Saul Pender staggered to the rail as the storm-tossed passengers slowly got to their feet to join the others looking over the starboard side. “Where were they & what happened?” was the question on each person’s mind. “Daisha, check on the passengers while I send a message on the radio,” Darren requested as he looked at the bedraggled-looking people on the deck before getting to the helm.
“Is everyone alright?” questioned Daisha as she went from person to person to ascertain the health and safety of the travelers. “Here! Over here!” shouted HR. “My wife is not doing well! She won’t wake up! Help her, please!” he implored as Daisha, and Mae Belle made it to their side. Mae Belle put a wet hand to Gertrude’s forehead then felt the pulse at her wrist. “Is there a cot or bed we could get for her to lay on? She is unconscious and has a fever.” Daisha nodded her head and led the little group down the hatch to a room below deck with HR carrying the precious cargo.
“Damn! The radio is fried,” Darren said as he tossed the handset down. Saul had walked up about that time to hear the distressing news. “Do you know how to fix it?” asked Saul. “I’m no good with electronics. Why couldn’t this be a boat engine!” exclaimed Darren.
“I may be able to assist. I overheard Ms. Eleanor say she used to work for an IT company and provided phone support for customers. Perhaps she could help,” offered Saul. “It’s worth a try. Just staring at it won’t fix it,” Darren thought out loud. He strode over to Eleanor who was talking with Megan at the rail.
“Ms. Eleanor? Do you know anything about repairing radios?” he inquired. “Not the hardware but if you have a software issue I might be of some use,” she said when Megan spoke up. “I might be handy with the hardware part. Had to work on my police radio a few times when out on patrol. Let me take a look,” suggested Megan. Both women followed Darren to the helm.
Daisha came above deck after settling Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez below in the capable hands of Mae Belle and a well-stocked first aid kit. Daisha was used to seeing-to her elderly aunt and uncle and the various care duties they required. She quickly assessed what needed to be done for the passengers above deck until help came.
“Mr. Pender, Mr. Patterson? Would you two get off the boat and see about setting up a camp in a sheltered spot? Perhaps you can see what damage has been done to the side of the boat as well,” she requested of the men. She then turned to Kate. “Would you help me see what supplies on board have not been damaged and we may need until help arrives, Kate?” she asked.
“Sure thing! Let’s see what we have to work with,” Kate said as the two women looked through the trunks and cabinets on deck before going below to reconnoiter.
May Belle bathed the sick woman’s face with a cool, wet cloth. HR sat next to his wife holding her hand. Mrs. Rodriguez lay there on the narrow cot with only an occasional whimper escaping her weather-cracked lips. “Do you think she will be alright?” asked HR of the older woman. He appreciated the tenderness she exhibited toward his dear Gerry.
“Her fever will come down in a while. She just needs to stay out of the rain and wind. You say she had been having diarrhea and throwin’ up her food?” at HR’s nod she continued, “it ‘ppears she just has the stomach flu but being out in this storm didn’t help her none. She’ll come around in a few hours, don’t you worry,” she smiled at the anxious man as she pronounced her prognosis. May Belle handed him the wet rag and bowl of water as she stood to stretch her back. “I’ll be back to check on you all after I see what the plan is.”
Megan’s pixie-face screwed up in concentration as she held the small pliers in her hand and deftly connected two newly stripped wires to the contacts on the panel in the radio housing. She then re-soldered a connection on the circuit board to complete the repair. “Let’s fire her up and see what she does!” she said in her usual perky manner. Darren turned the radio on and was relieved to see the green ON button light up.
Eleanor tackled the scanner to see where the impending storm was tracking. She had to reboot the system in safe mode to reset to default settings and was rewarded with the start-up light blinking on the screen. All three had gotten the tech to work. Now if they can just reach someone on the mainland.
Adam and Saul found a spot on higher ground and began to assemble the makings of a fire. “Never thought I’d be roughing it on this trip,” observed Adam. “My usual idea of primitive accommodations is if there was no room service,” he joked as he watched Saul break a few more pieces of driftwood and stack them to the side.
“Yes. We are far from the Nassau Hilton. What do you do back in civilization, Adam?” inquired Saul. He brushed his hands off on his tailored pants and waited for Adam to respond.
“My family are lawyers in Chicago. What about you? Are you the CEO of something?” Adam asked as each man verbally danced around the questions posed by the other. “Of a sort,” responded Saul. “I connect people with others who need jobs done,” he further elaborated.
“Oh! You’re a headhunter! Do you have a special industry you hunt for?” Adam asked. Saul debated on answering his query when May Belle walked toward the two men.
“Ms. May Belle. Come to see if we were doing the job correctly?” Saul gently teased. This was one sharp woman. He decided a light hand was in order.
“You boys have enough wood to rival Moses and his burnin’ bush! Captain Darren sent me. Wants to let you know the radio is working and they are hailing the mainland for help. Do you boys need a hand with anything?” asked May Belle.
“We have wood for a fire though how well it starts wet is another question,” Adam answered.
Saul pondered a moment then asked Mae Belle, “Do you carry that Vaseline lip balm I saw you using earlier with you, Ms. May Belle? Let me borrow it if you please,” he produced a clean white cotton handkerchief from his pocket and smeared it with the lip balm. He then handed the tube back to her. “Adam let’s find some tree bark to help this fire along. Excuse us, Ms. May Belle, we will be back in a few moments,” said Saul as the two men walked toward a small grove of Sabal palms.
Mae Belle left the men to their fire project and went back to the boat. The wind had died a bit, and the rain had stopped, but those clouds in the distance looked bleak and menacing. “We’ve got some time,” she thought, “I sure hope help comes quick.”
