By the Lee - Dizzy Dolphin
A boat is sailing "by the lee" when the wind comes from the same side that the mainsail is on. This is sometimes fast, but inherently unstable. ;o)
Not that I know all that much about sailing but watching the Swiftsure race this year I got to thinking about a possible story. I apologize in advance for any terminology errors or other mistakes about sailing
Warning: there is some innuendo in one of the sub-plots that people might find objectionable, or not.
“Captain Crane, I have another message for you in your private code.” Sparks advised Seaview’s Skipper. He was getting mighty curious about the messages he had been receiving for the Captain but it certainly wasn’t his place to ask any questions. He had noted that the XO took an interest in the messages too but as far as he could tell, the Captain hadn’t enlightened Mr. Morton as to their contents.
Chip Morton was indeed getting edgy; this was the third message in less than a day that his friend and commanding officer, Lee Crane, had received in his private code. History made it likely that they were from ONI, requesting that Lee take on another mission for them, although Lee viewed the requests more as ‘orders’. So far he hadn’t mentioned anything to Chip and given that the Admiral’s mood continued to be relaxed, Chip figured that Lee hadn’t shared anything with him either.
Lee walked over to the chart table and studied it. Chip moved over to stand beside him.
“Something of particular interest on the chart, Lee?”
“No, no it’s fine, just checking to see that we are on course and will be back in Santa Barbara on schedule.”
“Any particular reason you’re worried about that?” Chip let pass what he was sure was an unintentional inference that he would have gotten Seaview off course, as if!
“None Chip, I’m not worried, just...considering something.”
“Care to share?”
Lee knew that Chip was wheedling for information regarding his recent messages and he could guess at what conclusion Chip had jumped to. He felt like a bit of a heel keeping Chip dangling but he was enjoying the ‘game’.
Still all good things must come to an end. There’s not much time left and I need to talk to the Admiral and Chip about it.
Lee picked up the mic at the chart table and hailed Admiral Nelson. “Crane to Admiral Nelson”
“Yes Lee, Nelson here.”
“Sir I need to speak with you about a personal matter.”
“OK Lee, I’m in my lab, will that do, or would you prefer to meet in my cabin?”
“The lab is fine Sir, I’ll be right there. Crane out.”
Nelson frowned as he clicked off the mic. Hmmmm, personal matter, Lee sometimes uses that phrase when ONI has contacted him. Blast, what the man needs after this cruise is some rest, not another assignment!
There had been nothing out of the ordinary on the cruise, but it had been a long one and everyone was looking forward to some leave. Being the Captain and being Lee Crane, Lee got very little rest on cruises. There always seemed to be something he felt needed his attention whether he was officially on duty at the time or not. Nelson had hoped that his workaholic Captain would take some actual down time when they made port. He had also hoped that he and Lee could spend some of that time together socially. He greatly valued Lee as Captain of the Seaview, but more than that, he valued him as a close, close friend, really as family if he cared to admit it to himself.
Lee looked over at Chip, whom he caught briefly displaying a worried expression on his normally ‘all business’ face.
“Mr. Morton I need you to accompany me to speak with the Admiral.”
“Aye aye Sir, Mr. O’Brien you have the con. If needed, the Captain and I will be with the Admiral in his lab.”
O’Brien acknowledged the handover and quickly scanned the Control Room, everyone was studiously manning their stations but he knew, that like himself, they were all wondering just what was going to be revealed by their Captain when he got to the Admiral’s lab.
Chip followed Lee down the passageway, with each step his stomach tightened uncomfortably. Must be one hell of an assignment if he wants to talk to the Admiral and me together.
Arriving at the lab Lee gave three swift knocks and opened the door.
“Come in Lee.” Nelson looked up as Lee entered; he was a bit surprised to see Chip as well.
He motioned his officers to sit, which Chip did but Lee started pacing, looking ill at ease. Nelson felt his stomach knot up, he imaged Chip’s was a knot or two ahead of his.
“Well Lee, spit it out before you wear a groove in the deck. I imagine this has something to do with the message you have clutched in your hand.”
Nelson held out his hand towards Lee and Lee obligingly handed him the message.
The Admiral read it, read it again and then with a perplexed look passed it to Chip. He gave Chip a few seconds to read it but didn’t see any sign that Chip understood what it meant either. Lee had written the transcription beside the code:
‘STILL NEED TWO MORE DID YOU ASK?’
“Ah Lee, I think you’re going to have to give Chip and myself a bit more to go on, two more what?”
Lee ran his hand through his hair, this shouldn’t be so hard to ask, but it is. Chip isn’t a problem, but to ask the Admiral...
“Well Sir, I have some friends....” Lee paused, looking at the deck and fiddling with his ring.
Nelson snorted and couldn’t help smiling, “Lee you have a good many friends, I like to count myself among them, so out with it. What does ONI want from you, from us?”
“ONI? Nothing that I know of Sir. This isn’t about them, well not exactly.” Lee could see that the Admiral was getting impatient and Chip looked like he was going to bust a seam if kept waiting much longer.
“Admiral, Chip, you remember Gerry, Daniel, Stephen and Mike?”
Both Nelson and Chip nodded in the affirmative, they were not likely to forget Lee’s ONI buddies.
“It happens that they are taking some leave about the same time we get back to Santa Barbara. We, ummm, well awhile ago we and a couple of other agents went in on the purchase of a 65 foot racing yacht.”
Nelson looked astonished, Chip equally so.
“She’s entered in an International Yacht Race two days after we make port. The other two owners have been called away on a mission, it leaves us two men short on the crew, we could pull from the race’s crew bank but, I thought, wondered if maybe...”
“HELL YES!” Nelson blurted, “If you’re asking what I think you’re asking.”
Lee looked at Chip, and saw the big grin appearing on his face, “count me in,” Chip confirmed.
“You do realize, Chip, that you aren’t allowed to throw any of your ONI crewmates overboard?” Lee joked.
“Accidents happen, Lee,” Chip remarked giving Lee the most innocent, angelic look Lee had ever seen on anyone’s face.
Lee looked over at Nelson, “I realize it’s a bit presumptuous of me to ask you for a personal favour Admiral, especially one that is going to take up your private time.”
Nelson sighed inwardly, I wonder if he’s ever going to realize or accept how much he means to me. Probably about the same time I get up the nerve to come right out and tell him instead of dancing all around it.
“Lee I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than enter this race with you and your friends. I enjoy spending time with you. We don’t do it nearly enough away from work.”
“Same goes for me, not that you seem worried about me,” Chip told him. Lee answered him with a grin that Chip returned.
“OK, here’s the deal Admiral, Chip. By the time we get home the others will have already sailed Cair Vie up to Victoria, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia1. As soon as we dock in Santa Barbara you need to throw anything you think you’ll need in a bag and then we’ll fly up that night. My racing gear is already onboard the yacht; we have extra gear so just pack personal items. Anything you need for the race that we don’t have or doesn’t fit we’ll buy up there. There are actually five races that are taking place, we are in the The Swiftsure Lightship Classic yacht race. The race is from the starting line to the Swiftsure Mark, rounding to port and back to the finish line. Distance 138.7 nautical miles. Any questions?”
Nelson and Chip had been paying rapt attention. Lee could see the excitement in their eyes.
“Lee, how fast is she?”
“She’s fast Chip, really fast. She has a carbon fibre hull and rudder, an upwind sailing area of 2,000 sq feet. Downwind, depending on what spinnaker we’re using it’s almost 5,000 sq feet.”
Chip whistled in appreciation, “That’s some boat you guys bought. How on earth could you afford her?”
“Yes, well we had a little help from ONI, can’t go into why.”
