The Slow Guy Always Wins on the One Lane Highway

Chapter 1: Introducing Jake:

1 Present Time (2008)

I remember falling out of the airplane. There I was, hot shot 14 year old football player in top shape, ready for a great experience with my Dad. It was to be my coming of age event and instead, it was a near death experience. I was trained in using and packing the parachute. I was trained in how to land. I was not trained in standing on an airplane with open doors, and I remember when it lurched. It felt to me as if I was being jerked out of the door and there was nothing I could do fast enough to stop it. I was in the air first flailing and then somersaulting helplessly out of control. I could see myself hitting the ground and wondered how Mom and Dad and Louis would recover. I could see my funeral…. What I didn’t know was that my Dad jumped, or really dove out of the plane right behind me and was there behind me for a while. As soon as my tumbling slowed a little, he grabbed me in a full body hug and we continued to dive toward the earth before he could attach me to his gear in a buddy jump rig, and then he slowed us down by arching his back and putting out his arms and legs. Invisible arms seemed to be stopping my fall, and the tug of the ‘chute made it feel as if we were rising. That was a great feeling!

Jake looked at the TV hanging in the corner, but couldn’t concentrate. Like the skydiving, this could be an incredible break, or, if ever a man was offered an opportunity to look like a fool in front of millions, this could be it. Life. Great rewards are always balanced by great risk.

All this time, he kept walking back and forth. He had learned from Anthony Robbins that energy plus motion equal emotion. Eventually, feeling more alive and more fulfilled, he thought of the audience and sent some love to them. They were people having a good day, or having a bad day. They were seekers wanting to learn something, or they were people hoping to feel a little better today. He wished them well on their journey and prayed that he wouldn’t interfere with that in any way. He hoped that he could be a help. That was why he was here.

He looked up at the TV and focused on Oprah, and felt a little tired, even though she was happy and excited. Ho’oponopono. He sent her love and apologies, and trusted that Amanda and Vince were doing the same, and would continue to do so through the show. If she was at her best, it would be a wonderful show.

The thought of Amanda made him happy: Amanda, with her long legs and green eyes, and infectious laughter who was the love of his life; Amanda, the artist who had designed their successful marketing campaign. Amanda was spring to everyman’s winter and a mountain stream to everyman’s wasteland. Amanda was in the audience with the rest of the team.

The door opened and Jake jumped. He jumped the way his childhood dog Chesterfield had once jumped as a snake skin blew across her path; like a cartoon character, in the air moving legs and paws and managing to move away from the danger. And then he laughed, because it was just one of his partners.

And, Justin laughed. “A bit on edge, are we?” he asked. “The guys sent me back to reassure you that we’re all out there and there’s nothing to worry about.”

Jake was laughing at himself. “Not so much on edge, as fallen off the ledge, I’d say.”

Justin was still smiling. “I told them it wouldn’t help. I said that you would be aware that this is one of those moments in life…. Seriously, you look like a guy who’s just had surgery and doesn’t want to laugh because it hurts too much. Try to breathe…. Look at what we’ve already been through together. This is just a bump on the log.” Justin decided to be helpful. “Shall I give you some notes?”

Jake now laughed hard, both as a release and in anticipation. “Yes, give me some notes.” For someone with a drawl, he talks faster than anyone on the team. How does he do it?

Justin sat down at the table and took out a pack of file cards. “I knew you wouldn’t have notes. Now, don’t forget to thank everyone, but that’s at the end. I hope Oprah asks us to stand because we’re all dressed for the occasion and Amanda and Georgia are looking especially stunning. I’m just writing all our names down for you. And, don’t forget to tell them about how we rescued Charlie, and to explain what our name means.” And Justin scribbled something on each note pertaining to his ideas as he progressed. “Did you think about this at all, Jake?”

Jake was still laughing. “I did, Justin….”

“Well, you’d never know it…. And, remember to tell them that our first business presentation was a bust, and the second was a party.” He slowed down for a minute. “And, I think the reason for our success is Chinese food.”

Jake could hardly talk he was laughing so hard. “…Chinese food?”

“Yes,” Justin continued. “If you hadn’t been feeding us Chinese food all those months, we probably wouldn’t have come to all those meetings. And, what do you think would have happened if your mastermind group had fallen by the wayside?”

Jake was trying to catch his breath. “I was going to talk about the Navy….”

Justin was insistent. “I think you should give credit where credit is due, to the Chinese food; to Chai Hong and Szechuan Kitchen...”

“I also have an idea that to quote Napoleon Hill might be a good thing:

“when riches begin to come, they come so quickly, and in such great abundance that one wonders where they have been hiding during all those lean years.”

A knock on the door preceded the entry of the hostess. “Mr. Classen, Ms. Winfrey is ready for you….”

Justin, smiling broadly, handed him the notes before he left and said, “Skip Napoleon and stick with Chai Hong”.

And then, like any man facing a life changing event, Jake’s mind began to re-experience the startup of their company in accelerated time. It’s always hard to pinpoint the exact moment when either an idea or love starts….

2 The Beginning: 2000

Faith, belief, intuition, motivation, perseverance, cooperation, skill, talent and stubbornness all play a part in success. In the late 1970’s, in America these things were a little hard to come by. In less than two decades, the United States had barely survived 3 assassinations, a near-miss impeachment of the president, the first military loss by the Armed Forces, the first kidnapping and long term holding of American diplomats hostage by a foreign government, gasoline prices that were all but holding the country hostage and double digit inflation. In 1979, Bob Classen, a NAVY SEAL, was about to become father to a son for the first time. He began to study the biographies of great men.

He didn’t know about Napoleon Hill, Wallace Wattles, Earl Nightingale or W. Clement Stone but he did learn about Andrew Carnegie and Jacob Astor and John D. Rockefeller and the other men whose names are carved in stone on the New York City Public Library at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. They had each achieved great success and helped to increase the strength not only of their families but of their country. Bob was encouraged to learn that these things were imminently possible whether or not one was born into a wealthy family.

He also hadn’t studied quantum physics, but he had the energy of intense desire born of love, and his energy was more than enough to form a wave, a blip that positively changed his child’s DNA. Bob couldn’t ever know what he had accomplished. Bob’s wife, Kelly, also loved their first child as much as any mother has ever loved any child. This cemented the change. Their son, Jake is the subject of our story.

Jake Classen’s version is simpler. He was aware that his father, Bob, had been a Navy man during the Viet Nam conflict, but stayed in the service until he was eligible for retirement and that Kelly was an elementary school teacher and full of fun. There was nothing too unusual in the family. They moved around as any military family will. After they left Virginia, for most of grammar school, Jake and his brother were home schooled. They always had a dog (sometimes two) and they almost always had a boat.

Jake and his brother Louie were involved in sports. Jake was a football halfback, and Louie was a baseball shortstop. Both swam competitively. Both fished for fun. Louie played tennis. Jake was a sailor. Their dad was a serious tri-athlete and had been a champion swimmer most of his life. He spent a great deal of time with them when he was home. He was both fun to be with, and a great hugger whether you thought you wanted one or not. Jake remembered losing his first high school football game, and he still got the greatest hug from his dad. “You played an awesome game,” he had said. “You should always feel like a winner when you outdo yourself the way you did today.” And, then, to prove that it wasn’t just fatherly love, Bob told him his running times for each time he carried the ball and exactly how many blocks and tackles he had made. It had, indeed, been his best performance and his dad had appreciated every play! What he didn’t realize then was that his dad made everyone feel appreciated.

Jake had always felt like a winner when his dad was around. This was probably why he decided to go into the Navy right after college, as his dad had. He didn’t know whether he was looking to become a man like his father by following in his footsteps, for the camaraderie and the friendship of the guys who had always been at his home as he was growing up, or whether he just didn’t know what he wanted.

At basic training, he also met Vince from Maine and Justin from New Orleans. They were teamed up together for some of the drills, and instantly became friends. They all chose destroyers and hoped to be deployed together, but there is no way to insure such a thing.

After basic, his luck held and he was sent to his ship with his buddies, Vince and Justin. They weren’t on the ship for more than a few months when they had a conversation that had set their future in stone. He was one of the older guys. They all called him Bill, as if he had no rank and no last name although later he found out that it was Montgomery. He just had always been Bill. And, Bill knew everything about a ship, about taking care of a ship, about navigating a ship, and about how to get along on a ship. He didn’t take any guff from anyone when there was work to be done, but once the work was finished, no one had more fun.

