The water was just right. Waves crashed on the shore as ferociously as a small ripple on a lake can. Leaves rustled in the nearby trees. Light suddenly erupted from the sky, as the sun broke free of the now, vanishing clouds.
Fletcher carried the last of the supplies to the dinghy, that sat half in the water. He took care in placing all items so that the boat would sit even and balanced on the water. The last thing he wanted was for it to capsize. Standing erect once more, he licked his forefinger and raised it just above his head. He nodded contently as he felt the cold wind.
“Still from the East,” he said to himself in almost a whisper.
He ran a hand through his thick brown hair and let out a held-in breath. He wanted to be sure that he hadn’t forgotten anything. One last check wouldn’t be out of the question. He began making his rounds of the fourteen-foot dingy one last time.
Before his round was complete, he heard a car engine approaching. Since he was a little out of the way of other people, he was pretty sure that that could only be one person. A moment later, the red ‘65 Ford pickup rounded the last of the many corners on the old dirt road. You might say the truck wasn’t in its prime condition. It came to a halt and a beautiful figure emerged. She was about five-four with reddish-brown hair that hung down past her slim shoulders.
Fletcher met her while she was still at the truck. He embraced her with a hug.
“Hi, Jenn, how are you?”
“Good, how about you?”
“So far, so good.”
She giggled slightly, “Well, good. How’s the sailboat coming along?”
“Ha, so far, so good.”
She smiled at him. “Well, I brought some things. They’re here in the back.”
Rob opened the tailgate. Or, at least he tried.
“Oh, it sticks sometimes. Let me get it.”
She worked the handled up and down a couple of times, then hit one side a good “smack” with the palm of her hand. The stubborn tailgate decided it was beaten and gave up.
“There you go,” she said with yet another smile, “It’s got a trick to it.”
He grabbed the ice chest, and they started for the dingy, hand in hand.
“You know,” started Jenn, “I never have sailed before.”
“Yeah, you told me when I called you last week.”
“Did I? Well, it’s true.”
“Aw, it’s really not all that complicated. You’ve just got to find the wind direction and use it to your advantage.”
“Well,” she said, smiling a bigger smile than any before, “at least you know what you’re doing.”
“Yeah, I don’t. I just know the theory.”
Jenn walked around the boat, her hand feeling the polished wood sides.
“She’s a real beauty. Is she yours?”
“I just bought her two weeks ago, but this is the first chance for me to test her out.”
“Where’re we going?” she asked enthusiastically.
“Oh, I thought maybe we could go to that island,” he said, pointing out over the lake.
Jenn looked to where he pointed, her eyes searching the waters.
“That one out there?”
“That’s it. It’s not very big but big enough for a picnic.”
They got aboard the small vessel, pushing her off the bottom with one of the paddles. As soon as the “Willow” broke loose from the gravely shore, Fletcher put up the sail. With his left hand, he held a rope, which ran through a small pulley attached to the side of the boat, and fastened to the boom. His right hand rested on the tiller.
The triangular sail caught the wind and became taut. The boat lurched forward unexpectedly. Jenn caught hold of the side out of reflex. Fletcher looked in her direction with a grin.
The dinghy began to gain speed. The wind blew parallel to the boat, causing it to tilt slightly to one side. The flag at the top flapped peaceably in the breeze. Suddenly a gust of wind caught the sail, causing the whole boat to tip drastically to the left.
Jenn cried out with a startled shriek as she hung on for dear life. Fletcher leaned farther out to one side, counter-balancing the boat. The “Willow” regained its slight tilt to one side rather than the major one.
“It is just a matter of balance,” began Fletcher, “As long as I can counter the force of the wind with my body weight then we won’t go over.”
“What if you can’t?”
“Well, there are two possible solutions. One, I could gain more weight. The second, and perhaps the better, would be for me to let out a bit of mainsheet and “spill” wind.
“If I want to go as fast as possible when the wind increases in strength I would then throw my weight out as far as possible and then use the mainsheet to trim the boat to keep it level.”
Jenn looked at him enquiringly.
“Right,” she said, not understanding all the terms used, “What’s the “Mainsheet”?
“It’s this rope in my hand,” he said indicating the rope, “It is what is attached to and controls the sail.”
She nodded, “Ah.”
“Without the mainsheet, it’d be a mess. It’s what allows me to turn the boat parallel with the wind.”
“Wouldn’t it go faster if we had the wind directly behind us?”
“It might seem that way, but if you notice the wind isn’t blowing very fast. If we were to go with the wind we would go the same speed, if not slower than the wind. That can get kind of dull. But if we go parallel with the wind, so that it blows from port side, then it causes us to move faster.”
“You don’t say. That’s nice.”
