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Blanche Tickle Girl book cover

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

Part III: Storm Winds

Chapter 23

After more than a month at sea, it felt a little strange to be back on land again. While it had been a pleasant voyage, with little really worthy of comment in the log, they were just a little tired of the close quarters on the Mary Sue. They decided to enjoy the space and creature comforts of a hotel room for a few days, and eat cooking that someone else had prepared. They found a reasonably priced if rather touristy hotel and prepared to settle in for a couple days. It was time to make some serious decisions about what to do next.

Not about going around the world; they’d had a month to talk about it on the way from Las Palmas, and the more they talked about it the better the idea seemed to be. They had never really reached a decision about it; it was just that as time went on it seemed to be more and more like the logical thing to do. They’d made only the most general plans about a route or schedule; the thing that was most important in the near term was that they had to be out of Panama by about the end of June or so, to avoid the Atlantic hurricane season. That could be done; if they went more or less direct, they could make it to Panama in a month and have plenty of time to spare.

The problem lay after that. The months of December through March are the Western Pacific typhoon season, so they didn’t want to go much beyond Tahiti until it was over with. The end of that season was eleven months off, and even taking their time they were only looking at about three months of actual sailing time. Even if they delayed leaving Panama as long as they could, they would have to spend six months doing something else.

That was something that could be done, but after the last few months they weren’t sure they wanted to do it in the Mary Sue. While it was a fine boat and certainly capable of the task, there was no doubt that the quarters on board were more than a little close for the two of them. While Mary and Matt liked being close to each other, after the stormy Mediterranean crossing and then the long crossing from Gibraltar, they were acutely aware of the Mary Sue’s space limitations.

“The problem is,” Matt said one lazy afternoon on the hotel’s terrace as they sipped on some kind of a fruity drink that involved rum, lime juice, and god only knew what else, “that as much as we like the Mary Sue, it’s too damn small.”

“Aye,” Mary agreed; it was nothing they hadn’t talked about before a good many times. “Everybody we’ve talked to can’t believe that we’re livin’ on a boat that small. But we’ve had no real problem livin’ aboard it for the last year, an’ the summer before that.”

“The only reason we managed it as well as we did is that we were able to get off it, except when we did the crossings,” Matt added. “When we were on the canals last summer, it worked pretty well since we were able to get off and go for a walk, and maybe go get a hotel room for a while if it got too damn tight. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Mary Sue is a great boat and I hate to even think about selling her, but we have to be realistic. There are at least three places where we’re talking about five thousand mile passages. That means we have to consider a minimum of two months at sea, right there. And a lot of places we’re looking at, we’ll probably have to stay on the boat when we get into port anyway. To top it off, we have to take food and water for two of us for at least four months, and the Mary Sue just isn’t big enough to handle it. If I went alone I could manage it since I’d only need half the supplies, but I don’t plan on going without you.”

“I’d surely hate to be seein’ ye sail off without me,” she sighed. “An’ I agree, I’ve come ta like the little boat a good deal, but I wouldn’t mind a boat that’s big enough ta turn around in without havin’ ta go out on deck ta do it. Matt, you’re soundin’ like ye have somethin’ on your mind.”

“Not really,” he sighed. “I know the last couple days I’ve been thinking about an Alberg 35 I was looking at back years ago, when I was looking to buy the Mary Sue. That would be a boat big enough to live aboard comfortably, or haul the supplies we’d need for a trip like we’re talking about.”

“An’ ye think it might be for sale?”

“Probably not,” he shrugged. “Hell, that was a long time ago, but at least it gives me something to picture in my mind. I was real tempted to buy it way back then, but it seemed like too big a boat for me to handle. It might not have been, but I was trying to keep things minimal. And really, the Mary Sue was ideal for what I wanted it for, then. Something like that Alberg 35 would be big enough for us to live aboard permanently, or at least for a long time.”

“You’re thinkin’ of keepin’ on doin’ this, then, b’y? I can’t say as I mind the idea, but I have ta tell ye that I don’t think I’d want ta do it in a boat as small as the Mary Sue. The last couple weeks the thought of how much room there was in the house in Blanche Tickle kept crossin’ my mind.”

“Mine, too,” he sighed. “The joker in the deck is that if we were to buy a bigger boat, say, an Alberg 35 just for the sake of talking, we couldn’t just hop on board and take off around the world. A boat like that could be as old as the Mary Sue, and most likely wouldn’t be set up for long distance voyaging, just for hopping around along the coast. It could take months to inspect everything, fix what needed to it, and otherwise get it set up to do what we want to do. There’s no way in hell we could be in Panama by the end of June, even if the boat we wanted was docked right next to the Mary Sue right now.”

