Short Story Fiction
A Close Call
Scott A. Gese

His boat was adrift in the Pacific. It was heading for the jagged rocks of a deserted atoll. Time was not on his side.

a close callKrystel Hayes/Unsplash

Harlen Jacobey was an avid sailor. Over the past twenty years he had sailed around the world several times over. He was no stranger to the open water of the Pacific ocean.

He had more experience at the helm than most of the sailors he knew. At the moment, all of his past experience counted for nothing. At the moment, he found himself ten miles North of the Marshall Islands and in a predicament. His 27 ft. Albin Vega was adrift on the windless waters of Micronesia with his engine giving him problems. This wasn’t the first time the wind had failed him nor was it the first time his engine had done the same. It was the first time it had happened in tandem.

He was now captive to the strong current which was pulling him toward one of the many atoll’s in the area. The atoll’s in Micronesia are plentiful but not all are populated. The one he was heading for he knew for a fact was deserted. Crashing into the rocks of a deserted atoll could be one of the worst things that could happen to him. He could end up stranded there never to be found.

~~~

The day started like many others. A slight morning breeze held the promise of a productive day. If it continued he would make good time. By mid-morning things had changed. The breeze had all but disappeared. He wasn’t worried. His boat was equipped with a small engine. He used it periodically to keep the ocean current from pulling his boat off course until the wind picked up again.

All was well until late afternoon when his engine decided to go as dead as the mornings breeze. Harlen retrieved his toolbox and went to work on the engine. He checked the wiring for shorts, cleaned the spark plugs, filters, fuel lines and made minor adjustments wherever possible. He knew his engine inside and out but nothing he did seemed to work.

The sun was getting low and the tide was getting high. In the distance he could see a sandy shore as well as a smattering of hazardous jagged rocks. That didn’t bode well for him or his boat, the Antebellum.

Harlen kept working. He wasn’t having much luck with the engine. The rocks were getting closer. Soon the waves would pull him toward danger. Time could be his friend or his enemy. At the moment it was the latter. He refused to give up.

His boat was equipped with halogen lights. In a few minutes he would need them.

Once the sun had set he stopped working only long enough to turn them on. He strained to see past their reach, but it was useless. They didn’t shine out far enough. He could only hear the waves in the distance as they beat against the jagged rocks he had seen earlier.

He recalled a clearing between the rocks and hoped he was drifting toward it. If he was lucky, he would skirt the danger zone and make it to the beach unscathed. But that was a big if.

He was running out of the precious little time he had left.

Not finding a problem with the engine itself, he started troubleshooting the fuel lines and valves leading to the engine. Maybe something was clogging them.

Another few minutes and he’d be hitting the rocks. He kept working. Trying whatever he could think of. He switched the fuel valve to the spare tank. He tried to start the engine. No go.

In a last ditch effort he cut the line from the valve and shoved the loose end directly into the tank. He tried to start the engine again. It sputtered, then died. He was getting dangerously close to the rocks. Again he tried to start the engine. Again it sputtered, then took off.

Harlen focused the light just in front of the bow. The rocks were directly ahead. There was no room to turn around so Harlen steered his boat directly toward the sandy shore. He quickly maneuvered to the starboard side of the closest rocks and skirted them but the boat glanced off a rock on the port side. A narrow passage opened up ahead. He took advantage of it and beached the boat.

It was a long night as he worked to keep his boat afloat in the changing tide.

The following morning he checked the Antebellum for damages. She had a few scratches and a damaged keel but she was still seaworthy. A strong breeze allowed him to slowly limp her to the nearest port to get the needed repairs. He took advantage of his down time to enjoy his unscheduled stay on the Marshall Islands.

© Copyright 2023 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.


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