Sea of Lost Dreams
This excerpt from Ferenc Máté's fictional high-seas adventure will whet your interest for more books to bring aboard when setting sail. From our July 2011 issue.
Down below, Darina and Guillaume were hurled across the saloon. The world turned on its side, the bulkhead lamp went out, and they crashed into each other. They lay next to the port light that was now buried in the sea.
In a lull, the drowned ketch began lethargically to rise. She came up slowly, held down by the water in her sails, and the weight, as she righted, began to tear the seams. Stitching parted and distended panels burst. The ketch stood upright and dumped Dugger on deck. The clouds cleaved, the moon shone down, and the torn slabs of canvas fluttered like great laundry.
Nello helped Kate up, and turned the wheel. Dugger knelt on the foredeck and with resolute calmness wrapped the sheets around the jib and staysail, then tied them to the lifelines to keep them from flying overboard. Then he uncleated the mainsail halyard to drop the main, but it wouldn’t fall. Its lower panels rippled freely, but an upper panel, still one with the bolt rope, had wrapped itself around a shroud and held the halyard tight.
Illustration by Gustave Doré
“It’s stuck!” Dugger shouted, yanking at the rope to show Nello. “I need the bosun’s chair!”
Nello came forward through the buffeting wind.
“I have to go up and free it!” Dugger yelled, his voice shaking with worry. “Or we’ll lose it!”
“So we lose it!”
“And sail with what? If we can save the pieces—.”
“We have a storm sail!”
“The size of a handkerchief! It’ll take us a year to reach Tahiti!”
“It’ll take you longer if you drown!”
“How can I drown? I’ll be tied in! For Chrissake, get the chair!”
Nello considered ignoring him, but Dugger’s face remained unrelenting. He headed below to find the chair.
“Get Guillaume to tail!” he heard Dugger call.
The ketch slid down a wave and rolled from side to side, the masts drawing fierce arcs across the ragged clouds.
Guillaume tailed the jib halyard as Nello cranked the winch. Dugger, his feet dangling from the narrow plank of the bosun’s chair, his hands clutching its canvas sides, was pulled slowly up the mast. Don’t look down, he told himself. You’re tied in; you can’t fall. And if you do, what the hell? With the ketch rolling, you’ll be pitched overboard. It’s only water.
With no sails to dampen the roll, the masts swung like a metronome. He was thrown against the shrouds on one side, then flung through the air into the shrouds on the other. Dugger grabbed at the halyard with both hands. Tatters of the sail thrashed him like bullwhips, and the rain slashed through the moonlight in silver streaks.
He was past the spreaders. From up so high, the ketch seemed in another world, struggling in huge seas besieging her from every side. The lantern’s yellow glow wandered in confused circles, now lighting the flooded cockpit, now the tangled ropes near the mast.