Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A bit of fiction

OK, so I don’t have a list yet, but I have a response to somebody else’s

Tillerman has issued a challenge to his readers to come up with blog posts involving lists related to sailing. I haven’t yet come up with my own list, although I promise that I will … I’m working on it.

Meanwhile, one of the regulars in Tillerman’s circle, Captain JP, has contributed not just one but two lists, one on “Why dinghies are better than yachts” and one on “Why yachts are better than dinghies.” Since the boat that I sail has some characteristics of both yachts and dinghies, I found the seemingly contradictory positions interesting.

Now, something I’m aspiring to do is to write novels, and I have a series in progress, centering around a fictional community college English instructor in a fictional coastal town in California, who just happens to be around when murders happen, and so she ends up solving them. (No, her name isn’t Jessica Fletcher, and she’s in her 30s, not her 70s.)

A couple of my loyal readers have commented about how I don’t put as much fiction up as I used to. And then Captain JP made this observation on his discussion of why yachts are better than dinghies:

2. Yachts are romantic, allowing you to sail your love off into the sunset or find a quiet cove to go skinny dipping in

So here is what I hope is a special treat – the closing passage of my first novel, Murder at the Community College, illustrating the point that JP makes. A bit of background is in order: my main character, Hannah, has successfully solved the murders (there were several), but in the process of bringing the criminal to justice, she ended up with a serious brain injury (I wrote this before the incident in which I got clocked by the boom on a sailboat, so don’t attribute any realism to my experiences). In the denouement, she has been convalescing in the home of her new boyfriend, a police detective with whom she originally had no intention of falling in love, and, as far as she knows, the sailboat that used to be her residence is languishing, neglected.

On a sunny, bright, clear day in late fall, Harry’s pickup pulled up at the Siete Mares Marina. Harry helped Hannah out of the truck, and she leaned on him as she walked, unsteadily, with the help of a cane, to the marina gate. She was gaining strength, as her injured brain re-learned how to make her legs walk, but she was far from completely recovered, and she still suffered from some numbness as well as poor control. Harry opened the gate, and he helped her to get down the pier, almost carrying her down the steep gangway until they reached the level floating docks, then steadying her as they made their way to Nice Ketch. “I’ve been doing some work,” Harry said. “I hope you like it.” He picked her up and carried her up the steps and over the gunwale, and then he settled her on a seat in the cockpit.

Hannah noticed several new pieces of deck hardware, shiny and bright – cleats, fairleads, padeyes, shackles, and winches, and she realized that Harry had rearranged all of the lines so that they all led to the cockpit. That meant that all, or nearly all, of the operations of the sails could be handled from there. The boat could be run without anyone having to get out on the foredeck, and it could probably even be run by only one person – not that sailing single handed sounded all that interesting now that she had Harry to sail with. She also noticed that all of the old hardware had been cleaned up, so that it, too, gleamed in the sun, and that dirt, mildew, and seagull droppings no longer marred the sail covers. She imagined that beneath the surface, the sails themselves had probably also been cleaned up, and probably the winches had been taken apart, cleaned, lubricated, and then reassembled. Harry had seemed to be spending a lot of time at work lately; now she realized that he hadn’t been spending all of that time working at the job he got paid for.

“Why,” Hannah said, barely able to speak, “why, it’s lovely! We can sail now, without waiting for me to get better!”

Harry sat down next to Hannah and took her in his arms. He kissed her, and she kissed back, savoring the feel of his arms around her, and clinging to him with all of the strength that she could summon. “Yes,” Harry said. “We can sail right now.” He went below to inspect the engine filters and belts, and then he came back up and started the engine. Unlike the first, balky start, it came to life quickly, and settled into its gentle purr, like a happy kitten. Harry climbed up on the deck to unzip the covers on the main and mizzen sails; the genoa, the large sail at the bow of the boat, was roller furled, so its cover didn’t need unzipping. He then stepped ashore to cast off the dock lines, and then got back into the cockpit, where he pulled the throttle back. The boat shifted into reverse with a satisfying thunk as the reversing prop set itself, and Harry nudged the throttle a little more, easing the boat out of the slip, turning the wheel as the bow of the boat cleared the pier. Then he straightened the helm, pushed the throttle forward through neutral and into forward gear, with another thunk from the prop, gave the throttle another push forward, and steered the boat out of the marina, down the channel toward the sea. Hannah was impressed with his skills; she now almost regretted that it was she, and not he, who had ended up with Nice Ketch all those years ago. Harry and the boat almost seemed to go together. Then she realized, Harry and she did go together. And since she and the boat went together, too, that meant the three of them were all part of one unit.

The boat swayed gently; the waves within the channel were small, and the wind, while steady, wasn’t too strong. Harry turned the boat into the wind, put the throttle in neutral, and then hauled on the main halyard to hoist the mainsail. Once that was up, he cleated the halyard and loosened the topping lift so that the boom was no longer held up by it, but rather by the sail. He then repeated the motions with the mizzen sail, the smaller sail aft of the mainsail. The sails began to billow in the wind, and the boat heeled slightly as the wind’s power pushed on the sails. Next, Harry uncleated the genoa furling line and pulled on the port genoa sheet to unroll it so that it, too, could fill with wind. The boat heeled more, and it surged forward with the power of the wind. Harry switched off the engine, and an uncanny quiet descended on the boat. Now, all of the sounds were natural – the splashing of the waves against the hull, the cry of the seagulls in the distance, the quiet whoosh of the wind, the billowing of the sails, and the occasional creak of the rigging.

“Oh, Harry, it’s so beautiful!” Hannah exclaimed. “Thank you for fixing my boat so we could sail together.”

“It’s as much a gift to myself as to you,” Harry said. “Being on a beautiful boat, on a beautiful day, with a beautiful woman.” He reached out, took Hannah’s hand, and squeezed it.

Harry steered the boat out into the open ocean. The waves were bigger here, but the boat was large enough to take them smoothly, surging up a bit, plowing through the crests with a splash, and then dropping down a bit in the troughs. The wind out here was steadier and stronger, and the boat heeled, just enough, as if to let Hannah know that the boat was eager to go. Harry set the boat on a reach, a course at right angles to the wind, at which the boat would sail the most efficiently, and then he set the autohelm and came to sit next to Hannah on the upwind side of the boat. He put his arms around her, and she put her arms around him, and they kissed, savoring each other’s taste and the warmth of each other’s bodies.

“I love you,” Harry said.

“Love you,” Hannah said.

So it’s sappy. But I really did like the idea of Hannah and Harry literally sailing off into the sunset.

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Blogger JP said...

Aaahhh how nice :)

Good luck with the novel - any luck with agents, publishers etc?

I did once send a short childrens story to various publishers and have a stack of rejection letters which is what all aspiring writers should have!

Wed May 20, 01:26:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Carol Anne said...

JP, thanks for the compliment.

I have not gotten as serious with agents and publishers as perhaps I should. Until recently, I have thought of novel-writing as something that I might do for a bit of extra income, and I haven't really taken it seriously.

However, with Pat not currently working, the idea of getting a novel published, in such a way as to produce income, is becoming more important. In my mind's eye, I see J.K. Rowling, unemployed single mom, sitting in a coffee shop where she gets free Internet access, composing and submitting the first Harry Potter novel. Maybe desperation does lead to inspiration.

Fri May 22, 03:59:00 AM MDT  

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