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Winchester Harbor book cover

Winchester Harbor
Book One of the Full Sails Series
Wes Boyd
©2011, ©2013

Chapter 8

When I finally got into the kitchen the next morning I found Barb waiting for me. “I was beginning to wonder if you were still alive,” she said through a grin, showing that she had a pretty good idea of what had happened the night before.

“Well, it did go a little late last night,” I replied noncommittally.

“It’s good you’re here. I was about ready to come and get you. Nate’s here and wants to know if you’d like to go out with him today. It’s no problem for me, I don’t think we’re going to be that busy.”

“Yeah, I think I can stand a peaceful day on the water after yesterday.” I went out to the front room, where Nate was at a table with three customers. A little surprisingly, Rachel was sitting with them, wearing jeans and a T-shirt. “What are you doing here?” I asked her. “I thought you were still in school.”

“Finals week,” she grinned, flashing a mouthful of braces at me. “They don’t make you take finals if you’ve got all A’s.”

“Nice work if you can get it.”

“Oh, I’d rather be out in the boat than sitting around doing that school stuff, anyway” she smiled. “Only a couple more years of it, thank goodness.”

“Glad you’re going with us today,” Nate said. “I don’t know how often we’re going to be able to go with the three of us, and I wanted to give you some idea of what happens down in the cockpit. It’ll be a long time before you’re good at it ’cause it takes practice, but you might as well get started on it now so you have some idea of what’s going on.”

A few minutes later we were getting aboard the Chinook III. Rachel was up on the flying bridge while I stayed on the dock. As soon as the customers were aboard, she started the engines. “OK, Jake,” she yelled. “Cast us off, would you?”

“Sure thing,” I said and went to toss the bow line up on the deck. The stern line soon followed. I stepped aboard and was coiling up the lines as she powered up the boat and headed down the channel. I’d seen Rachel running the boat before, it wasn’t new to me, but I noticed that Nate wasn’t paying any attention to what she was doing. He had his mind on getting the fishing rig set. It showed that he had a lot of confidence in his young daughter, and even the customers didn’t seem to make any big deal out of it.

I didn’t pay much attention to her myself after that, since Nate was busy showing me the gear and how it was set up. I was a little familiar with it from the times I’d watched it from the flying bridge, but actually being down with it was new to me, and there were a lot of things going on that I hadn’t understood before. I think Nate could have done it faster by himself, but at least this was giving me the chance to learn the hands-on part of it.

We were maybe half an hour out on the lake and still running for the fishing grounds when I felt Rachel turning the boat pretty hard all of a sudden. Both Nate and I looked up, wondering what was going on. Rachel yelled down, “I caught a pretty good school off to one side on the fish finder. It’s probably worth taking a look at it. I’m going to swing around to come at it going upwind. Rig the bombs for about seventy feet.”

“That means we’re going to get some fish,” Nate said to the customers. “The kid can smell ’em, I’ll tell you.”

We had to hustle around to get the gear rigged. Rachel ran downwind a ways, then turned around and idled the boat to give us some time to get everything set up. Nate yelled at her to go ahead and get moving as soon as we had everything down and fishing, and I don’t think it took five minutes before we had not one, but two fish on. Nate and I got the other lines in, and two of the customers were having healthy fights. Had to be some big ones down there, I thought.

I soon discovered I was right; in the next fifteen minutes or so we boated a couple of big Chinook, as big as that trophy we’d brought in the first time I’d been on the boat. More importantly, I learned a lot about how to handle a boat with fish on just from watching Rachel. I could see that she really knew what she was doing, and knew how to use the boat to help the customer fight the fish. A little something told me that what she had wasn’t something you learned – there had to be some instinct involved. What’s more, when I’d been with Nate he’d been keeping an eye on the cockpit fish finder, but today Rachel had the duty up top, and really was doing a better job of it than I’d seen Nate do. I figured that was probably because when I was with him he had so much else to do. It was clear that I had a lot to learn.

We’d just boated the second fish and were getting some pictures when she called down from the flying bridge again. “We’ve gotten a little downwind of that bunch,” she reported. “I think maybe we’d better turn around and try it again. I get the impression there’s some bigger ones down there.”

“Fine with me,” Nate told her. “Turn us around and get set, then tell us when to get the rig down.”

