Indian Ocean, July 1975
I followed and tried to help. Squalls with sudden, violent gusts of wind could sink a boat. We were all acting fast to lower the sails and secure them with lines. Quick action was the only way to keep a boat under control during severe weather.
Sails lowered, we went back to the safety of the galley. Dylan closed the hatch to keep out the wind and rain.
“A sudden gust can topple any sailing ship,” Mia said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you can’t react fast enough to match the sudden change in force.” Charles explained. “You have to keep a close watch of changing skies, so you know before it arrives”
“A sea twister is like a tornado on land, right?”
“Yes, it is a whirling column of air and water mist. A funnel cloud,” Charles said. “And quite destructive.”
I could hear the ferocious wind blowing and see the swells rise higher. Two visible water spouts, about forty feet in the distance, were sucking water from the sea while lightning strikes lit up the dark sky.
“Glad we’re not out there,” I said, as the boat heaved back and forth in the raging sea.
When the worst of the dark clouds and strong winds had passed, Dylan opened the hatch and climbed up on deck to take his turn standing watch for other ships or obstacles in the area.
Not knowing where we were and with sails lowered, Dylan decided to continue letting the winds take us where they would until the storms cleared.
The men kept constant vigil during watch.
Charles mentioned the cross bar on the main mast kept plunging into the water, and jolting back to the other side as the ship rolled side to side with the mountainous waves. “Keeping watch is the only thing which keeps me from losing my mind,” he said.
“Not exactly pleasure yachting,” I said. I knew he was having a hard time dealing with this.
“Watching the ship’s course indicator, and other instruments keeps my mind occupied,” he replied. “Keeps me from going insane.”
“Opportunity of a life time is the way you described the adventure before we left sunny California.”
“What was I thinking?” he muttered, questioning his original thoughts of a fun high seas adventure.
“It will be opportune, when we survive.”
Charles trembled. He looked pale.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Weak from lack of food and sleep.”
“These squalls and waves are overwhelming.”
“It’s difficult to sleep knowing how easily a boat can tip over,” Charles added.
“Let’s hope Zozo’s hull is as great as Dylan claims.”
Charles nodded. “If it takes in water, it will sink. And it will happen fast.”
“A matter of seconds, minutes?” I asked.
“In an instant.” He snapped his fingers. “No time to grab a life jacket or launch a raft.”
We looked at each other and sighed.
Charles bowed his head.
“It is disheartening,” I said. “Hard to think clearly. But I think we’ll make it.”
“I hope you’re right.”
“The ultimate struggle for survival happens mentally,” I said.
Charles looked at me as if I were a stranger. “Have you had one of your crazy dreams?” he asked.
“Several,” I answered.
Squalls arrived frequently. Their strength varied. Some were severe with strong winds and heavy rain while others passed us by with little action or damage. The problem was not knowing how extreme they would be until they were directly overhead.
Huddled together in the galley the following morning, we sat silent again and listened to the angry sea.
Dylan decided it was too dangerous for anyone to be on deck. He closed the hatch and went to his stateroom.
Charles sat in a corner cleaning his fingernails with a penknife, clearly depressed. I had hoped to find alone time to ask him about Mia’s strange question. It would have to wait for calmer seas and clearer thinking.
Mia and Alon also seemed distraught. No wonder! We were all agitated, knowing the dangers we faced. The continual pounding wrought havoc on our frayed nerves.
“Eima, Eima,” I heard Mia call out several times, as if praying for her mother to save her.
“Heaven help us,” I cried out, hoping the skies would clear, and the storm would move on.
But the freak waves and hard winds continued to pound. Waves so steep, I felt like I was on a wild roller coaster ride which couldn’t stop. No brakes! No breaks. We were at the mercy of nature. No place to run. No place to hide. Hang on tight.