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Winchester Harbor book cover

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

Chapter 20

Winter settled in cold and hard once the first of the year had passed and Susie and Annette had gone back to college. The channel was now iced over, and even the slow flow of the river underneath the ice couldn’t keep it open. Out at the big lake, the wind blew floes of ice onto the shore in big piles, and there was nothing to be seen but snow and ice as far as the eye could see.

The cold that winter, for us, mostly meant waiting until the ice went away. Fortunately, I had just enough to keep me busy without being frantic about it, and it helped to keep boredom at bay.

The Coast Guard classes for the six-pack license had been in early December. There were only three of us taking the class, and early on we got our heads together with the instructor to meet three times a week instead of the planned once, and for longer sessions, with the idea of getting it over with. Right after the first of the year I took half a day to go to the Coast Guard station in Cheboygan and get going on the paperwork, which was considerable. Nate and I had thought my Navy time might be a little questionable for my required experience, but they didn’t bat an eye and the subject only just barely came up. I had to wait a few days for the ticket to show up in the mail, but I had it and that took a big load off Nate’s mind.

The previous winter Debby and Barb had each taken a month or so off, since either one of them could handle the limited breakfast and lunch business at the Channel Stop by themselves. This year Barb was busy with Marge, and Debby said she didn’t really feel like taking off since she really had no place she wanted to go anyway. She and I worked out a deal where I worked the breakfast and some of the lunch rushes, such as they were, with her being the waitress while I handled the chores in the kitchen. It was intended to improve my skills as a short-order cook in case they might be needed in the future, and for the most part it worked.

Just from helping Debby earlier in the year I’d already become familiar with how to do everything on our limited menu, but now I learned a lot about how to use my time efficiently and get the orders right out. After a while, I realized that I’d added a new skill to the ones I already had, something that might be useful when the time came and I moved on from Winchester.

The way we handled it was that I almost always did the breakfasts, and stayed around until the traffic died out to nothing, which it usually did by nine in the morning, though there were always two or three old guys who could kill the whole morning drinking coffee. If anyone showed up and wanted to eat between nine and noon or so Debby could handle it, doubling as both cook and waitress. I usually came back from Nate’s boat shed to do the lunches, but sometimes not if we’d been working on something particularly messy or stinky. It really wasn’t a big problem for Debby. She could have handled the whole job by herself, and had often done so in previous winters.

The boat work over at Nate’s went on much like before the holidays. The majority of our time was still being spent on the old Chris-Craft, which was starting to come together, but we still had time for the Parabellum. It was coming together too. By the first of January we’d finished the hull work, and settled on the interior rearrangement, a lot of which could be done before we bonded the deck to the hull. By the end of the month we’d done that, and the worst of the stinky fiberglass work was over with, although we still had some to do.

We put a lot of time into the various parts of fitting out, and there was a lot to do, more than I had realized. As I said before, the whole boat was intended to be cheap and the Parabellum people hadn’t missed an opportunity to save a nickel wherever they could on fittings. Some of them were incredibly cheap, and Nate came right out and rejected them: “You don’t want that junk on this boat. It’s gonna break the first time you try to use it.”

As a result we replaced a lot of the cheap parts the Parabellum had come with. Some of it could be done out of inventory that Nate had lying around, and some of it we had to order new from suppliers. A few things we built out of stock, most of which Nate already had, like the new rudder, and the boat’s chain plates, which looked like they’d been made out of used aluminum doors. When we were done, we had a lot sturdier boat than the manufacturer had intended.

We made some other modifications, too. Since we were ordering other fittings, we ordered enough to fly a spinnaker like Rachel and I had used on the last day of our trip down to Sandusky on the Mary Sue the previous summer. It turned out that Nate had a spinnaker that was left over from an earlier boat, and ultimately I ordered a new genoa from a discount sail company that happened to have one of about the right size in stock. This meant that the little Parabellum was going to be quite a bit more capable and a bit faster than the designers had intended.

