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Blanche Tickle Girl book cover

Blanche Tickle Girl
Book Two of the Full Sails series
Wes Boyd
©2012, ©2014

Chapter 11

The nice, warm weather Matt and Mary enjoyed the first day they made love continued for another day, and once it warmed up a bit they spent much of the day nude as they had the day before. They’d each thought of a few different ways to get together in the limited confines of the Mary Sue over the long night watches, and now they took the opportunity to try a couple of them out.

But all good things must come to an end, and as they arose the day after that the weather did not look promising; again there were cirrus clouds in the sky overhead and a darkness on the western horizon that foretold of worse to come.

While the light winds and the warm weather had been enjoyable in many different ways, they hadn’t made much progress. After Matt took his daily GPS readings and plotted them on the chart, he announced to Mary that over the two days they hadn’t made as much progress as any one of the earlier days.

The wind picked up overnight, and by morning they were sailing along at a good speed under broken clouds, with stronger winds seemingly likely to come. It was a lively sail, with the wind picking up before dark, and once again they decided to shorten sail for the night. As soon as daylight came, though, they broke out full sail again, and Matt’s morning position check showed that they had been back up to speed.

Things went on day after day after that. Some of the days were good, enjoyable sailing days; on a couple they wallowed along in light air. Well across the Atlantic another storm hit, worse than those they’d experienced before, and they had to reduce sail to nearly bare poles, with just a scrap of jib showing. They got the parachute drogue ready to deploy if things got worse and they needed it, but it never got quite that bad; as the storm passed, they started to increase sail again.

In two and a half weeks Matt and Mary had evolved a routine that suited them; they were no longer strangers to each other, and Mary was no longer a stranger to the Mary Sue. Often they didn’t have to talk much about what they were going to do next, because it was obvious to both of them. But they discussed other things, and rarely had difficulty finding things to talk about. Matt learned a lot more about her, and she learned more about him. And yes, from time to time they let the wind vane steer the boat while they spent a little time below being intimate with each other.

By the time they were nineteen days out from St. John’s they still had a ways to go, but Ireland was definitely getting close, at least according to Matt’s GPS readings, and his occasional work with the old-fashioned sextant and tables. Much as either one of them was reluctant to admit it, the voyage was coming to an end, and both agreed it was a shame that it couldn’t go on a bit longer. On the other hand, both agreed that it would be nice to find a hotel onshore with a bed that wasn’t moving, and a good shower.

Amazingly enough, it wasn’t until the last few days that they began to talk about what they’d do when they got to Ireland. Just the country had been destination enough for a while, but one evening as they ate their dinner in the cockpit together they started talking about it a little more. “When I first came up with the idea my plan was to go to Dublin,” he reported. “But as soon as I looked at a map I realized that wasn’t the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had. Dublin is on the back side of Ireland as we come up on it, and if we go there first we’ll miss a lot of good cruising ground. So I’m thinking we’ll start out by going into Galway. We can go through customs there, sort the boat out a little, and spend a night or two in a hotel before we get going again.”

“I’ll admit ta thinkin’ about Dublin myself,” she said. “But you’re right, we’d be passin’ by some places it’d be nice ta see.”

“The question, as I see it, is do we really want to go to Dublin at all?” he pointed out. “From Galway we’ve got to go around Ireland to the north or to the south. The weather can be snotty either way, and we’ll have to be careful about it, but going around to the north is definitely more exposed. I figure that, either way, when we get up to about the northwest corner we need to think about heading for Scotland.”

“’Tis a concern,” she agreed. “I don’t mind ridin’ a storm out at sea, but close to land in a place that we don’t know well is more of a risk. There might be a time we’d be sittin’ in a harbor for a day or three waitin’ for the weather to clear.”

“Actually, I don’t know that I mind the idea of sitting out the weather someplace for a while,” he said. “There are bound to be interesting places to see, and I can think of a worse place to sit out bad weather than a nice pub with our hands wrapped around a glass of Guinness.”

“Aye, and tryin’ ta claw our way off a lee shore in a howlin’ gale is one of ’em. A nice cozy pub seems a lot better than that. We’re goin’ ta have to pay attention to the weather reports. As far as goin’ around the north side or the south, maybe the thing ta do is ta ask around in Galway a bit.”