Anyway, Bill had asked one day, what Jake wanted to do when he was finished with the Navy, or, when the Navy was finished with him – whichever came first.

“Well, Bill. I just got here. I haven’t really thought about it yet. Tell me what you have been thinking about.” Jake had asked back. “You must be pretty close to 20 years in, by now.”

Bill looked at him with that perpetual twinkle in his eye. “Why, I will become wealthy when I am finished serving my country. I think I deserve that, don’t you?

Jake and the other guys had laughed. “And, have you thought about how you might do that?” they asked.

“Sure….”

“…And, are you going to share the details?” Jake had asked, perhaps naively. The other guys seemed to be deliberating whether they wanted to let Bill lead them into a trap as he often did.

“I would ask that you first think about what led you to the Navy in the first place.”

“Common, Bill, no amount of Navy ever made anyone rich, unless they became an Admiral, and, pardon, but that ain’t you, Bill” answered Justin, who sometimes was impatient with ideas, or thinking. He was definitely a man of action as he liked to say.

Bill was patient, but he was not going to be rushed. “Alright then, Jus, something easy. Did you ever start thinking about Penny, and she called?”

“Sure, of course. We have a special connection….”

“And, Jake, you grew up Navy. Was there a time you remember, when you made the decision for yourself?”

Jake had often wondered about this, especially on long watches. “No, Bill. I just seemed to be aimed in this direction. The decision I missed was the one to go in a different direction…..”

“And, you, Charlie. I know that you studied naval architecture and have an engineering degree. How did you decide to join up, rather than going to work for a ship builder or architectural firm? There’s certainly more money there – which would make it easier to pay off those student loans.”

Charlie answered without hesitation. “No problem Bill. I wasn’t ready to settle in and marry a desk just yet; to have and to hold from this day forward, so to speak. I thought some practical experience and a chance to see the world would be more fun.”

“And, when did you first have a picture or idea or feeling of what it might be like?”

“Hey, how did you know that? I was looking at pictures of ships built by a particular builder, and the next thing I knew, in my mind, I was on the bow of the most beautiful destroyer. The wind and the sea spray were in my face. I could smell the green of the algae, and the oxygen in the air…. That was it.”

“That’s how I am going to do it” Bill explained. “I am going to visualize, smell and hear the sounds of my success. In Justin’s vocabulary, I’m going to get connected. As Jake explained, I’m not going to spend time thinking about anything except my successful dreams.”

They looked confused, except for Charlie. – “You mean, you think we all ended up here because we had a picture of what it would be like, or that Penny calls because Justin pictures her calling?”

Bill grinned. “Exactly. I haven’t ever seen anyone get anything good that they didn’t first picture, and then feel, and then want. The more they wanted it, the more it intruded into their daydreams and the faster they got it. – This goes for bad things too by the way. That’s why seamen have always been superstitious I suspect. The more you fear something, or hate it, the faster it seems to find its way to you. There were always stories about ‘Jonas’ who brought all manner of bad luck to the ships they sailed on’”

At the time, it seemed like a simple enough conversation. Most of the guys filed it in the back of their minds for the future, but Jake began to play with the concept. He decided to give it a test. Jake began to picture himself eating with the Officers, and seeing them clap him on the back, congratulating him. He was feeling pride and satisfaction at their recognition. And he began picturing himself with extra money on poker night or on shore leave, and how happy that would make him to be able to treat the guys to dinner and drinks.

It was odd, but only 2 weeks later, he was on watch one night, one particularly windless, quiet and foggy, foggy night, and he stepped over to the rail because he thought he saw something, but only for a split second. Outside, he could clearly hear the waves hitting an anchored fishing boat ahead. He alerted the helmsman, who took evasive action, and thus avoided a collision with a fishing boat full of sleeping civilians. It was always a mystery that the boat didn’t show on the radar scope, but that omission allowed Jake to be a hero, and to be invited to the Officer’s mess. He was, as in his imagination, congratulated and clapped him on the back many times.

The extra money was even more bizarre by Jake’s way of thinking, because he was far from the best poker player, yet, one of his buddies, Mark, who couldn’t be at the regular game, asked him to play his money for him. Somehow, either having the extra money without his usual worries about losing, or having the responsibility, made him a better player. He just didn’t make any mistakes that night, as if he knew what cards the other guys were holding. Even then, he was so challenged at cards, he hardly knew how to use that to his advantage. It was almost as if he had a poker coach whispering in his ear. And, then, because he won, he had extra money for shore leave, as he had pictured and the guys who lost were delighted that he could take them out to dinner after he had returned the original stake to Mark.

He remembered that Justin had been incredulous. Justin never won either, and didn’t expect that either he or Jake would ever be the night’s winner. After the game, Justin cornered him. “Some folks are winnas at cards, and some ain’t, and you, Jake, ain’t. So, how’d this happ’n is what I want to know.”

“I have to admit, Justin that I’m not sure” he had responded honestly. “I think it had something to do with Bill’s principle because all I did differently was to picture myself winning and taking the guys out. I am sure that it had little to do with my poker skills.”

Justin seemed to accept that, or, it was too much to think about. With Justin, it wasn’t always clear. He simply moved on, preparing for shore leave. He was a great big, blond haired, blue eyed New Orleans born and bred, southern man. He was something of a jazz musician than a gentleman, band the women loved him and he loved them. There was not a port they’d ever visited where the women didn’t flock to Justin. He didn’t seem to see any conflict between welcoming the ladies as warmly as he could, and swearing eternal allegiance to Penny whenever she called, or when he wrote her.

This was as foreign to Jake as his winning at poker had been to Justin. But, some men seemed to have their own set of rules that didn’t actually include responsibility or fidelity. Jake’s dad had taught responsibility and had lived by his own rules. This had been confirmed by the men, former shipmates of his father, who came to visit. And, he had raised two sons who loved and respected women in the same way his father loved and respected Kelly.

Bob’s respect for his contract with Kelly didn’t ever change the way he felt about her. Oh, no, the boys knew that their parents were passionate about each other and could hardly keep their hands to themselves, especially once the boys were grown and out of the house. It was as if they had been saving up, all the years the boys were young, just waiting for “freedom.” Jake smiled. His home had been warm and exciting. His parents held hands whenever they were within reach of each other unless his Navy buddies were visiting. They were often caught kissing in the kitchen. Sometimes the food was a little delayed if Dad was helping out. Jake felt warm and safe just remembering how his parents loved each other, and their sons. Oh, there were occasional spats, but Jake never remembered any of them lasting more than a few hours. By nightfall, there was never any tension.

And, this was how he pictured his life. He expected to find a woman who would keep him interested and alive until they were old, old, old and done with all that. He just knew that it would happen someday. This was like his decision about going in to the Navy. It was a core belief he has always had.

And, he knew fairly early in their relationship that Georgia Bradfuit was not the right woman. (They had only been seeing each other about 6 months, the last 3 months in the Navy and the first 3 months out.) She was a great friend and ally. He loved talking with her and sailing with her family. He even loved her mother. She just wasn’t his life partner. What was that Bonnie Raitt song? “I can’t make you love me, if you don’t. You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t.”

It hadn’t been easy to accept the truth himself, much less to talk with Georgia about that. He remembered the night it occurred to him. They were having dinner together at her house. It was a wonderful dinner. Some of their friends had been there, and they all laughed a great deal, and perhaps drank a little too much wine. Georgia expected him to stay over, and their friends left, expecting him to stay over as he usually did. And, it struck him that he was taking advantage of her. Just, all of a sudden, from out of the blue, it dawned on him that he did not feel the way about her that he wanted to feel about his wife. I love her. Yes, but you aren’t “in love” with her. You haven’t been feeling that way for a while. You have begun to take her for granted. She is the best woman I’ve even been with. Yes, but she is not the last woman for you. You will not be happy, and neither will she, if you two don’t split and give each other a chance to move on….

He didn’t talk with her that night, because they had both been drinking and he stayed over but they didn’t make love. It was late. There were plenty of excuses he didn’t even need to use. She snuggled in his arms and fell asleep quickly. He didn’t sleep well and still he woke up before she did. While he was making coffee he realized that he was still feeling the same way, dishonest. He could not make himself comfortable with that feeling. When she woke up, he insisted that he was starving and invited her to go out to breakfast. She looked a little perplexed. This was definitely out of the ordinary, but she agreed when he smiled. He gave her some coffee to drink and busied himself in the kitchen while she dressed.