Kate came up the stairs followed by Daisha who was carrying a bag of food for the weary travelers. “Well, at least we managed to salvage the packaged food items. Too bad about the fresh stuff. It was yummy! Oh well, it is what it is, I suppose,” Kate commented.
Daisha agreed and sat the bag down at a nearby table. “Come and get something to eat!” she called to the others on deck. “Kate, could you take these protein bars and water bottles to the men down there?” Kate scurried down the ladder and headed toward Adam and Saul. It felt good to be active and do something useful. Kate wasn’t used to being on the sidelines.
After some further adjusting, Darren tried again to hail the mainland for help. “MAYDAY< MAYDAY< MAYDAY- This is the Damsel 549- MAYDAY- We are at 23°37′.34″N 75°58’10.37″W run aground on Jim Cay. Need assistance. 10 passengers- We will be listening on channel 16- This is the Damsel 549- Over,” Darren called.
“This is Nassau, Damsel 549. We hear you loud and clear. What’s your situation? Over,” called the port radio operator. Darren and the others whooped for joy at the sound of the disembodied voice on the other end of the line. “Nassau, this is the Damsel 549. We have 9 people hail and hardy. One person is ill but not injured. The squall set us on the beach on Jim Cay. Damsel is not sea-worthy. Repeat Damsel is not sea-worthy. Assistance needed. What is your ETA? Over,” relayed Darren.
There was a squelching noise then static before the voice was heard again, “This is Nassau, Damsel 549. Attempting to contact assistance. Communication unavailable. Are you safe until morning? Over,” queried the voice. A collective groan was heard on the deck. Darren responded, “This is Damsel 549. We have water, shelter, and a first-aid kit. Send assistance when available, Over.” “This is Nassau. Affirmative. Over and out,” replied the voice from the port. “Well, folks. It looks like we may be here for the night. Daisha, how do our supplies look?” asked Darren.
“We are good for at least three days of water about the same with packaged emergency food. There are plenty of emergency blankets. Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez are below-deck and doing well with the first-aid kit. She is resting now,” Daisha informed everyone.
Adam and Saul came aboard in time to hear the news. “Saul and I have the makings of a fire in a small clearing a short distance inland. Do we have a lighter or matches?” asked Adam. Darren produced a fire-steel from the toolkit and handed it to Adam. “Looks like the hurricane is now a tropical storm and also turning away from our direction,” said Eleanor as she checked the scanner once more. “At least we don’t have that to worry about.”
HR came above deck to see what the commotion was. “Gerry is better. She opened her eyes and recognized me!” he exclaimed. “She asked for a drink of water. Is that okay?” he asked May Belle. “She can have small sips, not too much. Let me check on her,” the older woman answered as they both headed back below deck.
“Let’s get the rest of us off the boat and dry out by the fire. Saul? Will you and Adam lead the way?” asked Darren while the little band of wet travelers made their way down the ladder and across the sand.
Saul had assembled the bark with the Vaseline-smeared handkerchief near them. He struck the fire-steel, and the spark lit the now flammable cloth. In no time, the burning bark dried out the small driftwood sticks. Eventually, the flames were seen licking the larger pieces of wood making the shipwrecked crew dry, happy, and warm. “Ms. May Belle? How are Gerry and HR?'” Daisha asked as May Belle arrived and sat on a nearby cushion brought from the boat. “They are fine. Both have fallen asleep. They need the rest,” she replied.
Saul found a seat near Eleanor. “What do you do when you aren’t repairing software issues on shipwrecked boats?” he asked as he turned to the tattooed woman at his side. “I’m here celebrating my newest best-seller- Love Wasn’t Part of the Deal.
“So you’re Katrina Ember?” said Saul. “My wife, Betsy has all your books. She doesn’t know that I found her stash just before I left for this trip.”
“Guilty as charged. I no longer work in IT, but those skills do come in handy,” Eleanor admitted.
“Come Daisha. Tell us a story,” Darren beckoned to her when they all settled down by the fire. The little band of shipwrecked people had made it through a harrowing ordeal, but when it came to setting up a camp and taking care of survival needs, he couldn’t ask for a better crew to be at sea with.
“Since you asked so nicely, I will oblige you,” she smiled at Darren who sheepishly grinned at her in return. Daisha warmed to her audience and attempted her best storyteller voice. She looked around the fire at the expectant faces and began her tale.
“Sit right back now and hear a tale, the tale of a fateful trip. It started from the Nassau Port aboard a tiny ship.” recounted Daisha in her mesmerizing voice.
“Tiny!” objected Darren looking deeply affronted. “Very well. A middle-sized ship” she amended. “The mate was a mighty sailor!” she said as she flexed her left bicep to the delight of the exhausted but chuckling audience. Their laughter spurred her on.
“The captain brave and sure. Eight passengers set sail that day for a Three Hour Tour, yes dear friends, a three-hour tour.” As she spoke, she held up three fingers for emphasis. Daisha’s voice dropped to just above a whisper as she continued describing the watery adventure. “The weather, it started getting rough. The middle-sized ship was tossed! If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Damsel would be lost. Yes, the Damsel would be lost.” she finished the line in a resigned tone.
“The ship, she was aground now on a deserted island cay. Then after some fiddling with the radio, the help, it is on its way!” Daisha concluded the tale with a flourish. Her stranded and captive audience showed their appreciation with much laughter and applause.
They all chatted or dozed into the night. The morning found them sleepy and hungry when the rescue boat arrived. Their Three-Hour Tour was 30 hours in the making. The good news for Darren- no one asked for their money back.
~ Pixbay alertino / 2 images