Chapter eleven

Raphael came up just as the lights faded in the western sky. 

Isaac was now sleeping. Vashti was smoking behind the wheel. Neville was awake and, since Raphael had confiscated the Oxy, was feeling a tightness in his ego. He was also hungover from a cocktail of beer and narcotics.

Nils too had woken up and was sitting in the cockpit, leaning forward so his back didn’t touch anything. He needed to have gauze applied to his back and covered, Raphael thought.

No one had been talking for sometime. 

Raphael had a pot of coffee and cups. Black was the only option. He held up the pot. Isaac opened his eyes. Everyone nodded yes.

He locked the table in place and poured the cups. 

Nils wrapped both hands around a mug. “I am cold and hot all at the same time but this feels good,” he said.

“Well,” Raphael said. “Looks like Neville will remain the only one among us who will have transited the Atlantic.

“It’s time to head home.”

They would make their way east as soon as the wind returned. But they would only actively make way between sunset and sunrise, unless there was thick cloud cover.  The tent would remain up for now and they would only use mainsail and the headsail. 

During sunny days, they would trim the sails so they would continue moving but the helm would be passive.

“So we’re going to have to be aware of shifts and come up to adjust the sails, maybe one of us hangs out under the tent and keeps us into the wind.

“But without anything to guide us during the day, we don’t want to be too aggressive anyway.”

“Why not use the autohelm?” Vashti asked. 

“Right now, I don’t think we should be taxing the batteries,” Nils said. “We should conserve. ”

“Not to mention it relies on a compass to work,” Raphael said. “At night we follow the stars and sail as aggressively as possible.

“Plus there are only three of us who can handle that right now. The days will mostly be for sleeping.”

They would sail toward Bermuda and stop, find out what is going on, and decide what’s next. Nils and Neville would also be able to see a doctor.

“What if we miss Bermuda?” Neville asked. 

“That is entirely possible, if not likely” Raphael replied. “In that case, we’ll continue east until we reach the Gulf Stream, turn north, and follow it until we have to cut in toward New York bight.”

“How will we know when to do that?” Neville asked, shifting his seat, in search of some comfort.

“Maybe we’ll see New York’s lights? Maybe we’ll run aground at Coney Island. I haven’t figured that out. Isaac, give that some thought, please.”

Isaac nodded yes.

Despite his questions, Neville had lost his desire for a fight. 

“Let’s all head below and get into our bunks,” Raphael said. “I cleaned up and everyone should find their place ready for sleeping.”

He told Nils to rest in the aft bunk, his cabin, where there was more room to spread out. 

“One of us will wipe you down and lay some gauze on your back.”

He  handed Nils another Oxy and another dose of antibiotics. 

“Neville, do you need any help going below?”

He shook his head, no.

“Will we motor until we get wind?” Isaac asked.

“Not yet,” he replied.

We have fuel to run the engine for a couple of days but we can’t afford to be caught short, especially if we miss Bermuda.  We will just have to wait.”

And given the uncertainty, they were going to restrict using their sweetwater to drinking and cooking.

“Dishes and our bodies will be cleaned with salt water.”

Nils looked up at Raphael.

“Except your back,” Raphael said.

Neville stood slowly and stepped toward the companionway. Raphael reached for an arm but Neville jerked it away.

“I moved your stuff to the lower starboard bunk to make things easier for you.” 

Neville didn’t respond but took the pill Raphael offered. He gingerly stepped into the cabin, using the arm on the better of his two sides to balance himself.

Nils rose. 

“I am good, actually,” Nils said. “It will be nice to lay on a mattress rather than teak.”

“Lay on your stomach,” Raphael said. “I will be down in a wee bit and take care of you.”

The steps into the cabin below creaked under Nils weight. 

Raphael looked around the boat. The Arctic terns had mostly flown off. A few still rested in the seaweed. 

He looked forward, where Timothy remained perched on the bowsprit, his head tucked under a wing.

“We’ll both get to where we are going, right mate,” he said, softly enough so Isaac couldn’t hear. He wanted Timothy to raise his head and agree. He didn’t.

“At least I’m not crazy,” he said and stepped back in the cockpit toward Vashti and Isaac.

“Well,” Raphael said, trying as best he could to sound cheerful. “It’s up to us.”

The three chatted briefly. Vashti offered to nurse Nils but offered no resistance when Raphael said no. Isaac was lost in thought most of the time.  

Raphael went below.

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