23 Dangerous test

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I

Miles looked from one to the other. ‘Charades?’

‘Uh huh,’ nodded Livvi.

‘Er … what rules?’

Livvi looked at Jenny, who coughed and made it up as she went. ‘Well … let’s try to avoid all this fifth word, seventh syllable guff, coz it’s boring.’ She looked about and all agreed. ‘Good. So just a simple well known expression or else no more than two words. And we can spice it up by everyone puts in four suggestions, they all go into a hat or bowl or something and someone draws one out and has to act it out.’

‘How about,’ said Livvi, ‘that it’s an action someone needs to do. Not anything bad, not like jumping off the boat, hurting someone and not sexual but something like ‘well, you can kiss that one goodbye’ and that’s as far as it ever goes that way – maybe a kiss on the cheek.’

Said Jodi, ‘We used to do it that if no one gets it, the person acting it out has to tell a deep, dark secret about themselves.’

Jenny looked at her. ‘Ah … um … ok? Everyone good with that?’ Yes. ‘All right, let’s get writing.’ She cut up two sheets of paper into enough and handed them around, with a pen each from the drawer.

Miles mentioned they also had to sail the boat. ‘Would people be all right with loosely doing this? Every so often, someone goes to the helm and checks? More rather than less? We watch who goes there and try to even it out?’

Fine. They got down to the game.

.o0o

They were onto the tenth and Jodi had drawn the slip of paper, she smiled, it was not one of hers but she knew whose it was from the writing of course.

‘May I change my clothes?’ she asked. They’d taken a drinks-and-bathroom break two rounds ago, they’d all changed into their robes, so it was clearly a charade which was going to compromise that.

The one who’d written it could not very well comment … Livvi, up at the wheel, now said, ‘No need, Jodi, just improvise in a way … you know …’

‘Which preserves my modesty?’ she smiled again. ‘All right, here goes, I need space on the floor.’

Suddenly, Miles saw, everyone saw, what she was about to do and cut in, ‘If it’s what I think, you can do it just as well by keeping your head up and making twirling motions with your two hands.’

‘But nobody will get it and then I’ll have to tell a secret.’

‘Try it.’

She did, by crouching down on the balls of her bare feet and doing the hand twirling.

‘Head over heels with love,’ said Miles immediately.

‘Hang on,’ called Livvi, ‘we agreed that if the paper of the person who wrote it came up, that person would not actually try for it. Not really try.’

‘And?’ said Miles.

‘Oops,’ said Livvi.

Jenny sighed. ‘All right, I couldn’t know who it would be, could I, it could have been me, I just thought it might be fun.’

Miles skipped up to relieve Livvi … the game in the salon resumed.

.o0o.

It had all gone without further incident, they were fed and cleaned up for the night, Livvi now threw in a bit of awkwardness by saying that the question of sleeping arrangements was upon them, this second night out, plus helming the boat.

Jenny had already been sorting it out on paper and she’d made a chart, a bit like the watches Miles had made.

They were eager to see what was going through that mind of hers. ‘I have things to speak with Livvi about, they’re important. It needs half an hour at least. So, being self-centred, this gives me what I want if you’d agree. It’s nearly 10 p.m., these are four watches of half an hour each. Half an hour on helm, half an hour assisting the helm, half an hour in bed with the first one we want to speak with, half an hour with the other person each wants. I left out Miles with me because we can do that after midnight. Here:

Jd …Ms … Lv … Jn

Lv … Jn … Jd … Ms

Ms … Lv … Jn … Jd

Jn … Jd … Ms … Lv’

They looked carefully and realised how good it was. For example, Jodi first on helm, half an hour to plan the bed half hour. Following that, Jenny gets Jodi. It really looked very good and the helm was attended at all times.

‘And I’m assuming,’ said Livvi, ‘that at midnight, we go back to three hour watches till midday?’

‘Correct. And because you have two halfhours in a row near the helm, you, Livvi, get two watches in a row to sleep, actually catch up with sleep.’

