In my original version of this story I was now approaching the final act, and my main concern at this point was that the resolution came much too abruptly. I want to spend more time focusing on the two men’s struggle to get around the cape, turning it into more an exhausting odyssey, even before we get to the point of Harry’s confession.
I will therefore be bolstering this next scene, and afterwards I will have to add new content before finally coming to the final act.
Holding the Line)
The next wave slammed against the front of Oscar’s boat like a slap across the face. His feet jerked out from under him and he had to catch hold of a shelf to keep from falling.
“Keep it together!” he urged, spinning the wheel further to port to account for how the wave had pushed him off his line.
The boat swung laboriously back, just in time for the next wave to collide with it. This again turned him from his line, and Oscar had to turn the wheel even further to port. The third wave struck and his boat was turned until it was nearly broadside to the rolling current.
“Whoa there!–” Harry’s voice cautioned over the radio. Turning broadside would get Oscar swallowed in the waves very quickly!
For a third time Oscar turned his wheel to port, but his helm hit its absolute limit. His rudder could not turn any further. His boat was moving very sluggishly now, weighed down by the weight of water down in its hold. It would still make its turns, but only if granted enough time. And Oscar simply did not have “enough time” available, he only had the narrow window that lay between each crest of the waves.
“Alright Harry,” Oscar snatched the mic to his mouth, “we’ve got to go head-on into those waves. There’s going to be some tricky maneuvers coming up, so you just do everything you can to stay with me!”
Oscar locked the mic button down and set it on the panel. He would need both hands on the wheel for this next part.
Oscar knew it simply wouldn’t work cutting across the waves at a slant anymore. They would forget about taking the shortest line past the edge of the cape. The plan now was to turn fully into the waves, push against them, and put some more distance between them and the Broken Horn. Hopefully they could get distant enough that when they spun around there would be time to slice through the water to port, skimming past the cape’s shoals on their right.
Did they have enough fuel for that? Didn’t matter. They just had to deal with the situation now and worry about the rest later.
Oscar braced his legs as the next wave roared up to them. The whole boat creaked as it was pulled upwards, bow pointed towards the sky. As before, the wave was slowly turning his boat to starboard, but Oscar still kept his wheel locked as far to port as possible.
Now came a great whooshing sound and a burst of foam as Oscar crested the wave at an angle. The man swung his head around, watching until Harry’s boat burst through the top of the wave also.
“Harry, hold that angle and give me a little slack!” Oscar called.
Now the old seaman thrust his wheel hard to starboard, opposite the way he needed to go! All the water in the hold rushed over, making the boat careen onto its side. Oscar splayed his toes wide, feeling the vessel through his boots. He waited until the water to hit the hull wall and started to slosh back the other way. As soon as he felt that rebound he spun the wheel back to port as quickly as possible, encouraging the water as it flowed back across the hold and slammed into the other side of the hull.
The rudder and the sloshing water combined to give Oscar that extra push, just enough to finally pull his boat out of its angle and head-on into the waves.
“Now, Harry! Get back in line behind me!”
There came a heavy thud as the rope between the boats ran out of slack and the full weight of Harry’s vessel tugged hard at Oscar’s. Oscar gave a shout and gripped tighter on the wheel as it tried to spin out of control. The water down below barrelled into the stern of the boat, then rolled backwards, slowing him down.
“Full throttle, Harry, full throttle!” Oscar cried, punching his own speed up to maximum. The next wave was already upon them, and they would need all the speed they could get in order to push through. Otherwise it would flip them over backwards!
Well I expanded this scene quite a bit from what I had before, and I’m really like the extra punch it’s delivering! Even with my first iteration I was quite proud of the maneuver I came up with for Oscar: swinging his boat the wrong direction to build up momentum for a counterswing, but previously that segment was just two quick paragraphs. This time I’ve stretched it to more than double the length and added another problem immediately after: that of not having enough speed to break through the next wave.
I’m curious to examine this scene in the context of the larger story, though. Will it give the story that sense of overbearing strain that I want, or will it feel artificially inflated and tedious? Only time will tell.