Part the One Hundred Seventy Eighth: Lying A-Hull
Hope refused to let fear or pain keep her from lowering the gaff.
Hand over hand, she and the rest of the crew on the Gale’s line brought her down, as the men on the mainsail’s reef tackle gathered the loosened sail against the boom. Every so often, the gaff would stay up to allow the reefers a chance to secure the sail, then descend as quickly as it could without crashing on deck.
Before Hope’s pain and fear could work deeply on her, the mainsail was reefed, and the boom and gaff were tied together. The wind that roared over her head had no sail to catch, blowing over the deck.
“The worst should be over now,” said Osei, eyeing the naked masts.
“Then why are we still heaving to and fore?” she asked.
“We’ll be better once we’re on a leeward heading. She’s much better in a pitch.”
There was one great shift of the decks as the stern jerked like the tail of a fish trying to find its way back under the water. Hope was more surprised that she kept her footing after that than she was by the yaw.
The Gale’s decks tilted far enough over to port that Hope thought she could look straight over the side at the surface of the sea before the ship righted.
As she stood straight up, the Gale’s bow split a wave, her forward deck rising up before slapping down.
She felt Charity’s hands on her shoulders, keeping her from following the deck’s new tilt as the stern went up behind her.
The second wave the Gale met did not raise her bow above Hope’s knees, and the stern likewise behaved.
“Much better,” said Osei as the teeter-tottering of the bow and stern became fairer, though still quite pronounced. “You’d best be in the cabin for now.”
“I could stand to be out of this,” said Charity as she started to head for the door.
“But what of the rest of the ship?” asked Hope. “Is there nothing that needs to be secured?”
“There are the contents of the cabin,” said Osei. “Especially the charts and personal gear, which after Dominique took days to sort through. Perhaps the both of you could make sure those are stowed well.”
She took one more look at Abigail, latched to the tiller. The wind at her back blew her hair forward like the mane of a lion as she secured the lines to keep the course true.
Without warning, the skies opened up, the deluge many times greater than any wave that had broken over the Gale’s deck since the first peal of thunder. In an instant, Hope felt her clothes become but another layer of skin as the soaking swamped them.
More swimming than walking, she finally made her way into the cabin. She kept to the side away from the part of the quarterdeck had been patched after the encounter with the Casa, which was now leaking around the edges of the repairs.
“Vous étes superbe,” said Charity as Hope made her way to where her own gear was stowed.
“Not now,” she replied wearily. “At the very least, stop licking your lips while you stare at me.”
All content Copyright © 2009 James Ryan