Looking back on it, he felt a little cowardly for taking her out rather than having the discussion right there in her home where she could have responded more freely. That was exactly what he wanted curbed. He didn’t seek out her unvarnished reaction, but a more measured one. Their connection was strong and he liked her very much. He believed that if they continued to “date” they would break up in less friendly circumstances. So he picked a busy restaurant.

It was a Saturday morning. The Top Tomato was a popular brunch restaurant. Most patrons sat with their coffee and their newspaper, and weren’t rushing off to anything although the tables were almost on top of each other they were so close. They were lucky to be seated right away. The waiter showed them to a table and dropped the menus. He was one of those NYC waiters who didn’t consider friendliness as part of the service. “Coffee?” he asked brusquely. They barely had time to nod. “I’ll be back” was all he said.

They settled in with their menus, and the coffee was brought over quickly. Milk and sugar was on the table, so it was put in front of them without any talk at all. When they had made their selection, the waiter appeared long enough to take their orders.

“I thought you were hungry.” Georgia noticed that he had only ordered a plain omelet with two slices of tomato. “We could have done that at home. Of course, I appreciate going out, and letting someone else mess their kitchen….” She slowly stirred her coffee without taking her eyes off him.

Jake smiled a half smile. “The jig is up, as the old guys used to say on the ship. I wanted to talk with you, and I didn’t want either of us to be jumping up to get more coffee, or butter for the toast…. I want to talk about where we’re going….”

Georgia flushed a little. Jake couldn’t read it. She looked at her coffee, and then up at him. “I’ve wanted to talk with you, too, Jake. I didn’t want us to be moving forward with something that didn’t fit into our personal plans.”

Jake cocked his head. “No. Me either.” Yet, her version sounded harsher than he had intended.

The waiter interrupted slightly by bringing their food. This gave them both time enough to breathe and consider what they needed to say.

“But, you’re paying, so you first,” Georgia said.

Jake sipped his coffee. “When I got out of the Navy and met you, I was the happiest man alive,” and he smiled a heartfelt smile. “I couldn’t imagine that someone as beautiful as you would spend any time at all with a barnacle like me. And, then, I was totally smitten with your intelligence, and humor – and you have your own business that you’re building in addition to having had a great contract with a major corporation….” Am I making a HUGGGGH mistake here? She was perfect. How could he expect to find anyone more perfect? Any other man in his right mind would be offering her a diamond, not discussing break up terms…. But, I want more than a showpiece on my arm. I want to feel passionate about my woman, and I want her to feel that way about me. This is not happening for either of us.

Georgia asked, “Shall I take the plunge?”

Jake said “Honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing…. Please jump right in.”

She smiled. “Something is missing, right? We get along great. I love you tremendously and admire you and my family loves you, but something is missing, don’t you think?”

Jake was so relieved he almost kissed her. “Have you had this discussion before?” That was why he loved her so. She was always able to say easily what was difficult for him to say. As his father always told them, it only takes a few seconds to tell the truth, and an hour to tell a lie. “That’s what it is. Exactly. I didn’t know what it was, or how to talk about it. But, last night, we had such a great time, and I realized that something was not there that I wanted to be there, for both of us.”

She ate some of her food while he talked. She seemed relieved enough to enjoy it. She was nodding as he spoke. “So, what are we going to do about this?”

“Continue to see you, because we have a great time and I love you. I can’t imagine feeling closer, or having more fun with anyone else. I can’t imagine a life without my confidant and advisor. Even so, at this point, I don’t see us marrying. – Does that make any sense to you? I feel like an idiot as I listen to myself.” And, he laughed so loud a neighbor looked disparagingly at him.

Georgia stopped eating and laughed with him. “Jake, you are, I think, the only honest man I know” and then resumed eating.

“How do you keep so fit? You enjoy eating entirely too much to look the way that you do.”

“Have you ever seen me sit for more than the length of time it takes to enjoy a meal?”

“So, how do you see us, say, a month from now?”

“I am still deliciously thin, and you still have your tight belly. We are the best of friends, because I don’t have nearly this much fun with anyone else. Sex is out, because that’s not where we’re going and we both need some space if we will be moving on. – Does that about cover it?”

“Yes,” and he felt more than a pang of regret. “So….” For one of the only times in his life, Jake was at a loss for words.

“So, eat up, Darling.” And she smiled her more alluring smile. “And, if you’d like to go for a ride tomorrow, and go out on my father’s boat late morning, he is taking it out with a couple of friends and hinted that he could use a couple of real sailors.”

And, that was it. There was such a subtle change in their relationship that it was barely noticeable to friends or family. There was just a little more honesty, and a whole lot less sex. After a while, a couple of months Jake thought, they did start to date other people, but they always reserved time for each other every couple of weeks at the longest stretch. Not all his girl friends were able to accept his friendship with Georgia, and some of her boy friends had trouble with his being in her life, but they didn’t last long as girl friends or boy friends. Complications in the kingdom.

What neither of them knew then, was that this was not the end of something but only the beginning of a great adventure that they were entering together.

3 The Germination of an Idea: Energy Becomes Particle

Napoleon jumped off the table and as cats often do, rattled the cup of coffee that had nothing but grounds to spill. Jake lifted his head slowly, getting his bearings, trying to figure out where he was, and what time it was. Since leaving the Navy, he was still grabbing naps more than sleeping through the night. But this time, it wasn’t for his country; it was for himself and his family.

He reached down and Napoleon rubbed his neck against his hand, encouraging Jake to move to his bed. Jake looked around. The small, intense desk lamp was still on. The table was covered with his papers. The small clock said it was a little after one am. He could see his bed against the wall, but there was no time for that yet. He still had an hour or so of work before he could rest. He would get plenty of rest once his business took off, but for now, he knew he had years of long hours ahead. He had not even made the first decision about his business.

This was his current predicament. He looked at his pin ups. They were not the pin ups most of the guys had in their lockers on the ship. Jake had pictures of cruising boats, sports cars, houses, and watches and shoes. He had pictures of the finest ski areas in the world, and the most beautiful mountains for climbing. He had not neglected some of the hardest to reach islands in the Pacific, with the best surf.

Jake heard a groan as Napoleon jumped up on the bed. He had forgotten that Georgia had stayed over. She often did when she had dinner at his place. It continued to be habit. Look at him. He was sleeping in his chair, working on his future rather than snuggling up to a real live woman who he loved. Yes, he still loved her, and as he gazed over and thought about her his heart swelled a little, but that was all. She barely fit into his life right now.

What a puzzle. Half the papers were just a mess, sheet after sheet of ideas written in no order, without any logical connection. Just ideas. Ideas about possible businesses. He had learned even before the Navy, that when you were simply searching for ideas, you wrote down everything that came to mind without editing or criticism. Ms Jackson. Now there was a great teacher! He took a deep breath as he remembered her civics classes. That was when he fell in love with The US Constitution. His family had been patriotic. They had put up the flag every holiday except Christmas. But, it was from Ms. Jackson that he learned the reasons why this country was great. He hoped that she was still teaching. Great teachers should be able to go on as long as they are excited by teaching.

He gathered the assorted papers together, looking them over as he put them into a manila file and labeled it with today’s date. He smiled to himself. He didn’t remember what came next. He hoped that one of these things would jump out at him and make more sense or feel better than the others. That was what he remembered happening in high school. So far, the idea he liked the best was the one that he thought he had the least preparation for.

He tried not to reject the idea just because he wasn’t an engineer, a builder or a carpenter. Henry Ford wasn’t an engineer, yet it was his company that changed the engine, making it possible to mass produce “the horseless carriage” with a six cylinder engine. Thomas Edison spent years on the electric light bulb before he and his team found that tungsten was the key. These weren’t easy inventions even once the founder had the idea. He guessed that was the nature of invention. No one knows what it is or how to make it until the inventor figures it out. And that was when it started, I think. Once I pushed away the doubt and fear I could begin to see our way forward.

Georgia rolled over, hardly noticeable under the poof of the cream colored down comforter, and Napoleon shifted to find the new, best spot behind her knees. He settled into the cozy and warm quilt and looked over at Jake, blinked both his eyes, and looked at Jake again. Jake smiled and blinked back. Napoleon was a great cat. If only he could talk, he would be …. Well, Jake evaluated, perhaps it was because he couldn’t talk that he was wonderful company.

