Yet like all medieval monarchs, the ocean is fickle in her gifts. What had seemed a good outlay for the voyage soon changed to the rumblings of a jealous woman. Not just any woman, but an empress who was used to having her desires fulfilled. This empress desired the smooth white craft slipping playfully through her waters as though it were a dolphin. The empress crouched and gathered her energies ready to pounce.
ooo OOO ooo
Monsreal watched the distant storm with a weather-worn squint. He'd heard there was a brand new little schooner out there, ripe for the taking. He lowered his left hand from his scarred brow and gripped the rail in anticipation, the boat wasn't all he'd be having by the time this storm was over.
Captain Rudolph Marcus Monsreal was not a man who raised his voice unless absolutely necessary. He didn't bother turning to face the bosun standing next to him. Brugs was watching the same storm through his spyglass.
"Have the men prepare. We're courting Lady Storm this day." He instructed in a gruff but quiet voice - let his right-hand man do all the shouting. Brugs continued his inspection for a moment then lowered the glass and contracted it with a dramatic snap. He turned to his captain.
"Arr! Do yar really think we gonnarr find the wee craft an the salty sea dogs who sail her, Cap'n?" He asked doubtfully. Monsreal remained staring out at the wall of dark cloud in front of them and curled his upper lip as he sucked a piece of meat from between his teeth. Then he did turn to his bosun and Brugs tried not to meet the impenitratable gaze of his captain.
"We'll find her Brugs, and we'll take her."
ooo OOO ooo
The graceful schooner continued to glide through the waves which were beginning to build. The storm had grown up all around them. The wind picked up and whipped the crew with its cruel blows, using water to scratch at their eyes, cheeks and fingers. The crew were no amateurs however, and though they were wary of the weather, they had no need yet to be afraid. They drove the vessel hard, using the storm to her best advantage, letting the craft show them what she was made of.
Greta loved taking the tiller, it was by far the most delightful job to have on the craft. She watched the gauge to measure her angle in the water and loved to feel the pull of the craft as she strained under her. She delighted in riding the vessel to its limits.
"You'll take her too far off course, listing like that." Dan complained. Greta rolled her eyes at him. It was HER turn at the tiller, she could sail how she liked. And she liked to see the speed indicator running higher than the other crew members would sail her. More than the chronic joy of controlling the craft, Greta loved the extreme (though brief) control of the crew themselves when she chose to tack. One day Greta was going to leave this crew and apply for a new job. A job as a skipper, and then she wouldn't have to share the tiller with anyone.
Unfortunately her two hours in control were over soon, and Roger took over. Roger wasn't as bad as Dan for being lame, she thought, but he still could do a lot more with the craft than he bothered to. She sat near him and they chatted for a while, Greta giving steering suggestions every now and then. Roger took them in good humour but didn't change his style.
"The storm's only getting worse, Greta, it's best to err on the side of caution."
This time Greta didn't actually roll her eyes - though she did mentally. She and Dan had been married three years now, and she could treat him with loving contempt without causing too much friction or unease. Good natured as Roger was, he would probably be insulted if a woman who'd only been sailing six years to his thirty did the same at him. She rubbed rain and saltwater off her face and swept back her saturated hair, trying to plaster it back on her scalp.
A few hours later and even Greta wasn't trying for speed. It was all she could do to hold the vessel onto ANY course as the waves rolled under and over the craft. Twice in the rain she lost grip of the wheel and when Dan staggered over to her and asked if she wanted him to take over, she gladly stepped down. She would have stayed out here with him, but the weather was getting far too wild. She would be better below, where she could look up the weather report, and observe how Roger dealt with the situation.
Sandra, Cooper, and Fred were sitting on the portside beds, quiet and drawn. Both Bill and Marie looked as though they were about to be sick. Everyone had put their life jackets on long ago. Greta was about to ask Roger if she could do anything to help him when there was an almighty crack and the vessel begin to right herself.
What the...? Roger and Greta both ran for the stairs, Dan would neither tack nor gybe on his own - he couldn't - so what was going on? When she came up top it looked to Greta as though Dan had just stood back up from a fall. Roger had already asked what was going on. Greta noticed Dan was only holding the wheel with one loose hand. Why?
Dan looked disturbed.
"Something snapped, and the tiller went slack. The boat came up on her own."
He looked briefly at Greta, then back at Roger.
"We've lost steering."