I was lying in my narrow bunk, wallowing in what I knew was self-pity, hoping for sleep to finally descend. My parents and brother had finally told me that it was time to stop calling them, that there was nothing for me to do and I should just get on with it. It hurt to hear, but I knew they were right, so I told Mat that I was done here. She hadn’t said anything, but I was sure I saw the relief on her face. She hated being in one place too long and we’d been here for nearly a week. The crew had spent the afternoon making sure the boat was ready for the short passage to Apia in nearby Samoa and we planned to leave in the morning.
I rolled over in my bunk, turning to face the bulkhead, and tried to clear my mind when I was jolted into awareness by a very unnatural bang nearby.
The crew shared the bunk space, except for the mate, Isaac, and Mat who both had their own separate staterooms, and Jimmy, the ship’s cook, who slept in a small room off the galley. I heard the unmistakable sound of everyone sliding out of their berths.
“What’s going on?” That was Martin. He was my best friend on board, and the most junior sailor among us. I didn’t count, since I wasn’t technically on board as a sailor.
“I bet it’s bumper boats,” said Christine, her dark eyes narrowed. I followed her up the ladder to the deck level.
“Did someone hit us?” I had visions of a bowsprit through our hull, seawater pouring in and our imminent sinking, but I saw her shaking her head no in the bright deck lights which had just come on.
“I didn’t feel anything, so I don’t think it was us.” We all went to the aft deck to look around at the anchorage. The shock of the bright lights made it hard for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, but soon it became apparent that things were not as they had been when I’d gone down to bed.
The anchorage was crowded and when we’d first arrived Mat had said that the holding was poor. The wind had come up earlier in the day and I overheard Mat and Isaac sharing concerns about the other boats nearby. I stood so my body blocked out some of our light and saw that two of the boats which had been closest to us were now touching. The one that was more or less stationary had lights on and its crew were scrambling about on deck with fenders, trying to keep the other boat off.
It was slowly but steadily moving backwards, downwind. Closer to us.
“Why does this shit always happen in the middle of the night?” Issac looked like he’d been sound asleep and his t-shirt was on inside out. “All right, who’s coming with me to rescue that boat?” He didn’t wait for responses before climbing down into the dinghy which was tied up at our stern. Christine and Martin followed him into the inflatable and when they were aboard he cast off and fired up the outboard. They sped over to the troublesome boat, which had now passed the vessel it had hit and was moving toward us.
“You guys grab some fenders and get ready to fend off if it gets close.” Mat handed out the tubular bumpers and the rest of us stationed ourselves along the side of the Bucket where it looked like the other boat might make contact.
“Just hang the fender over the side,” Tulia said, showing me what to do. “Whatever you do, keep your hands and arms from getting between the boats. Better to lose some paint than a finger, okay?”
“Okay.” I readjusted my grip on the line attached to the fender and stared at the slow-moving boat approaching us. I saw Isaac tie the dinghy to its stern and the three of them climbed aboard. It felt wrong to board another boat without permission, but there didn’t seem to be any signs of life aboard and something had to be done. If it kept going it would bump off of us, but worse still, it could end up on the rocks that loomed astern of us if they didn’t get it re-anchored.
There wasn’t anything I could do as I watched, but my whole body was tense, waiting for something to happen. Time slowed to a crawl as I saw the shadowy figures of Isaac, Christine and Martin struggling with the other boat’s anchor and chain, finally getting it redeployed and halting the boat’s slide downwind toward us.
“Jeez, that’s close,” Tulia said, her voice snapping me out of my tunnel vision.
“Yeah,” Mat said. “Let’s get these fenders tied on just on case.” I fumbled with the line, tying the knot several times before I finally got it right. “Good job,” Mat said quietly as she passed her hand over my knot. “Thanks for the help.”
“What’s going to happen now?”
She shrugged. “I’m probably not going to get back to sleep tonight, so I might as well keep an anchor watch. I trust those guys got the anchor hooked, but the wind could change and that boat’s a lot closer than I’d like it to be. I’m sure we’ll all be moving around in the morning.” She stretched and blew out a breath. “You might as well try and get some sleep. The excitement’s over for now.”
Isaac and the others returned with the dinghy and climbed aboard. “Anchor dug in good the last time,” Isaac said to Mat. “Should be fine until morning.”
Mat nodded. “Think you’ll get back to sleep?”
“Oh, yeah. When this adrenaline wears off in a few minutes I’ll be next to dead.”
“Okay, then, go back to bed. I’ll be up anyway, so don’t worry.” Isaac nodded once and then shuffled off down below to the cabin.
“You’re really going to stay up all night?” I asked.
“There isn’t all that much night left,” Mat said. “Besides, I know myself. Something like this is like drinking three espressos for me. I’m wired for hours. It’ll be fine, don’t worry. The only problem is I don’t think any of us will be ready to move on in the morning.” She made a face and a wave of guilt came over me.
I knew enough not to say anything though, and just went back down to the bunk room. Most of the bunks were already buttoned up again. Only Tulia was up, coming back to bed after using the head.
“Never ending excitement, eh?” She grinned ironically and I gave a low chuckle.
“There’s no chance that boat is still going to hit us, is there?”
“There’s always a chance anything could happen, but we’ve done all we can and Mat’s up keeping an eye on things. The only thing left to do is try to get a little sleep.” She slipped into her bunk. “Night, Devi.”
“Will you two shut up?” Martin’s exasperated voice came from the other side of the room.
“Sorry,” I whispered and closed the curtain to my bunk. I knew Martin wasn’t really mad and the crushing weight of tiredness was bearing down on me, too.
I dreamed that a storm blew over a giant tree in the backyard of my grandparents’ house. There were branches and leaves everywhere, a huge mess and my whole family was busy cleaning it up except me, who just sat in the middle of the yard watching.