‘If I can sleep,’ grinned Livvi. ‘But yes, I like it. What d’y’all think?’

It looked grand. They got down to it. Jodi had just supped, so she went to the wheel. Miles asked, ‘I’m meant to be companion here, right? Getting her coffee, chatting, helping with boat things?’

‘Correct again. We’re for bed, coming, Livvi?’

.o0o.

‘Miles?’ said Jodi after ten minutes of checking charts and not adjusting the wheel. ‘You understand, don’t you, that we will be in my cabin, on a one and a half width berth.’

‘Yes.’

‘Miles, it’s what we make of it, you know. We can do this perfectly innocently. I was thinking let’s put the bedding out in the salon, it’s more innocent, but we do not get that private talk, we lose that. I really need to share so much, to talk about a thousand things. To make clear to you that I cannot be … you know.’

‘We must talk, we really must.’

‘Miles, come up behind me please.’ He did. ‘Now hold me.’

He did and it was … difficult. ‘Miles, that’s how I want us to be when we talk.’

‘Ok.’ He was uneasy. She knew that.

‘Miles, could you take the helm, I need to go somewhere.’

In the aft cabin, they’d covered much ground when Livvi suddenly asked, ‘Miles and Jodi in the guest cabin … why? To test Miles out? To test Jodi?’

‘A bit of both. You know I love both. We both know she was sent as a sleeper. We both think she broke that bond with her control, and yet there’s a real connection between Miles and her. No eyes, no furtive moments, nothing like that. Just a working partnership. Thing is, he’s my husband. I have to know if we can keep her. If not though … what?’

‘You can’t abandon her.’

‘No. She’s burnt into my soul too … as have you.’

.o0o.

The changeover was quickly done, Livvi was now on the helm, Jodi and Miles were standing in her cabin, in robes. She removed her robe and placed it on her chair, which was upping the ante, the onus was on him. He dropped his and put it over hers. She indicated to get in, back to the outer wall. She climbed in and backed up to him, his arm went around, she took his hand and placed it modestly, as if that compensated somehow. The feel of her was beyond, the feel of him was something she’d hungered for since Brno.

‘Miles, I have to tell you things.’ She told him about the control in Brno, how exactly what she was doing now was what she’d been ordered to, to break up the harbour. ‘But Miles, I broke that the first time I trained with Jenny. Then there was you. I wanted that harbour. And this now is what I want. That’s all. Stolen moments against my best friend Jenny.’ Then a gasp. ‘Miles, have you just done something, it feels wet.’

‘Just drops. I need to get out.’

She climbed out, they both went into the salon. ‘We can’t stay there anymore,’ said Jodi.

Jenny was appalled, yet she could see it was still the early stages on him, he hadn’t …well … Jodi went up to her, turned, Livvi had already seen it. It was high in the small of the back. There’d not been THAT below. She explained in detail. He just stood there.

Jenny spoke. ‘Jodi, go and wash up for’ard. Miles, our bathroom. Then put your robes on, both of you.’

.o0o.

‘Ok,’ said Jenny, seated with them at the salon table, Livvi having been snacked and watered. ‘Ok, I buy the small of the back, the lack of intention, the way you both got out of there. I don’t buy the nakedness, not one little bit. Why would you do it? However could you think I’d buy that?’ She paused. ‘Miles?’

He started to form words, could not. ‘Jodi?’

Jodi slowly spoke of what everyone had been speaking … Brno, the control, the breaking of the nexus, the love. Not just for Jenny or Miles … for all of it. Here was home if she knew how her mother and brother were now.

Livvi spoke. ‘The Patron is still active, Jodi. He’ll be attending to that and many things. Miles, you know this was wrong.’

.o0o.

The night had continued on. They’d stuck to the half hours. Here was Miles at his cabin door. He knocked. Livvi said to come in.

‘Livvi.’

‘Miles.’

‘Any special rules?’

‘It’s your bed, Miles, your cabin.’

‘Any special rules?’ he smiled.