Between the Chris-Craft and the Parabellum I learned an awful lot about boat building and maintenance from Nate over the winter, things to do and things not to do. I still wouldn’t have made a full boatyard worker, but I learned a lot of the basics and some of the details. It was a valuable education, because Nate knew an awful lot of that stuff and was glad to pass it on.

I was not earning much that winter since I wasn’t charging Nate for my work on the Chris-Craft, nor was he charging me for his work on the Parabellum, and my work at the Channel Stop went to cover my room and board. But I didn’t have many expenses except for the relatively small amount from my savings from over the summer that I was putting into the boat, and I was learning a lot. That seemed like a fair trade to me.

Rachel often came and helped us after school, on both the Chris-Craft and the Parabellum. Since she was quite a bit smaller than either Nate or I, there were times she could wiggle into places we couldn’t get to. Sometimes that proved to be a huge time-saver. Other times, there wasn’t much she could do as we were winding down for the day, but she just hung around taking in the boat feeling in the shed. It was easy to see she was as anxious as the rest of us for the ice to get out of the harbor and the lake, so she could get back on the water.

One afternoon while she was hanging around after school, she brought up the question: “Jake, what are you going to name this boat?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I mostly think of it as ‘The Parabellum.’”

“That’s a silly name for a boat. If you’re going to have a boat you really ought to have a name for it.”

“I’m kind of at a loss about that,” I admitted. “It seems to me that most of the boats I see are named after girlfriends or wives. I can’t name it after Susie or Annette since I’d get the other one pissed off at me, and if I named it after Debby it would get awkward if she manages to get John back. I sure as hell am not going to name it after Brittany, and if I named it after you, people would think we’re doing something we’re not supposed to.”

“I wouldn’t mind it if you named it after me,” she said with a big grin. “In fact, I’d kind of like it.”

“Yeah, but people would be thinking things we’d really rather they weren’t thinking,” I pointed out. “Besides, you’re probably going to get to sail it more than I am, and it would look a little funny if you were sailing a boat named after you.”

“Well, you’re probably right on that,” she admitted. “But still, it ought to have a name.”

“All right, smarty-pants. What would you name it? It has to be something that reflects the boat or something, so no naming it after one of the Seven Dwarfs. Also, nothing about fish, since this isn’t going to be a fishing boat. You can come up with names, and I’ll just veto anything I don’t like.”

We sat around kicking around names for probably close to an hour while we piddled at one or another of the chores that had to be done. Some of the names she came up with weren’t bad, and others left a lot to be desired.

“I know,” she said finally. “This is going to be a little boat and a light one, and I’ll bet with all those extra sails it’s going to be a lively one. How about Pixie?”

I wasn’t totally thrilled with the idea, but I was starting to get a little tired of the discussion so I let her talk me into it. “That’ll do for now,” I told her. “At least unless we can come up with something better between now and the time we have to get the lettering done.”

So, the Parabellum became the Pixie, and after a while it began to grow on me. In a way it really was named after Rachel, which was appropriate because she sometimes seemed like a bit of a pixie herself, and at least it avoided the problem with naming it after her directly.

I was cleaning up around the snack bar after lunch one day not long after that when the phone rang. It rarely did this time of year, and then usually it was someone calling to ask how much longer we’d be open. This time, when Debby answered the phone, she turned to me and said, “It’s for you.”

I thought it might be Nate wanting to call off work for the afternoon – it happened occasionally – but it turned out to be Lisa. At the sound of her voice I was ready for a fight, since her meddling had just about gotten me to that point, but at least I tried to be nice. “What’s been happening with you, Jake?” she asked.

“Oh, about the same as always,” I replied. “Just waiting for spring to get here. How about you?”

“Well, not quite as bad, but I’m still looking forward to spring break,” she replied. “You’ve been hard to get hold of. I’ve tried to call you in the evening several times but nobody answers.”

“This is the phone in the snack bar,” I told her. “Usually there’s nobody here in the evenings this time of year.”

“Well, that makes sense,” she replied. “Look, Jake, I’ve been trying to call you up so I could apologize to you. Back, oh, a week or so ago, I had a long talk with Brittany, trying to get to the bottom of what happened between the two of you.”

