vanessagalore: (!Precipitation)
[personal profile] vanessagalore
TITLE: Prevailing Winds (27/?)
AUTHOR: [personal profile] vanessagalore
CHARACTERS: Veronica, Logan, Keith
WORD COUNT: 6,918
RATING: PG13 for this chapter
SUMMARY: Sometimes it's best to just get the hell out of Dodge. Set right after 'The Bitch Is Back'.
SPOILERS: Spoilers for the whole series, especially season 3.
WARNINGS: Cursing.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any rights to Veronica Mars. This story is written as a tribute only. Beta'd by zaftig_darling and flyersgrl. All remaining errors are my responsibility.



AUTHOR'S NOTE: I know all the sailing jargon can be confusing, so I've again included a few images to help with understanding the text.

1~Precipitation 2~Precarious 3~Paranoia 4~Prevarication 5~Probation 6~Predicament 7~Paradox 8~Please 9~Perilous 10~Palpitation 11~Precipice 12~Perspiration 13~Peregrination 14~Pursuit 15~Plexus 16~Pier 17~Perception 18~Phantasm 19~Phantasm 20~Pyromania 21~Prognosis 22~Paternity 23~Premeditation 24~Paralysis 25~Panacea 26~Presentiment


Click here to read a summary of the whole story from the beginning. And for just the last time on 'Precipitation': (Highlight to read ~OR~ click here to skip directly to the new chapter)

Logan drills Keith and Veronica on rescuing a man overboard, heaving-to, and abandoning ship, and they learn how to use the auto-steering windvane. Veronica struggles with the new skills and worries about her inability to tell wind direction, but the men are enjoying themselves and joking around. She finds out that she's been assigned the task of managing their food and water supplies. The worst-case-scenario drills ramp up Veronica's anxiety about the voyage.

Veronica overhears Logan and her dad talking, remarking on her tentativeness and worrying that she's still affected by her breakdown two weeks earlier. Logan and she talk about it and end up making love.

Veronica's dad tells her that owning a sailboat is an old dream of his, and Logan's idea felt like fate was telling him to go for it.



Chapter Twenty-Seven: Prevailing Winds

I wake before the others and sneak on deck, snugging my combination safety harness and self-inflating PFD around my torso. The flotation device, two fabric tubes that attach to the suspender-like harness, seems inadequate, but it's definitely not too uncomfortable and won't get in my way if I'm trying to maneuver on the bow.

Logan had insisted that whenever the boat was underway we had to wear the harnesses, no matter how calm the weather seemed. They clip onto tether lines that span the length of the boat, so if the boat suddenly lurches, you'll be saved by the tether. Worst case, you fly overboard and the flotation device is activated by contact with the water. And no one was to go on the bow unless someone else was in the cockpit. It feels funny to be cinched into this arrangement of ties and ropes, but it's way more comfortable than the three layers of clothing I'd been sporting as 'Mandy.'

Sailing gloves are tucked in the pocket of my fleece and I pull a ball cap onto my head. There's absolutely nothing I can do about my hair at this point—it's not long enough to put into a ponytail since my haircut in Chicago, and the bangs drive me crazy when it's windy. And I need the sun protection on my fair skin, already pinkened from the last two days.

I even have a knife in a little sheath attached to my harness. When I'd asked what it was for, Logan had said obliquely, "Just for emergency, basically. I'm sure it won't come up." I'd laughed it off with a comment about making him walk the plank with it, but my imagination immediately flew to visions of being tangled in ropes under water.

Putting on the sailing 'uniform' helps a little: it makes me feel like I know what I'm doing. Sort of.

The sun has just barely peeked above the horizon, and it's pleasantly chilly, a spectacular June morning. Puffy clouds darkened by the orange rays of the emerging sun float overhead. The sea is a pinkish gray, with striations of coral, tangerine, peach and fiery yellow in the sky above promising another sun-dappled day to begin our voyage.

Turning toward shore, I see the wind rustling the scrub grass of the Barrier Islands dunes and the occasional boat reflecting the beginning rays of the sunrise. A flock of birds wheels and pivots in the sky, startling me.

I'm leaving. Forever. This is the last thing I'll see here, these sand-swept dunes covered with tenacious beachgrass.