“That’s about how I see it. There’s bound to be someone there who can give us a better idea than we have. But that also begs the question of whether there’s anything in Ireland you might want to see. I know you’ve got an Irish background, so I’m wondering if there’s an ancestral home town or something.”

“Not that I know of, b’y,” she shrugged. “As far as I know, one place in Ireland is as good as the next. Mam’s family came from St. Pierre, I know that, an’ I even know of a couple relatives there. Pap might have known where his family was from, but there’s no way of askin’ him now.”

“Same here,” he admitted. “I know I’ve got some Irish background somewhere, but I have no idea of where, and I’m not sure anyone knows, so I guess that doesn’t matter. There are a few things I’d like to see in Ireland, although nothing super important. So I guess we just take our time and look around. After all, it doesn’t matter how far we get this summer.”

“I suppose, but didn’t ye say ye were wantin’ ta see Norway?”

“Well, yeah, but I didn’t say it had to be this year. We’re going to be getting into Galway right at the end of June. That gives us July, August, and probably most of September and maybe a little bit of October before we have to figure out what to do with the boat for the winter. I don’t think we want to winter over in Scotland or Norway on this thing, with no real heater except for the stove.”

“That might get a bit wearisome,” she agreed. “I suppose there’s no reason ta be doin’ it if we can find somethin’ better ta do, even if it’s some flat somewhere.”

“I couldn’t agree more, but at least it’s not something we have to figure out now. We’ll just have to work it out when the time comes. In fact, about the only thing that we really have to do is to be in some largish town with a good hospital along about the end of July, so I can get my blood test done. But we don’t have to go there in the boat. All we have to do is to stop some place where we can grab a bus or a train or something.”

“An’ how long will that take?”

“Only minutes to do the blood draw, but it can take a day or two to get the results, depending on the hospital. I’ve mostly had them done at the U of M medical center, but a couple times I’ve had them done elsewhere. It’s not a complicated test, more of a heads-up than anything else. I’ve got all the information I need on the tests that have to be made, so that’s not a big deal.”

“That’s good ta know,” she nodded. “You know, I’m thinkin’ that wherever we go, we might not always be able to tie up alongside a pier or somethin’. If we have to anchor out, how are we gonna be gettin’ to shore?”

“Not a problem,” he said. “There’s an inflatable dinghy up in the bow. In fact, it’s the main thing that’s blocking the V-berth. It’s tiny, but ought to be big enough for the two of us if we’re careful with it. I’ve carried it lashed to the cabin top in the past, but for the crossing I didn’t think I wanted the extra windage up there if we ran into a storm at sea.”

“Not havin’ seen it, I’d have ta think that any dinghy small enough to fit on the cabin top isn’t goin’ ta be able ta hold the both of us very well.”

“It’s bigger than you think. I don’t have it inflated when I carry it up there, just folded over and lashed down. I’ve got a small compressor that runs off the engine generator, and we can blow it up in ten minutes or so, although deflating it is a little more time consuming. If we want to go someplace with it inflated we’ll just have to tow it, but I don’t think we want to try to tow it in the open sea or where it could get rough.”

“Aye, that sounds better. An’ the best part is that it clears away the space in the V-berth so we can be usin’ it for other things.”

“You’re thinking the same thing I’m thinking,” he grinned. “That means that finding some cushions in Galway or having some made is one of those things we really need to do.”

“I’m lookin’ forward to it, b’y. I’m especially lookin’ forward to sleepin’ snuggled up next ta ye.”

The last couple days before reaching Galway Matt began to pay a little more attention to his navigation. The GPS had them on course and they knew they were getting close, but unexpected things could happen; the last night they even put a reef into the sails so they wouldn’t come up on the coast in the dark. There was still nothing but sea in front of them when first light came the next morning, but an hour or so later they began to see a faint line of gray and green slightly to one side on the distant horizon. A quick check of the GPS showed that they were right where they expected to be, coming up on Inishmore in the Aran Islands, twenty-three days out from St. John’s.

“Hey, Mary,” Matt grinned. “You ever see the movie Spirit of St. Louis on TV or something?”

“Naw, can’t say as I ever did, b’y. Albert never had one at Blanche Tickle, an’ I ain’t been able to look at one much since. Somethin’ interesting?”

