Join the crew of the small Coast Guard cutter Kauai on an exhilarating sea adventure like no other. Tasked with a covert intelligence operation, their mission takes an unexpected turn when a volcanic eruption rocks the shores of the picturesque Caribbean island of Saint Ignatius.
Lieutenant Ben Wyporek, recently married and serving as the second in command, must navigate the challenges of his demanding role while also supporting his neurodiverse soulmate. Meanwhile, Kauai’s captain, Haley Reardon, discovers that command doesn't have to mean loneliness as she embarks on a risky romance with the charming and enigmatic Defense Intelligence Agency spy Peter Simmons.
Within this explosive adventure, the crew of the Kauai also thwarts an eco-terrorist plot to sabotage an oil tanker, saving countless lives. But their heroism doesn't end there, as they valiantly rescue dozens of individuals trapped aboard a burning and sinking dive boat. Amidst the chaos, Cadet Marcus Porter's Academy summer internship takes an unforeseen and treacherous turn, thrusting him into both a spine-tingling adventure and a blossoming romance with the captivating young island administrator, Isabelle Jones.
This page-turning and heart-pounding tale immerses readers in a gripping maritime escapade where duty, love, and daring collide. Will the crew of the Kauai emerge victorious against both natural and man-made threats? Prepare to embark on an unforgettable voyage filled with suspense, heroism, and unexpected connections that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Edward Hochsmann is a retired U. S. Coast Guard search and rescue and law enforcement professional. The veteran mariner, aviator, college professor, and defense analyst has added “author” to his list of experiences. Ed likes reading, police procedurals, contemporary music on the road, and classical music in the office. After a career traveling from Australia in the west to Italy and Germany in the east, Ed has settled into a quiet life in the Florida Panhandle to focus on writing (and not shoveling snow!)
Lieutenant Haley Reardon, captain of the Coast Guard Cutter Kauai has a terrible choice on her hands. The sensors on the unmanned aerial vehicle indicate that this innocent-looking pleasure boat is actually a robotic torpedo headed for the fully laden tanker they are protecting. With a single order from her, the autocannon on Kauai's foredeck could destroy it within seconds. But what if she's wrong? What if the boat is not loaded with explosives, but is transporting several unarmed protesters? If she fires, they will be killed and she will face charges of manslaughter if not murder. If she holds fire and the boat is a bomb that detonates against the tanker, its crew could be killed and an ecological disater unleashed. A terrible choice to have to make.
Haley glanced at the tactical display. The response boat had reached the target vessel, and both were slowing down, she was relieved to see. She did not want to have to break off from the second target to support the smaller boat. She glanced at the icon for their target again—still motoring steadily on a collision course with the tanker at eighteen knots. The UAV was approaching from the west. We should have something on them by now. “What’s happening, Chief?” she asked impatiently.
“Um, I’m not reading any POBs, ma’am. Nothing showing on either visual or infrared.”
This was a very ominous development—they should at least be seeing the heat signature from any people on board at this point. Haley stood and stepped over to the aviation station. “Can you put the camera on the second screen, please?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Deffler replied, pressing a button to bring up the electro-optical camera feed onto the righthand screen. A fast-cruising recreational boat appeared also white, but with blue trim, trailing a thick, white wake with regular splashes of waves under the bows. The deck area and mezzanine behind the enclosed helm were covered by a dark blue canopy.
OK. Maybe they’re inside or under the canopy, Haley thought, hopefully. At the same time, an icy ball was forming in her stomach at the thought the boat might be uninhabited. “How soon on the hyperspectral, Chief?”
“Just completing the initial scan now, Captain. It will take about five more seconds to process.” After that length of time passed, the readout popped onto the left-hand screen. “Holy shit!”
In flashing red letters, the top line read: “Explosives: POSITIVE [AN].”
Deffler turned a wide-eyed look to Haley and said, “Positive for explosives, Ammonium Nitrate, confidence high, Captain!”