Nelson raised his eyebrows at that bit of intel. Seems ONI isn’t above a little bribery here and there.
“Interesting name. If memory serves that’s Manx Gaelic for ‘Fair Wind’ or ‘Fair Passage’, is that correct Lee?” Nelson asked.
“Yes Sir, it is.”
“And who would be her Skipper?” Nelson was sure he could guess but wanted to give Lee the pleasure of saying it.
Lee flushed slightly, “Ahh...that would be me, Sir.”
Chip chuckled; he could see where this was going.
Lee gave him a brief glare.
Nelson smiled, trying hard not to laugh as the thought delighted him. “So I’ll be taking my orders from you, Sir.”
“We’re not all that formal Admiral, but basically, yes Sir.” Well might as well get the rest said, then he can change his mind if he wants to. “One other thing, as the newest crew members...ummm.”
Nelson took pity on Lee and broke in, “Yes, we understand Lee, Chip and I get the lowest crew positions.”
“There aren’t really any ‘low positions’. There are 7 positions and they are all critical, Helmsman / Skipper, Tactician, Main Trimmer, Port Trimmer, Starboard Trimmer, Pitman and Bowman. I have you in mind for Tactician and Chip you for Pitman. However, you could be called upon at any time to do whatever needs doing. The tricky part will be catching the right winds, they are unpredictable, and right now they are saying light air for the start. We’ll get some help from the tides but if the air stays light it will be a race of strategy more than speed.”
Lee was trying to contain his excitement, both about the race and that the Admiral and Chip had agreed to crew. He and Chip had sailed together quite often, usually on his ‘home’ Vanora2 but upon occasion, they had rented sail boats and raced each other around the local waters. He had no doubt that Chip would adjust quickly to the larger yacht. He knew the Admiral could handle a sailboat, Nelson had shared the occasional story with him of adventures he’d had sailing in his younger years and Nelson had sailed a time or two with him on Vanora2. Having Nelson in the Tactician position, he wouldn’t be required to do any of the more strenuous work, hauling sails and so forth, probably, but one never knew what could happen during a race.
“We’ll fly into Port Angeles then take a taxi to the harbour to catch the Coho ferry to Victoria. It docks at the same harbour as the race boats. It’s about a 1 ½ hour trip over.”
Lee could hear the wheels spinning in Nelson’s head. “We’ve got two days before we make port, I can use Seaview’s resources to study the course, tides, likely winds and plot our most advantageous route. I’ll pull the charts of the area and get everything plotted, and yes Lee, before you say it, I do know there are no guarantees weather-wise.”
Chip volunteered, “I’ll give you a hand, Sir, that way I can get to know the area and have some idea what to expect. It doesn’t sound like there is going to be time for a ‘shake-down’ sail.”
Lee leaned back against the bulkhead and listened to his friends happily planning their next two days.
They enjoyed the ferry ride over to Victoria, the weather was good, and the sea calm, a little to calm as far as Lee was concerned. Despite the forecast, he was hoping for some good wind for the race, it always made things more interesting.
Dall’s porpoises played around the ferry’s bow for awhile. The Admiral was very interested in them and shared some of his knowledge about them with Chip and Lee. As the Admiral was speaking, he gained a bit of an audience as other travellers gathered to listen.
“The unique body shape of the Dall's porpoise makes it easily distinguishable from other cetacean species. As you can see, the animal has a very thick body and a small head. The colouration is rather like that of the killer whales we’ve also seen today. The main body dark grey to black, with very demarcated white patches on the flank and belly. It is larger than other porpoises, growing up to 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in) in length and weighing between 130 and 200 kg (286 - 440 lbs) and ranges through much of the North Pacific and adjacent seas, such as the Bering and Okhotsk Seas and the Sea of Japan.”
Chip and Lee smiled broadly at each other; Nelson caught them and harrumphed.
Lee couldn’t resist “I guess it’s like they say Chip, you can take the man out of the science lab but you can’t take the science out of the man!”
“Afraid not Lee, but we like him that way, most of the time.”
Nelson grinned at his two friends.
Being away from Seaview, the Institute and out of uniform, an easy informality had quickly developed between the three men. This was encouraged by the fact that the Admiral had told them before they left that he didn’t want to be ‘sir’d and ‘admiral’d on the trip. As far as he was concerned, they were three friends out on an adventure together.
It wasn’t long after the porpoise ‘lecture’ that they entered the harbour area. While the Coho was docking Chip pointed over to the other side of the harbour.
“From the picture you showed us Lee that looks like our yacht over there.”
Lee had spotted her as soon as the Coho had made the turn into the harbour entrance and he confirmed Chip’s suspicion.
Harry looked over, “She’s a beauty Lee.”
Long and sleek her deep blue hull sported white wave stripping down the sides and her name in white script.
It didn’t take long for the men to clear customs. Lee spotted Stephen waiting for them, he greeted him with a friendly arm punch.
“You know we could have found her just fine ourselves, but nice to see you anyway.”
“Ya I know Leepster, just wanted to give you a heads up.”
Chip and Harry had exchanged a puzzled look when Stephen called Lee ‘Leepster’ but no explanation seemed to be forthcoming.
“I know, I spotted her, hard not to. I suppose there was no way for you to avoid rafting up to her?”
“Not really, had to go where the space was.”
Stephen looked towards Chip and Harry, “Sorry, not meaning to ignore you. Nice to see you both again, Admiral, Chip.”
Harry and Chip shook hands with Stephen and Harry asked the question what was on both his and Chip’s mind.
“Is there a problem with where the boat is?”
Lee fielded the question.
“Not exactly a problem. Did you notice the big green racer on the inside of us?”
“Yes, though I didn’t look closely.”
“That’s our arch rival and an all around pain in the ass. Be prepared for smack talk and general harassing.”
“On the plus side we’re the outside boat so we can use the skiff to come and go.” Stephen told them.
It wasn’t many minutes before they were down to the skiff and on their way to the Cair Vie.
It was a pretty harbour and looked especially festive with the many boats flying pennants and flags. Harry pointed to the large majestic building facing the harbour.
“That’s The Fairmont Empress, quite the ‘old lady’. Edwardian era, has an endless list of celebrity guests that have stayed there. Rita Hayworth, Jack Benny, Shirley Temple and her parents, Pat O'Brien, Douglas Fairbanks, Katherine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Tallulah Bankhead, Roger Moore, John Travolta, Barbra Streisand, Harrison Ford and a host of others have passed through her lobby. There are ghosts as well, a little girl who watches over guests in their beds and floats across the room and an early 20th century maid, who shows up now and again on the sixth floor to help with the cleaning.”
Lee chuckled, “You’ll have to excuse Stephen, he’s our ‘historian’, likes to find out all about the places we end up in.”
“Hey, nothing wrong with intelligence gathering, old habits and all that. You’d be amazed at how many haunted areas there are in this city. You can hardly turn a corner without running into a ‘hanging tree’ or a ‘spook’ alley. Ahhh…the supernatural kind that is.”
Chip and Harry knew that Stephen was referring to the fact that he, the other crewmembers and occasionally Lee, did undercover work for ONI. Harry had glanced over at Chip, who met his eyes with a bit of a scowl. Lee seemed to attract paranormal experiences, neither of them were sure that an area known to be a centre for such things was a good place for Lee to be wandering around in. By silent agreement they’d be keeping a close watch on their friend.
As they approached the Cair Vie, they noticed that several men were leaning out from the yacht next to her. Lee’s friends were lounging on Cair Vie’s deck, pointedly ignoring the other yachts crew. Gerry and Daniel came over to help tie the skiff up alongside.