He rubbed his eyes. Perhaps some coffee was needed. He was not focused. He got up, and stretched. His legs and back were stiff from sitting so long. He picked up the cup and walked to his kitchen, about 20 feet away. His studio apartment was compact, about 400 square feet, and reminiscent of his ship. He had added shelving along the painted brick wall in the living room and along the only available wall in the kitchen when he moved in, and that had served him well. The kitchen was small, but he could still whip up a gourmet meal because he had the best equipment.

He took a sniff at the coffee pot. Good. Not burned. He poured his coffee into the cold cup without rinsing it off. This was learned in the Navy and his mother would be appalled. He just swirled the black liquid around a few times. None of the guys rinsed their coffee cups more than once a month, if that. He wasn’t sure why. Sometimes they were short of fresh water. One guy said that the coffee was smoother in a “seasoned” cup. Or, it may have been to ensure that no one else took “your” cup. There wasn’t much on the ship that was absolutely personal, or not available for borrowing when your buddy was in need. Skivies and coffee cups. That was about it.

Sitting once again at his table, he looked out the window and took a couple of cautious sips from his cup. It was good. He had a view of some trees. This was the reason he had picked this apartment. It was in the back of the building and quiet. In the morning the birds would wake him up. For now, he could see that there weren’t many people awake in the tenant building on the other side of the trees. Most of the windows were dark. He heard one TV and could see its window from the changing lights inside, and a couple somewhere was arguing, and someone else was playing a CD. The guitar player who often kept him company was practicing. He liked that guy. He was good. When he was really playing, it was wonderful but now it was just practice. This is New York City. There are always people up and functioning. It’s impossible to be tired or to feel sorry for yourself.

He focused back on the table, and took another sip of coffee. Still hot, but not enough to deaden his taste buds. He pulled out his drawing from among last weeks ideas. The Module. It was a self contained office space, solar powered, with a sophisticated communication system so that anyone inside could teleconference to a properly equipped meeting room or office at any location in the world. It had computer and file cabinets, fax machine and printer just as any business man would need. Internet was accessed via a sophisticated broadband card inserted into the computer which also managed the video link for conferencing. The more he thought about it, the more uses he could see for The Module. It was a way to work from home without turning the TV room or guest bedroom into an office. – His proposal was to simply put the self contained office into the back yard!

He would still have to bring all his ideas back to the team because he wasn’t in this alone. Still, he let his mind wander. He could see it. He knew the needed equipment was available. All he had to do was build a box that would be comfortable for the businessman and would allow easy installation of needed equipment. He had already decided to make it out of fiberglass and wood, like a fine yacht. It was the only one he had drawn. Had he already begun to bring it into existence?

Georgia stirred, possibly noticing a change in the energy. She opened one eye, leaned over to the edge of the loft bed and looked over at him and smiled. Napoleon lifted up his head as well. Jake smiled back at the two of them, so cozily snuggled in his bed but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t totally sure that Georgia was fully awake.

“I was dreaming about your business,” she said quietly. “You had a big corner office with a beautiful desk, and the room was full of energetic young people, comfortably dressed, who were discussing something and sharing drawings and charts and graphs with you and each other. You looked so happy I had to wake up to tell you. This is working out for you.”

He jotted some names down on a piece of paper as he said, “I believe I have decided on our product. I will meet with my team in the middle of this week.” With that, he turned off the light and walked over to the ladder and climbed up onto the bed to join Georgia and Napoleon. She moved over close to the window to give him room and Napoleon adjusted one more time.

…………

The birds had long since ended their early morning songs when Jake stirred. The sun was already coming in through the back windows, shining on the desk, on the folders, and sneaking onto the bed.

He woke up to the smell of eggs, turkey bacon, and fresh coffee. He couldn’t see her from the bed but he could hear Georgia quietly singing to herself and he could see Napoleon was eating at his dish in the kitchen. Jake had slept more than usual and felt great. He had dreamed about his business, but it was a problem solving dream, not a success dream as Georgia had.

“Hey there, I thought you had to leave early this morning,” he called to remind her.

She peeked out of the kitchen and grinned. “I called my messages, and my early appointment cancelled.”

“Good,” he confirmed. “It’s been a while since I’ve awakened to the smell of fresh breakfast. I am grateful.”

“Get out of here. You’re a great cook and should be up cooking for me. You just want to be spoiled in your own home and it won’t happen….” However, she brought him over a cup of steaming coffee, without his having to ask and kissed him good morning. “What do you have in mind today?” She asked.

“One can be grateful for a gift even though it wasn’t needed, or deserved. Thank you. He also responded to her question. “I need to see when I can meet with some of my mastermind group, and I use the term a little loosely at this point. I don’t know who will end up being interested and who won’t, but they seemed to be interested in a business when I first mentioned it…. We will see” he answered enthusiastically. “How long can you stay?”

“I have to be in by 10:30 am. I’ll leave right after breakfast.” She looked at him without commitment, without asking, without any underlying question.

He reached over and pulled her close to him as he stood up. They exchanged a long hug. She had been his first adult love. She knew him better than anyone other than his buddies from the ship. He was always happy that she remained in his life, past the time when they were lovers. She was honest, giving and always a good listener.

She returned his hug enthusiastically before pushing him gently away. “And, if I don’t go back to the kitchen, we won’t have time to eat before I go….”

“Don’t let me stop you, Georgia,” and he nimbly stepped out of her way.

“Jake, you are one good man. I am going to take advantage of a late morning, and enjoy breakfast. – Clear the table so I have some place to put our food.”

He smiled and let her go. It took him little time to gather his work at one end before she was back with eggs, bacon and the coffee pot. He was happily surprised that she had also cut up some fresh peaches. “Where did these come from?”

“I brought them over last night. They were from the Farmer’s Market. My favorite orchard on Long Island is Wickham’s and they have a stand at Union Square.”

He tasted his first piece and the juice ran down his arm. He laughed and reached for a napkin. “You can dress them up…”

She laughed over her coffee cup. “And, that’s why it’s my favorite. It’s messy, but good.”

“Like your recipe for broiled shrimp covered in peppered breadcrumbs. That is something that should only be eaten outside.”

She was still laughing. “That’s the way I like it best too. Near the Sound so we can swim right afterwards.”

“And followed by a cold keg on the beach” he added.

“In your dreams.”

“Exactly, in my dreams…. For now. But someday, that party on the beach will be in front of my beach house, catered by the Doherty family from Massachusetts. They put on the best clam and lobster bake on the east coast. – But, you will have to make the shrimp.”

“When you get your house, even if I am married and living on the west coast, I will make broiled shrimp for your first party at your own home.”

“And bring them yourself. No Fed Ex stuff!”

“No Fed Ex. I will personally deliver your broiled pepper shrimp.”

4 Fears and Innuendo

Charlie, Justin, Vince and Jake were almost always together when they were in the service. They were really nothing alike, but that was the service for you. Men from all different walks of life would learn their job, and learn to work alongside someone else they wouldn’t have known except for his doing his job, and they would be willing to give up their life if need be for their shipmates.

This team was known for getting their work done ahead of schedule, and putting in a few hours to help any team that was behind so they could all go out and party together. They were big, strong, and competitive and with the possible (probable) exception of Justin, they were all exceptionally smart. They were fearsome. The officers tried to break them up from time to time, but they always ended up back together because no other team could keep up their pace. The other team would end up with injuries, dehydration, or some form of exhaustion that would ruin the schedule for the next day.

So, when Jake intended to start a business, these guys became his master mind group. – Even Justin. Although Justin didn’t enjoy a full game of chess, as it were, when it came to knowing what people were interested in, particularly women, he was always right on point. He had a good sense of the kind and amount of work a man would be willing to do for a given amount of money and was one of the most loyal men Jake had ever met.

But their trust and understanding didn’t come easily. For a while, on the ship, there were problems. Originally, there were a couple of other guys who sometimes hung out with them, Jules and Harry. They weren’t quite as big, or as capable, but they knew how to work hard. Then, Simon and Jerry were also occasionally members of the group. They didn’t even try to compete, but they were funny and great to go out with on shore leave.

Trouble started one May evening, after they had been on the ship for about 6 months. The night was foggy and dark. There was no wind, and it was quiet. They were cruising in the Mediterranean. The only natural light was from the iridescent sea creatures in the bow wave. The sky was absolutely black, without any light in it at all. From the deck, you could see the eerie reflective light off the faces of the men on the bridge, and the stern light. And, those lights actually made it harder for your night vision without adding any helpful light. For example, it was not possible to see a loose line on the deck until you’d stepped on it or tripped over it. Jake had discovered this after he had tripped over such a line that night on his way to the bridge, carrying a message from his CO.

