The Storm Junkie: A Short Story
I awoke early and suddenly this morning to the sounds of a vicious storm cell attacking the roof on my home. I tried to go back to sleep, hoping that the storm would go away. It did not.
The storm’s presence was severely disappointing to me because this was the day that I would take my friend sailing. He hadn’t sailed before and only recently showed interest. So I have been about the business of getting him on the boat.
We were set to meet at 9:00 am, shout “all aboard,” and maneuver from the dock to the vast lake near my home. But I began to fear that the storm had stolen the opportunity from me. It made me angry, disappointed, disillusioned and sad. But despite the storm and the squashed anticipation of a beautiful day, we proceeded.
Upon arrival at the marina, I noticed a strange thing. The commotion was coming from a small Sloop style sail boat in dry dock near the marina parking lot. The craft’s name painted in calligraphy read The Prominent Dreamer. Its captain was standing on the deck, yelling out maritime commands in a loud authoritative voice.
“Man the Boat! You there, bear a hand to the mate on starboard! Steady! Steady! Ease Off, a little more…Hold…Hold…Belay now! I said belay the line! Hang On. Steady. Eyes in the boat men. Eyes in the boat. Very well. Very well done.”
I noticed that despite his dictionary of correctly used nautical terms, he was alone on the boat. Amazed by the idiocy of his actions, I sought an explanation. “Sir, why are you sailing on land? And why are you yelling? You’re alone up there aren’t you?”
His response was quick and simple. “Are you kidding me? Haven’t you seen the storm? My crew of land lovers went home. Besides, I am not about to risk The Prominent Dreamer by putting her in the water anyway. I would much rather stand in safety and pretend to sail. Man I love the wind.”
This was a very weird display. I don’t think I had ever noticed a sailor acting with such peculiarity. It certainly was strange, what a storm can do to a person. I could tell that my friend was wondering if I really knew anything about sailing. Hopefully the day would improve.
My friend and I laughed at the captain of The Prominent Dreamer all the way to my boat. Her name is On The Surface. She is certainly a special vessel. She has been in the family for years. She is a modest Catch style monohull with a seven foot keel and heavy ballast. We slowly motored out of the marina and onto the lake. Once there, just as the storm was beginning to reach a pinnacle of strength, we chose to hoist the sails and head windward to the west.
Just when this strange day had reached an outlandish high with the crazy captain and the storm, I witnessed something even more ridiculous. Our path was interrupted by a swift moving sailing dinghy oddly named My Way. I could hear the voice of its captain and solo crewman coming from the distance. He was yelling, “Ahoy there On The Surface! Watch Out! My Way is coming apart. I have lost command of my ship. Watch Out! My sheet is tearing. Her mast is cracked and coming down. She’s no longer seaworthy. The storm’s wind is destroying My Way.”
Luckily, we were out of her direct path and she planed by just behind us. Through the rain and spray from the wind, I noticed something unique about the My Way. My eyes confirmed what my ears had already told me was true about her and her fearful captain. Just off of her stern, two 150 horsepower Mercury engines were mounted and running wide open. She was a sail boat being propelled against the wind by outboard engines. Everything about the My Way was designed to work with the wind. Instead she was being driven against it. And the forces of the wind working against the forces of the outboard propulsion were tearing her apart.
I contacted her captain by radio to offer more help. I asked, “Why are you running those two engines? You have to shut them down and learn to work with the wind.” He responded quickly with a matter of fact determination. “I don’t trust the wind. What has the wind ever done for me? Can you not see that it is the wind that is destroying My Way? I will never turn my ship over to the wind, even if it means sinking with it.” I changed the channel on my radio just as he started yelling profanities at the wind and at me as a perceived friend of the storm.
In that moment my fear of this storm eased. I realized that sometimes it’s the people in the wind who are scary. I became fearful of others I might encounter that day on the water. But the law of averages was in my favor. I thought to myself, “Surely there is no way I will come in contact with another idiot today.”
Just then, the rain began to subside. I hoped that the storm was over, but in the distance I could see yet another tempest cell coming my way. Caught between me and the storm was a large sloop monohull. The craft’s name was Tide Down. As I skimmed closer to the storm I could see that she was obviously having trouble.
Her sails were full. The mast was strong. But the Tide Down made no forward motion. In fact, she was skipping up and down on top of the water. Her crew was obviously frustrated and intimidated. They were scurrying around attempting many things to break her free to flow forward. Nothing helped.
As I looked more closely, I noticed several strong lines that ran from her deck into the water below. Some were connected to the starboard side and others ran from her port. “Could they be anchor lines?” I secretly asked myself. Certainly no one would anchor out in these waters. To anchor here and now would be to risk capsizing the craft. “Surely not” I whispered.
But the Tide Down was certainly tied down. I slowly plowed up to her starboard side and attempted to dock and come aboard. I thought I knew exactly how to help them. We could cut the lines, loose the anchors and save the ship.
But the crew was indignant. They were waging war with a rough wind. How dare I attempt to come aboard at this time? How dare I touch their sacred lines? “Away with you!” they yelled at me. So I turned into the wind to escape their anger.
As I sailed into the wind, I watched over the stern of my ship as the Tide Down began to keel over. As her crew began to abandon ship into their lifeboats, I couldn’t stop thinking that her anchors were dragging her down into the swells of this great storm. I wondered why the crew didn’t simply cut loose the lines that held them down. She would have been fine. I turned around to go back for the crewmen.
What a day this has been. First the Prominent Dreamer faces the storm by sailing on land. Then the captain of the My Way fights the storm and nearly kills us with his utter distrust for the wind. And now this half witted crew just sank the Tide Down because of their commitment to the lines that held their anchors. What other experiences would this great storm bring me today?
And just then I saw it. Just as the storm finally subsided, a beautiful catamaran was tossing spray into the wind as it planed across the now smooth lake. It had obviously come through the storm and was, as we were, living to tell about the experience. I knew that my boat would never catch up with this swiftly moving vessel. It was beautiful. Sown in to its bright luminous spinnaker sail was the name Storm Junkie. It was majestic, exciting and even playful. Even my friend took notice.
Watching the Storm Junkie made me momentarily forget about the Prominent Dreamer, the My Way and the Tide Down. I knew that this beautiful craft was being captained by a true sailor. He was a true windjammer. What an amazing experience.
As we motored back through the harbor to our storage slip, my friend began to share. “I never really understood your love for sailing. I think that I could have easily found myself reacting the way one of the crazy captains we saw did today. But now you have shown me a new way. I want to be a storm junkie too.”