As Harry was climbing aboard one of the men on the other yacht called over, “Hey, what’s with the old geezer? You guys trying to get the award for oldest crew member?”
Great, thought Lee, they just had to pick on the Admiral!
Mike came over and in a low voice asked, “Do you think they really have an award for that?”
Lee rolled his eyes. Mike liked awards and he wouldn’t be beyond trying to collect it, if it existed.
“They didn’t mention it at the Captains meeting Mike, and it’s not on the list, so don’t get any ideas.” Lee advised him. While Lee hadn’t been able to attend the meeting in person he had managed to link in over the computer in his cabin.
Mike grinned and extended his hand to Harry and then Chip. “Delighted you could join us mateys. Don’t pay any attention to the louts on the next yacht. Every race has its harbour rats.” He made sure his voice carried.
“Hey, Crane you going to introduce your new crew members? It would be nice to know who’s ass we’re whooping in the race,” one of the opposing crew asked.
Lee moved to the side closest the other yacht and answered him, “Wasn’t planning to, the only ‘ass’ you’re going to have anything to do with will be watching our stern from a distance.”
“Really, and who was eating who’s wake the last race?”
Gerry came over and stood beside Lee “The only reason we didn’t bury you at sea in that race was because we lent aid to a vessel in distress. If it had been you we’d have kept on sailing and let Davey Jones have ya.”
Harry was interested in hearing about that race, but right now he was taking the measure of the opposing crew. He hadn’t decided if all the bravado was serious dislike or just good-natured mouthing off. He figured it was probably all talk as everyone had smiles on their faces and he noticed that Lee and the others, gave as good as they got, and didn’t appear overly concerned.
Lee motioned for Harry and Chip to come over.
“Green Siren, I take pleasure in introducing to you our newest crew members, Harry Nelson, and Chip Morton.”
The opposing crew introduced themselves. The captain looked Harry and Chip up and down, “Morty, you look like you can handle yourself, want to jump over right now to the winning yacht?”
Chip favoured the man with his best XO glare. “The name is Chip, or to you Mr. Morton, and I’m already on the winning yacht.”
The captain grinned, “You got one with some piss and vinegar there Crane, better keep an eye on Morty.”
Lee chuckled, “Be waiting for you at the finish line.” A few more taunts back and forth and then the two crews went about their own business, making any last minute adjustments to be ready for the race. As Chip followed his crewmates down below he heard Stephen remarking to the others, “You know, I kind of like ‘Morty’, catchy don’t you think?” Smiling the others nodded in agreement.
Oh great, just wonderful, I have a feeling I’m going to be hearing ‘Morty’ a lot!
Lee placed a hand on Chip’s shoulder, “Well Morty, seems we’re off to a great start.”
Et tu, Brute? Chip couldn’t help thinking and smacked Lee upside the head.
“Hey, a little respect for your captain here, or you could find yourself on permanent KP duty.
Harry outlined his recommendations for their headings during the race, based on tidal flow, predicted winds and how he thought the yacht would handle in any given situation.
Everyone was impressed but Harry agreed that you never really knew what was going to happen until it happened. Cair Vie carried a full inventory of sails so they were confident that whatever was required, they were ready.
Chip was interested in the sparseness of the interior, only bare essentials. Lee told him that when not racing the interior was fully ‘rigged out’ and quite comfortable. Chip spotted a picture of a yacht lying on the small chart table and picked it up. It looked a lot like Cair Vie, except for the deep red hull and the name Blood Tide she could be the same boat. He was curious and asked Lee about it. He noticed that Lee cast a quick look over to Gerry.
Damn it Gerry, you were supposed to have stowed anything that was ONI related.
Lee told Chip that it was a picture of Cair Vie’s sister yacht, identical in almost every way. “She doesn’t sail around here.”
Harry had come over to have a look at the photo, he took it from Chip to have a closer look. He had noticed Lee’s glance to Gerry and Gerry’s shoulder shrug and grimace back. He also noted Daniel giving Gerry a poke in the ribs. He suspected there was more to the photo than her just being a similar yacht. Looking at the picture carefully he couldn’t see a single difference other than the colour and name. Given the reaction he’d witnessed he suspected it was one and the same yacht. The only reason he could think of to cover up that fact up was that she was used on ONI missions. I suppose it’s possible, there doesn’t seem to be much that ONI doesn’t stick its nose into and Lee did hint that some of the money to buy Cair Vie came from ONI.
As he went to hand the picture to Lee the back slipped a bit in the frame and the picture slid out an inch or so, revealing that that there was another picture behind it. Harry pulled the first picture out and stared in confusion at the now fully exposed, somewhat faded picture that had been under it.
Chip had moved to stand behind him and was staring at the picture too.
Two pairs of blue eyes looked over to Lee who was currently grinding his teeth and looking at his ONI crewmates as if keelhauling was in their immediate future.
Chip wasn’t sure why but Harry had started humming ‘The Blue Danube’.
The picture appeared to be an exact likeness of Lee, if Lee had happened to have much longer hair, combed straight back and curling at the sides, not to mention a moustache connected to a full beard that mutton chopped out on the sides but was neatly trimmed under the chin. It was hard to tell exactly what the person in the picture was wearing but the clothes appeared to be from around the 1800’s. The white shirt with broad collar appeared well starched, the cravat seemed to have a cameo pin attached, and there was some sort of emblem or device on the left lapel of the dark suit coat. There was a matching vest under the coat.
Harry stopped humming and cleared his throat, “Would this be a relative of yours Lee? The resemblance is quite remarkable.”
Lee seemed to be at a bit of a loss for words and before he could say anything Stephen started to speak.
“So that’s where that picture got to, haven’t thought about that day in ages. You remember it Lee, guys? We were down in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and after trying to drink the place dry of bourbon we went into that photo shop that did old time pictures from the past. We each had one done for a joke. Don’t know where mine is but looks like Harry has found Lee’s.”
Harry and Chip listened as everyone else agreed with Stephen and wondered aloud what had happened to their picture and wasn’t it great that Lee’s was found.
Chip looked at Harry and read exactly what the man was thinking, because he was thinking the same thing. What a load of whale poop!
Lee reached over and took the offending picture from Harry, slid the first picture back over top then handed it to Stephen with the firm comment, “STOW IT!”
Harry and Chip had the definite impression that Lee was referring to more than the picture. Something else to talk to Lee about after the race and they were back home.
After walking Harry and Chip around every inch of the yacht, and a short ‘quiz’ that Lee allowed Stephen to put the two men through, everyone felt that everything was as ready to go as it was going to be.
“OK crew, the raft-up party is getting a bit noisy, time to get out of here, get some dinner and find our beds,” Lee announced, to a general chorus of ‘Aye aye, Captain’ in return. Harry even threw in a sharp salute with an impudent grin.
The raft-up party would go on for quite some time. Not all the boats in the five races were serious competitors; some came for the camaraderie and to have a good time. The sailors in it for the win booked rooms onshore and were to bed early, there was no guarantee of any sleep during the race.
As they were getting into the skiff Harry asked Lee about security for the boat.
“The dock is locked off, only crew can come down to the boats, and there are frequent patrols.” Lee told him.
“You aren”t worried about the crew from Green Siren doing anything?” Chip asked.
“No, it’s all talk. We badmouth them, they badmouth us. We’ll probably see them onshore. I think they are staying at the same hotel, might even have dinner together. They wouldn’t touch Cair Vie, and if they spotted anyone near her that shouldn’t be, I wouldn’t want to be that person. Same goes for us and their yacht. Mostly we’re just putting on a show for the others. A good old fashioned rivalry spices things up. Of course once the race starts, well then there’s no mercy shown!”