Dad and Logan join me, and we motor away from the marina and the United States for good. The sadness I feel is overwhelming, and, although Dad and Logan are joking around again, I volunteer to make breakfast in the galley because I can't bear to watch the land disappearing from sight.

When I emerge with plates of scrambled eggs and cups of coffee for all of us, I keep my eyes averted from the Virginia coastline shrinking beyond our stern.

*****

The most surprising thing about the voyage so far is how boring it is. Logan's been drilling us like a maniac, and I hadn't really put it together that we'd be sailing in one direction for long periods. All that tacking we did the last two days: we're not going to be doing that very often. Even if we're headed upwind, we'll do long tacks, not the constant zig-zagging we were doing off the coast of Virginia.

Right now, we're on a beam reach, at right angles to the wind direction, which is by far my preferred point of sail. The boat sails efficiently, not too far heeled over, and without the instability that we get when we're sailing downwind.

Once we're a few miles out, Logan hands over the steering to Dad and moves around the boat, adjusting lines by infinitesimal amounts. He leans over the gauges and says with satisfaction, "Boat speed's up by a knot." He and Dad start talking about boom vangs, travelers, and outhauls, and I'm completely lost.

Zoning out, I look at the ocean. I don't think I've ever been this far out to sea before. The waves are sometimes greenish, sometimes a gray-blue. Now the light blue sky stretches beyond infinity, with only a few clouds far off on the horizon and the sun burns steadily on my face.

The ocean scenery forever changes and yet stays the same—hundreds, thousands of miles of deep, deep water. I imagine Christopher Columbus and other explorers setting out with no idea where they were going, no GPS, no charts, with only the stars to guide them. That was courage. Compared to them, we're in the lap of technological luxury.

At first, there are other ships: container ships heading for Norfolk, Navy ships, and quite a few pleasure boats. A Coast Guard cutter swoops past us, engines roaring and the boat making a lot of wake. It might be ridiculously paranoiac, but we all sigh with relief when it motors out of our view.

As we sail east, the other boats gradually disappear, and it's just us, with nothing but water all around us. We spot some dolphins far off in the distance. They seem carefree and normal, and we're the interlopers here.

Logan and Dad have worked out a complicated duty schedule for us. Usually, people would just do four hours on, eight hours off, but they wanted to have two people on watch at night, at least until we saw how things went. I interpret this as them not having confidence in me steering at night, but I'm grateful, not offended.

During the day, we each have four hour shifts by ourselves, but at night, we'll have shifts that overlap by two hours. I notice that Logan takes 9pm to 1am and 3am to 6am, and realize he's making sure that he's piloting during the most dangerous hours. He'll need to nap quite a bit to make up for that sleep deficit.

At 7am, Dad hands over the helm to me for my first four-hour shift. He's too wired to nap, so he stays with me. I think I'm doing a terrible job, but he keeps smiling and saying, "You got it, kiddo." We seem to have settled in on a course, so he helps me set the windvane to do the steering, which is a huge relief.

You know how it is to drive a car: your eyes are supposed to be constantly checking the two mirrors and then returning to the road. On a boat, you check the gauges and compass, you glance at the sails to make sure they're full of wind, then you scan the horizon, left to right, and then right to left, making sure that there's no monster container ship heading our way.

If you see anything at all, you get the binoculars and ascertain what it is. There's a radar proximity alarm—more newfangled technology—that would alert us to an approaching ship, but to use it would require some of our precious battery power, so we won't engage it unless visibility is compromised.

Even when I'm not physically doing the steering, it feels exhausting to have to be so alert when the sun, the wind, and the movement take a toll on me physically. Sailing a boat in the ocean seems a little like driving down a perfectly straight highway with unchangeable scenery in the rain. It's easy to lose my focus with the undulating waves hypnotizing me just like windshield wipers thudding from side to side.

The waves are getting bigger as we get further offshore. Sometimes we crest on a wave and surf down into the trough, with a sudden burst of speed that feels reckless and uncontrolled. One particularly big wave sends us flying into the air, only to come down with a jarring thwomp in the next trough. Disengaging the windvane auto-steering, Dad takes the wheel and shows me how to steer with the wave to take advantage of the speed bumps.

I remember Dad teaching me how to drive in the LeBaron. He'd been patient and thorough, and we'd had fun. Mom couldn't deal—anytime I'd made the slightest error, she'd gasp under her breath and clutch the dashboard. Dad would just tell me to slow down, turn here, try it again, all in a calm voice that made me think that I was doing just fine.