“Yeah,” he grinned. “It’s about Lindbergh flying the Atlantic solo for the first time. He did it navigating by dead reckoning, and he hadn’t been keeping to his course very well in the night. It was pretty close to the course we took, by the way. Anyway, all of a sudden he spots land off in the distance, and he paws over his chart trying to figure out where he is. All of a sudden the realization comes over him that he was right exactly where he was supposed to be. ‘That’s Dingle Bay,’ he says, almost in shock. ‘That’s Ireland!’” He pointed out at the low shore off in the distance. “That’s Inishmore,” he mimicked Jimmy Stewart in the movie. “That’s Ireland!”

“You hope,” she smiled.

“If it isn’t, I’m going to be asking for my money back on the GPS.”

It was still over forty miles up North Sound and Galway Bay, and it took them over eight hours, so it was late in the afternoon before they finally made it into Galway. Finally the city spread out before them, and they could see the dockyard that was their destination. “Looks like we made it, b’y,” she grinned.

“Looks like we did,” he agreed. “Whatever else happens, there’s that item off the list.”

An hour later they’d gone through the Irish customs inspection while tied to the pier in the dockyard. The inspection seemed pretty casual, just a couple questions, a quick check of the passports, and a “Welcome to Ireland” from the inspector, and soon they were standing on the pier, which seemed to be moving under them. After three weeks at sea they’d developed their sea legs but seemed to have forgotten how to walk on land.

They knew there was a lot of work ahead of them, both in rearranging the boat and stocking in a few supplies, along with a few things they needed to get, but the day was getting along. “What do you say we just lock up the boat for tonight, find a hotel, and have a shower and a meal we don’t have to cook?” he suggested.

“I’d say it sounds right good ta me,” she agreed. “While I like bein’ at sea, there are some benefits to bein’ on land, as well.”

The dockyard supervisor spoke in an Irish brogue that was even thicker than Mary’s Newfie accent, but he assured them that the Mary Sue would be safe for the night. He told them of a hotel not far from the dockyard, within walking distance. They found some clothes that needed washing but weren’t too bad, and soon were walking up the street, with Matt carrying a seabag over one shoulder. It was a warm day, and sunny, not the type of thing they expected out of Ireland.

“We’re going to have to find a coin laundry or something,” Matt said as they got on their way. “These clothes are grubby enough that I’m not sure I want to go into a decent restaurant wearing them.”

“Aye,” she agreed. “I wish I’d brought more with me, but they’d be dirty by now anyway.”

“Maybe we could just stop some place and get some clean ones,” he suggested. “Space isn’t going to be at quite the same premium the next few months. It’s not like I can’t afford it.”

“Ye might be havin’ an idea there, b’y.”

As luck would have it, in the next couple minutes they came upon a small clothing store; it didn’t appear to be anything special, but seemed likely to have what they would want. They picked out clean shirts and jeans, but while they were looking Matt happened to notice a rack of summer dresses. One of them caught his eye, a green sundress with a halter top. “Now that would look good on you,” he teased.

“B’y, I know I told you I ain’t owned a dress in years,” she replied dubiously.

“Doesn’t mean it wouldn’t look good on you. Why don’t you try it on?”

“Might’s well,” she shrugged. “If it’ll make ye happy.”

She was a couple minutes changing into the dress, but when she came out of the fitting room it looked as if it had been made for her; the hem was thigh-length, and the cut of the top showed a little cleavage. “Wow, you look great,” he said when he saw her wearing it.

“I dunno,” she said as she glanced at it in a mirror. “Doesn’t feel quite right. In fact, it seems a little silly to me.”

“Maybe so,” he smiled. “But I’ll bet there’s not a restaurant in town that would turn you away for being underdressed. You might as well have one dress-up outfit, because we might need it sooner or later.”

“Well, so long as you’re the one that’s buyin’, I guess,” she said. “But damn it, it makes me feel like a girl.”

“I hate to inform you of this, Mary,” he laughed. “But if you aren’t a girl we’ve been pretty kinky the last couple weeks.”

Matt found a pair of khaki slacks that looked better than jeans, and a polo shirt that looked better than the T-shirt he’d picked out, and changed into them as well. He hadn’t managed to do a currency exchange yet, but a credit card handled the difficulties, and soon they were walking on up the street, with the seabag stuffed even fuller with their dirty clothes.

The hotel wasn’t much farther, and soon they were checked in. It was a nice, modern hotel with a good view of the harbor; if they looked in the right place they could see the Mary Sue’s mast sticking up in the dockyard.