They did, in fact, meet the other crew at the hotel and ended up dining together. There was lots of needling about who had the better boat and crew. Chip learned to get used to being Morty to both crews and, to Lee’s amusement, Harry became ‘the admiral’ by virtue of being the oldest at the table.
During dinner Lee was again addressed as ‘Leepster’, this time by the captain of the Green Siren.
Harry sipped his after dinner scotch as the opposing crew departed, leaving only the Cair Vie’s crew at the table.
“Lee, I’ve heard you called ‘Leepster’ a couple of times now, why is that?” Harry asked.
Lee flushed and tried to avoid an explanation. “No reason in particular, Harry.”
“Really, you call leaping from yacht to yacht in high seas, ‘no reason’. You never told Harry or Chip about it?” Mike asked.
Chip leaned back with his own drink in hand, “Lee tends to be very secretive about his activities off the sub. We didn’t even know about Cair Vie until a couple of days ago.”
Mike had a rather consternated look on his face. Harry was guessing that he had forgotten that not all the men at the table were ONI agents and had let something slip that he shouldn’t have. Lee was staring daggers at him and Harry heard Gerry mutter under his breath to Daniel, “can’t wait to see how talks himself and Lee out of this one.”
Mike took a deep breath and gave his fellow agents a quick pleading look, Whatever I say, just back me up.
“Well Harry to make a long story short, we were in a race off Australia, the wind was high and seas rough. One of the other yachts had a crew problem, seems they somehow managed to get food poisoning, except for a couple of them. Their captain was the sickest. They couldn’t handle the boat in the gale and were in danger of capsizing. We managed to get close to her and Lee climbed our rigging and leapt to the rigging of the other yacht. He managed, along with the two functioning crewmembers, to get her to a safe harbour. We continued on with the race, Lee was brought back out by an Australian Navy patrol boat, and had to leap from the patrol boat back onboard. Hence he became, ‘Leepster’.”
Harry and Chip looked at Lee, who was finishing his dark Rum and not returning their stare.
“Is there anything you’d like to add to the story, Lee?” Chip asked.
“No, I think Mike pretty much covered it.”
Chip looked over at Harry, “As if we don’t already have enough to worry about with him.”
“Hmmmm,” was Harry’s reply. He had a whole list of suspicions. He could figure out the time frame when this likely occurred, given that Lee usually stayed close to home when on leave. So matching up times when Lee was ‘on a trip’, to when Australia had a big race he had little doubt that he’d be able to find the race on-line and pictures of the boats in the race. He sincerely doubted he’d find a blue hull Cair Vie, but would find a deep red Blood Tide. He would also likely be able to find something written up in the Australian papers about it. Obviously the Green Siren crew knew about it as they used Lee’s nickname. Just what ONI had wanted Lee to collect from the other yacht he would probably never find out. He’d do some investigating when back at the Institute, for now he’d concentrate on the race at hand, hopefully there would be no reason for Lee to go leaping from yacht to yacht. He was confident that this race was purely a pleasure trip, otherwise Lee never would have invited he and Chip to join him.
With the story told and seemingly accepted, Lee suggested that they call it a night. The room arrangements had been made before knowing that they would need to replace two crewmembers so Harry and Chip were sharing the missing member’s room, Lee and Gerry roomed together, and Stephen, Daniel and Mike were sharing a room.
Race day dawned bright and fair, as predicted the air was light. The harbour was the usual chaos, with all the yachts milling around as they moved out. As the outside yacht, Lee would have liked to show off a bit and leave under sail only but regulations dictated that the yachts had to leave the harbour under power, once clear they would hoist sails. Given the close quarters and the bleary eyes of some of the captains, Lee could see the logic in the rule. Some quick adjustments sometimes had to be made to avoid collisions, although some of the yachts weren’t quite quick enough and fenders lived up to their name.
Cair Vie, under her superb captain and crew made it out without incident. The start was another knuckle biter, not much manoeuvring room, two of the yachts collided, Lee put that down to them having their spinnakers up. He had elected not to use Cair Vie’s, he preferred to have the needed quick manoeuvrability in the close quarters.
Despite the carnage here and there it was a clean start. They had a light wind and an adverse current, there wasn`t a lot for the crew to do at the moment but hang off the side to help keep her as flat as possible. Chip was dutifully watching for ‘salad’, that being one of the duties of the Pitman but everyone kept an eye out when they could. Dragging kelp around the rudder or keel would slow them down and right now every knot counted.
Lee was at the wheel; Harry left the railing and came over.
“Good start Lee, I was a little concerned for awhile.”
“Oh ye of little faith Harry,” Lee chuckled. “You know race starts always look like a disaster waiting to happen. Which it did for a couple of the boats. Pity our green friends got away clean too. I assume you’ve noticed them off to starboard.”
“Yes indeed. They aren’t to far behind us.
“Nope, not yet.” Lee grinned, “We like to let them think they have a chance.”
“They’ve never beaten you?”
“Only once, that time we veered off to help another boat, and before you ask, no it wasn’t the race that had me leaping between boats. It was a race the Los Angeles Yacht Club sponsored; a smaller boat lost her mast in a sudden squall and swamped her engine.”
“I gather everything turned out ok?”
“Yes and no, we rescued the crew but the boat had to be abandoned. The Coast Guard eventually found her and towed her in. Cost a bundle in repairs but she and her crew are in the Juan de Fuca race today.”
Nelson smiled to himself, Lee was competitive and would do whatever it took to win, but he would immediately give it all up, if someone needed his help.
Just as Lee was about to ask Harry what he was smiling about he heard Chip call out, “kelp bed dead ahead.”
Lee watched his ‘trimmers’ scramble to their positions. “Well Harry, which way am I heading?”
“Captain, I’d recommend a starboard tack; I believe we’ll find some wind over on the US side.”
“Starboard tack it is then. READY ABOUT,” Lee alerted the crew, which was quickly followed by the crew responding “READY.”
“HARD A’LEE,” Lee ordered. Harry heard a few chuckles from the crew.
With admirable precision the windward jib sheet was released and the leeward jib sheet tightened as the boat came around onto the new tack. Once the boat finished tacking and the sails began to fill, the mainsail and the jib were trimmed to the new point of sail.
“We’ve still got company,” Gerry called from the railing.
Lee and Harry looked back and were not surprised to see that they still had their shadow. Green Siren had tacked to match them.
“Ok, either her tactician agrees with ours, or she’s just trying to piss us off,” Lee responded.
Chip asked Mike, who was standing next to him, “Does she often follow you?”
“More often than not. We’ve been tempted on occasion to try and sail her into a dead zone.”
“Risky, you could end up trapped yourself.”
“Yep, which is why, so far, we haven’t attempted it, but I bet it’s on Lee’s mind.”
As it happened, it was very much on Lee’s mind.
“Harry, according to the charts and wind predictions where would we not want to be?”
“Curious question Lee. Looking for something specific?”
“Wouldn’t mind leading Green Siren over to some dead air.”
“Well I don’t know about finding dead air but if you changed tack again and sailed ‘by the lee’,” Harry had to grin at the term, you might be able to cause them some problems...assuming they aren’t as good as you. Takes a better than average skipper to keep the wind sailing that way.
Lee gave a loud ‘harrumph’ at Harry’s implied challenge. Doing as Harry suggested would involve some unnecessary course changes but if Green Siren followed them it could prove interesting. Lee was pretty sure the other boat would take the bait.
It was a surprised crew that heard their captain calling out the orders to change their tack to ‘by the lee’. Nevertheless they efficiently went about the business of making it so.