And it's the same here. He sits beside me, and occasionally puts out a hand to help me get the optimal steering as we sail over the waves.

The wind picks up, and the waves become a little more unpredictable. Despite my efforts the boat bottoms out in the troughs several times. Each time, I wince, wondering if my incompetence is wrecking poor Panacea. I'm having a hard time steering, and I can't figure out what's wrong. I know Dad's trying to teach me the finer points of steering, but I wish we'd just put the windvane back on.

Logan pops his head out from below. "We feel kind of overpowered." At my confused expression, he explains, "I think the sails are too big. What's the wind speed?"

Dad cranes his neck to look at a gauge. "Sixteen knots. It's picked up quite a bit."

"Let's put a reef in the main and furl the jib. Keith, why don't you steer and Veronica and I will work the sails?" There's a look that passes between them. I wonder: she needs to learn how to do this or maybe let's build her confidence. Maybe both. And I have no clue what a reef means.

Logan directs, "First the main, then the jib. Veronica, you and I will go forward to the mast."

Somehow I didn't think I'd be facing my fears quite so soon. Following Logan, I pick my way through the lines and cleats, clip onto the safety lines, and go to the foredeck. As the boat goes up and down in the waves, I lurch back and forth, and the safety tether is really getting a workout.

Logan tells Dad at the helm to release the main and head up into the wind. "That takes the power off, right?" he comments. "Now as I release the halyard holding up the top of the main sail, you'll pull on this reefing line. That pulls the bottom part of the main sail down onto the boom." He gestures, and I nod that I see the correct line. "Then I recleat the halyard and you fasten the reefing line."

We do this, and I manage to do everything correctly, or correctly enough. Logan pats the boom. "Then we go along the boom and use reefing ties to secure the sail to the boom. See? You pull this sail tie through the grommet and tie up the sail."

"Um, tie the sail? Does that mean a knot? Which one?"

"Reefing knot, silly girl."

"Oh my fucking god. Another knot." I roll my eyes, but truthfully it's an easy knot—like tying your shoes with only one loop.

When we're done, the triangle of our main sail is greatly reduced, and yards of sail lie neatly folded along the boom.

Dad says, "Pretty good for a—"

"Don't say it!"

"Landlubber. What's wrong with that?" He chuckles and mouths "wench" in Logan's direction.

"Okay, Veronica, now we're going to furl the jib a quarter of the way. Pull on that line. It's called the inhaul—it'll turn the bottom of the roller furler and wind up the sail on itself—like rolling a sheet of newspaper. I'll tell you when to stop."

I tug on the line. At first nothing happens, and I assume I'm doing it wrong but I can't see a problem. I try again, and with a slight jerk the line comes free. I pull on it until he says "Whoa. See those red marks? That's the equivalent of the first reef."

"First reef?" This word is dumb. Nothing about 'reef' makes me think of making the sails smaller. And why 'first'? I try to slot the terms into my memory banks anyways.

"We could do it again if the wind gets stronger—make the main sail and the jib even smaller. That would be the second reef."

"Okay, I think I got it." Now we have two smaller triangles of fabric catching the wind, and the boat feels much more under control. Dumb word or not, reefing works. First reef, somewhat smaller sails. Second reef, much smaller sails. I wonder if there's a third reef, and then I realize I don't want to think about the conditions that would require that.

Logan moves forward to the bow and, leaning over, adjusts something on deck opposite the now-smaller jib. He's sure-footed, almost as if he anticipates what the boat is going to do. Hanging onto the mast, he calls back, "Keith, tack the boat over."

I watch him as I work the jib sheets. Now, as the foresail whips past him going to the other side, he knows exactly how the fabric and ropes are going to move and delicately avoids getting tangled. Bending over, he repeats the adjustment on the other side and heads back to the cockpit. "All right, Keith, go back to the original heading." We tack again, and this time Logan trims the jib as I watch his proficient maneuvers.

"How do you do that?" I ask.

"What? I just adjusted the blocks, it changes the shape of the jib—"

"I mean, how do you walk around like that as if you're on land?"

"Practice. And truthfully surfing helps." As he passes by, he whispers, "I have excellent balance and positioning, as you well know."

