“Where the heck did that come from?” Captain Arnold asked, and if he wasn’t the only person on that yacht paying strict attention to the barometric pressure meters.
“It’s just a little squall.” Valerie Arnold waved her hand dismissively. “We’ve sailed in worse.”
“Not in an untested vessel.” He shook his head and creased his brow.
“What can we do to help?” Jacob’s father, Levi stepped forward and laid his hand on the captain’s forearm.
“Everything needs to be battened down and secured. Any children onboard should be taken to an interior stateroom along with any of the pregnant women. Eventually everyone needs to be indoors. I’d prefer all family to get inside, but if you’re going to be helping, follow the directions of the crew as if they are the owners of this yacht, not you. You got it?”
Captain Arnold looked around at everyone, meaning business. No one argued. Crew members came out of the woodwork as if getting permission to interrupt the argument, and they worked like a team. They all knew exactly what needed to be done and how to do it.
Liam wrapped his arm around his wife, helping Rachel follow where Valerie was leading. She was the only openly pregnant woman, but it didn’t surprise Jacob to see Nicholas leading Adele in the same careful manner.
Jacob couldn’t hide a smile and met his mom’s gaze. He could tell she knew Adele was expecting. They shared a moment and then his mom picked up his little brother, Joseph and followed the pregnant women.
The wind and waves hadn’t picked up yet, but an ominous calm hung heavy in the air. The dark sky was still hovering off to the west as if it was just gathering energy and threatening to unleash its wrath on anyone stupid enough to be sailing the Atlantic Ocean.
“What can I do to help?” Jacob asked Maryam. She’d shown him enough of the ship for him to know there were a million moving parts.
“We need to get everything covered.” She rushed ahead and Jacob followed. Together they helped the rest of the crew drape special tarps over the outdoor furniture designed to fit each piece perfectly.
“How bad is this going to get?” Jacob asked, glancing nervously in the direction of the dark skies.
“Not bad compared to a hurricane, or something,” Maryam said. “But it’s not what this boat was designed to handle. The ship will be fine. It’s the stuff that’s in the boat that will start breaking, and it will be uncomfortable for guests and for the crew.”
As if a wall of sheer water were dragging toward them across the ocean, they could see the storm rushing forward.
“Let’s go!” Maryam said, grabbing Jacob’s hand. She pulled him toward the stern and down an interior flight of stairs
“Where are we going? Can I watch from the bridge? Do you think your dad would mind?”
“After he recently discovered that you were making out with his daughter?” She turned toward Jacob and raised her eyebrows. “I doubt he’s going to want you anywhere near him.”
“What you meant to say was now that he’s aware I’m going to marry his daughter, he’ll want to teach me everything he knows and keep me on a short leash so he can whip me into shape.” Jacob placed both hands on her hips and pulled her closer.
“Yeah, I’m sure that’s exactly what he’s thinking.” She lifted onto her toes and stole a kiss.
Jacob took advantage of the secluded location and gripped her in his arms for something a little more passionate. They got lost in that kiss for about a minute and a half and then the boat pitched to the side as if it were a toy in a wave pool.
“Come on.” Maryam grabbed his hand and headed toward the stairs. He tugged against her.
“Please,” he begged. “I want to at least try to go watch from the bridge. If your dad kicks me out, then we’ll leave.”
“Fine, come on.” She led him in the opposite direction, toward the bow. They climbed to the bridge deck and entered through the side door, slinking into the back of the room, holding hands and staying out of the way.
The wind had picked up and the rain was pelting from the side. The captain was calmly barking out orders to people who all seemed to know what they were doing even without his instructions. The commands almost seemed more of a way of keeping record of each step. Calling out readings on the various gauges and dials, barometric pressures, temperatures, wind speed, wave height. There was an ordered chaos that was almost a choreographed dance between the captain, he first mate and crew.
Finally, the moment Jacob knew would happen did. Captain Arnold noticed them standing at the back of his control room. He creased his brow in frustration and scowled. Then he did something unexpected.