“So you’re sayin’ we should spend the next few months lookin’ for a new boat an’ gettin’ it set up ta go around the world. It makes sense when ye put it like that, b’y. Say we got down ta Panama, oh, by December or January, we wouldn’t have ta be in Tahiti until the storm season down there was almost over with, an’ we’d have the rest of the year ta get ta Australia or New Zealand.”

“Right. And we’d be a hell of a lot more comfortable on the trip.”

“I have ta be askin, Matt. Can we afford a new boat? I ain’t been keepin’ an eye on the money since it’s yours ta begin with, but I doubt we’re goin’ ta be able to buy a bigger boat for what the Mary Sue is worth.”

“We’re OK for now,” he said. “We’ve mostly been running on the money I got when I graduated from high school and the money I saved when I was working for Uncle Matt. We haven’t even had to touch the money I got from my father and grandfather a year ago last fall; it’s still in the investment account. We’d have to dip into that a little, depending on how much we could sell the Mary Sue for. But if we can make some good deals and not get eaten up in the refitting of the new boat, we probably wouldn’t have to dip into it too far. We could keep going for several years if we had to.”

“There’s that much?”

“Yeah, there is, if we’re careful with our money. And, I suppose if push came to shove, I could hit one or the other of them up for more money, although I really don’t want to. I haven’t actually ever asked either one of them for a cent, but if they’re going to give it to me without my asking for it I don’t plan on turning it down.”

“Ye know, I don’t want ta have ta ask ye ta get close ta your mother, but it might be worth the time ta go and see your father an’ grandfather, just ta see if they’d write ye another check or two.”

“Well, I’m not going to rule the idea out,” Matt shrugged. “I wouldn’t mind seeing either of them again, just so we can tell them some more stories about what we’ve done for the past year. Uncle Jake and his family, too, for that matter. But I don’t want to go to them with my hat in my hand begging for more money.”

“I can see why not,” she nodded. “Ye got your pride, Matt, an’ ye have been able ta do well with what ye had. But I’m thinkin’ it would be a good idea ta see them, just because they sent ye their good wishes.”

“Well, yeah, you’re right on that,” he conceded. “But we don’t have to do it tomorrow. I’m thinking that we might as well wait till we’re a bit closer before we take off and do that.”

“A bit closer? You’re thinkin’ of headin’ back home?”

“Well, back to the States, anyway,” he said. “We don’t have to be in any big rush, but the boat shopping ought to be a quite a bit better on the east coast than it would be here. I don’t have everything worked out in my head, but what would you say if we went up to like Florida, and found a good place to hit the boating magazines and have an Internet connection? If we were in, say, Jacksonville and found a good prospect in, say, Baltimore, it wouldn’t be any great trick to get on a bus or fly up to check it out. Then we could come back, sail the Mary Sue up there, get it up for sale and live aboard it while we were fixing up the new boat and moving the stuff we needed over to it. But I think that the odds are pretty good that we can find what we’re looking for right in Florida.”

“That’d mean we’d have plenty of time ta get back ta Panama by January or so,” she nodded. “An’ it’d mean that we’d have the chance for a long shakedown cruise before we start across the Pacific. I like it, Matt. It seems like it’d solve a lot of problems ta me. How soon do ye want ta get started?”

Matt looked out at the harbor for a moment while he did some mental calculations, then said, “We don’t have to be in any huge rush. It’s twelve hundred nautical miles to Florida, at a guess. We could do it in two weeks easily if we went direct, but after the last few months I don’t know that I’m up for that long a time on the Mary Sue without a break if we don’t have to do it. There are places to stop along the way. San Juan, Puerto Rico is maybe three hundred miles, and the Bahamas are right on the way. I think we could stretch it out to three or four weeks and not hurt the boat shopping very much. Let’s take another day or two here to rest up, spend a day getting ready to go, then go do it to it.”

Three days later they were heading out of the harbor in Antigua. They didn’t have anything like the load they’d had the last time they’d put to sea, from Las Palmas, but both of them felt a little bit down. The decision had been made to sell the Mary Sue and look for a bigger boat, but it was a bit of a heartbreak to think of having to part with their old friend; this could be the last long trip they took on her.

“Damn,” Matt said once they were out of sight of land. “I really hate to have to give this thing up. If it weren’t so damn far, I’d be tempted to run up to New York, go across to Lake Erie on the barge canal, and take it up to Winchester Harbor so we could leave it at Uncle Jake’s. It might have to sit there for several years, but if we do settle down we could use it as a daysailer, or something.”