"And you're humble, too."

"Why don't you practice? Clip onto the lifelines and walk up to the bow and back. Remember, one hand on the boat at all times."

The boat is tilted ('heeled'), so I crawl my way up to the bow on the high side, hunching over and keeping one hand on a handhold that follows the outside of the salon. When I get to the mast, I grab on and just feel the wind. It's a roller coaster, a race car speeding into the turn at Indy, a skateboard wildly careening down a hill. And I almost understand why Backup likes to stick his head out the window of my Saturn.

This feels good. This feels very 'Veronica:' hurtling into a dangerous situation without a thought to my safety. I let go of the mast and half-crawl, half-walk to the very front of the bow, sitting and dangling my feet over the edge while hanging onto the lifelines. Water sprays onto my legs and the feeling of the wind is even more intense here. All I need is my own personal Leo DiCaprio … and here he comes.

Logan sits down beside me, mimicking my positioning. "Pretty cool, huh?"



"Yeah. The wind is … different … here."

"Apparent wind. The wind that you feel. The wind that the boat makes by going forward. Like when you ride a bike and you feel the wind, which is really the air as you rush through it."

Apparent wind. I remember seeing the phrase in my sailing text and not really getting it. Turning to look at him, I say, "Is that why I'm having so much trouble figuring out which direction the wind is?"

"Partly. Plus it's harder in a big boat. If you'd learned in a little boat, like I did, you'd catch on faster."

Apparent wind: it keeps niggling at me. And then I realize. This whole last year I've been running headlong into trouble, making my own wind. Everyone's been pulled into my wake, my apparent wind. The eddies and updrafts of my actions have led us to this moment. What felt like good ol' adrenaline at the time was me teetering out of control, tossed by the waves of a stormy sea and dragging everyone along with me.

And now here we are, in the tumult.

I slip my fingers into Logan's and try to fight off the dread. "You know, Duncan used to take me out on his dinghy. A Hunter, I think it called it."

"Hunter 14. Yeah, I went out with him a few times, too."

"Why do you think he never taught me this stuff?"

He shrugs. "Maybe he liked being the smartest guy in the boat, and thought you'd blow him out of the water if he explained things."

"Come on."

"Duncan always knocked you down a peg. Rewarded you when you were a good little girl. Hated that you were independent and smart."

Is that what Duncan did? I remember him telling me my snooping was cute. If Logan had ever said that, I'd have called him on his shit. In fact, I relished busting Logan's chops whether he needed it or not … but Duncan— Well, there were a lot of "I love you's" and "Whatcha thinkin' about's?" and "You're so adorable's."

And even when he chucked me under the chin and laughed about my detecting, I'd let it slide. Why did I let Duncan do that? Duncan hated that you were independent and smart. "It never seemed like that to me. At least … not then."

"Duncan was the guy you were supposed to love. Prince Charming, handsome and rich. And, except for your execrable pedigree, you were exactly the kind of girl Celeste wanted for him."

I snort. "Execrable pedigree. Understatement of the year." Sniffing the air, I say, "I thought it'd be fishy smelling. It's so clean and fresh. But salty. My lips taste like salt."

"Chapstick. Don't forget to use it."

"Yeah, I won't. And my sunscreen and hat."

"You really are doing great. I wouldn't have dared make this voyage if I didn't think you could pick this up quickly. I'm depending on you."

"The wench makes good." I lean against him and he puts his arm around me. "Thanks. I am understanding more all the time."

"I know you are. Speaking of understanding, I've got another book for you to read."

I groan.

"It's not that bad. It's about cooking on board and managing food without refrigeration. I got our shopping list from this book, and maybe you'll want to try a few of the recipes. Plus you need to start keeping track of our water consumption. If the wind dies, we'll need to ration our supplies. There's always a tradeoff: use more fuel by motoring, or use more food and water by sailing in light winds. We have to be on top of this so we make good decisions."

"I got it under control. I can handle it."

"I know you can. Don't forget, this is still your watch. Let's get you back to the cockpit so your dad gets a little rest."

"What about you? How are you going to get enough sleep?"

"I've got six hours from 3pm to 9pm to crash. You guys can handle it without me for that long. But you'll call me if the conditions change, right? Even if I'm sound asleep?"

"Absolutely."

