We were getting tired, and it was too rough to sleep on night watch changes. The whitecaps were splashing across the deck. The water was cold, and we broke out our heavy weather gear.
I already had the main sail reduced into the mast as we still did seven knots across the big rolling waves. We were considering going back to Puerto Rico when the radio started screaming, “Mayday! Mayday! We are taking on water. Mayday! Mayday!
Once away from shore, I kicked on the chart plotter and located the salt pond. I locked my manual autopilot onto the course and checked it for the first half hour against the chart plotter. With everything in order, I turned off all the electronics except the running lights and the VHF. My batteries were old, and I used them conservatively.
I had an old radar detector from the eighties that chirped like crazy if it got hit by any ship radar for several miles. I got it from someone’s trash for free. I plugged it into the twelve-volt outlet.
I brought a pillow and blanket from below deck and put on my vest and tether. I wrapped the blanket around my body and lay down on the cockpit cushions. I dropped my face into the big feather pillow, and I could still smell Riki’s perfume.
“I’ll be so happy when my memory fades,” I said to the sailboat.
We slept until nine before waking to realize that we had to meet her family at Marsh Harbor by noon. I saw her panic and started to jump from the bed.
“Riki, what if we don’t show up?”
She returned a mischievous smile. “No, Daddy has been good to me!” She looked at me sadly.
“I know. I’m just so confused right now!”
“Me too!” She buried her face against my neck.
“Okay! Get dressed! I promised him I’d have you there on time. I’m going to get you there on time!”
She smiled a false smile, and we packed in a hurry. We checked out at the front desk and ran for the boat. We motored out into the channel, out past the point, and raised the sails. We were in sight of Marsh Harbor as we let out the sails for the gentle wind that was coming from the east.
Riki sat next to me all the way while leaning her head against me. The catamaran was already on the charter docks, and it looked like the dock crews were hauling off all of the contents with multiple dock carts. The closer we got, the more I wanted to just turn around and head for the blue water.
We dropped the sails and motored into the tight entrance to the charter base. We went to the closest mooring buoy, and Riki hooked it with our mooring hook. I brought her bag up from below. I had packaged her painting for her mother into a converted cardboard box for safety. I delivered her and her baggage to the dinghy dock where her father met us and thanked me for my punctuality. Riki passed him on the dock without a comment.
“Is everything okay?” he asked when he saw Riki’s tears.
“It will be,” I said as I restrained mine.
I stayed on the mooring ball overnight. They didn’t ask for payment, and I didn’t offer. I was depressed and lonely. I was so disconnected from the world that I didn’t even own a cell phone. I had no way of contacting Riki, and she had no way to reach me. How stupid was I to let her leave? She has a future as a doctor, and I have a future as a—
“Mother, before I go to America, I had a painting done for you.” Riki pulled it from the box.
“Oh, that is beautiful! Did Louis paint this?” Her father was looking over her shoulder.
“Yes, and he gave me the earrings after he did the painting!” she bragged.
“Did you see the name of this painting on the back plate?” asked Zenzi.
She turned the painting to the back and let Riki read, “I will love you forever. L. D. Amherst.”
Her mother and father exchanged a look that Riki missed as she left the room suddenly.