Vince didn’t like the dark. He admitted that this started when he was a child. He used to stay pretty close to one of his buddies when he had night duty. They didn’t make a big deal out of it, and somehow, they all seemed to sense that this was something they didn’t want to know more about. Vince was their kind of guy in all other areas.

But, that night, Vince was alone. Jake and Charlie were on duty. Justin was in sick bay after eating some bad food the night before when on shore leave. Vince found Jules on deck, playing his harmonica. He was good and Vince enjoyed listening to him, although it came with the problem of being out on deck on a dark night.

“Hey Jules, where’s your buddy Harry?”

“Don’t know, Vince. He’ll be up in a while I suspect. He wanted to clean up his locker in case there’s an inspection, and he was working to earn some money polishing one of the officer’s shoes for him.”

Vince sat down to listen, without giving it a second thought. They talked a little about the music. Jules played for a few hours. Harry never showed, but Simon and Jerry came up and joined them. They were great Country and Western singers so Jules adjusted his repertoire. They saw Jake go by a couple of times on errands. Charlie was stuck down below working on some planning project for the CO. They didn’t want to know what it was. Whatever it was, it would only mean more work for them. They would deal with it when it came.

Every time Jake would go by he’d give Vince a swat or throw something at him. He just wanted to make some contact to make sure that Vince was hanging tough. Vince would jump if he didn’t see it coming, and get mad, and they’d all laugh. Things seemed pretty quiet and normal until it was close to duty change.

The guys on deck had to go to their assigned posts. Jake made sure that he was nearby at the end of his shift so that he could make sure that Vince got to his safely. It was a good thing. Vince was to be on duty with Harry in the engine room, and when he got to their duty post, Harry wasn’t there. They checked the duty roster, and Simon showed up in a few minutes, as the other man at the post.

It was not a great deal, but was unusual for Harry to be late. Jake was off duty, so he went down to Harry’s locker, to see if he was still working down there, and just hadn’t heard the bell. It didn’t happen often, but if a man was in the head (ship’s bathroom), and flushed at the exact time the bell was rung, you could miss it.

But, Jake looked around, and Harry wasn’t there either. Strangely, his locker was open, not open with the top up, mind you, but unlocked as if he had just left it for a few minutes. Everything in it was neat, closed, aligned and in place. Jake wondered about it being open, but no one was around to ask. His bunk was neat and crisp. No one had even sat on it since he made it. All was inspection ready, except for the locker.

He went back to report to Vince and Simon, and to make sure that Harry hadn’t reported while he was away. No sign or word from Harry they reported. Vince was, by now, starting to show his anxiety. It was just the wrong day and the wrong time for this to be happening. Outside, the blackness was a thick as oil, and it almost seemed as if it could ooze into the room through the door and windows.

Simon had already checked all the engine function dials and meters. Everything was in good order. He had settled down to a game of solitaire while Vince paced. They agreed that it was time to report the missing shipmate. Vince made the call.

“…No Sir. He didn’t call in. Yes Sir. Jake went to his bunk. He wasn’t there, although his locker was open….”

Jake listened to the conversation intermittently as he was also watching the game of solitaire, having found a new interest in cards. There, no there! Put the 5 on the 6 so you can move the Ace up there….JC, but you’re blind as a bat he mentally corrected Simon’s moves….

Vince hung up the phone. “He’s going to start a search. – Something small unless it looks as if a full ship search is needed. For now, he said, Harry might just have fallen asleep somewhere….” But Vince didn’t believe that. Vince didn’t believe in vampires or witches. Vince believed in the denizens of the night his father had told him about. He believed in scroons! And, this was just the way a scroon would work – take you quietly, silently in the dark and no one would ever know what had happened. There would be no blood, no bone and no discarded clothing.

“A search!” Simon exclaimed. “Boy is Harry going to be in deep ___ when he is found sleeping somewhere.”

Let’s hope that he has everything attached and that he is still on the ship when he’s found, Vince thought. Scroons eat fast!

Jules came by right about then. “So, you guys haven’t seen or heard anything from Harry?”

“No. Are you part of the search team?” Jake asked. “Did they tell you anything?”

“No. All the CO knew was that he didn’t show up for duty.”

Jake asked, “Jules, you know him better than we do. Any idea where he might be? Let’s assume the simplest explanation. Who might he have been spending time with in the last few hours? Maybe he fell asleep and no one realized he had a post at the last bell.”

Vince was smiling an almost ghoulish grim and Jake hoped, for his sake, that no one else was noticing. He could only guess what Vince was thinking about.

It was clear, Jules had been thinking. “I wish I could say. I knew that he was doing some work for an officer. I don’t believe he ever said who, or if he did I just wasn’t listening.”

Simon was a pragmatist. “Too bad,” he said. “Whoever it was might have some idea of where he is…. He might even still be with him right now.”

Jules looked upset. “I don’t want to hang around and listen to such drivel. I’ve got to get going. I’m moving aft. If you hear from Harry, give a holler.”

Simon nodded. And Vince already seemed to be laughing in that most disturbing way he had tonight. Jules left without another word. Jake went off to talk with the CO and to suggest to him that one of the officers might have a clue about Harry’s whereabouts. This was not something that an enlisted man could check up on without orders.

If it was possible, it was even darker outside than before. You couldn’t see the transition from sea to sky. There were no stars in the sky. Except for the ship’s wake, you couldn’t see the water. And, except for the ship’s horn, and the sound of the ship’s engines, the night was almost soundless. The fog was so thick; a short walk would soak your clothes if you weren’t decked out in foul weather gear and you wouldn’t be able to tell whether it started on the outside or the inside. He noticed uncomfortably, that he couldn’t see the ship’s com tower. This fog was less like walking through a cloud than it was like walking into a being that was swallowing one’s future and one’s past. Jake shivered. He could almost believe in Vince’s Scroons.

He headed for the galley, knowing that Charlie’s habit was to grab a cup of coffee after their duty. He thought there was a good chance that the CO had gone for the same reason on this damp night. And, after tripping over a few hinges, and stubbing his boots into a couple of winches, he made his way to the galley.

A comforting light fell through the doorway and lightened his spirits as soon as he opened the door. He heard Charlie on the other side talking solemnly, and noticed that they were each at their own tables. As soon as he entered they looked up. The CO asked immediately, “Any sign of him?”

“No,” Jake answered. “I had some information I wanted to share with you. Perhaps you already talked with Jules?”

“He was the only one on the search team who had any information at all about Harry’s activities this evening….”

“Yes, Sir. And, those activities started with some work for an officer….”

“What is it you’re getting at?”

“I was just wondering whether the search team would be questioning the officers as well as the enlisted men.”

“No one is authorized to do more than to ask for information on his whereabouts.”

“And if we don’t find him?”

“That decision is above your pay grade Mister. I will speak with the Captain, but right now, he is getting some much deserved rest.”

Jake was frustrated. This chain of command bull was exasperating. His father hadn’t had any reverence for it, and Jake hadn’t developed any on his own. But, he knew, that there was nothing he could say to make a man who was hiding behind it, show any initiative. He was in no mood to sit down and socialize with either Charlie or the CO at this moment. He turned and walked outside. The fog was more alluring. It was honest and cooling, which was appealing to him right now.

…………

Meanwhile, far below the ship on the ocean floor, far below where even a Navy diver would travel without a submersible, and about two hours behind where the ship now was, there was a lucky crab. He was cruising along, first to the left, and then to the right, looking he thought for a bit of shrimp or a bit of mussel. Many nights went by, when he didn’t find anything, so it would have made sense that he was hopeful, but not exactly expecting to find anything, if you get my drift. Yet, this night defied reason. As with a gambler who senses that this will be the night he makes his big hit, or with a woman who expects that this is the night her man will propose, or as happens to a fisherman when he has a feeling about where to cast his lure, this night, that crab EXPECTED to find a banquet, a feast, a reason for reverie. You might ask, how anyone would know what this crab was expecting on this particular night, yet, this would be known by Bill Montgomery’s principle of visualization or another man’s Law of Attraction. Nothing happens without the Law of Attraction coming into play.