Still meddling, I thought, but this might be interesting. “Did she tell you what happened the weekend I was supposed to be in Kentucky?”

“Well, yes,” she replied shyly. “I can see now why she didn’t want to admit it. It turns out she was seeing another guy. I didn’t know that.”

“It was a surprise when I found it out, too,” I told her, realizing that this was going to put a new face on things.

“Look, Jake,” she continued, “she said she got together with him to tell him that they were going to have to break up, since she still felt she had to go to you. There just hadn’t been time for them to get together after you got home, and she said she took the chance with you being gone for the weekend. But I guess it didn’t work, did it.”

“No, it didn’t,” I told her. “And I still think she’s selling you a load of bullshit. From what I saw of the two of them together it didn’t look to me like she was planning on breaking up with him anytime soon, the way they were kissing and holding on to each other. I mean, whatever they were doing in that motel room, his car was still there the next day.”

“You saw them go into a motel?” Lisa replied with a tone of surprise in her voice. “She didn’t tell me that!”

“There’s probably a lot she didn’t tell you,” I pointed out. “Did she say she’d been having sex with him?”

“Noooo,” she admitted grudgingly. “I didn’t think Brittany would do something like that to you.”

“Well, to be absolutely honest, I can’t prove it myself,” I said. “But the way they were acting together and the fact that they were real anxious to get into that motel sure makes two out of one and one for me, if you know what I mean.”

“I can see how it could,” she said with a sigh. “Look, Jake, I’m sorry I was so mean to you about her. But the fact remains that whatever she was doing, she isn’t doing it anymore. Apparently they really did break up. At least she’s not seeing anyone right now, and she still would like to have you back. She misses you, Jake.”

“Tough,” I said, realizing that Lisa had just shown her true colors. When you got right down to it, not much had changed. “After all the negative thinking I’ve been doing about Brittany for about nine months now, I couldn’t care less if I ever see her again.”

“But Jake!” she almost sobbed. “She misses you, and she misses what the two of you had. She really wants to make things right.”

“She lost that chance when she went to bed with that guy, whoever he is,” I told her. “Look, we sort of had an agreement. She wanted to be a virgin when she married, and I went along with it. I wasn’t real happy about it, but that was what she wanted, so that was what she got. I held up my end of the deal, no matter what you might have thought, and she was the one who blew it. If she wants me back, her virginity about has to come with it, and you know as well as I do that once you’ve done it, it ain’t gonna get undone.”

“But Jake! She admits she made a mistake. Can’t you just overlook it?”

“After I held off on pressing her for years, Lisa? I’ll say it again. She wanted to stay a virgin until she got married, but she changed her mind. If she’d cared about me, she at least could have held off until I was available so I could have been the one she lost it with. She didn’t care about me enough to do that, so I saw it as stabbing me in the back. I still pretty much think that. In fact, I’d have to go so far as to say that once a cheater, always a cheater. Tell her for me to find someone she doesn’t have a history with. Fool me once, shame on her. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m not going to take that risk.”

“But Jake!” she said again. I was starting to get tired of that line as she went on, “Isn’t there some way the two of you can get back together? The two of you were so perfect for each other, and now it’s all gone.”

“No, I don’t think there is,” I told her. “Lisa, look. I realize it’s hard for you to understand, but I’ve moved on from the kid I was in high school, and after the last few months I’ve moved on from her. It’s broken, Lisa, and she was the one who broke it. It can’t be put back together, just like she can’t be a virgin ever again.”

“All right, Jake,” she said. “I’ll go and talk to her and give her the bad news. She’s not going to like it. She really wants you back, and she’s really sorry about what happened.”

“Be sure and tell her that it’s not going to happen,” I told her, and tried to change the subject. “So are you going to Florida on spring break?”

“Yeah, we’re counting the days. It’s still a month, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

“Are you going with that Brian guy I met?”

“Probably not,” she said. “We haven’t been seeing much of each other since he’s going to a different school. I’m going down with Brittany and a few other kids from here in the dorm, but I’m hoping I’ll see Brian down there.”

“Well, have a good time and don’t come back with something you don’t want,” I said. “And that includes a sunburn as well as anything else.”

