Two weeks ago I made an in-depth outline for the middle act of The Storm. About half of its sequences are going to be recycled from previous work, and half of it will be new material. Today I’m finally going to get started on this new draft, picking up at the point where Oscar and Harry tether their boats together.
As a reminder, here is the outline for the portion of the story that we will be covering today:
- Slow accumulation of stress while moving against the waves
- Oscar and Harry tether the boats together
- NEW They move up one wave after another, describe the difficulty of climbing and falling while tethered
- NEW The rolling eddies are described as they grow nearer and nearer on the starboard side
And with that in mind let’s get started!
Tethering the Boats Together)
The old sailor held firmly to the wheel and made a straight line for the floundering vessel. Coming near enough to Harry’s boat to throw a line across was going to be extremely perilous, so Oscar needed to move as quickly and efficiently as possible.
He glanced over his shoulder and punched a button on his panel, dropping the net from the trawler’s central beam. Then Oscar pulled a lever, and the rope ran out until fifty feet of it lay unfurled on the deck.
Oscar’s eyes snapped back to the fore just as his trawler came into position alongside of Harry’s. He gave the engines one last push, then cut the throttle and locked the wheel in place. He dashed to the rope laying on the deck, coiled it around his hand, and bounded with it to the port side. Then a mighty fling as he sent the rope to Harry, who pulled the coil to his chest and sprinted with it to his bow cleat.
Oscar hurried back to the wheelhouse and spun the helm to account for drift, then raised the throttle back up, moving his vessel a little ahead of Harry’s boat, but not so far as to pull the line out before Harry had it secured.
It was very difficult to hold the boat steady in the rolling waves, but the true challenge would only begin after Harry had his end of the rope secured. Towing another boat was dangerous, even in fair weather. They would have to maintain constant tension, or else the slacking and tightening of the rope might snap it. They would have to keep the line straight between them, or else they might roll each other sideways into the drink. They would have to gauge their speeds so that Harry’s boat didn’t come careening into the back of Oscar’s. They would have to account for the constantly uneven momentum as Oscar’s boat rode up the crest of one wave while Harry’s was down in the valley of another and vice versa.
In short, there were many things that could go wrong–that probably would go wrong–and any of them could easily end in disaster. For any other fisherman in their hamlet, Oscar would have faced those dangers gladly. But for Harry?… Well, evidently he would still face them, but there was nothing glad about it.
Of all the men that could have been caught out here, why did it have to be the one Oscar could never forgive?
“Alright, I’m ready to go,” Harry’s voice came from the radio.
“I’ll pull forward until the line gets tight,” Oscar immediately returned to the matter at hand. “Then you throw your engine on and give whatever you’ve got to keep us aligned. I’ll do the pulling and warn you for every turn.”
“Of course Oscar. And…thank you, I really didn’t think anyone was going to come for me.”
“Don’t mention it.” It wasn’t a polite deference it was an order. Oscar eased the throttle forward so the slack in the line would be pulled out as gently as possible. A slight jolt shuddered from stem to stern and the boom that the rope ran from groaned ominously…but there wasn’t a sound of anything breaking. Oscar looked over his shoulder and saw Harry’s boat moving in tandem with his own. They were in sync.
“Which way?” Harry’s voice came over the radio.
“Straight into the waves,” Oscar replied. “We’re going to try pushing through the eddies.”
“I don’t know, Oscar. I tried that and things get pretty frantic where the eddies cross against the tide. I couldn’t get past it no matter what I did.”
“Well, I haven’t tried it.”
Harry didn’t dispute the manner any further and Oscar settled the prow of his vessel against the oncoming waves. They had grown from a rolling carpet to tumultuous mountains. Oscar accelerated further to make up for the pull of Harry’s vessel behind him.
“Faster, Harry,” he instructed. “We’ve got to get up enough speed to clear this.”
But instead Harry’s boat suddenly surged forward and yanked backward multiple times in quick succession.
“Can’t you keep it steady?” Oscar snapped into the radio.
“Well–no, I can’t! The engine keeps cutting out and coming back when I raise the acceleration too far.”
I started with the familiar bit of the two men tethering their boats together, and now I’m moving into the part about Harry unable to keep his engine at full speed. Originally that segment was towards the end of the story, but I think it makes more sense for Oscar to find that out at the start of their journey. Also, it will help emphasize the difficulty they face in trying to clear these first waves.
That’ll do it for this week, though. Come back next Friday when we’ll pick things up again. See you then.