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The two old friends from Waynedale met at the Key West Marina and the Captain was chomping at the bit to get underway. No mention was made of hurricane season because the chop, big waves and storm clouds said it all. In the years these two friends had sailed together the Captain set sail when he decided to go regardless of threatening conditions and this time was not to be an exception. Once underway no words or instructions were needed and whoever was closest to the task that needed to be done—did it.

The first five days proved uneventful. But then, as the seas began to build it was obvious that they were going to get their Aft’s kicked. There comes a time at sea when the waves grow so tall that if the helmsman doesn’t have sufficient momentum to carry the vessel over the top of the next wave, he or she, will lose steerage and broach, which is like rolling your house sideways.

When the helmsman has sufficient momentum to make it over the wave then a new set of problems occur. Chain must be played out off the stern to slow the boat and prevent it from gaining too much forward speed and burying itself in the trough of the next wave. If the boat gets caught in the curl at the top of the wave it can cause a pitch-pole and roll the vessel end over end. Meanwhile, if everything goes well, the chain has to be quickly hauled back in so the helmsman can start gathering speed to make it up the next wave. All of this business with the sea anchor causes extreme fatigue and no crew can keep it up for very long. Although the Captain, during his younger years was known to be in possession of super human strength, him and his Waynedale friend were now well past 65 years of age and the physical hardships were taking their toll. At last, they decided their best hope for survival would be heaving to. By setting two small sails in opposite directions they could attempt to remain in one spot. After the sails were re-set, the Captain went below and no sooner did he sit down than he fell asleep.

His friend stood the watch and it appeared to him that they might be able to survive the on-coming storm. As he often did, the friend began to shout at the storm about the size of his God. “My God is bigger than you, you’re nothing but air and my God will soon make a breeze out of you.” This, of course was not the first time he had done this, he had been doing it for a long time and miraculously it seemed that whenever he did it the storm began to lessen. After about three hours of making no progress the friend from Waynedale hauled everything in and started the diesel engine. In spite of the storm, it was a magic moment at sea. Schools of sharks probed the float some looking for something to eat and dolphins played in their wakes and when the clouds broke the sky suddenly filled with stars.

The Captain awoke but he didn’t know how long he had slept because his watch had stopped but when he heard the engine running he imagined that his friend was standing at the helm so although he was still half asleep, he ate something and made his way up the ladder to the cockpit. Once topside, he realized that his friend was not at the helm or anywhere else on board, he had simply gone missing. His life jacket and safety harness were laying on the cockpit soul but he was gone. In a suddenly induced state of trauma he watched the unattended helm and it was mysteriously steering its self. His mind struggled to figure out how long his friend had been missing but there was not a clue. With the size of the seas, finding him would be impossible, especially without a life jacket. The Captain sat in disbelief as he watched the helm steer its self. The autopilot was turned off and even if it was on it couldn’t keep up with wild gyrations caused by the storm. He seemed to be trapped in a bad dream, and while he stared off into his distant wake he saw a blue orb raise out of the sea and move towards the boat. It hovered over the mast and then traveled down the spreaders and eventually hovered over the helm. What could it be, and what did this mean?

When the blue orb vanished, the helm began to drift off course like it normally did until at last he grabbed it and re-gained his course. He should be in St. John harbor late tomorrow or early the next day but yet, he saw the unmistakable landmarks of his homeport—how could this be? Did he go through a time warp, or was he transported thru space and time by the blue orb? The boat suddenly began to surge ahead, lifting the stern and threatening to turn him crosswise but he had just enough rudder control to maintain steerage. The storm surge was taking him home and at a hull speed unknown to any Columbia Fifty.

Dave had just woke-up in Cruz Bay and was going topside on the Dream Weaver when he saw a lone sailboat off to the east. Could it really be his Dad and how could he be so far ahead of schedule, there must be a mistake and it was most probably another sailboat but it certainly looked like the Flying Circus. He called his Dad’s cell phone but there was no answer. Dave waited a bit before he woke his mother because he didn’t want to raise any false hope in her, but the longer he watched that sailboat the more convinced he became that it was indeed the Flying Circus but why wouldn’t his Dad answer his cell phone? Finally Dave got his binoculars and confirmed, yes, it was the Flying Circus. Tears of joy filled his eyes before he began to wonder why only one hand was on board when there should be two. His joy turned to panic at the thought of having lost his Dad but then he realized his Dad was the lone hand that he was looking at but why wouldn’t he answer his phone?

Dave waited what seemed an eternity before the Flying Circus was close enough to see his Dad clearly, but what had happened to his friend from Waynedale? At last the Captain was close enough to enter the harbor and although Dave was there in the dinghy to welcome him home-his Dad said not a word. Dave scrambled aboard the Circus and secured the dinghy to an aft cleat and asked his Dad what was wrong? “Gee whiz, Pop, you look like you just saw a ghost,” said Dave. But his Dad said not a word. He sailed directly to his mooring ball and tied up. Dave suspected he wasn’t talking because he was so very tired—he looked very drained and tired. Later Jini came aboard the Circus but still no words were spoken. The Captain remained silent. There exists a time limit before a man overboard report must be filled out by a captain. But the Captain gave no indication that he would comply. Jini solved the problem by going directly to the US Coast Guard and obtaining the proper forms, but she couldn’t fill them out because she did not know the circumstances under which his friend had disappeared and evidently the Captain didn’t know either.

Neither Jini nor Dave had ever seen the Captain is such a deep state of trauma but they would have to deal with it or he would lose his captain’s license. After the Captain had slept he put his rocking chair on the deck and began to rock. Several close friends attempted to talk to him and learn what had happened, but the Captain said not a word. Those who know the Captain sensed that his silence might suddenly explode into a rage so everybody who approached him did so with extreme caution. Big Jesse called Dave and when he learned some of the particulars, he said it was obviously a serious case of survivor’s guilt and he asked his pilot to get the plane ready for a trip to St. John. He said he would bring a specialist with him who was trained at treating deep trauma because if it is left untreated it might turn into a permanent affliction.

Dave carefully reminded his Dad of something his friend often said, “When you’re wrong admit it and go on and when you’re right simply go on, but either way, we must go on.” Although the Captain never said a word a tear had formed in his eye. After a bit he asked Dave to fill out the man overboard report and he would sign it. Those were the first words he had spoken in several days. All that the Captain knew he said, was that they had set up the Circus to heave to when his friend went topside and started shouting at the storm about the size of his God. This was normal for him and so he thought nothing about it. When he woke up the engine was running, and they were on course but there must’ve been a ghost steering the course because his friend was gone. He talked about the blue orb that ascended from his stern wake, but Dave didn’t write any of that down because he feared such a story would cast doubt on his Dad’s sanity. The Captain told Dave about going thru a time warp and that’s why he was so far ahead of schedule and how after the orb left, the helm drifted like normal until he grabbed it. Other than these few facts, he didn’t know when or how the accident had happened, or what had happened to his friend from Waynedale—it was all very confusing to him. Dave completed the accident form and his Dad signed it.

The End.

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John Stark

The author of the "Tales from the Caribbean" fictional column. He attended school at Waynedale Elementary, Maplewood, Elmhurst HS in the Waynedale area. John had 25 years of professional writing experience when he passed away in 2012. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer