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.
Darina had come up and gripped the mizzen shrouds. This is no Inishturk storm, she thought. There, you stood on solid granite. This is the violence of heaven sent to destroy the ketch. And crew. Who can it be after but me? Me. The sisters warned you there was no escape. You can escape the Magdalenes, but heaven will always find you. She closed her eyes and clasped her hands and prayed. Forgive me Father, your worst sinner. Mea culpa, mea culpa. I deserve all your wrath. But please, Lord Father, let them live.
Kate steered. She could barely make out Dugger near the top of the mast, and she mumbled, “Dear God, bring him down safely.” As the mast swung, he flew from starboard, kicked the headstay, and, 40 feet above the deck, was pitched toward the mast. He hit hard but hung on. The rain poured down his face, into his eyes, but he began to unwrap the sail. Calmly, Cappy, he told himself. Don’t yank or tug, or you’ll just make it tighter. It’s just a piece of canvas. An old lady could do this. Like untying a shawl. His heart was pounding, and he had to force a breath. He unwound the tangled canvas from the shroud, then rolled it up and knotted it so it wouldn’t tangle again.
Nello roared, “Well done, Cappy!” and Guillaume shouted, too, and Kate was so thrilled that for a second she closed her eyes. A wave caught the rudder and the ketch spun to port. The next wave knocked her down.
Guillaume was thrown against a stanchion. He lost his grip on the halyard he’d been tailing, and it fed quickly out over the winch. With the halyard now free, the bosun’s chair was loose. Dugger fell. The fierce swing of the ketch catapulted him away from the mast, out over the waves. He plunged in a deadfall with the rope trailing behind and vanished in the abyss of wild seas.
He surfaced. The seas loomed like cliffs around him. Far up among them, the lantern glowed, then grew faltering and faint, until it vanished in the darkness.
Dugger floated on his back and tried to catch his breath. Breaking crests and dangling clouds loomed over him. A wave lifted him, and his hopes rose too that from the top of the wave he might see the ketch, already turned, coming in the moonlight, but once on the crest, he glanced around and saw only foaming seas.
He made a brief attempt at swimming, but his bad shoulder ached when he raised his arm. Besides, he was unsure of the direction, so he stopped. His head hit something hard—it was a piece of wood, the seat of the bosun’s chair. With the halyard still attached, trailing behind. He clutched it. The sound of rushing seas came at him through the dark, passed by, then crashed, as if on unseen reefs. Once in a while there was silence; the wind dropped, the seas fell, and the world became so peaceful he thought the storm could not return.
Then it did.