Will a vulnerable couple risk a new life voyage?
"Ahoy, Cap'n! Permission to come aboard?"
Sandra smoothed a last stroke of spar varnish onto the starboard railing and looked up. A tall man, middle-aged but tanned and wiry, stood on the dock. He held a bulky plastic bag with the marina logo.
"Just a moment, please." Sandra carefully capped the varnish and slipped the brush into a can of thinner, then crossed to the entryway. "Please, do come up. Is that my parts order?"
"Miscellaneous fittings, cleats, and fairleads," he said with a grin as he strode up the gangway. "The invoice is in the bag, but Tim said he'd add it to your account. I see that you're working hard to get everything seaworthy."
"Thank you for bringing the order, and yes, I am working hard on the ship."
"Getting ready for a voyage?"
"I'm afraid not. We saved up for years and bought her as a fixer-upper four years ago, with the idea of sailing the west coast. My husband was going to retire and we'd sail off into the sunset. Cancer changed our plans."
"I'm so sorry to hear that." His dark eyes held a well of sadness.
"Thank you. Anyway, the ship has sat here, rusting and rotting, while I coped with grief and funeral and finances and all that. Now I just want to fix her up and sell her. Timothy and his partner Germond, the young men who run the marina, are doing most of the work." She waved at the gleaming teak rail. "But I do whatever I can to help."
"I'm glad to hear that Tim and Gerry are helping you. Tim's my son."
"Then you must be James Erdyce!" Sandra held out her hand. "I'm Sandra Malloy. Tim's always talking about his father, the chemist. And his father, the racing enthusiast. He has all your sailing trophies on display in the store. And he mentioned that your wife-- his mother--was lost a few years ago in an accident during a race."
To her surprise, his face hardened. "Yes, that's true." As quickly as it had come, the tension left his face. "Might I have a tour?"
The brief tour turned into a spirited discussion of the merits of Sandra's ship, James' work as a chemist in the plastics industry, and a hundred other things. When the talk turned to the best ways to repair decking, James decided that show was better than tell, and they spent the rest of the afternoon redoing the foredeck and chatting amiably. Sandra had not laughed so much or so freely for a long time.
"Thank you so much for all your help," she said as they finished cleaning up. "Can I thank you by treating you to dinner at the marina cafe?"
"You're on! An hour to wash up and change?"
Dinner on the deck overlooking the harbour was delicious. They had crisply fried rockfish with a snappy white zinfandel, and the cries of gulls provided dinner music. Sandra noticed that her companion grew increasingly thoughtful as the meal progressed. Finally, over coffee, he shared what was on his mind. "Sandra, I apologize for my reaction when you mentioned my wife's accident. You deserve to know. She crewed for me in every race. A freak squall hit us...."
Sandra reached over and covered his hand with hers.
"Tim has never held me responsible, but certainly I've blamed myself. I should have reacted faster, should have been steadier on the helm, should have headed up a point. Should have done something, anything, to prevent it." He held her hand with both of his. "I sold my ship for a pittance and buried myself in my work. I haven't sailed since. In fact, I haven't even been aboard a ship for three years. Not until today."
"That's progress," said Sandra, "Perhaps now you're ready to move on."
He was quiet for a long moment. "Yes, perhaps it is time for another voyage. We are both sailing in strange waters, I think."
"Not so strange as all that. I think they'll turn out to be friendly seas."
They held hands and watched the sun set over the bay.
Gray, Thomas. "Friendly Seas". BELOW THE CANOPY: A Collection of New Canadian Short Stories. McCallum, Rachelle, editor. Polar Expressions Publishing, 2009, p. 157