‘Yes. Climb in and you can hug me once but nothing else, and please stay dressed as you are. We’ve a lot to talk about.’

II

They’d swung west about the right time, the radio had told them about the conditions, they’d noticed two boats off their starboard quarter which were faster, though much shorter, both recreational, one was going full bore towards some destination further north, they had to maintain this line and the other boat was too.

Eventually this boat came within range, Miles saw it was a Hallberg-Rassy 46, superb machine and there was a curious thing here – neither could stop because the seas were too choppy and rough, and at the same time, Livvy called from inside not to let them come over, just wave and wish them well. They’re not official, we’re getting the weapons out just in case.

The other boat did seem to want, Miles gestured too difficult – seas etc. – and he waved. Best be taken for a dumbo.

The other crew did not seem happy. What was their problem? They had the call sign for the SMD but somehow they did not want to use that. Miles said to Livvy – what if they’re in some sort of distress?

They’re not, she replied and seemed quite firm about it. Clearly, on that boat, it was decision time – whether to press on or continue to harass the SMD, there was an animated discussion going on.

Livvi repeated – do not let these people aboard. The advantage of the SMD was that the other crew would need to climb up, also the SMD was far more solid, they gave it away and forged ahead, Miles thought they’d wait in ambush at a port and Livvy agreed. They’d need to change plans.

Instead of heading for Saba, where Livvi had never intended to go anyway and where she was sure they’d go and lie in wait, they decided to fight the waves and make rough progress to Sint Eustatius.

III

On the shore of Sint Eustatius, they just sat there, the four of them, looking at one another in the shade of a clump of trees near where the sand met the greenery, the Sarah Marie Daniels now bobbing away in the shallows, their dinghy pulled up on the shore.

They were awaiting the man Livvi had mentioned … upon this, almost everything hinged. Some silent prayers were said.

They now saw him coming, Livvy advised them to find another nearby clump to sit under.

From a short distance away, they could see a quite animated discussion going on, maybe even threats to Livvi but she eventually had him see reason, so it seemed, as she now gestured for Miles to come over.

‘Strategic for you and Jodi to stay here, you’re quicker to get away, you know how to deal with threats on the ground.’ He got up and sidled over.

There was no handshake, only a demand that the documents were in order, which of course they were … for the UK. He went through them, seemed satisfied, they turned to go through the boatyard behind and the two girls followed from a distance, carrying their long sportsbags, which the man had probably tumbled to the purpose of.

And there was the longboat, the glorified sailing canoe, solid, made of wood, seemed to be in good nick but Miles still went over her, noting this and that.

.o0o.

He came down and had also noticed a catamaran of some 45 feet, the boatyard man now came over and enquired, in English, what they were looking at doing. Miles told him and a smile filled his face … work for his boys.

He, for both boats were his, the man who would pay and Miles were in negotiations, fiercely, there was more than one gesture of walking away …

.o0o.

They seemed to reach an agreement which satisfied no one … but still an agreement. Miles called Livvi over.

The whole thing was less than she was owed, it was going to take only a week, as it was a simple construction to produced a trimaran from the three hulls, ten boys working, Globo-man and the yardman felt they’d both made a killing and were hiding it, Livvi was furious and that augured well, Globo-man was grinning.

This was going to be all cash, in stages over the following week. On the last day, all things were to be brought ashore from the SMD and that would be that.

IV

The lack of drama had been intriguing, suggesting this boat was perfect for the type of whatever running they planned to do, they’d been told by a few of the workmen to get the hell out of the Caribbean if they valued their lives, the new trimaran was to be their home, 70 foot main hull, 45 foot pontoons which had the overflow living quarters and ablution, the workshop and storage.

The centre hull was for living and eating for all, plus sleeping for the main pair, plus a single at a pinch. The akas also housed a single each.

But were there to be four crew? Or three? Or maybe just the two? Livvi was clear where she was headed, they all knew she’d somehow rejoin her man but here was the surprise – she had a second idea she’d discuss with Jenny at sea … the thing was just to get to sea … and get there now.

