You can read part one here
The mass of rafted up kayaks gave a faint blue point of light where each man was wearing a 12-hour duration chemical light. It’s a plastic tube that when bent in half breaks a vile of liquid. When then agitated it will glow faintly. And now I saw a blue light point leave the raft and began to drift away from the others.
“Man overboard, Man overboard!” I called out to First Mate as I slapped him on the shoulder.
“I see him; want me to divert over and pick him up!?”
“No, we can’t allow the boat to lose the kayak formation; I’ll have to get him!”
With that, I found myself once again over the port gunwale and back into the salty drink. I flailed my arms wildly until I reached the blue light and I found … just a blue light. There was no man overboard, just a dislodged and wayward chemlight. I would learn later that one of the men got irritated at his chemlight that was rubbing his neck, so he pulled it loose and threw it in the water. He was painfully cognizant of his error.
I turned back to where I thought I knew the boat to be but saw nothing. I felt a distinct thump in the pit of my gut. Another harsh clash of éclair fiercely lit the panorama and I thankfully saw the hull of the boat once again. I crawled my way back and was promptly snatched back out of the drink by my stalwarts and trusty First Mate.
“Where is he!?” cried the First Mate.
“There was nobody there, just a freakin’ chemlight!”
“They capsized one of their kayaks! The men are in the sea but holding onto the hull!” continued the First Mate.
“Jesus Christ!” I barked.
And so it went
“There’s more!” The First Mate continued his bellows.
The First Mate shined his deck torch out into the sea at starboard beam and to reveal a man o’ war!
Portuguese man o’wars were all over the surface of the angry sea. The Winter winds had blown them inland from out over the deep Pacific. There were more than is fair to count, with their purple-pink and bluish sails grabbing wind and traversing the sea with the waves. Their tentacles typically extend far below the waterline and contain stinging nematocysts that produce a venom that can cause great stress to a human, even death in severe cases.
The urge to vomit was certainly there in me. It was a wonder that men had not been stung by now. Or, perhaps they all were stung several times and said nothing. I wouldn’t have put it past these men; suck it up and drive on were their whole adult lives. man o’wars existed in schools of up to 1,000 individuals. I had sustained a sting from a man o’ war just once, and it knocked me on my ass hard for about one solid hour. I wondered how many of our bros were suffering now.
I felt the repugnant urge to laugh uncontrollably, so rested me ‘neath the tum-tum tree and stood awhile and thought. At length I found my tongue:
“Brother … I’m high nineties percent sure a large meteor is going to bow us under any second!”
With that, I flung myself head and heels or’ port gunwale and splashed into the already splashy ocean. I windmilled my arms toward the raft and linked up with the men clinging to the capsized hull. They seemed collected enough behind their bulking saucer eyes as they witness me swim up.
“What the fuck are you doing here!?” One boatsman called out to me.
“My first mate cut the cheese and I just couldn’t stand to stay aboard the cruiser. Do you guys want us to pull you aboard, or are you ok here?” I quipped back
The sailor responded, “Not if your first mate has his ass in high gear we don’t. We’re seriously ok right here, man!”
That gave me a charge to hear. That is what I wanted to hear: men in harm’s way dealing death a blowback and driving on. I sputtered back to the mothership, refilling my internal salt water reserve tanks along the way. The First Mate right on cue yanked my salty ass out of the Pacific. I immediately vomited a cool two quarts of brine liquid onto the deck of the boat, which was immediately diluted and dissipated by sheets of maniacal rain.
My fourth trip across the port gunwale and into the sea was for a much more selfish and personal reason: I had cleanly lost my balance and, coupled with a full-bore sense of vertigo, took to cartwheeling deftly broadside and sliced neatly into the Gulf Stream. I should have done well to receive a near perfect score from the Olympic judges of the Scandinavian Maritime countries.
I actually detected my First Mate’s triceps starting to bulk up slightly from the sheer number of times he had to tug my lard ass from the soup. “He shall thank me,” I thought, “his next off day that he spends showing off for the bikini babes at Smather’s Beach. Don’t mind me, First Mate … I’m here for you, bro; it’s all about you, man!”
With my fourth excursion overboard, and my affect less than stellar at this point, the First Mate sensically took to swapping roles with me, leaving me to tend to the rudder at the helm while he dashed about this and that way across the deck watching the kayak raft making sure systems onboard were working as designed.
Of prime concern were the bilges, water pumps below deck that kept us from flooding. It had been our experience that a spirited squall could and did sink a couple of our boats where they were moored at the docks back at our support compound. This had already happened in the very few minutes that a storm had commenced to the time it took us to race the couple of miles to the boat docks… there where boats were once moored were bow lines pointed straight down into the sea, where our gallant craft were settled in Davy Jone’s locker.
“Geo!? You good?” First Mate sang out to me just for a morale check. I tried to give him the rock and roll “Y” symbol with my right hand but all he got was a confused pile of fingers: “All ship-shape, Skipper!” I ad-libbed with a distorted grin (he later confided). “She’s holding rock solid at 186 degrees magnetic and point five knots speed over ground!” I called out trying to instill confidence with my corny and overly formal transit data.
Rain. Just rain and more rain.
Into each life a little rain must fall, it was said by men much drier than I and now just a little rain was falling. Opaque skies broke apart and stars snuck through one at a time, then full constellations could be discerned. I could tell at a very minimum that we were indeed headed east as the Gemini twins did whisper me. Stars I love, but man-made navigation devices I’ve gotta hand it to as well; they had kept us on track through the storm.
The men were versed in the recovery operations of a kayak swamped at sea, though we would expedite it for them, as they had ventured enough in this just the infiltration phase of their mission. First Mate and I tugged up applying steady pressure on the bow of the craft, allowing all water to slowly drain.
Before long we had the kayak crosswise our own vessel and completely drained of seawater. With a smart flip, we righted the boat and eased it back in the water. Pinning the kayak to our own boat we stabilized it long enough for the crew to climb back into their Klepper Canoe.
A gentle shove and they were back off to join the rest of their formation.
The boys left us now, paddling into the night untended by their rigid mothership. We turned back 180 degrees on azimuth and let them leave on the final leg of their infiltration route. They had already endured a nose full of adventure just on this single event, and they still had an entire mission left ahead of them. I would think of them often and worry, but always with pride and confidence.
“Bring ‘er up on step, Skipper; let’s beat feet home!” The First Mate called out. With that and a twin-engine growl the bow pitched up then leveled out flat and stable as we cut a 40-knot slice through a light chop. I marveled at the calm after the storm. It was always feast or famine out there on the sea it seemed … but hell, for that matter it was that way on land too in this job.
Ahoy, the dawn!
By God and with honor,