And so it did this night, as it does every night and every day. First our crab found a well shined, spit shined, leather shoe, and on any other night that would be enough, but on this night he knew there was more. He continued until he found a hand, and the hand was attached to the body of Harry Freedman, Boson’s Mate. Harry Freedman was on the bottom of the ocean, courtesy of a knock on the head and a heavy metal object tied to his feet. Neither the crab, nor anyone else would ever know whether he regained consciousness before his lungs took in the first large gulp of sea water. It didn’t matter at all to the crab, which was now, in crab parlance, fixed for life.

And, so, let us return to the ship, two hours earlier because there were also two men who had expectations that night. Harry was meeting an officer, as he had told Jules. Harry’s expectations were for a little extra work, which he thought would give him a little extra money, but those expectations were not specific. He had heard rumors about this officer, as had many of the other men on board that ship, rumors that he was a homosexual. He was a little strange, and the men could find no other explanation. Harry would have said that he did not worry about the stories, but even so, something stopped him from mentioning to Jules who he was “working” for. Perhaps he thought of the rumors again as he went off to his meeting. Bill Montgomery would have told him that you ALWAYS, always have to heed your instincts, and you ALWAYS, always have to picture specifically the end result of what you want.

The officer had specific expectations. He was a sadist who managed, for long periods of time, to keep his urges under control, although, as a forensic psychologist will tell you, these latent or inactive periods become shorter and shorter with time. We will not here describe his favorite methods of torture, but suffice it to say that Harry was begging for death long before it came. Were it not for his experience in keeping his victims immobilized and quiet, the perpetrator would not have made it through that night without being discovered. As it happened, the officer’s secret would not be discovered until he had killed 5 additional sailors. (Before Harry, he had already killed 6.) He never was tried for his murders because while in the brig awaiting trial, he disappeared. It is generally accepted that because he was there with friends of some of his victims, he was taken apart and flushed away. Fragging is a traditional, but unofficial, military capital punishment for outrageous conduct and betrayal of one’s comrades, or of one’s unit or branch of service. It is sometimes carried out by a single man, or more often by several members of your unit. This would have been the prison version.

Vince’s expectation was that Harry’s body would never be found. His conclusion was absolutely correct, but his reasoning was mistaken. Harry was not at the bottom being eaten by Scroons. Scroons had nothing to do with Harry’s being thrown from the ship and tied to weights. However, Vince should be warned that his fears of Scroons would not serve him well. There are some things that are best left in our childhoods. Fear is a powerful initiator of the dark side of the Law of Attraction.

5 The Serpentine Crew:

Jake arranged for a meeting with his team right after Georgia left. A few phone calls back and forth determined that they were all were available for late Sunday afternoon. Jake himself couldn’t do it earlier because he had promised Georgia he would sail with her father, Bruce, over the weekend. There was a race he went in every year “for the fun of it” he said, and Jake had crewed for him since they had met. It was great fun, and Jake always met someone he was happy to know.

The race would start Friday evening, off the coast of Mattituck, and they would race to Martha’s Vineyard and back. They were one of the bigger boats, and were usually back early Sunday morning. The smaller racers wouldn’t be back until later on Sunday, and since the winner wouldn’t be known until the handicapping was figured, he would likely be back in the city before he knew whether they had won or not.

Jake looked forward to it. He had hoped to meet with his mastermind team before the weekend, but it wasn’t possible. Charlie was in Chicago on business the first part of the week. Justin was in Las Vegas Wednesday and Thursday. Jake had surreptitiously asked why, and he had explained that he was there for a friend’s wedding. Good thing Jake thought, remembering what a bad gambler he had been on the ship.

It was with a clear conscience that he left for Mattituck early Friday afternoon. Bruce Bradfuit was a former champion sailor from western Long Island Sound. As a child he had sailed Blue Jays and Lightnings and a Moth, which is like a miniature 505. A friend of Jake’s mom knew Bruce when he was a child. She had remembered him as the one kid sneaking his boat out when the winds were gale force and the sailing instructors were keeping everyone else on shore for the day. He had cut the transom out of his boat, so that the water coming in over the rail from breaking waves, would just pour out the back end – provided he was moving fast enough of course. This insured that he could only sail when the wind was steady and more than 7 or 8 knots although he preferred winds of more than 20 knots.

It was hard to explain to a non-sailor, but the Moth was a planing boat, which means that it was meant to fly across the surface of the water rather than to float and plow through it. Even so, it took a bit of know how to get a boat “up” and planing. The feeling was one of exhilaration, of being one with the boat as it would overcome the pull of gravity and the surface tension of the water and “take off”. – It was better by far than the feeling of taking off in an airplane. That is a momentary feeling, but planing can last for hours. It could be the hottest, most miserably oppressive day on shore, but on the water in a planning boat, a skipper could be cool, and be laughing for hours from the breathtaking sense of elation. This is an extremely powerful feeling for a child of 10 to 15 years old, to be able to literally harness the wind and to use it to overpower the ocean.

Later on, when he had gained some adult weight, Bruce sailed a Finn and worked at North Sails in Connecticut. He won some series and went to two Olympics, but never won a gold medal before it was time to join his father’s accounting firm. Later on, Bruce raced his cruising boat like a small boat, coaxing every bit of speed out of her at every moment. Jake didn’t particularly like cruising, but he would race with Mr. Bradfuit any chance he got. It was always a challenge, and often they won a cup.

Jake had not grown up a racing sailor. Since he had been a Navy brat, he had been moved around. Not every Navy base was near a small boat program for junior sailors. However, when his dad was stationed near the Chesapeake, Jake got involved in sailing.

Jake didn’t sail the same boats that Bruce had grown up on, neither a Moth, nor a Blue Jay or Lightning. He sailed 420’s and 470’s because those were the Olympic Class boats they sailed on the Chesapeake Bay. They were also planing boats, but they were sailed by two, a skipper and a crew. The crew needed to be athletic enough or agile enough, to use a trapeze for hiking. Jake didn’t have his own boat, but he became a much valued crew and learned how to win while sailing with the best skippers. Then, when he was older and there were Junior Championships where only the best of the best would represent the club, Jake won the qualifying races and was asked to step up to the skipper position. This was a great honor and a great fun when they won. Later on he was surprised to discover that he was already a familiar name to yachtsmen like Bruce Bradfruit.

The drive out to Mattituck was two hours in the winter, but with summer traffic it often slowed down to three hours or more on a Thursday night. Jake left early in the afternoon, on Friday, hoping to miss the worst of it. Perhaps he did, but it was still slow, seldom allowing him to go more than 53 mph. At other times of the year, or on other days, 72 mph was the steady speed. It was hard not to resent the other drivers even though that made no sense, because they were just doing what you were doing – trying to get away from the city to a beautiful ocean spot during the hot summer.

Jake first listened to music, but he hadn’t changed his CD’s in a while, and was tired of what he had in the car. He listened to NPR on the radio, but he didn’t know who the musician was who was being interviewed so he turned it off. He listened to Air America on his XM satellite connection. Thom Hartman was talking about Alberto Gonzalez and the firing of the Federal Justices, and his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It kept him awake because the Attorney General was the most annoying, most insipid AG ever, and the Senators were so polite that one couldn’t tell whether they realized he was a lying piece of ____.

He was awake now, but he was thirsty. He pulled off the LIE somewhere in the 60’s to get some Snapple Iced Tea and to stretch his legs. It was almost 2 pm. He had hoped to be in Mattituck by now. He should have driven out with Georgia. He could have talked her into coming back early on Sunday even though she sometimes didn’t go back until Monday morning….

He bought two Snapple Iced Teas, and looked around for a piece of fruit. Too much to hope for, he supposed, at an Exxon gas/convenience station. He decided against corn chips, and settled for the drinks. He had two “emergency” peanut butter sandwiches with him on rye toast so they weren’t too soggy. – When he went to the Navy “Survival Training School” in Maine, he had discovered that he did better with simple sandwiches than with the high tech Protein Bars. Even when squished, Jake found a peanut butter sandwich is still edible and satisfying. Frankly, he didn’t think Protein Bars were ever enjoyable even though they did have a better balance of protein, fat and carbs.

Again, he thought of driving out with Georgia. She would have had a fresh salad that could be neatly eaten with a fork and some gourmet leftover that would have been more than enough for two. And, she always packed both a thermos of coffee and another of iced tea…. And she would smell good. He smiled to himself. Although they hadn’t been physically intimate for a while, it was still fun being close to her. She was a wonderfully appealing woman.

