Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

Pulling Even
Book Seven of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2004, 2009, 2011

Chapter 32

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Randy knew jack shit about sailing and he made no secret about it. Back when he was in high school, a friend of his father brought a Lightning up to Spearfish Lake and Randy got to ride on it a couple times. That was the extent of his sailboat knowledge, so he figured the most use he could be was to stay the hell out of the way of those people who knew what they were doing. Dave and Mary were about level with his knowledge, but Michelle had done this before. On top of that, Jim knew his way around a sailboat, but Scooter was far away the expert and the acknowledged captain. She'd spent her summers in junior high and high school crewing on her uncle's skipjack, an oyster boat in Chesapeake Bay, so the Felicity Ann was small potatoes to her.

They were up and around fairly early, grabbed some breakfast and took a taxi to the dock in Marsh Harbour where they were chartering the boat. Since Scooter had been through the routine of doing the charter before and the people at the charter agency knew her, it went quickly, and they started loading their gear.

The Felicity Ann was a lot bigger than the Lightning that Randy remembered, but it really wasn't all that big of a boat. It had been fine for Scooter, Michelle, and Crystal the year before, but with six aboard it was going to be a little snugger. After some kicking it around, it was decided that Randy would get the quarter berth right by the hatch out into the cockpit and opposite the tiny kitchen; it would be snug, with his legs extending out under the cockpit seat a ways when he was sleeping. There was room enough for his gear in a locker under his bunk; his guitar and Michelle's fit nicely into a hanging locker near his head. There was just enough room for everything, but with none to spare.

With his stuff stowed away, he came back on deck, the excitement rising in him. He'd envied the girls this trip the last two years, and had been offered the chance to join them the previous year, but had turned it down since he didn't think it was right to be spending weeks on a tiny boat with three single girls. Whether anything happened or not, it wouldn't look right to Nicole, even though she'd urged him to do it. Now he was really getting to do it. It had been a long time since he'd had a new adventure, and this was going to be it.

"All right, people," he heard Scooter say. "Let's get this show on the road. We didn't come down here to spend all day tied to the pier."

"Ready when you are, Skip," Michelle replied. "There's a bar out there somewhere with our name on it."

Scooter reached into her pocket – she was wearing shorts and what appeared to be one of Jim's shirts – and pulled out a cigar and lighter. On the Colorado, her traditional way of greeting customers as they got off the bus from Las Vegas was to do it with a cigar in her mouth. It not only set the tone for the trip, it sent a non-verbal message to the customers about what kind of a trip leader she was: a woman who smoked cigars was a tough customer and out of the ordinary. Apparently the tradition held true here.

"What do you want me to do besides stay the hell out of the way?" Randy asked as she lit the cigar.

She let out a puff of smoke and watched it roll out over the water away from the dock. She took a look around the area eyeing the slight breeze blowing ripples onto the water, then said, "Shouldn't be any reason we can't sail right out of here. I haven't farted around with a kicker down here yet and there's no reason to today. Michelle, take the jib; get set to raise it when I tell you; I think we're going to need it to kick the bow around, then stand by the main. Jim, take the sheets; we may have to get a little cute. Dave, Randy, why don't the two of you get up on the pier? When I tell you, cast off the lines, toss them on board and hop on yourselves. When we get away from the pier a little you can haul in the fenders. Let's be about it, people."

As he got up on the pier and headed for the bow line, Randy glanced at the people from the charter agency who were standing on the pier watching with interest. From their amusement, he guessed that people usually didn't sail away from the dock. "Ready when you are, Scoot," he said.

"OK, bring in the lines, let's get going." Scooter called. "Michelle, hoist the jib. Jim, sheet it in tight."

It took a moment to get the bow line untied. Randy tossed it onto the foredeck, then took a few steps back to where the boat was resting against the dock and hopped aboard. It was a couple more steps to get to the cockpit. "Where do you want me to be to stay the hell out of the way?" he asked Scooter.

"Oh, back there in the ass end somewhere," she said, keeping an eye on the jib as it filled. "Don't worry, we'll have you doing some of the fun stuff sooner or later."

Randy found a seat right in the stern of the boat and watched what was happening. What breeze there was came off the pier at a slight cross angle. As it filled the jib, it began to push the boat away from the pier, and tried to swing the boat around. Given the big keel on the Felicity Ann, it turned slowly, even with the helm far over. When they were a boat length or so away from the pier Scooter said, "OK, Michelle, might as well get the main up so we can get out of here. Jim, we're far enough around now, you can sheet out the jib a bit to get us moving. You'll have to play with the main sheet a bit."

"Got you, Scoot," he replied.

In a minute or so, the main was up and the sail was filling. The Felicity Ann was moving at the speed of a slow walk, heading away from the pier, with their inflatable Zodiac raft following along behind on a tow line. They were still close enough that they could hear the call from the charter agent: "Well done, Felicity Ann."

"Thanks!" Scooter called back. "We'll see you in a couple weeks." In a somewhat lower voice, she said to her crew. "Shit, that wasn't no big trick. They probably get bozos down here all the time who don't know anything about sailing and think they know it all. My uncle would have thought that was a bit sloppy, but it got the job done."

