Fiction

SPINNAKER SPINSTER

STEVE HAIL September 1 1949
Fiction

SPINNAKER SPINSTER

STEVE HAIL September 1 1949

SPINNAKER SPINSTER

Fiction

STEVE HAIL

SUNDAY is the day I have my stock answer ready, so when the footsteps coming along the dock stopped and a voice said, “Hi, Pop. Whadda you know?” I was ready for it.

Not that I have anything against bandying pleasantries, but week ends there just isn’t time for it. Especially when what hair 1 have left is whitening fast trying to run a yacht basin singlehanded. There’s more than enough to keep me busy, and I don’t necessarily mean my small-time yacht brokerage business which doesn’t take as much time as I’d like, that being where the money is.

The voice belonged to a tall, solid young man with a pleasant face and a hungry look in his dark eyes. Not from lack of nourishment, understand. Boats. It’s a kind of madness, and sometimes I think marijuana would be better.

So I started the answer, which goes: “Around

here the less you know the better off you are.” With a grin to go with it, of course, but nevertheless the brush-off. But I didn’t say it. The reason I didn’t, stood alongside the young man, her hand clasped in his. She came to about his chin and was as cute as a sailing dinghy, only with a lot nicer lines. Her eyes were grey as a foggy dawn and wide and trustful looking, and when she brushed at her dark hair blowing in the wind I saw an engagement ring. It was plain and very new. One diamond. Small.

She looked my way and said, “Jim, how darling!” I felt a blush crawling up my weathered cheeks before I realized she wasn’t talking about me at all. Her eyes were on one of the catboats that I rent out at a dollar an hour, five bucks deposit—forfeited if you capsize. They’re centre boarders, therefore very tricky in anything resembling a sailing breeze. Today there was a breeze. But the young fellow

hooked his thumbs in his belt, salty, and said, “We’ll take one for an hour, Pop. Dotty’s never been sailing.”

I looked at his fawn-colored slacks and at Dotty’s flowered print and he must have read my mind. He said, “I was in the navy, Pop. Three years.”

The navy! But I shrugged. After all, a buck’s a buck. I took his, plus the deposit. We walked down to the float and I thumbed open my notebook register. “Names?”

“Decker,” he told me, and glanced at the girl. “You can make it Mr. and Mrs. We’re going to be married in August. We might as well get used to it.”

I got the sail up and settled Dotty in one of the cats. She’d picked a red one. She said, a little uneasily, I thought, “Are you sure we’ll be all right, darling?”

Jim said confidently, “Nothing to it. We just sit there and let the wind blow us around.”

That should have warned me. Matter of fact, it did. I said, subtly, I hoped, “There is a nice turn of wind today.”

Maybe it was too subtle. He said, “You can’t sail without it, Pop,” and shoved off, leaving me standing there with my big mouth open.

IT STAYED open. Those little cats of mine can really sail. The red one was doing just that, fast. Trouble was it was approaching the opposite side of the harbor, fast. The thing to do was come about, slack off the mainsheet, spilling the wind, keeping her sailing yet balanced. It sounds easy and it looks easy. It isn’t. Jim wasn’t doing any slacking that 1 noticed. The way he hung onto that mainsheet he’d have been a natural with a team of mules. The cat went over like she’d teen bludgeoned. The last I saw before she filled and went down was four frantic hands clawing at the surface.

I shouted, “Don’t get panicky! You can walk ashore. It’s only chin deep.”

By the time I got there Jim had helped Dotty up onto the dock. She didn’t say a word. The only sound was her teeth chattering. She walked toward

their parked car and her back was very straight» her chin high. I not iced t here had been a change in her. Her eyes weren’t trustful any more. They had t he same fire in them as t he little diamond that she was tugging and twisting ofT her ring finger.

Jim didn’t say anything either.

I couldn’t resist it. “You were in the navy,” I reminded him.

He reddened. “H.M.C.S. Revenge. Saskatchewan. Sailing a desk,” and he started off after Dotty.

I didn’t expect to see either of them again, so it surprised me no end when they showed up the next Saturday morning. They were engaged again and seemed quite happy, though they stayed away from the catboats. They were looking at an eighteenfooter that had been shored up on the dock since early spring. At least Jim was looking at it. Dotty seemed to be looking mostly at him. The eighteenfooter was a fin-keel job, half-decked and in need of paint, bad. Her name was Eloise. She wasn’t much. The sign on her said: “For sale. $200. See

J. Maguire at office.” J. Maguire is me. The two hundred dollars would give me a twenty per cent profit.

As I came up I heard Jim saying, “—not like those treacherous little centre boarders. Look at that keel.”

