Storm Cloud – Sample

Being at sea always tired me out. By the time Jimmy served the early dinner, I was yawning. But I also knew that given how rough it was out there, I’d hardly get any sleep. It was windy and the swells were big enough to roll all hundred feet and several dozen tons of the Byte Bucket every few minutes. I’d learned to use the evenly spaced handrails whenever I was standing up — it was a lesson learned painfully and my ribs still ached a little when I thought of it.

Dinner was sandwiches, easy to make and easy to eat. No one complained about the lack of a hot meal. The mood was unusual; all the other passages I’d been on had an almost festive air, even when it had been rough. Christine would find some out of the way place to do her yoga, then watch the sea go by for hours. Mat bustled around, plotting our course, checking the weather, suggesting tweaks to the sail trim. Sometimes we’d catch a fish. Martin and I played cards. It sounds mundane, but with everyone aboard doing their own thing, days and nights at sea felt as much like a quiet party as they did work. It was obvious that all of them loved being on the water.

But now it felt like all of us just wanted to get there. It was only an overnighter and it wasn’t terribly comfortable. Plus we’d been in the same small area for much longer than anywhere else, at least since I’d been aboard. It was almost like we were out of practice.

“This blows,” Christine said, as if she’d been reading my mind. “Pacific ocean my ass.”

Isaac barked a laugh, but the deepening frown lines made it clear that he felt the same way.

“It’s an el niño year,” Mat said. “We should expect ‘enhanced trades’.” She made air quotes with her fingers. “Still, I wouldn’t have left if the forecast had actually called for this.” She gestured at the wind meter, which now fluctuated between the high thirties and low forties.

“You know what they say about predictions,” Isaac said.

“They’re difficult,” Mat answered as if they’d had this back and forth a million times before, “especially about the future.”

“So, if you can’t trust the weather forecast,” I said, concerned, “how can you do anything?”

Mat shrugged. “The forecasts are almost always right in the overall pattern — where the wind is coming from, what the trend is, the general windspeed. The trouble is that they have a false sense of accuracy. The forecast is for 25 knots from the north northeast and then we get mad when the wind is only 15 and it’s more easterly.”

“In the grand scheme of things that’s really close,” Isaac said with a shrug. “But a couple of knots or a few degrees is the difference between a beautiful beam reach and a painful windward slog.”

“Basically,” Mat said, “you make your best decision with the information you have available. Then deal with what you actually get.”

“Just like everything in life,” Jimmy added, then disappeared with the remains of our meal.

Everything they said made perfect sense, but I couldn’t help but feel like in the two weeks we’d been hanging around Mo’orea I’d lost whatever sea legs I’d acquired in the previous month. I wasn’t in love with that idea, and I sure hoped that it wouldn’t take another set of cracked ribs to get them back.

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