Rachel was really hot stuff with that fish finder, and I couldn’t help but wonder how well she’d do as a sonarman in the Navy, looking for subs. We stayed on that school the rest of the morning, boating several more good ones. It wasn’t long past noon when Nate said, “Well, that’s it for today. We’ve hit the limit, so we might as well head back in and call it a day.”

We ate our lunches as we headed back into shore. There were some happy fishermen there; there were some big fish, and some big grins as a result. While the customers sat out of the wind telling tall fish stories, Nate and I turned to putting the gear away. “So did you learn anything today?” he asked.

“Yeah, I learned that I’ve got a hell of a lot to learn.”

“That’s the biggest thing you need to know,” Nate said. “There’s no reason you can’t learn this stuff, but it’s going to take a while. Look, if you want to keep doing this some, I’ll talk with Barb to see if I can get you free a little more often.”

“Sure. I can see there’s going to be some hot days on the fuel dock, and it’d be nice to have a break from them once in a while.”

Things around the Channel Stop perked up as the week went by. Memorial Day weekend was busy, and it got under way early. This was partly because it was a three-day weekend that people used a little extra vacation time to stretch it out, and partly because it was a good three-day weekend for people to bring their bigger boats north for the summer. Either way, we pumped a lot of fuel.

It didn’t hurt that the weather stayed nice, unseasonably warm at that. It was busy enough on the fuel dock that Susie came out to help me when it got really hectic, wearing that black one-piece that looked so good on her. Even though I was busy as hell, I still took chances to check her out, but there were other things to check out, too.

One of the interesting things about working the fuel dock was that I got to check out the people on the boats. Several times over the course of the day big power cruisers pulled in, anywhere from thirty to fifty feet, usually crewed by a family, sometimes two. If there were young teenage girls on board, say twelve to fifteen, or even younger, more often than not the girls would be wearing tiny bikinis that even a stripper would find scanty. They didn’t seem to think much about it, as if it was the way things ought to be and didn’t much care who saw them. While I like checking out cute girls in tiny bikinis as much as the next guy and probably more than some, it bothered me a little. I mean, didn’t their parents care? Or maybe, did the old man like checking out plenty of prime teenage flesh, even if it was on a look-but-don’t-touch basis?

I mentioned it to Susie during a brief break in the action. “Yeah, it makes me wonder too,” she replied. “And I’ve been watching it happen a lot longer than you have. Hell, I wouldn’t wear a bikini that brief anymore unless I was sunbathing in private.”

“Maybe it’s part of growing up.”

“Could be,” she said. “I think some girls at that age have some idea of the power of their sexuality, but haven’t quite managed to get their minds around the pitfalls.”

“Yeah, you could be right,” I agreed. “But somehow I can’t imagine someone like Brittany or my sister Lisa wearing a bikini like that at that age. Shit, the folks would have gone up like a rocket.”

“Well, maybe you just never caught them,” she said with a smile. “Obviously these kids have parents who think a little differently.”

We didn’t get much more chance to talk about it just then; we had things to do and there were boats waiting both upstream and downstream to get to the fuel dock. I finished fueling a thirty-footer that had a couple of those barely bikini-clad sexy teenyboppers aboard and got their dad to sign the credit card slip while he had the bilge blowers going before starting the engine. With gas engines on inboard boats there’s a risk of an explosion when starting if you don’t blow the gas fumes out of the bilge, especially after fueling. He started the engines as soon as he thought it was even marginally safe, and I went to cast off the lines so the next boat could get to the dock.

The guy I had just filled must have thought he was a hot-shit boat handler or else was really in a hurry to get someplace, because he tried to turn the boat on its keel in the narrow channel so he could get back out on the lake. It could be done with a boat that big if the driver knew what he was doing, but he didn’t quite make it. He ran the boat aground lightly on the far side of the channel and had to back it off in order to get moving, which blocked traffic up a bit. I’ll admit that I was watching this – and the two teeny-bopper girls in bikinis, of course, first things first – and didn’t really pay attention to what was happening on the dock until my view was blocked by another cruiser coming in to fuel. This was a bigger boat, maybe forty or forty-five feet, and there were a number of guys and girls around my age or younger on board, the girls all in bikinis, of course.