They looked at the keel, hand in hand. Why, it was beautiful ! To Jim Decker, anyway.

“Two hundred dollars,” he said, turning to me. “That cash, Pop?”

I said, “Cash.”

Jim sighed. Dotty sighed. He was fingering the turnbuckles now, testing the rigging. I don’t think he even saw me. He was seeing blue skies and foamflecked water, feeling salt spray arcing over the weather rail. Of course the eighteen-footer didn’t have a rail, but—

“We’ve saved a nest egg, Pop,” he said. “Nearly fifteen hundred dollars, but we wouldn’t want to dip into that. But last week I got a retroactive cheque from the auditing firm I work for. A hundred sixty dollars. I don’t suppose you’d consider—”

Maybe it was conscience. After all, I should have kept them out of that catboat. More likely though, it was the hungry look. An auditing firm! That shouldn’t happen to anybody. I heard somebody saying, “Come into the office. I’ll make out a bill of sale.” The voice was mine.

BUT I didn’t give him a receipt right away.

Instead I gave him one of my better paternal looks. Dotty was still outside, so I put it to him straight. “Look,” I said, “why don’t you try horses? Riding, I mean. It’s a great sport. Companionable and sensible.” Me talking like that! But I was right. I ought to know.

He looked as if he’d been knifed in the back by his best friend. Then his shoulders flattened and he said, “Pop, I guess you don’t understand. A boat—”

I stopped him. “I understand, but I’m afraid Dotty doesn’t. And it isn’t worth it, Jim. She’s a swell kid. Why don’t you forget it?”

He didn’t even get it. He said, “You mean Eloise isn’t as good as she looks? There’s something wrong with her?”

When he began spending his time with Eloise, his fiancee started to worry. Result: an unusual triangle — Jim, Dotty, and a boat with beautiful curves

“There’s nothing wrong with Eloise,” I told him a little testily, “that work won’t fix. It’s Dotty I’m talking about. Some women take to boats like ducks to marshland. Others don’t. They hate ’em. I have an idea Dotty—”

Jim said stiffly, “You’re wrong. Dotty will love it. It’s just that— that—”

I sighed. “Okay,” I said, and reached for a pen. Well, I’d tried. And I actually hadn’t lost anything on the sale. Not much, anyway. A dollar or two. I could make it up on that mooring line for the fifty-footer.

I gave the two of them an idea of what had to be done. A little calking, copper paint on the bottom. Jim was as happy as a broker with a bonus. “If we get right at it,” he told Dotty eagerly, “we can have her in the water by tomorrow. Right, Pop?”

“Right,” I said cautiously. “She may leak a little, though. She’s been on the dock for several months. She’ll take a while to soak up.”

A small frown puckered Dotty’s nose. “Don’t forget, Jimmy, we’re invited to the Oakley’s party tomorrow night.”

“Oh, that,” Jim said. “That isn’t till eight o’clock. We’ll have Eloise in the water and tied up long before then.”

I said, “Sure,” also cautiously, and left.

THE NEXT day I was real busy.

I didn’t see Jim till around noon. He was wearing stained khakis, brokentoed sneakers and a happy grin. There was as much copper paint on him as there was on Eloise. “Have her in the water in a coupla hours,” he told me.

I said, “Fine. Where’s Dotty? She going to be here for the launching?” His grin faded. “She’s getting ready for the party. Bunch of stuffed shirts, Pop. Bridge, dancing, yakety-yak.” “Well,” I said, “there’s nothing wrong with bridge, or dancing. Safe, too, and—” A cruiser owner was at the gas float, leaning on the siren for service. I left.

By the time I’d finished my chores for the day it was nearly eight o’clock. The phone was ringing as I entered the office. I said, “Yacht harbor. Maguire.”

It was Dotty. She sounded scared, or mad, maybe both. She said, “Pop, where’s Jim?”

I had forgotten about Jim. Knowing Eloise I could guess where he was, but I didn’t tell her that. 1 said instead, “Hold the phone.” I got a syphon hose from the locker and went out onto the dock.