Miles had had the rig built as two largish standing lugsails, short luffs, the for’ard sail larger than the aft, it had cost him, personally, not being covered by the agreement.

So the sailmakers also got to profit, seemingly a win-win but none of them trusted Globo not to try to take the lot. The boat was heavier than any trimaran going but it was still going to shift at a fair rate, maybe 20 knots, day and night a very stable boat.

Jodi was the issue. Here on this island, she could take her chances of finding that man she needed, or try to get to her mother and brother. Whatever she wanted. And what were Miles and Jenny offering? More of the same madcap life, always on the run?

They gave her the rest of the last morning, new boat already pulled into the water from the beach, up on her skegs under each hull, also testament to how shallow she could sail.

An invidious decision for a young lady with a life ahead of her, poor, poor Jodi, starting out in a sane world, but now in this place of menace, seemingly in paradise but it all closing in around her.

There she was, arms around her knees, staring at the boat twenty yards from her. The three of them steered a wide course away, gave her space.

Time was running out.

.o0o.

Miles, Jenny and Livvi now came back to the new craft, via Jodi, she simply got up, saying not a word, and all climbed up the short ladder and into their places for the first slow meander through the water traffic. Jodi was in her room, Livvi was in there with her, the other two had jobs they had to do here and there … they both had, literally, to learn the new ropes.

V

It was nearing nightfall when they had any real chance to talk, the downside of this boat was that it had to be sailed, there was no auto-pilot, although Miles could rig up a tiller steering mechanism involving bungee cord, of which there was much onboard, but first he had to teach them to sail.

For now, he was doing most of it from the wheelhouse which then led to the salon and galley, the sheets or lines controlling the sails all led back to the wheelhouse. It was slightly wet back there with a following sea, compared to the SMD anyway. He’d been kept up with victuals, the three ladies now came aft to where he was.

‘We’ve been discussing our options,’ said Jenny. ‘Livvi has people in the same place I do and we feel it might be better to go with my contacts at first, see what happens. I did have some contact with my old friend Greta not so long ago and things seemed ok there.

‘Uh huh. Where?’

‘Argentina, for now. There’s a harbour I know of – we should be all right there if anywhere’s all right.’

‘Fine. Then that’s where we’re headed.’

‘San Antonion Oeste is one of the eight places Sis and I always had on the list, just in case things got too hot back home, her schoolfriend lives there now, it’s where we can get messages out from. At least it was, we just drop in, no ceremony.’

‘I know that area, I looked it up on ggl once – there’s a German settlement to the west, over near the far coast – Bariloche, it has a transport chain to this coast … well, not too many questions were asked, for a consideration. We might need more funds for ‘considerating’ if we have to.’

‘Sis’s friend will sort that out. Our boat’s perfect for that stretch of sheltered water – she’s shallow, sleek, we can drop anchor, we don’t need port facilities. But we might have to work for our living again.’

VI

Now Mid-Atlantic, out from various coastlines, Miles had been allowed enough time off the wheel to rig up, with Jodi, the self-steering, bungee version and it was fine for their boat.

They now had about two hours before the next change requiring crew and so he asked if they wouldn’t mind congregating in the salon, where he’d speak for fifteen minutes – yes, it was important, then each of them would have their time or however they wanted it. He’d written his speech headings on paper, one for them, one for him. Just to keep himself within time.

Would they stay and listen, rather than wandering off? He didn’t mean for coffee, of course they’d wander off for that, just not for making snacks and desserts, because this was actually important for the safety of the boat and crew.

‘You going to show us how to put a lifejacket on?’ asked Livvi.

‘Look at your sheet.’

  1. Naming our boat and seeing her as a person
  2. Safety, esp. safety lines on deck, the booms
  3. Watches
  4. Us as a community, not just random people

He now went through each point and they were in agreement, especially the safety provisions and the need that the watch system allowed someone at any time to be completely off duty, mind free. This last was the difference between sanity and losing the plot. an expression explained to Jodi as the translator hardly helped.

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