“Why the blazes does he want to sail ‘by the lee’” Gerry muttered.
“What does it matter, we’re always sailing ‘by the Lee’ one way or another”, Stephen smarted back.
Chip couldn’t hold in his laughter.
Lee looked over, wondering what Chip was finding so funny.
“Lee, appears that Green Siren is following your lead,” Harry advised his Captain.
Lee grinned, and looking over at his crew was pleased to see that everyone was keeping a close watch on the sails, it didn’t take much to blow this manoeuvre and end up accidentally jibbing or worse.
Just when Lee wasn’t sure he could keep it up much longer Harry gave him a pound on the back, “You got her, son!”
Lee quickly called for a tack change and then looked back.
Sure enough Green Siren had accidentally jibbed and the crew was scrambling to get things back in order.
“Serves ‘em right for not using a preventer.” Lee smirked.
“Ah Lee, as I recall you didn’t either.” Harry responded.
Lee just grinned at Harry.
Lee’s crew had seen what happened to Green Siren and responded, after their hurried tack change, with applause and whistles that would have carried clearly across the water to the other yacht.
It didn’t really gain them much in the way of distance, but it did point out who was the better captain and crew, in their minds at any rate.
Everyone settled down to sail a little more uneventfully, having made their point.
Mike looked over at Chip, then at Gerald and flashed him a wicked grin and wink.
Oh boy, here we go. Wondered how long it would be before Mike just had to have a go at ‘Morty’.
Chip was on the rail, again watching for debris in the water.
Mike approached him, “Anything of interest out there Morty?”
“Not so far, Mike.”
Mike moved closer, Chip glanced at him. OK, so there’s not a lot of room on the boat but does he have to stand that close to me.
Mike moved his hip so that it rubbed against Chip’s…What the hell! Chip tried to move away a bit but Mike followed. There wasn’t really anywhere to go.
Lee was watching the whole thing from the wheel. Gerry had wandered over, “Seems Mike wants to make a new friend.”
“Sure looks that way.”
“What do you think Morty will do about it?”
“Don’t know but it should be interesting.” Lee tried not to snicker but couldn’t help himself. Gerry cracked a smile himself.
“Well Lee, we haven’t had a man-overboard drill in a long time.”
“Nope, and I’d just as soon not have one in the middle of the race!”
“Better keep an eye on those two then.”
“Oh I plan to Gerry, I definitely plan to,” he snickered again.
After a couple of hours and two more tack changes Lee gave the wheel over to Daniel, and headed below for a break. Chip and Mike were already below. Chip was sitting on the bench and Lee watched as Mike sidled over and sat next to his friend, both men were enjoying a coffee. Chip looked a bit uncomfortable. Lee poured himself some java and kept watching the two men out of the corner of his eye. There were some sandwiches in a container on the table. He heard Mike ask Chip if he’d like one, and at the same time he put his hand on Chip’s knee and gave it a squeeze. Lee almost choked on his coffee as Chip turned crimson and hastily got up and headed towards him. Before Chip could say anything Lee turned toward him with a big smile, “You and Mike seem to be getting along really well.”
“A little too well. Lee is there something I should know about Mike?”
“Can’t think of anything Chip.”
Mike had also gotten up and after grabbing a sandwich came and stood with Chip and Lee. He looked straight into Chip’s eyes and asked, “You sure there’s nothing here you want to wrap your mouth around?” and he took a big bite of his sandwich.
Lee took a small jump backwards as Chip choked on his coffee and it sprayed from his mouth. “Oh dear, let me help you,” Mike said and reached out to put his arm around Chip’s back. Chip practically flew up the ladder and out of the hatch, bumping into Harry as he scrambled for the far railing.
In the cabin Lee took another sip of his coffee while giving Mike a half amused half annoyed look. “Happy now Mike? We do need him able to function, not standing around with both his hands over his, ahh, important bits.”
“He did have a rather odd reaction to my question about the sandwiches, besides I don’t see anything stopping you from telling him what’s going on.” Mike smirked.
“Ya right, sandwiches, just don’t pursue this too far or for too long my friend.”
Mike gave Lee a mock salute and went back to sit on the bench and finish his sandwich.
Lee took his coffee topside. He spotted Chip at the starboard rail, about as far along as it was possible to get.
“Lee,” Harry called, and walked over. “Chip came flying up on deck looking rather panicked. What happened down there?”
“Nothing much, Harry.”
Harry noticed a sudden sparkle come into Lee’s eyes and his lips twitching trying to hold back a grin. “Uh Harry, would you do me a favour and go below and make sure that Mike doesn’t come up for a few minutes?”
Harry knew that look, Lee was up to something and from the looks of things it had to do with Chip and Mike. On board Seaview Harry knew that his two officers often pulled pranks on each other but he usually only found out after the fact and then seldom was privy to the details. He was rather looking forward to watching this one from the inside, or almost the inside, he still didn’t know what had sent Chip running like a scared rabbit.
“OK Lee, I’ll do my best, but I expect to eventually be let in on what’s going on.” Lee grinned and nodded, handing Harry his mostly empty coffee mug. “Not that you need a reason to go below, but since you are, you might as well bring your captain a fresh mug of coffee.”
With an “Aye aye captain” Harry headed off on his appointed tasks.
As Lee watched him leave he had a moment of trepidation, he’ll be fine, Mike has already set his sights on Chip, he won’t go after Harry as well, at least I don’t think he will.
Daniel watched as Lee made his way forward to Chip and spoke very quietly to him. After a couple of minutes and some arm waving from Chip things seemed to settle down between them. In another minute or two Lee was headed back.
“OK Daniel, I’ll take the wheel, you go get something to eat.”
“Couldn’t help noticing your little conversation with Morty, you tell him about Mike?”
“Did you tell Mike to lay, errr, knock it off with Morty?”
Lee noticed that Gerry and Stephen had moved in their direction. Lee looked over to be sure Mike wasn’t about to come on deck yet.
“All you guys need to do is keep your mouths shut, and watch, all right?”
Grins from the men were their only response.
Lee rolled his eyes, “and no stupid grinning either, save it for later. Right now get your minds on the race and get ready for our next course change.”
Daniel headed below to grab some grub and tell Harry and Mike to get topside and to work.
The next couple of hours saw some serious sailing as they neared Swiftsure Bank, the turning point.
Harry had gone below to get the latest weather report, review their planned course and any changes he might like to recommend. He came up looking rather grim faced.
“Seems we have a storm front headed this way, not that we haven’t noticed the clouds building but it sounds like a serious blow.”
“We looking at a Puget Sound Convergence, Harry?” Lee asked.
“Probably, you know how it works, northwest winds in the upper atmosphere become split by the Olympic Mountains, then re-converge over Puget Sound, causing updrafts. Those updrafts can lead to convection and then rain showers or more active weather. Part of the air flow will be deflected east down the Strait of Juan de Fuca.”
“Could work to our advantage it we can get turned for home in time. Can’t say that I’m not tired of fighting for every bit of air in the sails,” Lee said.
“Yep, give me a good blow any day,” Mike remarked and winked at Chip. Chip winked back.
Lee caught the byplay but didn’t react, “OK you salty dogs, let’s get the boat prepped for bad weather.”
On deck Gerry, Daniel and Lee were checking the last of the yachts gear, ensuring everything was fastened down. The winds were picking up and good size swells were developing. Harry was at the wheel, below Chip, Mike and Stephen were filling pump thermoses with hot coffee, metal thermal mugs with covers were latched into place. Anything breakable or likely to go flying in rough seas was safely stowed away.