One of the guys tossed me the bow line, and I tied it off to a cleat on the dock. Although the guy running the boat was my age at the most, he seemed to know what he was doing; it only took a little gunning of the engine to get the stern over to where someone could get a line to me. “Can you fill her with diesel?” the guy running the boat asked.

“I can, but you’re going to have to show me where the fill spout is,” I told him, glancing past him to see that the hot shit in the thirty-footer had gotten off the ground on the far side of the channel. As I watched he opened the boat up, kicking up a huge wake. That was a no-no in the channel, which supposedly was no-wake, but there always seemed to be some idiot who can’t read the signs.

“No problem, it’s back toward the stern,” he said. “Hey, do you know if there’s any slips open up in the harbor? A couple of the girls have had about all the bouncing around they can take for one day.”

“Probably, since it’s still early, but I don’t know for sure,” I told him. “If all else fails, there’s plenty of room to anchor out on the south side of the harbor.”

“Great, we’ll go take a look after we get topped off. I’ve had about all I want for one day myself.”

“You need a pump out?”

“No, nowhere near it yet, we’ll get the holding tank pumped when we put the boat away,” he said.

That was just fine with me. With the line of boats we had waiting I didn’t want to have to put the extra time into a pump out, and I knew it wasn’t anywhere near as profitable as selling fuel. I went and got the diesel hose, pulled a big loop of it out onto the dock, then clambered over the side of the boat with the nozzle in my hand. In only a matter of seconds I had fuel running into the tanks, and from the sound of it, the boat was going to take quite a bit of filling. “You come very far?” I said, to be conversational.

“Bolles Harbor, down on Lake Erie,” he said. “We stayed at Harbor Beach last night. I thought we were going to be able to make it all the way from there when we fueled up, but I guess I was running it a little harder than I should have.”

“Yeah, it can get away from you,” I said, realizing that he was going to be putting a nice chunk of change onto the credit card slip and into Barb’s bank account.

He started to say something in reply but I never heard what it was, because what I did hear was a familiar voice. “Jake! What are you doing here?”

I glanced over to see my sister Lisa coming up the companionway, wearing a blue and white patterned bikini so tiny that it would make one of those teeny-boppers on hot-shit’s boat look conservative. “Filling this guy’s boat with diesel,” I said, almost immediately getting a little hot under the collar. The last time I had seen her wasn’t pretty. The words “fuck you” hadn’t been used but the meaning had sure been flying around in both directions. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s kind of a long story,” she replied a little sheepishly, apparently mindful that she was as close to naked as I’d ever seen her except when I accidentally caught her coming back from the shower one time years before. “Greg here had to take his dad’s boat up north for the summer and invited some friends, and well, they invited some friends, too. I didn’t realize it was going to be so rough. What have you been doing with yourself? Is this where you’ve been? You could have at least called and let someone know where you were.”

“I didn’t bother,” I told her, getting my back up a little. “No one wanted to listen to my side of the story anyway. All everyone wanted to do was to get on my case. You shouldn’t have worried. A sex pervert like me can always find a place to land.”

“Oh, God, I should never have called you that,” she said apologetically. “I guess I was pissed and I didn’t really mean it.”

“Well, you sure sounded like you meant it,” I sneered, starting to really get pissed, now – all of the anger of the day a couple months before started washing back over me, and all of the hurt. “If that’s what everybody thought about me after what happened with Brittany and no one wanting to hear what I had to say, I guess I had all the reason in the world to think you meant it. And just for the record, I never asked her to put out for me, I never even hinted at it. What she did was her decision, only it was my ass that got burned.”

“That’s what nobody can understand. What happened with you and Brittany? One minute everything was fine, and the next minute you seemed to think that she was the scum of the earth.”

“I don’t see why Brittany should be so upset,” I told her. “She got what she wanted, and it was clear it wasn’t me.”

“But she doesn’t understand,” Lisa protested. “She said she’s as mystified as anyone else about why you ran off without a word to her.”

“There wasn’t anything that needed to be said,” I snorted. “I saw what I saw, and that was all I needed to see.”

“But Jake, what was it?”

I was getting tired of this discussion. Everything that needed saying had been said two months before. “If she’s not telling you what happened, she’s not being honest with you,” I told her. “Just like she wasn’t being honest with me.”