He walked back to his car, grateful that at least he had taken the time to make two sandwiches. They kept him busy until he got off the highway at exit 72, and headed toward the Bradfuits in Mattituck.

Everyone was there. The rest of the crew had gotten there either Thursday, or at least in time for lunch. Bruce’s wife, Wendy, was a great cook, or, more accurately, chef. It was from her mom that Georgia had developed her love of wondrous food, and from growing up on the North Fork that she had access to the best ingredients. The summer vegetables were abundant, and the local fish markets always had fresh fish. (Georgia couldn’t shop in a NYC fish market. She couldn’t stand the smell. Where she grew up, fish markets smelled sweet! Jake was with her on that. )

Apparently, the early crew had been treated to a Caesar salad, fresh Weakfish, green beans almondine, and a hot new potato salad. – A simple, but delectable lunch. They had a choice of North Fork vineyard wines, beer, or iced tea, or delicious, iced well water. Jake hoped that they would have time for dinner before they had to leave, but he doubted it. He knew there would be food on the boat, but it wouldn’t be as fresh or as elaborate as Ms. Bradfuit’s lunch. Next time, he promised himself, he was going to leave early in the morning.

He knew and greeted the other crew members. (They had been waiting for him to arrive before heading over to the boat.) There was the insurance man, Pete Richardson, who happened to be a talented navigator (who knew the area well because he had spent his summers helping his father, a bayman/fisherman, since he was 10 years old) and the three big men, the main winch and sail handlers, Barry, Kurt and Tree. The other helmsman, besides himself and Bruce was John Appleton. (John had grown up in Rowayton, Connecticut. Most inhabitants of Rowayton were drafted as crew on cruising boats as soon as they passed 100 pounds, or 16 years of age, whichever happened first.) During the week, John was an environmental engineer, usually working on sites either in New London, or New York City.

Georgia was her dad’s most trusted tactician. She had sailed with him since she was small. She shared her father’s competitive spirit and knew the outer limits of Serpentine, their boat. She had been in the yard when Jake arrived, and just before they were leaving, was called inside with another young woman whom Jake had never met.

“Hi Jake,” Georgia chimed. “I don’t think you’ve ever met my grammar school and high school, and my oldest friend, Amanda Haggerty.”

“No,” Jake acknowledged, walking over to the two women. She is more beautiful than Georgia. She has the longest legs I’ve ever seen on a woman, and the greenest eyes. “Very happy to meet you Amanda,” he said, holding out his hand.

She took it, and gave him a warm smile.

And, she has the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen on an adult….

“I’m happy to meet you too, Jake. I can’t believe Georgia has kept you to herself all this time…. She only invited you out here when I wasn’t around, you know. – I wonder if that was on purpose?”

He laughed, charmed, and noted that her hand was not soft where she had calluses, but was unbelievably soft where she didn’t. He was sure that the rest of her would be that way. “I am sure it was not by design. Georgia is happy to share me with all comers,” he stated matter of factly. “In truth, if I wasn’t one of her best friends, I would think she was trying to get rid of me.”

“Well then, I’m glad to hear it” and she finally released his hand.

It was then that Jake noticed the duffle bag on her shoulder. “Are you a sailor? Are you going with us?”

“I am.”

“She’s your spinnaker and foresail crew,” Georgia added. “She’s the best on Long Island for sure, and I think she’s the best in New England. She plays it like a 420 crew, never letting it just rest. We are going for speed this weekend with Manda and you all” she said looking at the whole crew. She then looked toward her father.

“Let’s get over to the inlet,” he said. “I will give you your team placement, and schedule once we’re on the boat. I have it all printed out for you.”

“I loaded the ice and food this morning. Kurt checked out the sails. It should all be ready. We can all fit in the two SUV’s.”

The crew all grabbed their bags and headed for the two cars. Jake didn’t want to be obvious, so he brought up the rear, waiting to see which car would have room for him. Georgia motioned him over to her car with Manda.

The two women sat in front and he sat just behind them with John. Kurt stretched out in the back seat by himself even though it was only a 5 minute drive to Serpentine’s dock.

“Jake,” Georgia said quickly, “I wanted to let you know that Manda is a commercial artist. She has been designing advertisements, packaging for new products, and logos. I told her about your new company….”

Manda turned around and he once again was mesmerized by her green, green eyes, darker than most greens. He thought they were more exactly a dark sage. “Yes Jake. Perhaps we will have a chance to talk about your ideas on night watch….”

Georgia was already pulling into the street leading to the dock. Jake nodded. I am sure I will find time to talk, but I am not sure that my business will be the thing that I will be most interested in. “You bet. As long as we are in the lead…” and he pointed his chin toward Georgia. “Have you sailed with the Bradfuits before?”

She smiled and nodded. “Yes, and I know just what you mean. They are Simon Legrees in coxswain disguise, beating out an almost impossible rhythm. But, as you say, if we have a big enough lead before nightfall, they will relax….”

Georgia parked next to her father. The crew quickly unloaded and climbed on board the Serpentine. Bruce handed out the crew assignments. The boat slept 7. Georgia and Manda were on opposite watches, so they would share Georgia’s bunk, and Jake and John were on opposite watches, so they too would share a bunk. Everyone else chose a bunk. Since they all sailed on Serpentine before, they had their favorite spots and it only took a few minutes to stow their gear and return to deck.

Bruce had the engine on, the diesel warmed up and Tree was casting off the docking lines. Bruce put her in reverse to move the bow away from the dock, and then in forward he neatly pulled out and pointed her out of the Mattituck inlet toward Long Island Sound. The wind was a nice Southwesterly, typical of afternoons in that region. It would give them a nice run or broad reach to Martha’s Vineyard.

The crew gathered on deck. Kurt and Tree hoisted the main. Barry and Amanda unfurled and set the genoa for starboard tack. Meanwhile, Bruce, John and Jake looked at the crew assignments. Jake had Amanda, Tree, Pete Richardson on his watch. Bruce was navigator for John as helmsman, with Barry and Kurt as sail handlers and Georgia was tactician at the start and on the first watch. This was the watch when there would be the closest contact with other boats. After that, they would spread out a little based on speed, and then there would be some closeness among boats that decided to take the route through Plum Gut into Gardner’s Bay, to the Vineyard, rather than taking the Connecticut shore past Fisher’s Island, and leaving Block Island to Starboard.

This was a navigator’s race. Most races had several marks, ensuring that the fleet would be going in the same direction from the first mark to the second and so forth. Speed was at a premium. But, since this race was starting as a run to one mark, and a return beat to the finish, the navigators and tacticians were to have a more significant say in the outcome than usual. Although Serpentine was a fast boat, Bruce, Georgia and Pete were also excited by tactical challenges. They went down below to plan while John took her out to the starting line.

Jake took the tacticians’ position behind the helmsman and in charge of the mizzen. He was calling to John, every time one of the competitors was on a course to intersect with theirs, and calling out their position with regard to the starting line.

In sailboat racing, the starting line is an imaginary line on the water, running exactly between an anchored buoy and a flag on the anchored race committee boat. It can be any length and in this case it was about ½ mile long. It is important that each boat practice running along this line so they know exactly where it is before the race. Any boat that is over the line when the starting gun fires, will have to cross back below the line again to officially start. Since the line is filled with the other boats going at full speed at that point, it usually requires a tack and then returning after the other boats have started. This is different then from running or swimming races where everyone returns to their starting positions if one prematurely advances. In addition, a yachting starting line is fairly long, so depending on your plan for where you want to be on the first leg of the race, you would be better off starting at one end or the other, the flag or the committee boat end.

This is where the fun begins since not everyone can be in the same place at the same time. Every boat will time several runs away from the line, and back to their hoped for starting place, expectant that if they start at the same place at 5 minutes away, and do the same things, that it will take the same amount of time for them to be exactly where they want to be when the starting gun goes off.

Try to imagine a running race where everyone has a running start, where one side of the line gives those guys a head start, and everyone is practicing their approach to the start over and over for the half hour before the race. Try to imagine there are three divisions, and while Division A (comprising the largest boats) is actually starting, Division B and C (the smallest) are still practicing. It looks chaotic. It is only the alertness of the crews, the skill of the helmsmen, and the Yachting Rules of the Road prevent serious accidents happening between boats that cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

So, Jake was standing up behind John, all the while shouting their rights over other boats, “Leeward boat, coming up, keep clear!” “Starboard boat. Keep Clear!” and warning John when another boat had rights over him and he had to avoid them.