Stephen closed the top on the pump thermos he’d just finished filling, “guys I’m going to take this one up top and secure it, meet you up there.” Mike and Chip nodded, they’d stow the coffee maker and the other thermoses for later then head up.
Mike glanced over at Chip and moved his way, “Looks like we’re going to be busy for the rest of the race Morty, last chance for a quick little ‘get together’.” As he said that he bumped his hip into Chip’s.
The men on deck had settled in their positions around the yacht, ready to leap into action should the need arise, it all depended on the seas and the wind. As long as they could keep the bow or stern to the breaking waves, if that’s what the storm brought, they’d be fine.
Suddenly from below deck they heard Mike holler, “Morton what the hell do you think you’re doing!” There was a crash….
“Sounds like Mike knocked something over,” Lee observed with a wide grin.
Everyone repositioned themselves so that they had a view of the hatchway, they heard a scrambling noise and then another bellow, “CRANE!” Mike popped into view, red faced and tugging at his pants as he came on deck. He stormed over to Lee, “What the hell did you say to Morton?”
It wasn’t Lee who answered, Chip was up top now, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about Mike, Lee simply suggested that I might want to take you up on your rather insistence offers. That I might find the response…..to my liking.”
Everyone but Chip and Harry knew that Mike had a somewhat warped sense of humor and liked to pull pranks on ‘newbies’.
Harry looked over at Lee, who was no longer trying to hold in his laughter, nor were the others. While he hadn’t seen Mike’s manoeuvres with Chip he had noticed that Chip had started trying to avoid Mike. So far he hadn’t had a chance yet to ask Chip why that was. He quickly figured it out now.
Mike glared at Lee, “You play dirty Lee,” he grumbled.
Lee laughed, “You had to know that I wasn’t going to let you torment Chip for long, even if it was highly entertaining.”
“Gee, thanks a bunch, Lee.” Chip glared at his friend.
Lee shrugged and spread his arms in a ‘what are friends for’ gesture. “Not to mention, Mike, that if Chip tossed you overboard we really wouldn’t have time to retrieve you.”
Mike approached Chip and extended his hand. Lee thought briefly about warning Chip as he’d seen Mike slip his hand in and out of his pocket before offering it to Chip.
“No hard feelings Morty. Just a bit of fun.”
Chip reached to shake Mike’s hand, he could take a good prank, indulged in them himself from time to time.
Harry noticed Lee pinch the bridge of his nose with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand and shake his head slightly as Mike and Chip went to shake hands.
Just as Chip gripped Mike’s hand there was a loud buzz and Chip jumped back.
Lee tried not to but he couldn’t help laughing along with the others.
Mike grinned at Chip, “It’s an oldie but a goody. Found a Trick and Joke shop in town, great place.”
“Have you gotten it out of you system now Mike or do I need to watch my back for the rest of the race?” Chip asked him with a mock scowl.
“Nah, you’re safe now. I think if I pull anything else Lee will help you toss me overboard.”
“I won’t need his help,” Chip replied.
This time the two men shook hands without further incident.
Lee watched as Chip came up on deck balancing a tray of closed thermo mugs with hot coffee for everyone.
Lee reached for the red mug and Chip whispered, “Not that one.” Lee watched as Chip deftly continually shifted the tray as he took the coffee around so that the red mug was the last one left, and Mike the last one to get his coffee.
“My pleasure Mike.”
Mike took a big sip but didn’t swallow, he got a very strange look on his face and suddenly mounds of green foam began to pour out of his mouth. He ran for the side and threw the mugs contents into the sea and tried to clear his mouth. Chip walked over and handed him a cup of water.
“Try rinsing with this.”
Mike grabbed it but as soon as the water was in his mouth new mounds of foam spewed forth, this time blue.
“Ooops, wrong glass, sorry about that.” Chip didn’t look the least bit sorry. “Would that Trick and Joke shop you mentioned be the one on Broad Street?”
Mike couldn’t answer as he was still busy spitting blue foam out.
Harry moved over beside Mike, “It’s quite a simple thing really, chemically speaking, when the liquid Chip obviously put into your coffee and the glass of water combined with the enzymes in your saliva there was an instantaneous foaming action, quite harmless but amazing volume. The colour is a nice addition.”
Mike had finally stopped spitting foam and looked at the grinning faces around him. He knew he didn’t have any grounds for complaint and was actually quite impressed with how Chip had pulled it off, not once but twice. Must remember not to get into a Prank War with him, appears he’s well able to hold his own.
“Touché Morty, well done. Truce?”
Chip gave him a two fingered salute and nod. The rest of the crew gave Chip a round of applause.
The merriment was suddenly interrupted by a warning whistle from the tracker that Lee wore, all the captains in the race were required to wear them and send a signal every hour, giving their boat’s position and speed. A similar warning whistle sounded from the radio below.
“Uh oh, that’s never good news,” Gerry observed.
Harry headed below to acknowledge the warning and find out what it was all about.
“The storm has 35 knot winds, gusting up to 45, heavy rain,” Harry informed Lee and the rest of the crew.
“Are they calling the race, Harry?” Lee asked.
“Not ours but the other races have been cancelled and the boats have been advised to head back or get to a safe harbour. A few of the yachts in our race have decided to withdraw.”
Lee looked around at the expectant faces of his friends, he knew the answer to the question he was about to ask but felt he should ask it anyway. The Swiftsure race had claimed boats and lives through the years.
“Anyone prefer that we also call it a day and head for safe harbour?”
“Hell Lee, it’s finally getting interesting, why would we want to quit now?” Everyone nodded at Daniel’s words.
“OK, break out the foul weather gear, safety harnesses and tethers and clip yourselves on for the ride.”
Stephen passed out the harnesses, he handed Harry one along with one for Lee.
“Good luck getting this on him Harry, none of us have ever managed it.”
Harry was not pleased to learn that Lee did not normally wear his.
“Well he’ll damn well wear it when I’m here!”
Stephen gave Harry a thumbs up and continued passing out the gear.
Lee saw Harry heading his way with harness and tether in hand.
Oh oh, how am I going to get out of this?
“Ah thanks Harry, just set it over there, I’ll get to it in a minute.”
I just bet you will Lee.
Harry didn’t move. “You’ll put in on now, Lee.”
“Harry it gets in my way, I need to be able to move fast.”
“You need to move safely, now put it on.”
The rest of the men had paused and were watching the altercation between Harry and Lee.
“I’ve got $20 that says Lee doesn’t wear it.”
“You won’t get any takers on that bet Daniel, we know Lee to well,” Gerry responded.
“I’ll take that bet Daniel, you guys don’t know Admiral Nelson,” Chip told them.
“He’s not the Admiral on this boat,” chimed in Mike, “I’ve got a 20 that says Lee doesn’t wear it.”
“I’m in” Stephen announced.
Chip looked at Gerry, “You’re the only one without a bet.”
“You know Chip, I think my money is on Harry. I always like to play the long shots.”
They watched Lee and Harry, the immovable object and the irresistible force. The two were simply staring at each other.
“Harry doesn’t appear to be saying much Chip, wanna give us our money now or later?” needled Daniel.
“Wait for it, Harry isn’t going to need to say a word,” Chip replied.
The swells had grown and Lee had to keep a firm grip on the wheel to keep her steady. Harry swayed with the motion as the boat rode over another swell, then, not breaking eye contact with Lee, he reached down to his harness and unfastened it, letting it drop to the deck.
Their audience could see Lee get ready to say something and then choke it back.
Damn it Harry, if I tell you to put it on I know exactly what you’re going to say.
Lee held Harry’s blue laser stare a moment longer then slowly held out his hand.