"You made it look pretty simple," Mary commented.

"It is pretty simple if you know how to do it," Scooter said. "Just like running a rapids; you have to know what you're doing."

The breeze stayed light as they crossed the harbor, heading for the mouth, but as they got out on the open ocean it picked up a bit. Soon the Felicity Ann was bounding happily along over light waves and a rolling swell. "Now this," Scooter said, "Is more like it. Anyone up for a beer?"

Randy decided he could handle one. He really wasn't up for heavy drinking this morning but this was a vacation after all, and a beer would taste good. He started for the icebox in the galley, but Mary beat him to it and started handing up beers; he passed them out all around, and lay back to take in the day.

He could get used to this, he thought as he felt the wind and the sun on his face. It was warm, the sky was blue. Spearfish Lake, Clark Construction, and winter, especially winter, seemed far away. It would have been nice to have Nicole here; he missed her already, but still it was nice to be aboard. He had two weeks before he had to get back to the grind, but the new gym at Blair and the ski lodge at Three Cherries were far in the back of his mind, and they could damn well stay there for all he was concerned.

"Hey, Randy, Michelle," he heard Scooter say. "You two might want to be thinking about some sunscreen. The rest of us have been in the Mexican sun enough that it shouldn't matter, but you don't want to fuck up your trip with a bad sunburn."

"Yeah, good thought," he heard Michelle say. "You don't get a good suntan at ten below under a parky and four layers of underwear."

"No shit," Randy agreed. "In fact, I might as well get some clothes off and get serious about picking up some sun." He'd been wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt since the morning had been a bit cool, but it was warming up now, even out in the nice breeze. He usually didn't burn much, but he was going to be out in the sun a lot, so it probably was a good idea to be working on it. He got up and headed down to the main cabin, and peeled down to a swimsuit, but decided to keep a T-shirt on for now. He brought the tube of sunscreen back up on deck with him and started spreading it.

He was partly through the process when he heard Scooter say loudly, "Holy shit! I think hell just froze over!"

"What?" he heard Jim say.

"The world is about to come to an end," Scooter said in amazement. "I never thought I'd see the day when I saw Michelle in a one-piece swimsuit."

That was enough to cause him to raise his head and look at the hatchway, where Michelle stood posing with a huge smirk on her face. Yes, it was a one-piece swimsuit much like the ones that Nicole and Myleigh had worn to tease Crystal and Preach, except that this was made of even thinner material than the T-shirt material those had. It wasn't quite transparent, but nearly so, and you could see everything without trying. "You like it?" Michelle grinned, turning around to show her almost-bare backside; the strings that held it on weren't fishing line, but close to it. "Randy's wife made it for me."

"Yeah, you ought to be able to get a tan in that," Scooter shook her head. "Randy, does Nicole wear a swimsuit like that?"

"Oh, yeah," he laughed. "Myleigh has one, too. I guess Trey really liked it on their honeymoon when she had it on, which I heard wasn't for long."

"I'd think Myleigh would be embarrassed to wear something like that," Scooter laughed.

"Oh, she was," Randy said, "Considering that they spent their honeymoon at a nude beach."

"She what?" Scooter replied in heightened amazement.

"Oh, yeah," Randy grinned. "I have to admit, I wouldn't have minded seeing that. I'm tempted to take Nicole down there with me some time."

"You guys don't know Myleigh," Scooter said to Dave and Mary, who were sitting back watching the exchange. "She seems like the straightest little thing on the face of the earth most of the time, but every now and then she manages to remind you that she's a nutcase who can sometimes put Michelle in the shade. Randy, there's got to be a story there. Now, give!"

"Myleigh's not a nutcase, she's just Myleigh," he said. "The fact that there's no one else on the face of the earth quite like her is beside the point." While Michelle put on sunscreen, he went on to tell the story of how Trey misunderstood the travel agent, but that the two of them had taken the mistake in stride and had a wonderful time. "It's not that big of a deal among friends," he finished up. "Hell, we had Crystal and Preach nude in the hot tub with us."

"Now we're stretching the realm of belief," Scooter shook her head. "I can believe Crystal, but Preach? No way!"

"Well, Crystal didn't get his shorts off of him the first time until he was in the tub," Randy admitted as he leaned back over the rail a little to stretch. "And he was the last one out by a long margin. After that first time, though, no problem."

"Sheee-yit," Scooter shook her head, stretching it out. "Maybe she's getting to him a little after all. I've known Preach for years, clear back to the Ocoee days, and I would have never believed that would happen."

Randy started to reply but felt someone getting onto his lap. He looked down to see Michelle getting settled in there, face down, holding out her own tube of sunscreen. "Hey, Randy," she said. "Do my back, would you?"

"Michelle," he said, examining the expanse of bare skin facing him. Despite the small girl, there was an awful lot of skin there and not much in the way of swimsuit to cover it. "I, uh, don't know that I ought to be doing this."

"Oh, hell," she snorted. "It's just sunscreen, between friends."