Jim was where I thought he’d be. He was on hands and knees in Eloise’s cockpit, bailing, cold harbor water halfway to his hip pockets. Eloise was afloat, barely. There was a stricken look bracketing Jim’s eyes, like a father whose first born is hovering between life and death. “Pop,” he said hoarsely, “she’s gonna sink.”

I hooked up the syphon, put the suction end in the cockpit. It just about held its own with the water seeping in through Eloise’s dried-out seams.

By morning,” I said, “she’ll be okay. Theres nothing to wrorry about. Dotty s on the phone.”

We walked back to the office and I sat down at the desk and listened to Jim. Dotty too. I could hear her as plain as if she was in the room. She was that mad, now that she’d learned Jim was safe.

“But, darling,” Jim said. “It’s not that I planned to spoil the party.

Eloise was—well, in her condition I just couldn’t leave.”

Dotty’s voice was as cold as channel | water in mid-November. “You’re not ! spoiling the party,” she assured him ! pleasantly, “because I’m going with someone else. There are lots of men who will be glad to take me—now that we are no longer engaged. Men who j think that I am more important than j an old boat!” There was a loud and j emphatic hang.

Jim stood there listening to the dial tone as if it was the drone of death. He looked wilted and puzzled and stubborn all at once.

I said, “Look, Jim. You’re going about this thing all wrong. The way I see it, you’ve got to start together from scratch. Work together, sail together. Share responsibilities. None of this skipper and crew stuff. Co-captains, kind of. First thing you know, she’ll be as enthusiastic as you are. Get it?” Jim got it. I said, “Now you leave Eloise to me. I’ll have her all ready to go by next Sunday. You work on Dotty. Be down here early, before the breeze gets too strong.”

THEY were there Sunday, early.

And Dotty was a picture. She was wearing three bandanas—one around her hair. Nice. Trouble is, the bay isn’t nice. It’s rough and tough, and sometimes downright nasty. And Eloise was only an eighteen-footer.

But things went very smoothly, considering. The breeze remained light, for a wonder, and the sun stayed warm. Altogether it was a very pleasant and successful morning and led to a lot more. They were down at the harbor every week end, first Dotty handling Eloise, then Jim, learning together. Co-captains. I was proud of them, and of myself for thinking of the idea.

Jim was a natural. Before long he was showing Eloise’s wake to a lot of better boats. Dotty did all right, too. She’d given up the bandanas and taken to woolies and baggy blues and waterproofs. She looked salty and she was. That’s one thing about sailing. All you really need is a good sense of judgment and timing—and confidence. Dotty had all of them, except maybe the confidence. For example, she never would tackle the docking job by herself. But as Jim told me one day, all she needed was a little urging. He was just waiting for an opportunity. I nodded approvingly. All in all it was working out very nicely. The three of them seemed quite happy together, Dotty, Jim and Eloise. Between week ends, of course, plans went forward for an August wedding.

I beamed.

The opportunity Jim had been waiting for arrived one raw blustery day in June, though I don’t think he had planned it. It just happened—the way things will on sailboats. The summer westerly was tunneling in through the heads. It was tunneling in but good.

It was a day when little boats like j Eloise had no business on the bay at all, and I didn’t even know she had J gone out till I looked up and saw her snoring past the breakwater.

I might add that along about then it J took something unusual to make me j look up. I was recanvasing the deck of a fast little sloop I’d picked up for a song the week before. Her name was | Wisp and she had beautiful lines that j cut down the bay chop like it was so j much stagnant water. She went to j windward like a Lipton defender. She ! was a sweetheart.

But she’d scared the white flannels j off a local yachtsman, so-called, and he’d wanted to dump her quick and buy something that wouldn’t wet his | pants. I had suggested a cabin cruiser | —one with a built-in bar—and offered j him fifteen hundred for Wisp. He’d taken it quick—and I’d taken him. That, I had to admit. With some cleaning up, Wisp would bring two thousand easy. There are times when boat brokering has its points.

So it would take something unusual to make me look up. Eloise had what it took. She was boiling through the harbor entrance, everything set, nothing reefed. She was flying. And on the foredeck Dotty was struggling with the halliards, preparing to lower sail. But she was getting nowhere and I knew what the trouble was. The rope, soaked with boarding water, was probably as hard and stiff as new baling wire. Jim recognized the trouble and I saw him beckon Dotty back to the cockpit. She settled herself at the tiller while he went forward to loosen the turns. Maybe he thought this a good time to let her berth Eloise. Maybe he didn’t even have time to think. Anyway, I saw him wave her in toward the float. I dropped my tools as though they were red hot and ran.

