Dave (everybody called him Shark Boy) and his friend Ryan—led by Dave’s father the Captain—walked out of Boss Penny’s Bar into the dark wet night, and headed for the Captain’s boat shack. With a flashlight they located the barrel full of chain, new anchor line, tackle, and the assortment of anchors they were going to need, along with some good bolt cutters. Hurricane Earl was on its way, and they had to get ready for it. The moorings their boats were on now were supposed to hold a force 3 hurricane, but if they didn’t, or if another boat got off its mooring or anchor, the spare anchors and rodes would be greatly needed.
While the captain assembled the extra chain, lines, and anchors, Dave suddenly remembered his friend the monk, who was now living in Santana’s old house on the little island of Lovango: “Holy crap, Pop, I forgot about Lambini! This is his first hurricane.”
“That old shack has weathered lots of hurricanes,” said the Captain. “Lambini will be safe there, and the rain will fill his cisterns, so he should be happier than a clam at high tide.”
“But Pop,” Dave said, “that’s not the only trouble he may be in. The sheriff said that one of the new girls ran away from the Chicken Ranch, and that the cook suspects that she’s hiding at Lambini’s place.”
“Son, you’re right, if the cook catches her, he’ll make a bad example of her so the other girls won’t get any ideas. But we don’t have time to worry about that now.”
The captain cut a length of chain with his bolt cutters and shackled it to the new line and anchor, while Dave and Ryan loaded an already assembled set-up into a heavy duty cart and wheeled it down to the water, where Ryan’s dinghy strained to free itself from the public dock. The wind had temporarily stopped blowing, but the waves were still white, fast and furious, so it was going to be risky business ferrying the extra set-ups out to their boats. It was a mission that had to be accomplished, though.
Dave called out to his father, “Pop, are we going to stay aboard during this hurricane?”
“Yes, I am,” said the Captain, “but it’s your call to make on whether you want to stay with me, and the same goes for Ryan. Some hurricanes are not survivable, but you can make it through others if you’ve made enough advanced preparation. The chances of saving the boat are much greater if I stay onboard to adjust the chafing gear and deal with emergencies as they arise. I can’t do that if I’m hunkered down on shore.”
“Fear can cloud good judgment,” he said, “but so can an enlarged ego. So consider the facts carefully and make your best decision—nobody is going to call you a coward if you stay ashore.”
“Count me in, Pop,” said Shark Boy without hesitation.
“Me too,” said Ryan.
The conversation ended as the three of them climbed into Ryan’s wildly thrashing dinghy and motored out into the dark.
Hurricane Earl hit Cruz Bay on the island of St. John before first light arrived, but the eye of the hurricane was so far to the north that the winds barely got up to 70 mph. The waves, however, which were reaching about 8 feet in height further out at sea, were coming in from two fronts and funneling into the anchorage, where they began combining their amplitude in destructive fashion. So the boats were sometimes rising and falling 16 feet when the two wave fronts reinforced each other. Several boats were ripped from their moorings, and Big Jessie’s powerboat ended up on the rocks. Jessie’s mooring line parted in the middle, which was a good indication that another powerboat must have inadvertently motored over his mooring line—normally lines part at the shackle or bow cleat and not in the middle—but either way it ended in disaster for his powerboat.
Almost all of the boats that relocated from Cruz Bay to Chocolate Hole Bay (against the Captain’s advice) were blown ashore, and so were most of the boats in Little Cruz Bay, but the Flying Circus, Dream Weaver, and Ryan’s sailboat Frequency all survived.
At the pinnacle of the storm a Frenchman’s boat drug anchor and his anchor line became entangled with Dream Weaver’s rudder. Through a fearless, superhuman effort, Ryan managed to board the Frenchman’s wildly careening boat. The French skipper was frozen in fear and overcome with seasickness. Ryan ordered him below deck and out-of-the-way. Dave and the Captain then circled the French boat in Ryan’s dinghy and set an extra anchor while Ryan affixed its bitter end to a main winch, and managed to winch the errant boat away from Dream Weaver and secure the line to a bow cleat. If it had not been for the valiant efforts of Ryan, Dave, and the Captain, both Dream Weaver and the Frenchman’s boat would’ve joined Hurricane Earl’s many other casualties.
Finally after two days without sleep, under constant stress, Ryan, Shark Boy, and the Captain took a well-deserved rest.
To be continued …