"Yeah, but . . ."

"But nothing, but you can do my butt, too. Randy, we agreed, no fucking or anything like that, but Nicole told me to get you wound up and I need to get started sometime."

"Oh, shit, you would," he shook his head, squeezing out a blob of sunscreen into his hand. "Christ, this is going to be a long two weeks."

"Too bad we agreed on no fucking," she smirked. "You're poking me in the belly pretty good, but I don't think either Nicole or Duane would like me to try it on for size."

"You know," he sighed, "I really ought to be back in Spearfish Lake freezing my ass off."

"That's it, Randy," she laughed. "Think cool thoughts, but do a real good job on my butt while you're at it."

The next couple minutes were both agony and ecstasy for Randy. Michelle did have nice warm, soft skin to touch and rub and knead – but Nicole's was even nicer to his mind. There was both sadness and relief when he told her he was done, and she got off his lap. "Good job, Randy," she smirked. "You can do that for me again."

"Like I said, this is going to be a long fucking two weeks."

"No," she laughed. "It's going to be a long non-fucking two weeks for both of us, but Nicole is going to be really glad to see you home, and I sure hope Duane is still there when I get back."

He shook his head. "That's going to make it even harder."

"Randy, I don't think it can be much harder, but I'm going to try."

Scooter let out a laugh. "Looks like it's going to be that kind of trip, doesn't it, Randy? Why don't you get your mind off it by taking over for me for a while? I'd like to get into a little less in the way of clothes myself."

"I'd love to," he shook his head. "But I don't know the first thing about these things."

"No need," she said. "Just hang onto the wheel and keep it pointed in the right direction. The compass is right here," she said, pointing casually at it, "In case you need help. If you think something's going bad, sing out and Jim or Michelle or I will take care of it."

"Well, all right," he replied dubiously, but glad of the opportunity to do something. Just sitting back and letting everyone else do the work was starting to bug him – he much preferred to be a participant in something, rather than a spectator.

He got on the wheel as Scooter stepped aside, and played with it a little to see what kind of response came from an input. Little was needed, so he relaxed a little while Scooter sat beside him for a couple minutes to make sure he was all right with it, then headed below. After a few more minutes, he began to get a little used to it. This was fun, even though he wasn't doing much. Maybe, he thought, if he had a little more time this summer than he'd had in past years, he ought to get a little sailboat and learn something about this. Spearfish Lake was pretty big and he ought to be able to do some sailing on it. He could learn something about it on this trip, too – in fact, could learn quite a bit from Scooter and Jim if he paid attention this trip.

He leaned back, checked out the view of Michelle lying on the windward deck beside the cabin, catching some sun and decided it was quite a view. He noticed that Mary was up on the deck a few feet ahead of Michelle, wearing a brief bikini and brushing out her hair. She usually kept it in a braid, but it was now loose and blowing in the wind, obviously more than waist length. Now that she had on shades instead of the goofy looking glasses she normally wore, with the long fall of red hair blowing in the wind she seemed like a totally different person.

A few minutes later, Scooter came up from below wearing a bikini bottom. Nothing else, just the bottom, and there wasn't much of that. Scooter often wore shirts that sometimes made it hard to tell that she was really a woman, but topless there could be no doubt of it. "Did you forget something, Scooter?" he asked as nonchalantly as he could.

"Nope," she grinned. "I just figured since this is obviously going to be that kind of trip I might as well enjoy it too."

"Yeah, what the hell," Mary agreed as she untied hers.

As the day wore on and everyone one on the Felicity Ann wore less, the wind and the waves picked up. For a couple hours it was a pretty exhilarating ride, if a wearing one. The boat was sailing with a lot of heel, hobby-horsing up and down on seas that were coming in from one side of the bow. After a while, Scooter could see the motion was starting to get to everyone a little but Jim and herself. There was no point in having people hanging over the side on the first day of the trip, so she unilaterally made the decision to call it a day a little early. There was a small town up ahead with what looked to be a pretty good harbor, so it seemed like a reasonable place to head in.

Things eased up as they got into the lee of the island, and they were all back to feeling pretty perky once things smoothed out. Since they were getting near other people again, Scooter and Mary put their tops on, and Michelle went below to change into a bikini. It seemed positively tame to Randy compared to her earlier one-piece.

There was no place to land against a pier, so Scooter had them anchor a ways out from town. "We sorta skipped lunch," Scooter said. "Not that I think anyone felt much like eating anyway. What do you say we find a halfway decent restaurant, lay down a good base, and then see what the bars in this place are like?"

She quickly got five affirming votes. Soon, they were dressed to hit the beach, and all clambered into the Zodiac that they towed behind the Felicity Ann, to head for shore. "Damn, it feels good to have a raft under me again," Mary said. "Shit, it's been almost two months, and it'll be another three before we're back on the river. I hate winter."

Dave wasn't much to say anything, mostly because he had a bad stutter and preferred to let Mary do the talking, anyway. "Y-yeah," he said, "M-Mexico is all r-right, b-b-but g-give me the c-c-canyon any t-time."

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To be continued . . .

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