“Maybe Amanda would like to sail it,” Mary grinned. “If Jake didn’t keep a good eye on her, she might be takin’ it down the St. Lawrence an’ across to Ireland.”

“I wouldn’t put it past her,” Matt grinned. “Not in the slightest. She’s not old enough to do it, not yet, but it could get mighty tempting for her. And hell, I suppose there’s a chance we could find the boat we want on the Great Lakes. Uncle Jake and Nate took a boat delivery down the Mississippi one time back before I was born. They tell some fun stories about it and it might be something that would be tempting to do. The problem is that it might be a little too close to my mother.”

“Aye, there’s that,” she shook her head. “I don’t think we want her findin’ out about what we’re up ta until we’re pretty well ready ta do it.”

“Me, either,” Matt sighed. “I guess we’re just going to have to face up to the fact that this thing is going to be for sale. Maybe there’ll be some way to keep it somehow, but I doubt it.”

Possibly because of the reluctance they both felt about selling the boat, they took their time getting to Florida. They made a long stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at least partly because Matt was due for his quarterly blood test; the report came back slightly elevated, but nothing as bad as he had seen on other quarterlies, so neither of them worried about it. They spent several days messing around in Puerto Rico before they got back out to sea, and they made several stops along the way.

By the second week of May, almost a month out of Antigua, they still hadn’t made it to Florida; they were coming up on Nassau, in the Bahamas. This was a place where they were anticipating spending a little time; there was a lot of boating traffic there, and it seemed like it might be a good place to look for a replacement for the Mary Sue. If they didn’t find something there, the next good step seemed to be to head on into Miami, find a place to dock alongside for a while, and an Internet connection to do some serious looking.

Mary had seemed a little pensive and quiet to Matt for the last few days; he hadn’t asked her about it, since he knew that women sometimes got moody and about the best a guy could do was to ride it out. Still, it seemed somewhat unusual for her, and finally, about a day out of Nassau, he tried to raise the question obliquely. “Sure will be glad to be in,” he said. “I know we’ve been putting off the reality of having to sell this thing, but I think we’re going to have to bite the bullet and get down to it.”

“Aye,” she replied listlessly. “I don’t want ta do it, but it seems like it’s goin’ ta have ta be done, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” he shook his head. “I’ll really hate it, it’s been a part of me for so long, but I think it’s time we got on to the next thing. I know it’s got me down, and I guess it’s what has you down, too.”

“That’s part of it,” she sighed. “Matt, they about have to have a doctor there, don’t they? A hospital, maybe?”

“Oh, I’m sure they do. Probably a pretty good one, too. It is the capital of the place, after all. You’re not feeling good?”

“I don’t know. I ain’t exactly feelin’ bad, but I feel like somethin’s not right with me. I’d like ta see a doctor, just ta make sure I’m not thinkin’ things.”

“Anything in particular?”

“Other than just feelin’ a little shitty, no,” she shrugged. “But I think maybe it’s got ta be somethin’ more than just bein’ down about havin’ ta sell the Mary Sue. I ain’t felt all the way right since we left Gibraltar, but I was thinkin’ it was just some kind of bug or somethin’ I can’t quite shake off.”

Mary’s statement alarmed Matt, mostly because he had a good memory of the early symptoms of his leukemia. If he had to sum them up, feeling a little shitty for months on end pretty well covered it; it had gone on for close to a year until it quite suddenly blew up into the awful reality. While he was no expert on the disease, he knew quite a bit about it, much of it from learning the hard way. As casually as he could, he asked her about some of the other symptoms he was familiar with, and drew negative replies. In thinking back over the past several months, he hadn’t remembered anything in particular that would indicate she was coming down with it. But he also knew that just symptoms by themselves couldn’t detect leukemia, since the symptoms could also indicate other things being wrong.

“The odds are it’s nothing much,” he said hopefully. “But I think maybe we ought to get you to a doctor when we get in, just in case.”

Matt tried to keep his cool, but he was worried, and realistically, with good reason. The odds that Mary might have the same disease that had afflicted him were low indeed, but after his history with it, it was something to worry about. Still, he was glad to get into Nassau, and it didn’t take them long to get to the hospital clinic.

They were there quite a while, and a number of tests were done. It was a couple hours before a black doctor called them into his office, and told them, “There doesn’t seem to be anything serious wrong with you, Miss.”

“That’s a relief,” Mary said, while Matt let out a huge internal sigh of relief.

“As far as I can see,” the doctor said, “You’re experiencing a quite normal pregnancy.”

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To be continued . . .

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