*****

The rest of my watch passes uneventfully until 10:30am. The seas calmed down a bit, and Dad and Logan helped me to engage the windvane to do our steering. They're down below, looking at the engine and trying to make sense of the repair manuals, just in case.

I've been studying my provisions book and making notes on water consumption. Dad and I had shared the cooking duties after Mom left, but truthfully we'd relied a little too much on takeout and pasta, with an occasional steak on the grill when we could afford it.

This is a little harder: keeping a running inventory and designing menus that use up food just before it spoils. The microwave would burn through our day's allotment of battery power in a couple minutes, so the cantankerous swiveling stove is my main weapon.

I've already made a couple mistakes. The book says to plan your icebox use so you only open it once or twice a day. Common sense, really, but I'm taking this job seriously. I foresee a lot of chili and oatmeal in my future: the book stresses that a warm meal is crucial when the crew is tired.

And then, just as I put aside my notes on water consumption formulas, the sails, still reefed, start fluttering. I debate going to get my pirate companions for help, and reject it. I can do this.

I know we need to try to maintain this heading, and the windvane is trying to steer that course. So I just have to trim the sails. Simple, right? I've done this before.

But never unsupervised.

I pull in the mainsheet and the fluttering is worse. The boat slows appreciably. So I let it out, just a little at a time, and do the same with the jib. Success … the boat picks up speed and it just feels right.

I realize the wind has shifted to the south so that we're now on a beam reach instead of close-hauled. It takes a second to sink in. I've correctly identified the wind direction. Sure, I used the boat to help me figure it out, but that's what you're supposed to do.

Logan emerges from below and frowns at the sails. "Did we change direction?"

"No, the wind shifted. To the south, I think." I take a breath and say more strongly, "The wind shifted from southeast to south and we can sail a beam reach now."

Smiling, Logan checks the instruments and concurs. "Hmm. If this wind keeps up, maybe we can change our heading and sail the rhumb line to the Caribbean."

"Rum line? Is that another pirate joke?"

"Nope. More like rhombus, in geometry. It means instead of heading toward Bermuda and then changing our course south, we can just sail straight toward the Caribbean, thus reducing our sailing distance."

"Like the hypotenuse of a triangle."

"Exactly." He squints up the mast, calculating some variable of rope deployment that's beyond me at this point.

"Well, duh, let's do that," I say. The faster we're done with this, the better—it seems completely obvious to me.

"It's not that simple. By sailing toward Bermuda, we have a place to stop halfway if we have any mechanical problems. The rhumb line means we'll be equidistant from Florida and Bermuda for most of the way—if we have problems, we might not make it to either one. And that's if the wind cooperates. Sailing the two legs of the triangle will probably be easier sailing, even if takes us longer."

Mechanical problems. Looking around the boat, I realize just how many things there are that could break at any moment. We really don't want to stop in Bermuda if we can help it. Unlike the Caribbean, Bermuda's customs officers have their shit together, and our bogus documents just might raise a red flag. They also are less willing to take a bribe, I've gathered.

"So how do we know what to do?"

"Don't worry about it yet. I want to stay on this course until we pass the Gulf Stream no matter what, and then we can talk about it."

As I make a mental note to look up whatever the hell the Gulf Stream is, he produces a sheet of paper labeled 'Ship's Log,' with information under the headings 'COG°,' 'SOG (kts),' 'Lat/Long,' and several others that are less obtuse like wind speed. The first five rows, labeled 0600, 0700, 0800, 0900, and 1000 are already filled in. He fills in 1100 as our current time and then begins recording data, tapping the navigation station to bring up different screens.

More jargon to learn—it seems endless. I point at the log sheet. "COG? SOG?"

"Course over ground, speed over ground. Lat/Long is our GPS reading. I'll be using these numbers to plot our position on the chart." He goes through each column with me, pointing at the relevant dial on the console. "From now on, I'd like you to take care of entering data in the log when you're on watch. Every hour. Do you think you got it? You could come back up at 1200 and help me with the readings, if you'd like."

"Yeah, that would be good to practice one more time." This job feels okay. Numbers are concrete and don't shift around. They're going to ensure our safety. I hope. And the navigation station is pretty intuitive, for people used to computers. "Doesn't that computer program do all the navigation?"

He just looks at me, waiting for me to get it.