Once again, she didn’t quite understand the physics behind it and whatnot but she got the basic idea.
“Now, if the boat starts to tilt to one side drastically, then you need to put as much of your body weight to the other side.”
“Ok, I will do my best. Like I said, I’ve never sailed before.”
“Willow” continued along her way across the rippling waters. She had made many a trips across these waters before. Although, the crew was usually a bit more up to the task. On more than one occasion, Fletcher had failed to correct the small vessel when she strayed away from the wind, causing the boom to whip violently around to the opposite side. Once narrowly missing, Jenn’s head.
“My stomach is beginning to rumble,” said Jenn, her hand on her middle, “I thought we were supposed to be there by lunch.”
“I miscalculated by a few minutes, but it shouldn’t be more than fifteen minutes now. We’re almost there.”
“Well, the fact that it’s two-thirty makes me think that you were off by a bit more than just a few minutes,” she said, hiding a grin.”
“Is it really?” Fletcher glanced at his watch, “Well, it sure is!”
“Well, it’s not much farther. I can make it until then.”
Another forty-five minutes they were but fifty yards of the island.
“We’ll have to find a better landing spot. There’s no beach on this side. Let’s sail around the left side.”
“Sounds good to me. As long as I get a tuna sandwich soon.”
Fletcher smiled at her, “Oh it won’t be long.”
They worked their way around the west side of the small island. Keeping a sharp lookout for a good sandy beach to land her on.
“There,” called out Jenn, “how about that for a port?”
“That should do very well indeed.”
There was suddenly confusion in her eyes, “How are we to get there? The wind is against us.”
“That’s another good question, and there’s a good answer. To move upwind you must take a zig-zagged course, at a roughly forty-degree angle to the wind, which is called beating. This is also called tacking because you have to tack at the end of each leg of the zig-zag.”
“Well, it seems like you know what you’re doing,” She said, more confused than ever before.
Fletcher smiled, “Well, this is gonna be a bit more difficult than anything I have done yet.”
He made ready to make the first of the zig-zags.
“Watch your head, as the boom will swing to the opposite side of the boat, it could catch you in the head.”
“Aye, aye, captain,” She responded with a salute and a grin.
Fletcher grinned again but was focusing mostly on how to pull off the difficult maneuver. He let out a bit of the mainsheet while using the tiller to turn Willow in the opposite direction. The wind caught the sail again, swinging it to the opposite side of the boat as Fletcher said it would. Soon they were gaining speed once again.
“That seemed to go rather smoothly,” said Jenn, a bit more than impressed.
“Yes, I thought so. There was a bit of a jerk there at the last but for the most part, it was fine.”
The boat sailed gracefully another fifty or so yards before Fletcher attempted the maneuver once again, this time in the opposite direction.
“Here we go again,” he called out as he let out a small amount of mainsheet and began turning the boat around once more.
Jenn ducked the mast once again as it swung over her head ferociously. Then it all happened so fast. The side of the boat that she was on sank low to the water! The opposite side towered above her! Fletcher leaned as far as he could over the side without falling overboard. The mast became closer and closer to the surface of the water!
“Jump!” Cried Fletcher, “She’s going over!”
Jenn scrabbled overboard, being sure to get out of the way of the capsizing boat.
She swam to where Fletcher sat in the water, keeping himself afloat with his legs.
“What happened?” She asked.
“I didn’t let out enough mainsheet in time. I should’ve let it spill wind.”
The small vessel lay on her side, the wooden mask floating on the water’s surface.
“Well, what now? Can we get her upright?”
“Yeah, I think so,” He said, unsure.
They swam around the “Willow” to the underside of the boat.
“We can use our weight to bring her back up,” said Fletcher, “If we climb up on the underside we can just roll her back up. Here, you get on the daggerboard,” he indicated a piece of wood that stuck out in the center of the underside of the boat. It resembled that of a dorsal fin on a shark. It’s what kept the boat on a straight course when the wind blew from the side.
Fletcher climbed aboard the capsized vessel and helped Jenn up to her position. They worked together to position themselves just right so that the boat slowly began to roll in the water. The mast finally broke contact with the water, ascending upwards until the boat sat in the water like a boat should. Water cascaded down the sail.
Fletcher scrambled aboard, kicking his feet to help propel himself out of the water. He grabbed Jenn by the arm and helped her into the boat. Six inches of water covered the bottom.
“We better start bailin’, ” said Fletcher, as he looked for something that would hold water. “I guess we’ll have to use our hands.”
It took a while before the majority of the water had been thrown overboard. They retrieved whatever floated and placed it back in the boat. Although, there was no hope for the tuna sandwiches, which had been stored in a basket.
