Overnight the gale quit. The breakers retreated from the battered beaches and joined the dying whitecaps offshore. At dawn the swollen sea was still brooding over its latest outbreak, taking deep, heavy breaths to calm down. It wasn’t the first time the sea got this angry, nor would it be the last.
Fish emerge from the depths to feed nearer to the surface after the storm. I, too, am jittery and need to take to the sea. I cast off Sayonara, my 18-foot boat, and ease her out of the cove. Once clear of the shallows, I open the throttle three notches short of full and head to the farthest fishing ground known to me or to any of the islanders. Tiller loosely held in the crook of my arm, I light up a roll of tobacco and savor the smoke and salt as they course through my airways in a hedonic twirl.
Halfway there, the archipelago disappears below the horizon. The boat has no instruments since I seldom take her this far out of sight of land. I glance at my watch then at the sun and adjust my heading. That’ll do! I always talk to myself when between the sky and the sea. We’ll be there in seventy minutes. This time I talk to Sayonara. I move forward to fetch the baskets. I’ll get the lines ready.
I dead-reckon our position and slow down into a two-minute counterclockwise turn releasing a half-dozen droplines laden with baited hooks. The floats bob with the swell in a perfect circle. As I reach for the second batch of lines the engine sputters making the hairs at the back of my neck stand on end. Before I could reach it, it falters and dies of starvation.
The reserve jerrycan under the bow is full, though. I fill the engine tank and bleed the air from the pipes. These things happen, eh! I attach the hand-crank and have a go at restarting the engine. My hand, slippery with squid and diesel, loses its grip. The hand-crank, jerked loose, barely misses hitting me in the head as it plunges into the sea. My fifty years of seafaring have finally caught up with me.
I set a piece of fuel-soaked cloth at the end of a plank on fire and wave it high overhead. This way, I have a better chance to be spotted at night by a passing freighter or a trawler. After a few nights, however, when no one comes to my rescue, I stop. I’d choose spending my life lost at sea over being grounded without giving it a second thought. All I left behind was an empty shack. I don’t even have a dog. I could survive out here for months, for years, or until the next big storm hits. I lay my back on the foredeck and open my eyes to the stars. The boat squeaks and creaks. We’ll be fine, I run my fingers over her weathered wood, Sayonara.