Dotty rounded into the wind while

Jim clawed the jib down; then she headed for their upwind berth. Very nice. But her face as she looked to Jim for orders was as white as Wisp’s wake frothing astern. Jim was facing aft, standing by the halliards. That’s why he made his mistake. It could happen to anybody, though it shouldn’t happen to a dog. Facing the way he was, right was now left, port was starboard. Everything was reversed except up and down, neither of which directions Eloise could go.

Jim glanced over his shoulder to see the dock bearing down on him. “Left!” he shouted. “You’re wide.”

Dotty came left. I stopped running then. I didn’t even want to look, but it was like being a legal witness to an execution. I had to. Eloise had way on, plenty of way. She whammed into the float like a Gold Cupper clipping a buoy. Jim grabbed for something, anything—and missed everything. He left the foredeck the same way Eloise had come through the harbor entrance —everything flying.

DOTTY, already on her feet, jumped and hit the float running. Timing and judgment. Remember? But the planking was wet. She sat down abruptly, skidded a foot or so and stopped right opposite the point where Jim had disappeared. He chose that luckless moment to come to the surface. Dotty reached out and swung a small but potent left hand to his dripping face. It sounded like the flat of an oar striking water. She said, “Sailboats! Ha!” and got to her feet. She walked up the dock with majestic dignity, if such is possible with the seat of your blues soaking wet and studded with splinters. She stalked right on past me as if maybe I was the source of the tideland stench blowing off the flats. There were big tears welling down her cheeks. I didn’t try to stop her. I knew better.

Jim was climbing out on the dock when I got to him. Together we stared after Dotty, then at Eloise. “Anyway,” I said finally, “we can save the pieces. Eloise’s, I mean.”

Jim’s silence was bitter.

Before I could think of something consoling to say he was striding toward the car. He was late by seconds. The car jumped and Dotty took off in an agony of clashing gears.

I said, “I’ve got some spare dungarees in the locker.”

Jim said nothing, but he followed me down the dock, his shoes squishing disconsolately, his big frame shivering. After he’d changed clothes he put in a call for a taxi. While he was waiting, he said, “Pop, it’s no good. Sell Eloise for what you can get. I’m through.” I didn’t have an answer for that one. After he’d left I went back to work on Wisp.

IT WAS nearly a month before I heard from either of them again, although I’d thought about them a lot. Then one clear sunlit day the phone rang. It was Dotty. She was calling from home. “Pop,” she said, “I’m unhappy.”

I swallowed. “You mean the wedding’s off?”

“No, it’s on. I wouldn’t let a few splinters come between us. I’m unhappy because Jim is unhappy.” “Marrying you,” I said gallantly, “that would be impossible.”

“Thanks, Pop, but it’s true. He can’t hide it from me. It—it’s—” “Boats,” I finished for her.

She sighed. “He still dreams about them, though he never mentions it.” “It’s a disease,” I admitted. “But it could be worse. It could be gambling.” “Will he get over it, Pop?”

I said, “There’s no known cure. Of course psychiatry is in its infancy.”

She let that one go. “What can I do about it? I love the big lunk.”

“There’s golf widows,” I told her. “And poker—”

She stopped me. “Unh-uh, Pop. It’s no good. I’m going to be his wife. A good one. What he likes, I’ll like, if— if it kills me. And even if I do hate boats.”

That was the opening I had been waiting for. I said, “You don’t hate boats. You’re just scared of ’em. Scared stiff.”

Her voice was very small. “I am, Pop. Can you really blame me?”

I thought about the catboat, and Eloise. “No,” I said, “I can’t.”

“Will I get over it?”

I said gently, “Some do, some don’t. But you never will sitting home thinking about it. It’s like flying. Something happens, you’ve got to get up and try again.”

There was a long silence. She said at last, “I’ll try, Pop. Honest. Will you call Jim? He won’t even let me talk about it. He wants a boat more than

anything else in the world. Except, maybe, me.”

“Sure,” I said, “I’ll call him.”

“Let me know.”

I told her I’d let her know. I waited a few minutes, then called the auditing firm. Mr. Decker was in. “Jim,” I said, all business, “I have Eloise patched together, but I got to charge for my time. She won’t, bring much.”

He sounded weary, defeated, final. “Sell her, Pop. I’ll take box tops, if nothing else.”

