A short love story
Copyright © 2021 Jack Eason
Cover Design by Richard Dockett
A whale chaser departed the Japanese factory ship, then altered course towards the becalmed double-ender. After the crew returned with her under tow, having found no one aboard, the captain began reading the log of the East Wind…
From him down to the lowest deckhand, she stirred the hearts of these tough seamen. The captain recognised her Pilot Boat design. Her keel was laid in 1905. She was one of the last of a long line designed by Colin Archer, the Scottish Norwegian boat designer, famous for creating the design for Fridtjof Nansen’s indestructible arctic ship – Fram.
Like her sisters, East Wind is 46 feet overall, double-ended and rigged as a gaff ketch. A more sea-kindly vessel you would be hard put to find. When they came across her she was laying head to wind, secured by her sea-anchor. Her sails had been furled by her owner. How long since, or indeed his identity, the factory ship’s captain was yet to find out as he returned to her log book…
Olav Knudsen (Bill to those that knew him) had set sail aboard his first love from Bergen in the dead of night; once more barely a step ahead of the authorities. This time he was making himself scarce for theft from a ship’s chandlery. He now had enough anti-fouling paint to give his beloved East Wind’s bottom several years protection from Teredo worm and other living organisms that attach themselves to any unprotected wooden hull.
Within a week and a half he was heading well out into the Atlantic. As yet, destination unknown. All his life he had known nothing but trouble.
When he was small he had become accustomed to the daily regime of vicious beatings from his often drunken father Olav senior. Which is why he hated his Christian name. Anything was better than being named after his tormentor! The only human being that ever showed him unconditional kindness, love and compassion was his mother Tilde, until the day she died protecting him from his father’s alcohol fed rage…
For a couple of days he sailed due west, before deciding that Curaçao in the former Dutch Antilles would be his next port of call. Meantime, while the sea-miles slipped beneath East Wind’s keel, Bill had maintenance to attend to. A lady of her age must be kept in tip top condition. Once he had cleared customs, he intended to careen his beloved between makeshift stilts lashed to cleats aboard her, on a mud flat that dried out at low tide that he was aware of, close to the ancient harbour’s sea wall, well away from prying eyes, to scrape and re-caulk her bottom before giving her a much needed fresh coat of anti-fouling paint. Somewhere along the way he had decided that ultimately he would head for the South China Sea.
Because he was down to his last $100, he couldn’t afford the toll to use the Panama canal. Besides which, it was too damned public for his liking if the police were looking for him, as he presumed! Instead he must round Cape Horn at the tip of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, at the southernmost point of the South American continent. Either that or go the longer way via Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope.
The very thought of rounding the Horn made lesser men than him quake in their boots! But Bill was made of sterner stuff than most. Even so he would need to chose his moment, as well as be totally rested before setting out. Once he pointed her bow due south, and after rounding the Horn, and they were safely on their way on a nor westerly passage across the Pacific, the pair were committed. Until that moment, neither boat nor master could relax…
He was woken by someone shouting his name. “Come on out you murdering bastard Knudsen – wake up!”
Bill peered bleary-eyed at the silhouetted figure standing on the sea wall. “You murdered Olav Mommsen, the rightful owner of this vessel you ba…” Bill’s ironwood marlin spike struck him between the eyes, silencing his accuser before he toppled lifeless backwards into the sea on the other side of the wall.
The man had signed his own death warrant. No one, at least no one with any common sense ever mentioned East Wind’s former master in Bill’s presence! He had rescued her from the mad fool who deliberately over canvassed her for the sake of an extra half knot hull speed, to the point where she was momentarily laid on her beams ends, before Bill came to her rescue by braining Mommsen with a caulking hammer, cutting the main halyard and dropping her mainsail, then dumping the fool over the side, weighed down with East Wind’s spare anchor chain. No doubt her designer – Colin Archer, had he still been alive at the time, would have heartily approved of Bill’s action in coming to her rescue in the way he did. From that day to this, no one ever again mistreated her in the way her former owner had. She was an elegant lady, and should always be treated as such in Bill’s eyes. He didn’t suffer fools like Mommsen, nor most of mankind come to that. Come the following spring tide, the pair were sailing south towards Chile and the Horn.
Having finally left Punta Arenas after what seemed like an eternity as they waited for a lull in the weather battering the Horn, East Wind with Bill at her helm headed south. For ten days and nights they battled their way through some of the most monstrous, not to say treacherous seas any mariner will ever experience.
Now they lay becalmed. After writing the last entry in her log for the attention of whoever came aboard, spelling out explicit instructions concerning her fate, he furled her sails and ensured she was relatively safe by employing her sea anchor, before turning in for some much needed sleep in the hidden compartment behind the companion way ladder, away from prying eyes…