. You bastard she thinks. You will get yours too.

“You help him, woman.” Nics puts the gun back in his pants, turns and walks to his cabin.

Jake and Marissa’s eyes meet, a mutual respect is already enjoyed between them. No words are spoken or needed, both peer into the water ready to help Ricky.


A short excerpt from, "Adrift"

Feeling abandoned, Tom and Fran and their two children silently climb into the dinghy. The quiet is peaceful yet ominous.  Pushing off with the oar Tom paddles into the darkness toward the boat.  The dock recedes leaving each person alone with their thoughts. Breaking the silence he says, I can’t see where to paddle, you will have to tell me where to go.  “Oh great” Fran yells at Tom losing all control, “First you almost crashed us on the freeway, then were lost in the fog while a huge wave almost rolls over us, then you lose a rope and can’t get the sail up on a sailboat, next your kids try to burn up a State Park, then your boat runs aground at the dock of all places and now were lost in our dinghy and can’t find the boat in the dark.”  Tom stutters and is at a loss for words, thankfully before he can say anything a blinding light pierces the night and cuts across to their boat.  With just a few more strokes the dinghy softly touches home on Blue Belle and they all climb aboard.  Mike's powerful spotlight goes out as fast as it had come on. “Thanks,” says Tom, and to Fran, “Let’s get to bed, this breeze is chilling me. In the morning everything will be great.”

Tom and the children went right to sleep, but Fran was awakened by every little noise, the wind banged and slapped the halyards against the mast, she could hear the boats at the dock squeal as polished fiberglass hulls rubbed against rubber fenders. She heard or felt the low deep throb as a ship or ferry went by, the smallest waves would rock their tiny little home. Several times she thought she heard something moving on deck. Afraid of the unknown and building on her own fears, Fran never looked out a window, perhaps that was best.  Finally, the noises subsided and Fran fretfully slept.  When she opened her eyes, it was daylight and she peeked out.  What she saw outside scared her plenty, but somehow yesterday’s events prepared her for the vast emptiness of swirling white misty fog now outside her window. She calmly tells Tom to wake up.  Not hearing a response from his so-called queen bed shoe box under the cock pit Fran tugs on his empty sleeping bag. “Tom” she yells, “where are you” “Do you kids see your father anywhere”? Squelching a scream and feeling a sudden emptiness in her stomach Fran throws open the hatch, she stands on the companionway steps where she can see the entire boat. Tom’s not on board, the dinghy’s gone.  Looking around a full 360 degrees, she has no idea where they are, but it is definitely not the cove at James Island.