Well, that was that—almost. I

looked out the window to where Wisp was riding to her mooring. Little cat’spaws of wind were riffling the harbor water. I wondered how it was inside the auditing office. I said, “The final race of the season is Sunday. I’m entering Wisp before I put her up for sale. I’d like to win, Jim. A winner will always bring a better price. I’ll need a crew. How about it?”

“No,” he said, but he didn’t sound as final as he had before. Maybe there was a window open in the office.

I made a complete rat out of myself. “I lost money on Eloise when I sold her to you, Jim. If I can bring Wisp in ahead of the fleet, I’ll make it up.”

He hesitated.

“Swell!” I said quickly. “Be here at nine o’clock.” I made my voice casual. “Bring Dotty. It may be spinnaker weather and I can use an extra hand.”

“Dotty,” he said coldly, “won’t be interested.”

“You could be wrong,” I said. “Ask her, then call me back.” I hung up quickly.

I had almost given up when the phone rang again. Jim said, “We’ll be there, Pop, and thanks.” He didn’t even sound weary or defeated this time. He sounded like a kid on the last day of school.

SUNDAY came in clear, with a fine sailing breeze. But there was a bank of fog, looking like baled wool hanging outside the heads. There was wind in that, lots of wind, and I knew we’d be getting it before long. It wasn’t going to be spinnaker weather, but I made up the big ballooner in stops, just in case. Wisp herself was ready. I had seen to that. She was tuned like a maestro’s fiddle.

Dotty and Jim were there early, but by the time we’d cleared the harbor we were getting the wind. Already an ugly chop was making up over the shallows of the triangular course. I broke out the life jackets, ordered them on. You never knew. I said, “Now, let’s see what this pot can do. We’ll take a few hitches on the way out to the line. Ready about!”

I put the helm down, not the way they tell you in the books, but hard. I wasn’t disappointed. Those short steep-sided seas didn’t knock Wisp down, or even slow her. She turned on her heel like a drill team drum major and before Dotty had the jib sheeted home, Wisp was off on the other tack, lee turnbuckles awash, knifing the chop apart, liking it, asking for more. I looked at Jim. His mouth corners were lifted in a faint, almost unbelieving smile. His eyes were shining.

“Pop,” he said fervently, “she’s a dream.”

Dotty was looking at him too, and her eyes were a bright reflection of his own. There was no shadow in them, no hint of fear—yet. She said simply, “We’ll win this one, Pop.”

I said, “1 think we will,” and meant it. They don’t pass out trophies for last places, and the table in my shack holds its share of silver.

1 jockeyed for position while Jim watched the time. He said, “Warning gun. One minute.”

I nodded and said, “Hard a’lee!” and put the tiller down, barging for the line with eleven others.

Jim chanted, “Five seconds four—” and the striped ball on the committee boat dropped and we were on our way. I’ve done better. We were fourth over the line, though a little to weather of the leaders. That was good enough for me.

rpHE FIRST leg was a four-mile beat 1 to windward, then a reach to a buoy well downbay, rounding it finally for a run to the finish line. It is on those downwind courses that sailing becomes dangerous and a crew can win or lose a race, but close-hauled a good boat and a good skipper can pile up a lead. I strapped Wisp down and took off after number three. Wisp answered like a thoroughbred breaking from the barrier.

It was punishing work, with spray arcing over the rail, cold and solid as flung shot and wind howling in the rigging, tearing at our waterproofs. We overhauled number two and three in the first half hour, but number one gave us a battle all the way up to the buoy.

We were squared away for the finish line then, and I glanced astern. 1 he fleet was well behind us, followed by the power cruisers of the spectator fleet. But I didn’t see the cruisers. I was watching the two nearest boats, just now rounding the buoy. They weren’t close yet. But there were men on the foredeck of each, working quickly, overhauling gear and even as I watched, a huge blister of white silk blossomed out ahead of the first one. That big spinnaker seemed to be drawing us back to her as if she was magnetized and we were a bolt of iron. I grunted. It was nice work if everything went all right, but if they jibed there’d be trouble, big trouble. I glanced at Dotty. She was watching, too, and her teeth were working on her lower lip, her eyes wide.

1 turned away and growled, “I’m setting no light sails in this. We’ll win with what we’ve got.” But looking ahead I knew we wouldn’t. The finish line was less than a mile away, and the boats behind us were coming like they were jet propelled.

Then Dotty spoke and her voice seemed very far away. “Pop, you want to win this one. Let’s give them a race. I’m not afraid, really.”