Their new clothes didn’t stay on long, since the first thing they did was to head to the big, comfortable shower together. It was a joy to let the warm water run over them without worrying about it; they soaped each other down thoroughly and spent more time than was needed than just to get clean enjoying themselves in ways they could have only dreamed about on the boat. Of course, that led straight to giving the big, comfortable bed a workout, and it went without saying that it was better than some of the awkward and acrobatic ways they’d had to resort to for lovemaking the past couple weeks.

The sun was getting lower when they finally got dressed in their new clothes again and went out in search of dinner. In spite of dressing up, they really weren’t looking for anything fancy, just a nice place to celebrate their successful Atlantic crossing, along with celebrating a few other things, like finding each other. Shepherd’s pie and a couple pints of Guinness each served the purpose quite well. Sitting in the cozy little pub, it was a little surrealistic to think that they’d just finished spending three weeks sailing a twenty-five foot boat across the Atlantic. But it was what they had done, and they spent much of the time in the pub just talking about the trip and discussing what needed to be done the next couple days.

“In spite of ye buyin’ me this dress,” she said at one point, “Maybe tomorrow we ought ta go back ta that store and get a few other things for me. I’m not lookin’ forward ta havin’ ta do a salt water washin’ again if I don’t have to, an’ that would stretch out the time when we’d be havin’ ta find a laundry.”

“True,” he agreed. “Although fresh water isn’t going to be the issue it was. We could keep going for a bit if we had to. Maybe we ought to find you a swim suit so you can take a sponge bath if someone else is around.”

“Aye, it might not be a bad idea at that,” she agreed. “We can look for one.”

It had been latish when they arrived at the pub, and the sun was setting when they started back to the hotel. “Matt,” she suggested as they walked down the street, “maybe ye ought ta think about callin’ home, just ta let them know ye made it across safely.”

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that,” he agreed. “That’s one thing about having made it across. Mom can’t try to talk me out of doing it.”

“I’ve got no one I really need ta call,” she said. “But it might not be a bad idea for ye ta do it.”

Matt glanced at his watch. “Five hours time difference between here and Michigan,” he said after moment. “If things are about like normal, Mom and Dad ought to be having dinner. I probably ought to call Uncle Jake, too.”

They got back to the hotel room, and Matt sat on the bed, staring at the phone. “God, part of me doesn’t want to do this,” he sighed. “But part of me knows I should. Maybe I’d better get it over with.”

“Aye, the longer ye put it off, the longer it’ll be before we can be asleep in a bed that ain’t movin’,” she agreed.

“And the longer it’ll be before we do what we want to do before we go to sleep,” he smiled, glancing over to marvel at how wonderful she looked in that green summer dress.

It took a bit of fiddling to arrange to make an international call from the hotel room, but soon Matt heard the phone ringing in his parents’ home. In a moment, he heard his father’s voice phlegmatically say, “Hello.”

“Hi, Dad,” Matt said. “I just thought I’d call and let you know I got in all right.”

“Jesus, Brittany!” he heard his father say to his mother. “It’s Matthew!”

In what seemed like an instant Matt heard his mother pick up another phone. “Matthew!” she cried. “Are you all right?”

“Couldn’t be finer,” he said. “We had a great time crossing the Atlantic.”

“My god, you actually sailed that little boat all the way to France? Your father said it wasn’t much bigger than a rowboat!”

“Oh, we haven’t made it to France yet,” he said. “We’ll probably get there eventually. It got a little bit rugged at times and there were a couple storms, but we got through them all right. It was a great trip, and I never had a better time in my life.”

“What on earth made you think of doing such a thing?” she almost shouted. “You know you ought to be here at home looking for work, rather than gallivanting around out in the middle of the ocean. I can’t believe Jake helped you get that boat. He should have known better!”

“He helped because I asked him to,” Matt grinned, knowing he had his mother on the run; it rarely happened in a one-on-one confrontation, which is why he’d gone to all the trouble to buy the Mary Sue and learn to use it behind her back. “It was something I wanted to do, and I figured I’d better do it while I still could. Don’t worry, Mary and I had a great time.”

“Mary?” she asked in considerable confusion. “Who’s Mary?”

“Mary is my girlfriend,” he replied with satisfaction in his voice as he glanced over at her with a smile.