“Well, are you gonna get up here and learn something from me?” the captain said. “Or are you just gonna stand back there gripping my little girl’s hand like she’s your life vest?”
“Yes, sir, I mean, no sir.” Jacob gulped and stepped away from Maryam, dropping her hand reluctantly. This was what he wanted after all. “What can I do to help?” He grabbed hold of a bar in the middle of the room, holding on for dear life.
“All we can do right now is go with the flow,” Captain Arnold said. “This is not a hurricane. It’s not even a tropical storm. I’ve piloted in worse conditions. No flat seas ever made a skilled sailor.”
Jacob only nodded and clung to the pole, not even sure if the captain saw him nod. Huge, dangerous waves appeared out of nowhere but didn’t seem to faze any of the trained crew. The bow rose and fell as the boat crested the waves and fell down the other side, crashing as if the scariest roller coaster on earth came crashing down at the bottom of a hill rather than continuing on a smooth track.
The bow rocked up and Jacob could see only air. The bow came down and the waves crashed over the bow totally covering the deck with foam.
Keeping the boat perpendicular to the waves was nearly impossible when the waves crashed from all sides, not just up down but also side to side. Waves splashed completely over the deck and wind whipped salt water over everything.
“I’ve never had to surf a thirty-four-meter superyacht down a wave before,” Captain Arnold called out. “This boat is no good in the big sea when the waves are coming from behind. We’re fishtailing down the waves like a broach. Have you surfed much?”
“I tried once,” Jacob called back. “It was a complete disaster. I couldn’t stay on my feet and kept tipping over.”
“That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.” The captain nodded definitively. “The greatest risk of capsizing is when the ship turns broadside to the waves and the rocking of the boat and the movement of the waves sync up. I’m not going to let that happen.”
“Have you ever capsized a boat before?”
“Not and lived to tell about it,” he joked.
Jacob laughed nervously. “Considering you’re still alive, I’m going to take that as a good sign.”
“The speed we normally do is about thirteen knots, fourteen max,” Captain Arnold explained. “We were doing nineteen knots down the face of that last wave and the wave was staying pretty much in line with us. Not a fun position to be in.”
“How long will this last?” Jacob asked.
“Not sure. The barometer should have dropped over the course of eighteen hours or so. That much variance in atmospheric pressure causes strong winds. It’s feeding off the warm waters. The largest waves are dependent on the strength of the wind.”
“They look pretty big to me,” Jacob said. “You’ve sailed in worse than this?” The thought of drowning occurred to him but then he realized he hadn’t learned all he’d learned just to drown out in the middle of the ocean.
“Yes, I have,” the captain said. “Your dad wouldn’t have hired me if I wasn’t the best.”
“Well, I’m glad he did.” Jacob turned to glance at Maryam with a shy smile.
“I trust we’re not going to have a repeat of what happened earlier between you and my daughter.” Captain Arnold’s words were more of a threat than a question.
“No, Sir.” Jacob tried to keep his voice as respectful and repentant as he could.
“Don’t let your teenage hormones get in the way of making lifetime adult decisions.”
Jacob gulped. “Yes, Sir.”
Conversation between Jacob and the captain became less strained as he watched and learned all he could while clinging to the bar in the center of the bridge through the long night of fighting the storm.
When the rain and wind eventually let up a little, and Jacob could barely keep his eyes open, he finally excused himself to go rest. The captain and crew had sea legs and were prepared for these circumstances. Jacob was a writer and scholar and businessman. He knew his physical limitations and didn’t care if anyone razzed him for being a lightweight.
Lying down in his bed while the waves were still pitching and rolling after standing on the bridge all night was a mistake. Within a few minutes he was hanging his head over the toilet in the attached bathroom of his suite.
He spent that day on the floor of his stateroom a few feet away from the head, miserable. He may be part owner of a yacht company, but this wasn’t the way he wanted to live his life. He’d have to find a way to get Maryam to join him on land somewhere, because he wasn’t giving her up.