Presently, they had the “Willow” on her way once more. The next turn that they encountered, Fletcher was particularly careful to keep the sail from catching too much wind. Thus they continued their zig-zagged pattern until they reached the sandy beach. The bow scraped softly on the sand, coming to a slowed halt.
Fletcher jumped over the side landing, in the damp sand. He held a rope in his hand that was fastened to the front of the boat. On the opposite end, the rope was tied to a metal anchor-shaped object which he dug into the ground, pulling the rope taut.
Jenn met him with a basket of wet supplies. Her clothes were drenched and her hair hung in wavy, wet locks. But she still had her joyful bounce in her step.
“Well,” started Fletcher, with a huff, “this is not how I planned our first date to go.”
“It could have been worse.”
“True, but I still had better plans.”
“Let’s look at the facts,” she said matter factly, “The only slight problem we had was the little spill. Other than that, it’s great!”
“What about the tuna sandwiches?” he said with both eyebrows raised.
“True,” she said, hanging on the word. Then sarcastically continued, “Yep, you're right. It’s a terrible date!”
They both set down by an old tree.
“Now what?” said Fletcher.
“We just sit here and talk on an empty stomach.”
“Do you have something that you want to discuss?”
“Nothing in particular.”
“Well, I guess I’ll have to come up with somethin’. ”
They sat there trying to think of something for the next moment or two.
“Ah, I’ve got it,” said Fletcher, “I am going to the boat day next weekend. I signed up to give rides on my boat. My family is coming as well,” he paused for a brief second, “Hey, maybe you could come too! It’d be a good chance for you to meet them.”
“I’m already going,” she said excitedly, “my uncle has a booth there and I volunteered to help out!”
“Great, that’ll work out wonderful. Maybe I can meet your uncle as well.”
“Oh, I hope so. He is all about boating!”
“Is he really? It’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
“Yeah, he even sells sailboats!”
“Really, well, if I would have known, I would’ve looked into buying a boat from him. The guy that I bought mine from asked a high price, I’m still making payments on it.”
“Yeah, my uncle is a pretty good businessman. He was telling me about a kid who bought a dinghy here recently. He said he was a pretty nice guy but he thought he knew everything about sailing,” she smiled at the recollection, “He told my uncle everything he was going to do with the boat. My uncle said he had no clue what he was doing. But he liked his ambition.”
The story sounded strangely familiar to Fletcher. Except for the uncle’s opinions.
“Is that so?”
“Every word. He said the guy liked the price when they first settled it, but now seems to think it was priced too high.”
Fletcher had completely lost the gleam in his eyes as he listened to Jenn recount the events that had transpired between him and Mr. Smith in the past two weeks.
He bit his bottom lip but tried to be subtle, “What’s your uncle’s name?”
“Smith, Jack Smith.”
Yep, that was him! Obviously, this was the guy that he had bought his boat from.
“Well, that’s nice,” he said, trying not to let his emotions show through.
“Well, my uncle didn’t think so.”
“Really?” he said with mock disbelief.
“But tell me about your family,” she said eagerly.
“Well, you know my sister, Anne. You met her the time we met at the downtown coffee shop.”
“Oh yes, I remember her. She seems nice.”
“My dad’s a manager at Advance Financial.”
Her mind drifted from the conversation as the company name was mentioned. The name was front in her mind. She had recently been hired to file papers for the company. She had been rather concerned lately. She had gotten a few things mixed up last week and she hoped that nobody had traced it back to her.
“So do you work there?” She asked, returning to the conversation.
“No, I don’t. I never liked the idea of being cooped up in an office, sorting through other people’s problems.”
“I don’t blame you.”
“He was telling me about this lady that he hired recently. Said she files papers or something like that. I don’t remember all the details. But he said that she just can’t keep things straight. She’s always getting papers mixed up. He said that he tries to help her out and show her what she is supposed to do but it doesn’t seem to be doing any good. He’s afraid he is gonna have to fire her. Probably in the next week.”
Jenn was now looking at him blankly. Her eyes were staring into midair. But her mind was racing. Was she really gonna be fired from her job? Sure, she had gotten a few things mixed up more than once, but fired?
“You don’t say,” she said, faking a smile.
The two of them sat side-by-side, leaning their backs on the old tree. They both thought about the recently learned facts. An uncle negatively discussing his customer, a boss threatening to have an employee fired. They were not comforting things to linger their thoughts upon.
There was also the Boat Day that entered the equation. Both the uncle would be there to meet the customer. And also the boss, to meet his employee that is on their way to losing their job. The two of them sat in utter silence, thinking whether or not they should confess their faults to the other. They overlooked the fact that they were both just as silent as the other.
By: Jakin Files