“I didn’t know you knew a Mary.”

“Well, I didn’t when I left,” he admitted. “I met her in Newfoundland. She’s quite a girl, and loves sailing about as much as I do. I’d have done fine crossing the ocean without her, but it was a lot more fun to have her with me.”

“This is some girl you picked up some place, and you crossed the ocean with her? My god, Matthew, I don’t believe it! Couldn’t you have taken someone like Stephanie with you?”

“If I’d taken Stephanie sailing we wouldn’t have gotten any farther than Put-In-Bay before she’d have been whining to go home,” Matt grinned. “Across the Atlantic? Forget it!”

“But you shouldn’t have been sailing across the Atlantic in the first place! My god, you’re supposed to be here doing things a normal person would be doing, like starting a career! I think you’d better get back home as quick as you can so you can do the things you’re supposed to.”

“Oh, I’ll be home sooner or later,” he said. “Maybe in the fall, maybe not. After I’ve gone to all this trouble to get here there’s no point in wasting it. I’ll drop you a card from time to time. Maybe even a letter, I could throw a couple photos in with it. You might like to see what Mary looks like. I can tell you, though, she’s beautiful in a way that Stephanie could never dream of being, and I like her better than any girl I ever met before.”

“Matthew, where are you? I should fly over there and talk some sense into you!”

“We’re on the way to France, eventually,” he grinned. “We may be a while getting there, but don’t worry about coming over here because Mary and I will be gone by the time you could get here. There’s lots of places to see and we plan on checking some of them out.”

Matt let her rant on for a time, but knew that he had the upper hand every inch of the way. His father actually managed to say a few words, “Stay safe and have a good time” among them, but they were almost lost in his mother’s desperate pleading and fury.

“Look, Mom,” he said as he realized that there was nothing new being said. “This is something I want to do, and I realized a long time ago that I’d better do it while I have the chance. It may never come again, so I want to make the best of it. Like I said, I’ll drop you a note or something to keep you up on what’s happening, but don’t be surprised if it takes a while. Mary and I are going to be at sea a lot of the time, and we’ll be enjoying ourselves a lot more than I would at home.”

Finally Matt got the phone hung up. “Well,” he said. “That went better than I expected, but I suppose I’d better call Uncle Jake and apologize to him for the shit she must have put him through.”

“Aye, that’d be a good idea,” she said with an amused look on her face. “I heard enough of her end of the conversation from over here that she sounds a bit concerned.”

“Oh, yeah,” he nodded. “I don’t know if I got the message across that I have to do what I want to do, not what she wants me to do, but maybe she’ll get it after a while.”

“Maybe quite a while,” she snickered. “It sounds like she doesn’t want to give up easily.”

“No, she has her idea of what she wants me to be, and she just never has admitted to the reality that I have to do this while I still can.”

“The leukemia?”

“Yeah,” he said soberly. “Mary, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something that needs to be said. I’ve needed to say it for a couple weeks now, but the time has just never been right.”

“An’ what might that be?” she replied softly, picking up on the serious tone in his voice.

“Mary, I love you, and I want you to stay with me. We might be together a long time, and I might be dead in six months. I just don’t know, but there’s more than a possibility that it’s only going to be a short time, rather than a long one.”

“Aye, I knew that. Seems hard to believe, though.”

“It’s a fact, and I have to live with it. If you stay with me, you’ll have to live with it, too.” He let out a long sigh and continued, “Mary, the odds are that if you stay with me, sooner or later it’s going to end with death for me and sadness for you. If you don’t want to face it, I’ll understand. I know Shannon airport isn’t far from here, and I’m sure they must have flights direct to Newfoundland from there. If you want, I’ll put you on a plane for home.”

“You’re sayin’ you don’t want me to stay with you?”

“No,” he shook his head. “I love you and I want you to stay with me more than anything else I can imagine, but I don’t want you to think you’re trapped into having to stay with me. I’m just offering you the option of getting out if you don’t want to run the risk of our time together coming to an unhappy end, because it’s more likely to end that way than not.”

“There is that, isn’t there?” she nodded. “On the other hand, one thing I’ve learned from ye, b’y, if I didn’t know it already, is that you have to take your happiness when you can. I’ll stay with ye, Matt, ’cause I love ye, and want ta enjoy it while I can.”

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To be continued . . .

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