Harry gave Lee his safety harness and picked up his own, as Lee put his on, Harry refastened his own.
“Happy now Harry?” Lee grumbled.
“It’ll do. We’ll discuss your safety practises when I’m not onboard, later.”
“Shit, didn’t see that coming!” whined Stephen.
“Not to worry, you guys can pay Gerry and me when we dock.” Like taking candy from babies.
Chip knew that Lee might not use the safety harness for himself, but if it meant Harry would be safer Lee would ‘buckle up’. After all the time he’d spent with Lee and the Admiral he’d been sure that Harry would play that card, whatever it took to keep Lee safe or at least safer.
The storm warning proved vastly underrated. They weren’t so much racing now as taking evasive action. The swells had become breaking waves and Lee fought hard to keep Cair Vie pointed into the oncoming waves. They were going to catch at least a couple broadside when they made their turn around the marker. They could well get knocked down but the boat should right itself, she had great stability, hopefully as much as they needed. If that wasn’t fun enough, night was rapidly approaching. The turn would take place in the dark.
The turn was every bit as nasty as Lee figured it would be, they were smacked hard broadside and almost heeled beyond the angle that Cair Vie could upright herself.
Taking a deep breath Lee called for a ‘sound-off’. It was with great relief that he heard his entire crew holler back their name one by one, especially Chip and Harry. It was with no less relief that those two men heard Lee’s voice.
“Hell Lee would you mind not doing that again!” Chip sputtered as he took up station beside his friend.
“Try not to buddy, but no promises.” Lee grunted as he continued his battle with the wheel.
Chip knew Lee had his hands full, the waves were now from the stern, or as close as Lee could keep to that.
“Chip can you see Green Siren’s mast light? Did she make the turn ok?”
Although they often talked ‘smack’ to each, other as competitors will do, there was no real animosity between the two boats, and even if there had been, Lee and his crew would still be worried about the other crew’s safety.
“Can’t see much of anything through the spray and the rain Lee.”
Lee nodded. She would have sounded her emergency horn if she’d not made it but he would have felt better if they could have caught a glimpse of her light.
After the turn for home Lee was able to run with the wind and surf the waves, great for attaining significant speed but tricky. In order to avoid slamming into the backside of the wave in front of them he had to angle the Cair Vie down the front of the waves, while this made pitch polling less likely, it did put them at risk of broaching. Lee didn’t want to run warps3 or put out a drogue to help control her even though the waves were periodically breaking over her stern and pushing her sideways.
Lord we’re a crazy lot, Lee thought to himself, as he looked around at the big grins on everyone’s faces, they were all enjoying the ‘ride’. Lee had to admit that he was too. Howling wind, sheeting horizontal rain, wild ride up the back of a wave, and a crazy, crashing trip down the front, only to be repeated over and over again. It reminded Lee of a trip to Mexico from years past. Hell of a lot more fun than bull or bronc riding, a lot easier on my manly parts too.
As dawn began to break Chip and Gerry managed to get a distant peak at Green Siren but all they could see was the top third of her mast as she was in a wave trough. Still it meant Green Siren had made the turn and was hanging in there. The wind and rain had eased off but the seas were still churning and full of foam.
Lee was beyond tired, he hadn’t taken a break during the storm, there was no-one the crew would rather have at the helm in that kind of storm than Lee. Not that he could have been pried away from the wheel anyway.
“Lee, let me take her for a bit, the storm is moving off and we’ve got light now, you look beat, son.” Harry gently nudged Lee away from the wheel, taking his place. Lee collapsed on the deck beside Harry, too tired to move anywhere else. Stephen pushed a mug of coffee into his chilled hands and Chip wrapped a blanket around him. “Rest buddy, the adrenaline rush is over, time to crash.”
Lee nodded, took a few sips of the coffee then tightened the lid and put it down. He curled into a ball wrapping the blanket tighter around him; between his exhaustion and the rolling motion of the boat, he was asleep in seconds.
Harry looked down at him, “Not exactly the best spot for a nap but it’ll do.” He looked over at Chip who had gone below and had now arrived back with another blanket and a pillow, both of which he applied to the comfort of his friend. Then he settled himself next to Lee to make sure that Lee didn’t go flying should there happen to be any stray monster waves left around.
The four ONI agents were clustered together forward and had observed Lee’s ‘care’.
“He’s got a couple of fine friends in Harry and Chip, almost like family, the three of them,” one of them remarked. The others nodded and smiled, they would have seen to Lee as well but Harry and Chip had beaten them to it. While they counted themselves Lee’s close friends and he theirs, it was obvious to all of them that there was something that ran deeper between the three Seaview men.
Lee woke after a couple of hours, he felt unusually comfortable for being curled up on the deck. As he became more aware, he noticed that his head was on a pillow and two blankets were tucked securely around him.
Harry and Chip had both noticed Lee starting to stir and knew he’d be awake soon.
Stifling a groan from stiff muscles and joints, Lee sat up and blinked in the bright morning sun.
“Welcome back Rip Van Winkel,” Chip teased him.
Lee grumbled something at him but Chip didn’t quite catch it. Lee looked up and saw Harry grinning broadly down at him, his blue eyes sparkling, full of unspoken affection and amusement.
“Don’t worry Lee, I didn’t sink her or lose the race while you took a well deserved nap.”
Lee climbed to his feet, a bit unsteady as he wasn’t completely awake yet and while the ride was smoother, it still involved a lot of ups and downs. Chip had taken his arm to steady him.
“I’m fine Chip, ah thanks for everything.” Lee said as he nodded towards his ‘bed’.
“No trouble Lee, I’ve had lots of practice tucking you in”
There were loud snorts and laughter from the rest of the crew. Mike couldn’t let it pass without comment. “You know Morty, if I didn’t know better that could be taken in a very interesting way.”
Chip reached down to the deck and grabbed a wet towel that had been used for a bit of mopping up, he quickly balled it and scored a direct hit on Mike’s head.
“Ok Ok, I deserved that, I guess.”
Lee grinned at Chip, who was looking very pleased with himself.
He looked over at Harry and tried to appear in charge again, “status, Harry.”
“All crew present and accounted for, no major damage from the storm, and it appears we are still out in front. As of the last check we should be about 1 ½ hours from the finish, captain.” He gave Lee a jaunty salute.
Lee’s smile broadened, “very well, very well indeed, I’ll relieve you now.”
“Not so fast,” Harry told him, “first you get something to eat and some coffee, then we’ll discuss who will be at the wheel, I rather like it here.”
Lee cocked an eyebrow at Harry and tried his best glare, “What’s this mutiny, Harry?”
Before anything else could be said, Chip and Gerry hustled Lee towards the hatch. “Food is this way, Lee,” Gerry told him while sending a wink over his shoulder to Harry. Harry could hear Lee laughing as they manhandled him down the ladder. He heard Lee yell, “I’ll be back Harry.”
Oh I have no doubt of that my boy! Harry chuckled to himself.
The rest of the crew gave Harry a thumbs up and resumed full-time watch for floating debris or anything else of interest in the water as they sailed for the finish.
It was with a certain amount of relief and definite joy that the Cair Vie and her crew took the ‘first home’ cannon salute! Whether she finished first in her division or not would be decided by the number crunchers.
Despite their exhaustion, a quick clean up was done onboard, sails stowed and the deck hosed off. Looking around they could see that some of the yachts already in the harbour, having given up on the race, had still suffered damage. They were relieved to hear that no lives had been lost. Green Siren limped in about 20 minutes later and waves were exchanged, everyone on the two yachts being to tired to engage in conversation of any type.