"Oh, right. Redundant systems, I remember." And if we have a disaster and all our instruments fail, or if the engine dies and we can't charge our batteries every day, we can somehow use pencil and paper to navigate our way out of the Bermuda Triangle. Just fucking great.

Logan says, "I know it's not what you want to hear. But on a sailboat, we expect things to go wrong. And we make sure that we're able to deal with those things."

I nod.

"We're going to be fine. I promise."

"Yeah, I'm going to go work on getting lunch ready."

In the galley, I lean on the sink for several minutes, trying to get my anxiety a little more under control. Down here, it's noisier, with the water rushing by the hull, spray hitting the portholes, the creaking of the mast and the boat itself, and subtle noises of things shifting as the boat plows through the waves. Without the white noise of the wind to distract you, you hear the sea, or the effects of the sea at least.

It's impossible to forget for even one second that we're completely at the mercy of the ocean and the wind.

*****

After serving lunch (soup from a can, sandwiches and a salad) to my pirate companions, I look again at the watch schedule and realize I should try to sleep. This is my longest time off before coming back on at 7pm, so I head for the V-berth and pop a Dramamine, hoping to get drowsy.

I'd bought a few books at a library used book sale for 10¢ each. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown is completely trashy but escapist, and I fall asleep as Robert Langdon is being swiftly transported to a lab in Geneva, Switzerland.

Some time later I hear Dad and Logan talking about clocks. No, something about the wind. And then Logan's snuggling next to me. Drowsily, I mumble, "You set up the watches this way on purpose."

"Afternoon delight, baby."


"What was that about clocks?"

"Nothing to worry about."

And then I'm asleep again. The next thing I know is Dad shaking me awake. "Six o'clock, honey. Time to make supper and then your watch starts at seven."

"I know, I know." I glance at Logan slumbering obliviously beside me. He was tired. We're all tired. Dad has probably the worst deal with our shift system—he has to try to get the majority of his rest from 7am to 3pm—but it's clear that, at least in the beginning, it's a good idea to have two people on deck when it's dark.

The dangers of falling asleep, an errant container from a ship or a log, even another boat on a collision course are all magnified under cover of darkness. The possibility for errors in navigation or decision-making is far greater in the early morning hours, so we all agree that this rotation is the best solution. Overnight tonight will be hard for Dad, because he was only able to nap for a couple hours today, but tomorrow I'm betting he'll sleep soundly.

I bring dinner up to the cockpit. Dad and I pig out on Swedish meatballs with noodles, heated up from a frozen packet. Unrefrigerated salad stuff goes bad quickly, so we also have iceberg lettuce with tomato, from our stock of fresh fruits and veggies stored in nets suspended from the galley ceiling. The salad dressing comes from single serve packets I'd snagged from a salad bar before we left. And I'd managed to only open the icebox once, with careful planning.

Water for Dad, coffee for me. Instant coffee … bleah. But I need the caffeine. Grapes and cheese for dessert. A successful dinner, I'd say, and I feel good about a job well done.

"Everything tastes better on the water," Dad says, wiping some gravy off his mouth.

The main sail isn't reefed anymore, and the jib is completely unfurled. At some point during my snooze, the wind must have dropped. Right now, we're moving comfortably fast. I look at the log. Dad's already filled in the data for 1900. "The wind is from the west now? Wasn't it coming from the south before?"

He nods.

As far as I can tell, the log seems to indicate that we're making good progress on our intended course. I make a mental note to have Logan show me his navigation calculations.

Reading my mind, Dad says, "We're really cruising. Panacea is a great boat."

"Well, I don't have a frame of reference to comment on that, but yeah, we seem to be moving well."

"We were lucky to get this boat. The owner had her 95% ready to take a cruise up to Maine for the summer."

"So what happened?"

Dad drinks some water, a delaying tactic. "Not really sure."

What the hell are they keeping from me now? "You know, you guys never told me the circumstances about why this boat was for sale."

Dad sighs. "The owner had a heart attack about ten miles out while he was trying to fix something on the engine. The wife wasn't as good a skipper as he was, and she had a hard time sailing back to shore. He didn't survive, and she swore she'd never set foot on the boat again. Her kids took care of selling it for her."

"Great, the boat is cursed." Now I'm picturing Dad lying on the floor of the salon, writhing and clutching his chest. I grab the last few slices of cheese off his plate. "No more cheese for you. How high was your cholesterol the last time you went to the doctor?"

