A Star Tribune serialized novel by Jane Fredericksen
The story so far: Kacie learns to navigate the waves as the storm rises.
“The helm is yours.” Kinney dodged over to the storage locker and hauled out a sailbag.
“What are you doing?” Kacie asked.
“Need to change out the jib,” he told her. “Wind’s kicking up.”
“Shouldn’t we heave-to?”
“Not ‘til we reef the main. That comes next.”
Before she knew it, he was crawling along the windward deck, tugging the bag behind him. About midway, he called out, “One more thing. Try not to jibe. Or you’ll be sailing solo.”
“What? You never…”
“Waves,” he interrupted.
Kacie veered into the group of three with a bump. Kinney grabbed a lifeline as spray doused him. Once they’d pulled out, he shot her a dirty look.
“Focus!” Kinney ordered.
Kacie refocused. She tried to hear what the wind was saying, interpret the roll of waves, all the while darting glances at the compass, to make sure their course was true.
Pulleys creaked as Kinney hauled down the jib and Kacie immediately felt the center of effort shift to the mainsail. Redemption’s bow nosed toward the wind and Kacie pushed the wheel to counter it. Not too far, she reminded herself. She wanted to be careful not to jibe, or push the stern of the boat through the wind. It was hard enough, with the waves battering the back quarter of the boat.
She could hear Kinney hoisting the storm jib and felt Redemption ease back from the wind. Kacie played with the wheel, finding the right balance.
She was so preoccupied that she didn’t notice when a quiet wave crept under Redemption and pushed her up, up, until Kacie suddenly realized they were on its crest, riding laterally, about to spill sideways into the trough.
“Look out!” she yelled.
As she glanced forward, she heard an ominous thud and saw a sight that made her stomach cartwheel.
Kinney had slipped on the wet deck. The wind caught the doused jib, billowed it like a parachute and it was hauling him, sliding, toward the edge of the boat.
As soon as he hit the deck, Kinney threw himself backward. He hooked the sail bag with his elbow, hoping it would add enough drag to slow his forward momentum. He could feel Kacie’s struggle to wrench the wheel starboard and felt Redemption’s bow nose up and her stern slip down the wave. The wind caught the inflated jib at this new angle and spun Kinney around so that his back was sliding portside, but now the sail was helping to pull him back amidships.
With his right hand, he reached out for a stanchion and grimaced as his bandaged palm slammed into it, just as his harness went taut. He knew the old wound broke open again; he could feel the blood underneath the bandage start to spread, but it was a small price to pay. The safety harness and stanchion had served their purpose.
They had stopped him from pitching overboard. That was all that mattered. He’d deal with collateral damage later.
Kinney waited until Kacie regained control of the boat, then he quickly reeled in the doused jib and stuffed it into the sail bag. He slid forward to double-check the new jib and worked his way along the windward side of the deck, back to the cockpit.
Apologies tumbled from Kacie. “Sorry, that one sneaked up on me.”
Kinney cut her off. “Not your fault. This is tricky stuff. You did the best you could. Glad you warned me, though.”
She was staring at his hand. “You’re bleeding.”
He brushed it off. “Don’t worry about that. It happened before we even set sail. It’s just a reminder for me to be more careful.” He took over the wheel.
“I should have seen it coming,” Kacie fretted.
“Sometimes you can’t. No matter how long you’ve sailed. Hey …” Kinney tried to sound light-hearted, “The tough part’s done. Now we just head into the wind and take another reef in the sail. Piece of cake.”
Kacie looked doubtful. “Promise?”
The word made Kinney freeze.
An echo from long ago. Promise.
He didn’t want to make any more promises.
He shook off the memory. “Would I steer you wrong? Don’t answer that,” he added, before she could respond. “Get ready. I’m coming around.”
“Are we tacking?”
“Hardening up, to spill the wind off the main. Here goes.” He swung the wheel, and they immediately felt pummeled by invisible fists.
“The wind,” Kacie shouted. “Lots stronger!”
Tomorrow: Chapter 16 continues.