Sampler: Love for Sail by C.L.R. Dougherty


She was a ‘take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints’ kind of gal, appealing, lovable, and kind of intimidating.

Connie’s scared.

She’s never skippered a yacht on an ocean voyage before.

The old salt she recruited to help her can’t make the trip, and

the crew she finds at the last minute have their own agenda for the voyage.

They cause trouble as soon as they’re out of sight of land.

Connie gets a crash course in having ultimate responsibility for the ship.

C.L.R. Dougherty

Sampler: Love for Sail

Connie clenched her jaw so hard she thought her teeth would crack.  She was intent on the heavy straps, imagining what would happen as they were pulled tight.  From the corner of her eye, she could see the man with his hand on the control lever.  The other man, the one standing in front of her, nodded his head.  The machine groaned and creaked as it pulled the slack from the straps.  She flinched and bit back a scream of anguish as the man in front of her waved his arms frantically.

“Stop!” he yelled, over the noise of the machine.

The other man pushed the lever back, easing the pressure, and Connie started breathing again.  “What’s wrong?” he asked as the noise abated.

“We’re gonna break her back if you don’t watch it.  Forward sling’s gonna slide right off her bottom.  We gotta tie ’em together, or she’ll slip right out ‘n’ bust like a watermelon.”

Connie watched like a mother lion as the workers repositioned the straps under Diamantista and prepared to lift the 49,000-pound boat and move her to the launching area.  She knew that the crew launched as many as ten boats per day during the busy season and that they never dropped one or even scratched the paint, but none of those other boats was hers.

She was surprised at how attached she had become to Diamantista in the short time she had owned her.  She’d never been one to care about possessions; she was more into collecting experiences than things.  She knew that was ironic, given her impoverished childhood.  Most people who struck it rich after growing up in desperate poverty were acquisitive, but she was a ‘take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints’ kind of gal.

Initially, she hadn’t been looking for a boat of such modern design; she had been enamored of traditional vessels like Vengeance, the Herreshoff 59 that belonged to her friends. It was her standard of comparison. As she had started shopping for boats, she’d been forced to compromise.  She needed a private stateroom for her charter guests.  The Herreshoff had two double staterooms; there were no other sleeping spaces and she couldn’t manage with only two double accommodations. Connie wasn’t about to share her sleeping quarters with Paul Russo.  She liked him well enough, but she was still off men since her last bad experience.

Paul was her friend, and he was a great cook.  She was thrilled that he was going to help her get started with the charter business, but she wasn’t ready for romance, and he didn’t seem to be, either. By the time he joined her, she would have the assurance of having skippered the vessel without anyone to serve as a crutch.  “At the rate I’m going finding crew, I may do the voyage solo,” she said, surprising herself when she vocalized her thoughts.  She had spent too much time alone, lately.  She would have to watch that when she found crew for the trip.  It wouldn’t do to give voice to every stray thought when she was in the company of strangers.

* * *

Jimmy Dorlan and Kirsten Jones studied the index cards pinned in random fashion to the cork board outside the Annapolis Harbormaster’s office.  Kirsten grasped a card in her fingers, the bitten nails of her other hand plucking out the thumbtack that held the card to the board.

“I like the looks of this one,” she said, handing it to Jimmy.

He stared at it, squinting, as she read aloud over his shoulder.

“Fifty-six-foot sailing yacht bound for the Virgin Islands in early November seeks two experienced crew members.  Expenses and return airfare paid.  Apply in person to Connie Barrera aboard Diamantista, at anchor in Back Creek, any day after 5 p.m.”

“How we gonna find that?”

“Water taxi.  Wonder if Connie’s got a man aboard?” Kirsten asked.

“Why?  You lookin’ for a little action on the side?”

“No, stupid.  If she’s a single woman, it would be better. We need to convince her we know what we’re doing, Jimmy.”

“Yeah. Whatever you say, college girl.”

Kirsten smirked. “Doesn’t matter, but you’d better let me do the talking, okay?”

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