"I don't need no stinking doctor."

"Da-aad."

"My cholesterol is fine. My blood pressure is good. Other than my follicular issues, I'm completely healthy."

Dad is forty-five and very active. The only health issue he's ever complained about is his back, and he could stand to lose ten pounds. Better than most men his age.

Still, we've all been under a lot of stress lately. Is that a new wrinkle on his forehead? I'm going to make myself crazy worrying. Logan's voice: 'per capita, sailing is much safer than driving a car.' Gotta just keep telling myself that.

With a grin, Dad snatches back his cheese. "A little provolone never hurt anyone." At my expression, he adds, "He was seventy years old, Veronica. Yes, it was tragic. And now I'm going to have my cheese." He takes a bite and winks at me.

The ocean seems different from earlier in the day. The air is warmer and more turbulent and there are more birds, hundreds of them. I see a school of flying fish leaping into the air and disappearing again into the surf. Cumulus clouds dot the horizon, and the water is a deeper blue, almost indigo, with huge rolling waves.

Dad says, "We just entered the Gulf Stream. It's a giant current that extends from Florida to Newfoundland. The water's warmer and moving faster here, so it's a little rougher than the water earlier today. Some people call it a river in the ocean—a river that's about sixty miles wide. It can be challenging to cross the Gulf Stream, but we're doing great."

Challenging. I feel like he's minimizing the situation, and I hate that he feels he has to do that. "How many miles to Bermuda again?"

"About seven hundred. And then about a thousand to the Caribbean."

I remember they'd said we could sail between a hundred and a hundred twenty miles per day. Five to eight days to Bermuda, eight to twelve to the Caribbean. "Did he say anything about sailing the rhumb line to you? You know, going directly to the Caribbean."

Dad shrugs. "We talked about it. It really depends on the weather and how the boat is holding up. I think Logan wants to discuss it after we get past the Gulf Stream."

Both of us fall silent, just enjoying the ride for a few moments. On this point of sail (a broad reach), we're doing a lot of surfing with the wind almost directly behind us.

Dad clears his throat. "If the wind shifts to the northwest, you need to get Logan up on deck early. Could be a storm ahead. I changed our course a little bit. We're headed a little south of Bermuda right now, so we're not on a dead run."

With the wind directly behind us, the boat would be on a 'dead run.' We'd gone through jibing two days ago, when you change direction with the wind coming from our back, and the power of the boom to fly across the centerline was awesome, but not in a good way.

"Keep on a broad reach, honey. You know that we don't want an accidental jibe."

In other words, when the wind suddenly shifts behind the boat, it can force the sail over to the other side in an uncontrolled manner. Logan had done it once so I could see just how dangerous it was. I'm going to have to really pay attention to wind direction.

"Dad?"

"Yeah?"

"What were you guys talking about before? Something about clocks?"

He hesitates. "When the wind clocks around, going from east to south to west to north like going around a clock, a lot of times it means a storm is coming. It could get rough tonight."

Dad yawns. "I gotta get some shut-eye. Call Logan right away if the wind shifts toward the northwest. Wake him up at eight-thirty no matter what so he can check the weather fax. We want to be prepared if the weather deteriorates."

Still yawning, he heads down the companionway, and I don't tell him that I don't think I'm ready for this.

*****

I get a routine going. Setting an alarm on my watch, I check the wind speed and direction every five minutes and use the binoculars to search the water surface for potential hazards. Then I squint up at the sails, looking for fluttering, and reassure myself that the wind hasn't 'clocked.'

I hate all these words, some familiar with new meanings, some completely new to me, yet as old as time. A lot of the sailing jargon dates from a time when European explorers and Vikings and Polynesians before them ruled the oceans. Sailing uses the same principles it did when Magellan circumnavigated the globe and Amerigo Vespucci lent his name to the country I'm never going to be able to return to.

Yet I'm starting to speak the lingo. Not with the precision of Dad or Logan, but I've learned a lot of these words. And they have a logic, as hard as it is to discern on first glance.

In between my obsessive checks of the wind direction, I think about the conversation Logan and I had had about apparent wind. They say that sailing is meditative. There's a lot more solitude than I'd imagined, and plenty of time to think. Too much time to think.