“But Jake, she’s so worried about you, she wants you back.”

“I really doubt that,” I told her. “Otherwise she wouldn’t have pulled the shit on me that she did. But you just go ask her what she was doing the weekend we were supposed to be in Kentucky, and if she tells you the truth you’ll know why I don’t want anything more to do with her. Now, give it a rest, Lisa, or there’s going to be diesel fuel all over the ass end of this boat, and this guy’s dad is going to be really pissed at me.” With that I turned my attention back to the filler hose; I could tell by the sound that the tank was getting full.

“But I don’t understand,” she said. “She couldn’t have done anything wrong.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” I shot back. “She did a lot wrong, and I was the one who got it in the back. You’d just better damn well understand that she can fuck up, too. She really fucked it up with me, and I just consider myself lucky that I found out in time.”

I really, really wanted to tell Lisa what had happened when I’d followed Brittany and her new boyfriend to the motel, but it was clear that she wouldn’t have believed me if I told her, or would have made some excuse. Nothing had changed; fair-haired Brittany could do no wrong, at least in Lisa’s eyes, and I couldn’t do anything right. Well, the hell with the both of them. I didn’t say anything for the next couple minutes while I finished filling the tank. When I finished, I shut off the nozzle, put the cap back on the tank, and stood up. “OK,” I told the guy running the boat. “Let me get this line back on the dock, and I’ll get the credit card machine.”

“Jake,” Lisa yelled. “The least you could do is talk to me.”

“We’ve done all the talking we need to do,” I said with a sneer. “Now if you haven’t noticed, we’ve got a line of boats waiting for fuel, so I don’t have the time to screw around here talking anyway.” I don’t know what got into me, but I added, “I’ll be down here on the dock until at least nine tonight, and maybe later. Once you get the boat in the slip up at the harbor, you can walk back down and talk if you want, but I’ve already told you what you need to hear.”

With that, I climbed back over the side of the boat, went up to the fuel reel and set the motor to reeling the hose in. I got the credit card machine – we were so busy that day that we were keeping it down on the dock – did the credit card business and took the slip back to the guy to sign. “Sorry about the hassle,” I told him, trying to be businesslike. “I wasn’t expecting that, and I don’t think we should have aired out the family dirty laundry in front of everyone, anyway.”

“Yeah, well, that shit happens,” the guy said. “No big deal. I’ll get right out of here, maybe that will cool things down.”

“Would be appreciated,” I said, looking over at Lisa, who was looking daggers at me. It was clear that she wanted to get right down to the bottom of things right now, but I’d pretty well made it clear to her that I wasn’t playing that game, at least not by her rules.

Unlike with gas engines, diesels don’t require a bilge blower, so the guy started the boat right up while I went to get the lines. In a minute he was pulling away from the dock, with Lisa standing in the back still looking ready to fight. Shit, I thought. Glad that’s over with, but Lord knows why I invited her back to talk. If we hadn’t been so damn busy I’d have been willing to go throw my stuff in the car and take off for somewhere else, just to avoid having to deal with her.

“Jesus,” Susie said, watching them pull out. The boat she’d been dealing with was pulling out too, so we had a minute to talk. “What was that all about?”

“My sister,” I told her. “The one who thinks that my old girlfriend can do no wrong. She was all ready to have it out with me.”

“That’s the girl who dumped you, right?”

“Not exactly dumped me but it amounts to the same thing. I found her cheating on me with another guy, and mostly dumped her. Same thing.”

“Yeah, you told me the story, and I think Debby told me more about it than you did. So what’s the deal now?”

“Oh, I think Lisa has ideas of getting me back together with Brittany, but it’s not going to happen. It’s not over yet. They’re heading up to get a slip in the harbor, so I’d bet Lisa will be back here in a while to take another swing at me.”

We didn’t get a chance to talk about it anymore just then, as both the fueling docks had boats pulling up to them. Although Lisa had come out of nowhere and hadn’t known I was here, she’d gone right on the attack. It was just the same as always – as far as she and my family were concerned, Brittany could do no wrong and I could do no right. If Lisa came back to talk to me, it was going to be more of the same. Now just what the hell was I going to do?

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