“Head in for about a mile. Let the jib do the turn. I’m turning the tiller just a smidgeon for the jib to catch the wind change.” Suchecki let out a beer belch with his comments.
I stared at the bow of the boat and we turned head-in to shore. The wave height was dramatically larger. The spray splashing on us was getting me uncomfortable. “Maybe we should change positions. The sea is getting too rough for me.”
“Okay. Wait for my command and we’ll switch. I’ll hand the tiller off to you–now.”
I breathed a little easier. I could now see both the shoreline and the horizon from the back of the boat.
“You’re right doc. It is getting a bit testy. Steer to portside. We’re goin’ to have to ride in the submarine lane where it’s calmer.” Suchecki pointed with his finger.
I was amazed at the glassy smoothness of the sub channel. We were headed straight for shore 3-miles away. The wind in the submarine channel was a feather breeze compared to the gusty blowing all around us in the roiling sea. Suchecki was watching the sails and the channel behind me. I kept my vision and the bow pointed toward shore. All of a sudden the wind died down and our speed dropped to less than 5-knots.
“Suchecki, what’s happening? There’s plenty of wind on our starboard outside the channel.”
Suchecki looked behind me. “The only time that happens is when something is blocking our wind. Look behind you. See that antennae-looking thing about a mile away? It’s the conning tower of a nuke. It must be the USS Jack. We have to get out of the way quick. Let’s switch again. I’ll start the engine. Don’t worry. We’ll be okay.”
We made the switch easier than the last time because the wind was dying fast. I let out both sheets trying to catch what breeze was behind us which was almost none. Suchecki was pulling on the starting cord.
“Fuck. C’mon start.” He tried several times. “Shit. I think I flooded it.”
I looked behind me. I could now see the large black torpedo shape of the nuclear submarine and several sailors in dark uniforms atop the conning bridge.
Suchecki began his litany of profanity, “Fuckshitassbitchcock.”
There was that word again. It seemed to pop up in the Navy with a perceived severe crisis.
“We have to get out of their way or they’ll run us down.” Suchecki looked concerned.
I moaned and put on my life vest. The sub looked larger the closer it got. One sailor held an M16 in plain sight and another held up a bull horn.”
“Ahoy the sailboat. You must yield. This boat cannot stop. We have taken down your motor number for identification. You are in violation of several maritime and security violations.”
“There’s no fuckin’ wind and the engine is dead.” Suchecki donned his orange life vest.
“I can’t see the name of the submarine. Let’s try the dinghy oars.” My heart was in my mouth.
“You do the oars. I’ll keep at the engine.” I watched Suchecki pull-and-pull on the starting cord. The conning tower was now about 100-feet away and looked like it was 10 stories taller than our bobbing Puffin.
Suddenly the engine started while I was paddling like crazy with one oar. The Puffin lurched and we took off at right angles to the sub. As soon as we hit the choppy ocean the sails caught the wind and we sped away from the submarine.
Suchecki kept us slicing through the chop well out of the sea lane. “They’ll report us to the CO. We could be in deep shit. That had to be the USS Jack.”
“It didn’t have a name on it.”
“Nuclear subs paint out the name when they go on patrol. As soon as we get in I’ll call Chief Mannick in Special Services. Maybe he can head off trouble for us.”
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