DIRE STRAITS, Chapter 11
October 18, 2011
Hours later, the storm ended. Derek slumped in the kayak. His shoulders, arms, and back all ached. He was very thirsty. Off to his right the ocean glowed scarlet, the sun beginning its reliable leap into the sky.
At least I’m still heading in the right direction, he thought.
Looking behind him, he could no longer see Cuba. All he saw was blue-black water in every direction. That was probably a good thing. It meant he was several miles away from Cuba. Far enough away from the Navy or the Coast Guard?
He hoped so.
Rotating his arms, he stretched his shoulders. For a time he just rode the swells and watched the sunrise, happy he had the opportunity to.
A failed mission, though. He didn’t accomplish his main objective.
Pushing that thought aside, he started to paddle, keeping the sun to his right, wondering exactly how far he was from land. Knowing that if he was off by a degree or so, he would be a lot further than a hundred miles from the U.S.
* * *
The sun rose. The remaining clouds evaporated. The ocean calmed.
The temperature rose.
The sun glared down hard. He paddled, rested, paddled. Eventually he took the cockpit skirt, cut tiny slits in it for his eyes, and arrayed it over his head to block the sun, which scorched down. It kept the direct sun off him, but created its own kind of greenhouse.
First the sweat poured from his body. Then it stopped.
He looked longingly at the seawater and the water in the cockpit and shook his head. If he was still out here in another ten or twelve hours, then he might find himself drinking saltwater. Drinking saltwater was controversial in survival situations. Drink enough, it would dehydrate you more and damage your kidneys and liver.
Drink a little, it might keep you alive.
Not healthy. It could kill you. But you were dying anyway.
Derek hoped he wasn’t out here that long.
He kept paddling, feeling his strength seep away and the sun rising high in the sky, then falling behind him.
* * *
Derek dozed. When was the last time he had slept? Thirty-six hours? Forty-eight?
He jerked awake, scanning the sky. Thought he saw lights. A plane. But so far away he wouldn’t be seen.
He paddled. Saw the sun slide toward the horizon on his left.
He had been on the water almost twenty-four hours.
Thirst was a problem now. He could tell it was affecting his strength. It was all he thought about now. Water, water, everywhere…
Derek wished for the tin can, but it was lost. He scooped up water from the cockpit and sipped.
Salty. But maybe not as salty as the ocean, diluted by rainwater.
He didn’t drink much. He wanted to. One handful. Two.
It made him want to vomit, but that would be even worse.
He sent out a little message to God: This would be a good time for a little help.
* * *
The sun was setting. The ocean glowed pink all around him. He didn’t notice. He was exhausted. Sunburned and dehydrated.
He heard a voice. Hallucinating, he thought. Not surprising.
“Hey there! Is there someone there?” A female voice.
Sitting up and tearing the skirt off his head, he blinked in the harsh light of the setting sun.
A boat. Pretty good sized, maybe sixty feet. A cabin cruiser. Looming over him. Squinting, shielding his eyes with a swollen, blistered hand, he saw a woman leaning over the rail of the boat’s bow. He closed his eyes, certain he was hallucinating for certain. The woman, who was very attractive – somewhere in her thirties, perhaps, with blonde hair and a heart-shaped face – wore only a white bikini bottom. She displayed a lot of deliciously tanned skin.
He looked up again. “I’m…” His voice sounded like a wood rasp.
He shook his head.
“Come on board,” she said, pointing to the ladder at the bow. “You look like you’re in trouble.”
“Yeah,” he croaked. “Better now.”