I think about Logan, suffering in my wake as I'd flailed around this past year. He'd gotten himself put on probation to revenge me, yet I was the one who'd been foolhardy. People had hailed me as heroic, but really my actions in catching the Hearst rapist were incredibly risky and I was lucky not to have been raped or killed.

And then the debacle with the Castle. What had I been thinking, doing that to Wallace? Look at how Logan and Mac got pulled into it too. And my dad had to pull my bacon out of the fire after I'd … I can barely even say it now. I broke into a man's house. I stole. I lied.

Clearly, I was as destructive as a hurricane to the people around me.

Over my shoulder, the sun is starting to set, an accusatory golden orb sinking below the steely seas. Land hasn't been visible for hours; it's just water, waves and wind everywhere with that solar focal point drawing everything into its orbit. Black clouds track across the horizon, and I wonder if that's a storm chasing us.

I've been chasing a storm practically since Lilly died. Maybe this time the storm is chasing me.

*****

8:00. The wind is getting stronger.

8:15. We need to do that reefing thing again, I think. I keep checking the wind speed. It's not any higher, but it feels … unsettled.

8:30. Finally I can go wake up Logan.

He wakes quickly. I put on the kettle for coffee and heat up his supper. Five minutes pass as I stir diligently, and my watch alarm goes off. He's done brushing his teeth, and I motion to the stove as he pulls his fingers through his hair. "Hot water for coffee. Swedish meatballs—they're actually pretty good. I should get back up there. It's actually kind of blowing a bit." I realize when I say blowing a bit that I've unconsciously picked up Logan's terminology.

"Okay," he says, grabbing a mug and pouring a spoonful of instant coffee in it. We've got radiated Parmalat milk too: we're not barbarians. He adds a healthy dollop along with a packet of sugar. Still, he grimaces at the taste.

I climb back up to the cockpit and resume my watch. His head pops up through the companionway a few moments later. Logan sips at his coffee and looks at the sky. "Wind speed?"

"16 knots. But it's gusty. I think we need to do that reef again."

"Yeah. Let me finish this coffee, and we'll do it together."

I don't know how we're going to do it with only two people. But his tone is matter-of-fact, and it calms me.

He reemerges, having donned his fleece and his harness. "You've got your foul weather gear up here?"

"It's in the locker. You think it's going to rain?"

He points with his chin to the sky. "I think it's going to pour. You're definitely right about reefing. I'm going to do two reefs this time. Just stay on the steering; I'll tell you what to do."

I disengage the windvane and begin manual steering. He goes to the mast and shouts steering instructions to me. I watch as he releases the main halyard, grabs the reefing line and hauls down the main with an elegance that surprises me. I can see that he's using his body weight to make the task easier.

As soon as the main is down to the second reef point, he's secured the two lines again—while I would have been standing there with my thumb up my ass trying to remember the next step. He's so good at this. I hadn't realized that he could almost sail this boat by himself.

I pass the sail ties to him, and he quickly secures the sail to the boom, the knots clearly child's play to him. Returning to the mast, he calls out, "Okay—pull on the inhaul to roll up the jib. I'll tell you when. A little more … that's good right there. Resume our old heading."

I cleat the line again, and the boat settles in. I decide that I like reefing even more than the windvane, and then I realize that reefing means slowing down, even more time spent trying to battle the wind and the ocean.

"You almost don't need me and Dad to sail this thing," I say.

"I told you—when I went with Aaron and my mom to the Virgin Islands, they were drunk the whole time. I did all the sailing. Usually, if they tried to steer, they'd hit a sand bar or break something on the boat. After a while, I just started taking over, and they didn't give a shit. They didn't really like sailing; it was just something that you 'did,' if you were movie stars with money to burn."

Logan says it so matter-of-factly that it almost sounds like a memorized speech. He glances at the compass again and says, "You're good? I'm going to go below; I have to check the weather fax and see what's going on with this storm. Maybe we can try to change our course, and just catch the edge of it."

"Yeah, I'm okay."

"Just yell if you need me." Purposeful and apparently unconcerned about the weather, he disappears down the companionway.

It's ridiculous how much more confident I feel knowing that he's in charge; he's seven feet away from me, within hearing distance if the wind scares me again. And then I shiver. We're heading into a storm on a 36' boat.

Continue reading...Pandemonium

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