Adventure Coming of Age Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

This story is about a teenager. Today it would be unheard of to let a boy of fifteen to take a boat out for an extended trip of four or five days in the open ocean.

Ted sailed past a small Island about late morning. It seemed deserted with its cliffs plunging into the sea. He counted three kinds of birds all nesting in the cliffs. He lashed his ruder and went below to get some fried fish and potatoes. He came up on deck and saw a sea gull. He throws small pieces of fish up for the gull to catch. It soon turned into a flock of gulls. He had always been interested in the way birds fly. It was fun to get such a close-up view of them. As he was holding his last piece of fish intending to eat it, an enterprising bird swooped down, and snatched it out of his hand. It startled him and made him laugh. He realized he needed to pay attention, for the reef off the end of the Island was coming up. He altered his course and trimmed his sails to go around it. He studied his charts and decided on another course change.

In the late afternoon he had to tack his way into a large harbor and tie up at the Harbor master’s dock. The Harbor Master looks like he had lived all his life at sea. What saved Ted was he had a soft spot for young men trying to prove themselves. The Harbor Master requested permission to board. Ted formally granted it with a salute. His ship was inspected top to bottom. The harbor Master was impressed with its ship shape condition. He opened every hatch and checked every cubby. He picked up a key on a shelf above the sink. He went out to a locked hatch and opened it. It was an empty water cistern for the kitchen. He asked Ted if he wanted water in it. Ted enthusiastically said, "yes". The harbor master went below and laid back all the floorboards that ran down the center.

“Ted, do you know what this boat was built for?”

“Pleasure sailing?”

“No. It is a small deep-sea boat good for smuggling.”

Ted wanted to know why he knew this. It was explained to him in detail. Ted was fascinated with the explanation and asked many questions. This put the Harbor Master at ease, and he did not question the condition of Ted’s fake papers. He did notice the boat had never been named or a harbor of origin. Ted decided on ‘Robber Gull.’ The harbor master found Missy’s picture. He learned more about her and Rooff than he needed to know. The information was useless to him. In the end he charged Ted for the water, a real mariner’s chart of the lower islands and wine to christen his boat with. Ted paid for this out of his loose change. He went back to his cabin to chop one of his smallest gold coins in quarters. He paid for the buoy hook up with this. His change wouldn’t all fit in his change belt. He tipped the Harbor Master well with what was left over.

He pulled up the anchor at his bow and let the boat gently drift around the buoy. Ted knew he was taken after he got a look at the other side of the buoy. It had the owner’s boat name on it.

The harbor master had helped him with a new map and some of the symbols and tips of how to get to his next overnight stay and how to best enter Uer Mouth Harbor. He was advised to get supplies in his galley for there were no facilities on the island he was heading for. He bought his supplies from a market launch. Among the miscellaneous items was a harmonica and towels. He found the prices were reasonable. He figured he had been over charged most of his journey. Except for the boat, it was a good deal. Oh well, Rooff had been generous. In two nights, he would be sleeping in Uer Mouth.

The voices of the fishermen woke him, he manages to sail out with them, and a hot breakfast. As he passes the Harbor master’s house he plays ‘A Pirates Life is for me’ on his harmonica and gives him the bird. The man laughs and hopes he doesn’t get in too much trouble in school.

As the harbor master had warned him, he could pass the little Island he was headed for without knowing it. He almost did. The currant and wind had carried him off course. It was just barely visible. He would have a lot of tacking to do, and it would not be the best way he was told to approach it.

The clouds on the horizon flash, the sea develops white caps, and the wind blows steadily. He was exhausted by the time he anchored in the little bay. He double checked his anchors. He cooked the little fish he had caught earlier in the day and put in some vegetables and had a tasty soup. That night the storm hit and kept him awake with worry; the thunder did not help. He had never been in a boat when it stormed. The next morning it was still raining. He ate and went back to sleep.

He woke midday to the gentle lap of water on the hull. He pulled the hatch back and the sun streamed in. The air was fresh. The little bay was beautiful. It was too late to leave for Uer Mouth. He hoped it would be like this in the morning. He had not lowered the little dingy yet. He had seen it done but not done it himself. It was harder than it looked. He throws the ladder over the side, climbs in, and rows the dingy to the sandy beach.

He beached the little boat and walked down the deserted shore. It hit him he was alone in the world. No family, his friends were all new friends he did not really know. Rooff seemed to care. He had showered him with money then shoved him out into the big wide world. A depression settled around him and he started to cry. It was more like a large over whelming sob that he felt would last forever. He lay in the warm sand and drifted off to sleep. He felt the water lap at his toes and sat up with a start. The dingy was trying to break free. This got him to leap into action, push and jump into the little dingy and row it back to the boat. The tide had come in.

That night he eats his meal in the cabin. He then watched the sun set on the horizon out to sea. He blessed the first star of the night he saw. He watched the purple dome of the sky like a lid open to a myriad of stars. He felt exceedingly small and the world exceptionally large. He felt the cabin close in on him and took his blankets up on deck. He slept well till the light of dawn woke him. The sky was as blue as he hoped this morning. He did not waste time to set sail. The sea was smooth and sparkly. This lasted till noon. The sea got increasingly choppy, and the wind became forceful as the afternoon got on. He did a lot of tacking against the currant. He would rather be above Uer Mouth harbor than below it.

Ted was beginning to despair when in the twilight the two lighthouse beckons came into view.

He had lashed the rudder and trimmed his sails to almost nothing. He had tied himself to the boat as he had been taught for rough weather. He did not want to go to Neptune’s Depths.

The harbor master saw the “Robber Gull” come into the harbor full speed. Ted became scared he was going too fast and took the hatchet and cut the rudder free. The boom swung around threatening too ripe itself off. Ted had been thrown on the deck and passed out. The boat lurched and spun to a standstill in the calm waters of the harbor.

March 01, 2024 22:20

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


H.e. Ross
10:13 Mar 14, 2024

I almost stopped at your unneeded introduction and did stop with the misspelling of rudder and mis- use of it being lashed in place of the tiller being lashed. The tiller is attached and guides the rudder.


Leslie Kirc
15:02 Mar 15, 2024

I know the difference. I guess in the heat of the story I liked the deep sound of Rudder. Tiller has a frilly sound. It has been a long time since I have sailed. As for the warning I have been a teacher and at present I have several friends that teach. They report tails of helicopter parents I felt it necessary.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.