The other night we had a big storm that came up from the Gulf of Mexico.
Dad: Pressure gradient’s steep with the high moving in from the west and the low coming up the coast. Unusually so. She’s going to blow.
We hauled the skiff out of the water and put her on the beach. Then we tied a couple of extra lines on Marie A to secure her to the dock.
The gusts came on by dusk, just when we were finishing with the boats, and boy did it blow.
Dad and I stood at the end of the dock watching Marie A ride on the rising chop as darkness came on. Even our cove was getting rough because the wind was blowing out of the east-southeast, right through the mouth of the cove.
Dad: She’s riding fine. Not much else we can do.
When I went to bed that night, I looked out the window through the trees at the light shining down at the dock. That was all I could see, and the light was bleary with all the rain streaming across the window. The light itself was rocking in the gusts.
Now, I know a boat’s a boat, and if you take care of her and tie her up well, she should ride out a storm just fine.
But I couldn’t help think about Marie A out there, all alone. I couldn’t see her in the darkness but I could picture what was happening: The whitecaps in the cove were crashing around her hull. Her lines were straining and creaking. In the gusts her antennas moaned. She bounded up and down with the waves. Rain bashed against her windshield the way it was against my window. The gusts battered her. She rode through the storm, dark, cold, alone.
So I decided that I might say a word or two for her, just to help out in some way.
“Please let her be safe,” I said under my breath. “Let the wind calm down so she’ll ride sweet and easy and not have to fight the storm. And let my skiff be safe, too. Amen.”
The storm kept building during the night. At times a lull came over us, and that’s when I’d fall asleep and dream about standing in the pilothouse with water rising up around my legs to my chest and not being able to do anything about it.
Then a gust would slam against the house and I’d snap awake and look at the shadows of the trees flailing across the window and the rain would clatter against the side of the house like machinegun bullets.
Rain, gusts, lull. Gusts, rain, lull. On and on the storm blew until the alarm jarred me awake.
I sat up. The tree shadows against the window were still. Beads of rainwater glistened on the glass. I peered out and saw that the cabin lights on Marie A were on.
I got dressed and went down the dock in the darkness. The sky was heavy and black but the wind had stopped. A faint drizzle fell. I wondered why Dad was on the boat already. Was he heading out?
I climbed aboard. A puff of fresh breeze followed me into the pilothouse, where I found Dad listening to the weather on the radio. He switched the radio off. A puff of wind followed me in.
Me: She hold up all right?
Dad (nodding): Fine as a feather. Wind’s going northwest now. Clear everything out.
Me (standing by the bulkhead and patting the wood): That was some blow. I was worried about her.
Dad (opening the thermos of coffee and filling his mug): Same here. That’s why I spent the night aboard.
Me: You did?
Dad (yawning): Yeah. I wanted to be right here. In case she needed me. Want a cup of coffee?