Maybe that’s what did it. Or maybe it was like the firehorse retired to stud, leaping the pasture fence at the sound of siren and bells. Maybe it was a lot of things, but l heard myself saying, “She’ll want to broach and she’ll be hard to hold. Don’t let her get away. Whatever you do, don’t jibe. C’mon, Jim!”

We left her there, both hands on the tiller, knuckles pale, lips paler, but her little chin set hard. We fought our way forward. The spinnaker was ready. We guyed the pole, ready to hoist away. In that wind and sea it wasn’t easy, but we did it. Almost. Dotty jibed.

Wisp went over like a dive bomber peeling off for attack. I grabbed for a handhold, heard guy wires singing with strain, felt the mast shuddering as boom and sail passed from port to starboard in one wild lunge. I’ve heard it said the good Lord bears with lunatics and sailors. That, 1 now believe. The mast held, miraculously nothing carried away. Except Jim, that is. His startled cry was a brief echo of Dotty’s scream as he tumbled overside, hit, splashed and whipped astern in Wisp’s creaming wake.

Wisp recovered, as any well-designed keel boat will. I lay where 1 d been thrown, clinging to the lee shrouds, thinking. And my thoughts

were bitter. A moment before, the race had been the thing. Now it was nothing. Neither was Jim Decker. He’d be all right. A cruiser would be sure to pick him up. But Dotty wouldn’t be all right. This was Eloise and the catboat all over again. Up till now I guess I’d had a vague thought that with Old Salt Maguire along, something might happen to put Dotty on the right track, to give her confidence. Something had happened, all right!

Then even as I cursed myself for a meddling old fool, I had the answer. Dotty had always had Jim, or me, to help her—if you could call it help. Well, now she didn’t have Jim. And she wasn’t going to have Pop Maguire for long. It was as simple as that. Everything had happened in a matter of seconds and I was still hidden from the cockpit by the swollen bight of the mainsail. I let go and rolled quickly over the side into the water.

It was like glacial ice, yet not near as cold as Dotty’s frozen, open-mouthed face as I fell astern. I forced a grin from somewhere and yelled aftei her, “Take her home, skipper! We’ll be all right.”

And we were. I had swift, eye-corner glimpses of the fleet pouring by, ballooners set, driving for the finish line like cormorants at dusk. A boat was alongside then, anxious hands pulling me aboard. Jim’s were among them. Together we went up to the wheelhouse to watch the finish. Under plain sail, Wisp placed third.

The cruiser skipper coughed and said, “Tough.”

“No,” I said, “it isn’t,” for I’d watched Dotty finish that last mile like a champion. There had been no more jibes, no near broachings—a mansized chore for anybody.

Jim’s eyes were proud, but his brows were creased above them. “Can we speed her up?” he asked the skipper

anxiously. “Dotty’ll have a time making the berth alone.”

1 said, “I think you’re wrong, but it isn’t a bad idea to be there.”

The skipper nodded and cuffed his throttles forward, strdaking for the harbor.

When Dotty was off' the berth she put Wisp about, judging her speed. She saw us standing on the float then, and she waved once, easily, confidently. There was a tight little smile on her lovely mouth and 1 couldn’t help thinking of the rocking-chair yachtsman who’d had his white flannels scared off by this very boat. I thought too— But Dotty was coming in then, lee rail awash, making knots. She luffed at the precise instant, ran upwind and brought Wisp alongside as gently as a gull come home to roost. It was beautiful. So was her smile as Jim and 1 jumped aboard to lower sail. After that, 1 left.

1 guess she was still smiling happily as I climbed the gangway to the dock, though I couldn’t be sure, because Jim’s arms were around her, and Jim is a very big guy.

Dotty’s voice stopped me as I started up the dock. “We were thinking, Pop. About Wisp, I mean. She’s a sweetheart, truly. Now, that nest egg of ours. We thought maybe—well, if you’d consider—”

“Sure,” I said gruffly. “Sure, I’d consider it. Why not?” I turned and walked away, leaving them standing there very close together, co-captains now, for sure.

Well, the roof on my shack can go another year. As for the new float for the fifty-footer—let him move. I’ll make enough somehow to keep up my alimony. I haven’t missed a payment in eleven years. The ex-Mrs. Maguire never had liked boats. I grinned. rlhat was a problem I felt sure would never trouble the James Deckers, Mr. and Mrs.