OK, there it is! Haley took a deep breath to steady herself and replied quietly, “Very well. Get as close as you can. If you see anything that could be alive on that boat, shout it out.”
“Will do, ma’am,” Deffler said, turning back to his control panel.
Haley turned to Ben and swallowed hard. “XO, you handle comms with the command center. Tell them there is a rec boat, positive for explosives and apparently unmanned heading for a collision with the Paul Morris at eighteen knots, distance four thousand five hundred yards. Unless it changes course, I intend to engage with the twenty-five before it gets within fifteen hundred yards.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Ben replied grimly, then leaned over to dictate the message to a pale and wide-eyed Zuccaro.
“Chief Hopkins, close to five hundred yards from the target and assume a parallel course at eighteen knots.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Hopkins replied. She stepped over to Ben’s right to watch the tactical and radar displays as Kauai approached the target.
Haley returned to her seat and took another deep breath to calm her thundering heart. Finally, she looked at Williams with as neutral an expression as she could muster and said, “Williams, surface action port. Weapon select mount twenty-five. Load high explosive incendiary. Target is the rec boat at two-five-six and nine hundred yards. Weapons tight.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Williams replied coolly. “Loading high explosive.” He entered a command into his keyboard and the twenty-five-millimeter auto-cannon on the foredeck emitted a series of “clanks” as the autoloader put a shell into the breech. As soon as the green “Ready” status appeared on the auto-cannon’s status board, he selected the recreational boat from the tracking list and clicked on the “target select” button on his screen. The auto-cannon came alive and pivoted onto the bearing of the target, after which “selected” and “tracking” appeared next to the boat’s listing. “Target identified, target selected, on target and tracking, Captain.”
“Very well. We can’t have any overs in this environment, Williams,” Haley warned. The odds against a stray shot reaching far enough to cause collateral damage or injury among the other boats in the area were enormous, but she was taking no chances.
“Yes, ma’am,” Williams replied, as he selected another option on the screen. “I’m going to manual now. I’ll pitch the first shot fifty yards short and walk them up into the hull.”
“Good. Hold for now.”
Haley raised her binoculars and took a last intense scan of the target boat. She could see no movement whatsoever or anything bearing a resemblance to a human being. After lowering the binoculars, she turned back to the tactical screen. They were closing to five hundred yards range and Chief Hopkins had already given the helm order to bring them on a parallel course with the target. Two thousand one hundred yards to the tanker. Maybe a minute to decide. Keeping her eyes on the screen, she asked, “Chief Deffler, are you still reading no people on that boat?”
“Affirmative, Captain,” Deffler replied. “I’ve still got nothing on visual or infrared.”
“Any chance they are there, and we are just not seeing them?”
“There’s a chance, ma’am, but they would have to be hiding using pretty sophisticated gear.” He turned toward her. “I’ll go on record that there’s no one aboard.”
Haley smiled grimly. “Thanks, Chief. Zuccaro, anything from the command center?”
“Just an acknowledgement of our last message, ma’am.”
Figures. You’re on your own, as usual. Stopping that boat will not be a problem. One command from me and the high explosive shells from the twenty-five-millimeter will start punching holes in the hull—just a few hits will slow her immediately and then sink her.
And probably kill anyone on board.
Haley watched the range to the tanker tick down with each passing second. Everything we have says this is an unmanned bomb and the only correct action is to sink it before it hits that tanker. But what if we’re wrong? She paused a few more seconds, wishing the boat would just turn around. “Right. Zuccaro, log that I have determined this vessel is an unmanned improvised explosive device targeting the tanker Paul Morris and I am engaging with twenty-five-millimeter gunfire.”
Zuccaro furiously typed on her keyboard and then said, “Log entry complete, Captain.”
Haley swallowed hard, her heart pounding in her ears. “Very well. Williams, batteries release, commence fire!”