After Lee checked-in with the race officials Cair Vie’s crew headed back to their hotel and collapsed into their beds, some after a shower some still clothed.
It didn’t take long for the race results to be announced, only three boats finished in Cair Vie’s division. She took first to round, first home and first in her division.
Personally, they were all simply happy to have completed the race. Of course Mike, who liked trophies and shiny things, was delighted to have three more to polish and show off.
Over a celebratory crew dinner, Harry asked Lee what the plans were for the Cair Vie now.
“The guys will enjoy a nice leisurely sail to Monterey Bay. She’ll be moored there for awhile,” Lee replied a touch wistfully.
Harry nudged Chip, “you need to be back in Santa Barbara in a hurry?”
Chip grinned, catching the meaning right away, “no Harry, not at all, how about you?”
“Mmmmm, nope, can’t think of a thing that won’t keep for a few days. You in a hurry to get back Lee?”
“Not if you aren’t Harry, nothing on my sonar until Seaview sails again.”
“That’s settled then.” Harry was quite pleased about the extra ‘down-time’ with Lee and Chip, especially as it was true leisure time, no race, no mystery to solve, no samples to collect, just smooth sailing.
The others were happy that Lee and their two new crewmates would be sailing home with them. In fact the news was greeted with more enthusiasm then Lee had expected, until he found out that the ‘guts’ of the Cair Vie had been stored in Victoria, they hadn’t had time to strip her down before sailing up for the race. Now there would be three more to help put things back together. It would be a very comfortable sail home.
It took most of the next day to get the Cair Vie ready to sail. They weren’t in any particular hurry and spent another day sightseeing. Of course they went to the Maritime Museum in Bastion Square and heard all about Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, the ‘hanging judge’. They learned that the Museum used to be the old Supreme Court building which had been built on the site of the first gallows. Many of the men that were hanged were still buried beneath its foundations.
On their last night in Victoria they decided to have dinner in Chinatown. It was after Gerry’s 5th Baijiu4 that Harry and Chip learned a little something about Lee’s early ONI days. They had been talking about the storm and wild ride when Gerry said, “Hell that was nothing for ol’ ‘Leroy’ there, he’s used to wild rides.”
“And that’s enough drinking for you tonight,” Lee took Gerry’s glass away from him.
“Another nickname ‘Leroy’?” Chip smirked, “and where, pray tell, did you get this one?”
“Yes Lee, I’d be interested in hearing about that too.” Harry leaned back in his chair with his own glass of Baijiu and looked expectantly at Gerry.
“Come on Lee, if you don’t tell the story I will, it was years ago, no harm in at least telling them the ‘highlight’.”
“You drink some coffee Gerry, I’ll tell the story.”
“It was a couple of years before accepting your offer to Captain Seaview, Gerry and I were down in Mexico, it happened that, ahh, I was in a Charreada, what we call a rodeo. Which also explains, in case you were wondering, how I came to learn how to ride.”
“Well more like you learned how to fall off,” teased Gerry.
“OK, you going to let me tell the story or not.”
“By all means, Charro, por favor, continue.”
The rest of Lee’s pals sat back, they knew the story and always enjoyed hearing it again.
“Mexican rodeos are quite different from what we are used to. It’s a team sport with each charro, their term for cowboy, competing on behalf of the team. This was a small local Charreada, just hometown boys having fun. We had been getting to know the locals and trying to blend in so it was only natural that they invited me to join one of the teams.”
Harry and Chip figured that it was more likely that Lee and Gerry made sure that Lee got included, for whatever reason.
“So why the name ‘Leroy’?” Chip wanted to know.
“That was Gerry’s bright idea, umm, on ‘trips’ we usually use a variation of our names, we take turns naming each other, it was his turn. So be dubbed himself Geraldo and me Leroy.”
Chip nodded, he was enjoying getting some of the inner scoop on Lee’s ‘other life’ with ONI, even if he hated the fact that Lee was frequently put in danger or seriously injured in that ‘other life’.
Lee continued, “There are many events at a Charreada, being ‘green’ I wasn’t going to be much good to the team in a lot of them but they assured me that didn’t matter, I should just do my best. It turned out I wasn’t half bad at roping.” Lee smiled at the memory and took a sip of his drink.
“The ‘highlight’ or the event that so amuses Gerry was the Jineteo de Toro, or bull riding.”
Chip let out a low whistle and Harry leaned forward.
“You got on a wild bull?” Harry groaned the question and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“Sort of have to Harry, it was ‘bull riding’.”
“OK, Leroy, I’m taking over the story from here, it’s way better from a spectator’s point of view.”
Lee rolled his eyes but allowed Gerry to take over.
“So I get back from something I was doing just in time for the 4th event. There Lee is, just getting himself settled on the bull’s back. I’m not sure who had the more surprised look on their face that this was happening, the bull or Lee. Well Lee hunkers down, with that determined look he gets on his face when he figures he’s really in for it, but he’s doing it anyway.”
Harry nodded, he was familiar with Lee’s stubborn streak and that particular look.
“They release the bull and the thing catapults out of the chute into the arena, chalk full of attitude and determined to get rid of Lee. It had some of the nicest kicks, spins and twists I’ve ever seen a bull do, however Lee’s form left a bit to be desired.” Gerry said the last with a big grin. “Turned out the problem wasn’t whether Lee could stick the ride but how to get him off. He made the time just fine but wasn’t letting go and the riders couldn’t get near him to release the bull’s flank strap. Well darned if he didn’t ride that bull to a standstill, then when he finally decided the bull was through and he could let go, the bull up and gives one last heave and sends Lee flying. I wasn’t sure Lee was getting up when he hit the dirt but he did. Then he manages to go in his next event, Jineteo de Yegua, bronc riding. He didn’t do as well there, came off almost right away.”
“Ya well I could see you were back so I didn’t need to stick it the full time.”
“Right Lee, you were so bruised up from the bull that you walked bowlegged for a week and avoided sitting whenever possible, you were quite the sight.”
While the others laughed Chip and Harry winced and shook their heads but given that Lee obviously survived everything they too had to chuckle at the visual image.
“As a memento of that ‘trip’ I got Lee a t-shirt I spotted in a local store. So if you ever see him in a black T that says “ARE YOU GONNA COWBOY UP OR JUST LAY THERE AND BLEED, you now know the story behind it.”
Lee figured he had better take control or who knew what other story would get dragged up. “OK, enough stories, we sail in the morning, let’s get to our beds.”
On the way back to the hotel they took a shortcut through Helmckin Alley, and found themselves in Bastion Square. It was late and already dark. Lee paused for a moment and cocked his head.
“You guys just hear something?”
The others stopped, “No, nothing, what did you think you heard?” Chip asked.
“I’m not sure. There it is again, sort of like chains rattling and I could swear someone called my name! You don’t hear anything?”
With one accord, the men surrounded Lee. Harry and Chip each took an arm and hustled Lee out of the square, while the others brought up the rear. They heard Harry firmly admonish Lee:
“O no you don’t, on the double Captain, we sail with the morning tide!”
1 Part of Canada
2 Lee’s 39 foot Cutter sailboat.
3 Warps - Long ropes let out the back of the boat in order to slow it down. Ideally, they should be in a loop and reach two wavelengths back if possible. The idea is to stop the boat from surfing faster than the waves. Similarly, small drogues, similar to small sea anchors, can accomplish pretty much the same purpose.
4 Baijiu is a Chinese distilled alcoholic beverage. The name baijiu literally means "white liquor," "white alcohol" or "white spirits". Baijiu is often translated as "wine" or "white wine". However, it is actually a distilled liquor, generally about 80 to 120 proof, or 40-60% alcohol by volume (ABV).