The man at the helm fell to the deck. The wheel was lashed. The lifeboat was boarded, and the line cut floating it free, dropping behind the unmanned Ketch.
The explosion threw Ryan overboard. He swam hard to distance himself from his sinking craft. His mind was racing, “What the hell happened,” he looked back and could see the mast falling. Then one last gasp of air before his hull sank instantly. He frantically scanned the horizon, seeing nothing but floating pieces of wreckage. Ryan grabbed what looked like a hatch door to the bow anchor locker. He struggled to flip it over to capture some air for better floatation and hung on to a corner while remembering their last course change.
He studied the night sky stars for direction; it helped to calm him. Ryan’s Vessel, the Enchantress, left Miami en route to Nassau in the Bahamas. Ryan decided to turn back to Bimini. A storm was approaching fast when he came up from the radio room to give the instructions to do so, just as the blast took place.
“Damn, it had to be a U-boat, but why me?” Ryan was sure his crew and passengers were dead, but he hunted. Kicking his makeshift raft, circling the area where the Enchantress went down, nothing. “Blast, these swells are increasing, but the wind and current will push me toward Bimini Islands, a short two-mile swim. If I miss the island, there’s always Florida, if I’m still alive?” Ryan crested on a wave and thought he detected a light before sliding down into the trough, eager for the next crest again to see further.
“It’s a boat heading this way. They must have seen the blast, but how are they going to see me? I need a way to signal them, but how?”
The only way was to stand on his makeshift raft. He kicked and pulled himself onto the slippery surface with a piece of rope attached to the side.
Not knowing if he had the skill to balance himself like a circus act, he remembered seeing with his family in Miami. The clown stood on a board on top of a large red ball. Afterward, Ryan tried the trick behind his Dad’s garage using a beach ball and board. “Maybe I’ll be more successful,” but the seas rising, and so was the wind.
Ryan pulled off his white T-shirt before trying to stand so that it would wave in the wind like a flag for help. As he stood, the rain hit his bare skin with a sting but quickly forgotten as he struggled to keep his balance. Ryan fell and hung to his surfing raft with the side rope as it dropped down into the trough. He only made it to his knees this time when he crested, waving his shirt before losing it in the wind. Luckily, the flying T-shirt was spotted by the handler of the light. The boat cut its power, scanning the surface when Ryan crested again. The light was on him.
Ryan ducked his head as he came down into the cabin. Being over six feet tall sometimes made him wonder whether a charter boat captain was the right choice; hatches and low ceilings were always a problem.
“Sit, son, my crew rounding up some dry duds. Lucky we saw your Ketch, Hell of a fireball. Did the galley explode? Here, have a drink. This will warm you. I’m Ernie, and you are?”
“Ryan Wilson, Sir, I’m the owner of the Ketch or was. I believe we got hit by a torpedo.”
“No, son, you wouldn’t be here. We saw the explosion with binoculars. It came from the inside out, near the bow.”
“The bow, that’s my passenger cabin—what the hell?” Ryan pulled the blanket closer around his shoulders—He felt a chill of remorse. The lady was a pretty one.
“How many aboard, Ryan? We circled twice now with no more sign of survivors. We will continue, but we have a short window. This storm is supposed to reach hurricane force by morning. We need to hightail it out of here before it hits. I’m berthed in Alice Town, staying at the Compleat Angler Hotel. You can contact your family there; we wired your sunken boat’s location to the coast guard. They just updated us on the weather,” Ernie passed Ryan the weather report, along with a notepad and pen. “They’re standing by for a list of the missing, sorry, Son.”
Ryan ran his hand over his unshaven face, thinking about Sammy and his passengers. “My self and one crewman, and two passengers,” Ryan took the notepad and started writing names.