“I’m hoping to have a good time,” she said defensively, realizing what I was talking about and apparently not liking it very much. “Whether it’s with Brian or not.”

“Just so you know,” I replied, “I didn’t say anything about him when I saw the folks last fall. I didn’t really know the score and thought I shouldn’t put my foot in where it wasn’t wanted.” Unlike you, I thought but decided not to say.

“Thanks, Jake. Brian and I had a good time, but well . . . we might have some more good times, and we might not.”

“I understand,” I agreed, also knowing I was still holding the knowledge of her illicit behavior over her head, and I was pretty sure she understood it, too. I was getting tired of this conversation and it was pretty clear that it still wasn’t going to go anywhere, so I added, “Hey, the boss is looking funny at me so I’d better cut this off.”

“I guess,” she said. “Jake, please think about getting back with Brittany, will you? You’re really missing a bet with her. She still wants you.”

“I’ll think about it,” I promised, “But I’ll tell you right now, I don’t think much of it. Don’t get your hopes up. Gotta go, Lisa. I’ll talk to you again sometime.”

It still took a few more seconds to get off the phone, and I hung it up with relief. The call had gone better than the last one I’d had with her, though not much in the overall scheme of things.

Debby had been monitoring the conversation, of course. “So I take it that Brittany finally came clean with Lisa?” she asked.

“Partway, at least,” I told her. “Brittany apparently told Lisa that she’d been seeing another guy, but didn’t admit to fucking him. Or at least if she did, Lisa didn’t say so.”

“Well, hell,” Debby said, taking a sip of the coffee she’d been working on while overhearing my end of the discussion. “There’s the chance she really didn’t fuck him, Jake. There’s a lot you can do in bed without actually fucking, and you know that as well as I do.”

“Yeah, but the principle remains the same whether she actually fucked him or not. She was going behind my back. It’s not the same with you and John since you don’t have any promises with each other. Like I told Lisa, I held off with Brittany because she wanted me to. Then she goes and does it with another guy, and I don’t care if it was fucking, or going down on each other, or what. When we had promises, she shouldn’t have been doing it.”

“Sounds to me like it’s not over yet with you and Lisa,” she said.

“It is as far as I’m concerned. But I don’t think Lisa understands that yet.”

It was no surprise to me that I didn’t hear from Lisa again soon, or that I didn’t get a call from Brittany. I had made my position pretty clear. After all, it had taken me months and a lot of help from Debby, Susie, Annette, and even Barb to get Brittany behind me. While I still didn’t have any clear-cut idea of what I would be doing next, whatever it was wouldn’t include her.

The rest of January and February went along fairly quietly. We had a lot of snow and it was cold. Only the fact that Barb, Debby, and I lived right at the Channel Stop allowed us to open some days, and there were days that the only customers we had came on snowmobiles. While Barb had a guy come by with a pickup truck and a blade to clear the main parking lot out, I still had to do a lot of work with a snow shovel to clean up the details. Mostly, we were on hold, waiting on spring.

The work on the Chris-Craft and the Pixie continued. By the end of February we were done with the interior work on the Pixie, but there were still a lot of details to be added; Nate and I were still finding things we thought were cheesy and trying to do them better. The lifelines along the gunwales between the bow pulpit and stern pushpit were particularly weak and flimsy, and we were faced with a choice of reinforcing them heavily or just doing without. In the end, we decided on the latter. They would have been mounted so low that they would have been more of a tripping hazard than anything else. It was obvious that we’d just have to wear life jackets and lifelines when we went out on the foredeck.

One of the problems was going to be getting up and down the channel, which would be difficult to tack up and down if the wind was wrong or the traffic was heavy. A small outboard motor seemed like the best way to get around that, but they were expensive. I shouldn’t have worried about it, because Nate arranged a swap of some old gear for an old ten-horse Evinrude still in good condition, which was more than enough to push the boat up and down the channel.

By early March, the Pixie was about as done as we could get her, at least until we could get her in the water and see how she worked, and if there were changes that had to be made. But, the channel and the harbor were still full of ice, and spring still seemed far away.

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