Meanwhile, they timed the line. It was a 5 minute starting line for their boat, and might have taken a little longer for the smaller boats. A little short, but manageable.

Jake shouted to the folks down below. “Hey, tacticians; Let us know which end of the line you want, will you! Time is getting short.” Indeed, they had only 20 minutes to their start.

Meanwhile, Amanda organized Barry and Kurt in the forward locker, making sure that both the small reaching and the larger running spinnaker were so carefully folded and packed that whichever was needed would come out of the bag like a parachute. It would be pulled up as fast as they could do so, and then popped open as soon as Manda or Barry gave a little tap on the windward sheet and trimmed the leeward sheet. Jake watched as she also walked around the deck, checking that each spinnaker sheet ran freely, without hang-up on any cleat, winch or turnbuckle. He was impressed at her thoroughness. This was done on small boats, where a mistake only costs the race, but not thousands of dollars. On a boat this size, if you made a mistake that caused a rigging problem you could lose the mast! Even so, most cruising boat crews didn’t bother. Manda had just proved that she was a racing crew to Jake, and he was glad that she was on his watch.

In response to his question, Georgia popped up and said, “Let’s start on the leeward end, Connecticut side. We’ll go up the Connecticut and Rhode Island shore, staying out of the stronger, deepwater currents running against us. Just don’t get too close to the shore or the wind will back around and we might have to jibe. If the wind goes South later this evening, we’ll change to the reaching spinnaker, giving us more control as we approach the mark.”

“It’s a plan,” he responded. “Sounds like a good one. And I always prefer heading up the coast,” and he smiled past the back of John’s head, looking down into the cockpit, “although I know that Barry prefers his old haunting grounds….”

Barry laughed and called out. “You don’t give us credit. We aren’t like you Chesapeake sailors who never go out of the Bay. We go into the Sound, and into the Ocean up by Bay of Fundy if that’s where the fish are! It’s the Rowayton sailors who like to stay close to home.”

Jake and John laughed back. He had known he would get a response from him. “Fifteen minute warning,” he alerted everyone.

Georgia, still hovering on the ladder to the down below, living area, repeated the warning down to her Dad and Barry, and climbed up to take her position behind John. “Thanks for covering, Big Guy.” Jake withdrew. He would not be fully on duty as helmsman until later. For now, they needed to see from every possible angle to avoid collisions. John and Georgia had Serpentine for the start. Her father came up and sat on the leeward side near John who was standing at the wheel, but it was clear he was just there to be eyes below the large genoa.

Jake moved forward all the way to the Forestay. He lay down on the deck. From there, he could see the two ends of the line, and any boats that might not be visible to Bruce.

He heard John call out they were jibing, at just a hole in the almost solid line of boats so that they would be able to complete their maneuver without incident. As long as there was no danger, he would be quiet. He knew that John was making his way Northwest on a reach. They wanted to tack back again to starboard, and return, again on a reach, when they were at five minutes to go so that they would be going at full speed when they hit the line, closer hauled than their competitors (giving them right of way) and going faster, and having the ability to ease a sail to slow down if needed to be there right as the gun went off.

The wind was great for them, steady and about 17 knots. They were moving fast in spite of the chop from all the boats. This tactic would take them out of the worst of the swill. He couldn’t hear Georgia calling time, but he heard John when he called for the final tack before the start. He could easily see the mark at the leeward end of the line, but wouldn’t be able to see the committee boat except through rare breaks in the phalanx of boats. He would have to guess for a while at whether they looked early based on where the other boats were lined up.

Georgia was calling the time every thirty seconds now. And for the last minute, she called it every ten seconds, until the last thirty when she called every second. They looked great. Bruce was calling out their “right of way” to the other boats, all of whom were to windward and had to stay clear. No one was to their leeward. They were moving like a freight train when the gun sounded and they crossed the line, right where they had been when he had jibed away, and a fraction of a second after the gun sounded, so there was no recall for them!

They were over the starting line, moving away from the other boats, and Bruce had the spinnaker crew hoist the large chute. It went up smoothly. Jake had stayed in the forward position to assist if there was any need to do so. He moved back to the cockpit once it was clear that all was well, the spinnaker had gone up without incident and the genoa was tightly furled around the forestay, and Barry and Kurt didn’t need any help on the foredeck.

John and Georgia were beaming. They had done great. The Serpentine was moving quickly away from the pack, and into the area where the current would fight them less, toward New London, and Fisher’s Island. There were only 11 boats in the A Division. Nereid and Constellation were usually their closet rivals. They had started in the middle and were just getting their spinnakers up. Constellation was 4 boat lengths behind already and Nereid seemed to be reaching over toward Plum Gut, and Gardiner’s Bay. They wouldn’t see her again until they were past Block Island and all closed in on the Martha’s Vineyard gong. It meant they had to keep the boat going at maximum speed all night and not make any navigational mistakes. After that, it was a matter of luck. Who had more speed over the bottom?

(He said “over the bottom”, because The Race between Orient and Plum Island had currents running two to three knots, and Gardiner’s Bay had a mean current as well. You could be going 8 or 9 knots through the water, but if you were only making 6 or 7 knots over the bottom, the guy who went the other way and was doing 7 to 8 knots over the bottom would beat you. Nereid had tacked away hoping for some luck on the other side of the course, seeing that Serpentine was already winning the race up the shore. Jake didn’t think they were going to get it. All indications were that the wind would hold on both sides of the course.)

Jake went down to the navigator’s table with Bruce who was teaching him how to use the Loran locator. They found where they were, calculated the course to the Fisher’s Island channel, made an adjustment for the current, and reported the exact course up to the helmsman, who made a slight adjustment, and Barry, on the sheet, made a slight adjustment to keep the sail filled. Kurt, adjusted the main without needing to be told. This crew had worked together and was finely tuned. Any mistake in course wouldn’t set them on the rocks between Fisher’s Island and Plum Island, but closer to the Fisher’s Island bell, which they would be able to see in plenty of time.

They were 15 minutes away when they heard the gun for the B Division start. There were some good sailors in that group. There appeared to be about 18 or 19 boats in that division. Most had started at their end and seemed to be following them. Bruce had won enough races that many sailors just followed him in the hopes of doing well. They often felt like a mother goose with goslings following behind. Indeed, Constellation seemed to be having trouble keeping her sails filled due to the other A boats in her area. The distance between them was growing.

He looked around for Amanda and found her in his old position at the bow. He went up to just in front of the mast where they could talk, but he wouldn’t be interfering with their speed.

“Hey there,” he called to her.

She turned around and smiled that great smile. “I was wondering if you would join me up here.”

“What are you looking for?”

“Lines of lobster pots, or other things we could get tangled up on until we get past Fisher’s Island. Look at that lot over there” and she pointed to two parallel and long lines. They were not in their way, but if they had been, it would have slowed them down to be dragging a couple of those for a few miles until the line broke or it fell off….

“Mind if I join you? We don’t have lobsters in the Chesapeake.”

“Right. You have crabs,” and she lowered her voice, clearly embarrassed, “I mean the edible kind…. ”

He looked aft, but no one had heard. “Oh, lots and lots of crabs. I miss the crab shacks.”

They saw the Cross Island Ferry come through Plum Gut, and make a course adjustment to go behind them. “Good thing we don’t have to tangle with that baby,” he commented.

She looked up, and then quickly back at her water. “Yep.”

He moved a little closer, and pretended to be looking off to leeward, in the shadows of the boat. The sun was getting lower, and the sky behind them was developing some color to it. He could smell her scent and his breathing changed as he tried to inhale every whiff, lest any be wasted.

6. Amanda Provides Inspiration

There was some traffic that interrupted them, or Jake to be specific. The Ferry from New London to Plum Gut was close, but did, eventually, go behind them. There were several fishing boats, slowly trailing lines that didn’t want to speed up or slow down, but Amanda and he yelled at them, blew their air horn and shined their light at them until they did so. This got her laughing every time like 2 kids. Jake couldn’t remember ever enjoying a race so much. She had a big voice when she was yelling and a great laugh when she wasn’t.

They passed into Fisher’s Island channel and sunset was in full bloom by now. The sun was red, and the sky was orange and pink. There were some high thin clouds that were darker, but not quite grey. And, as Jake looked forward, and she turned around to talk with him the pink light reflected off Amanda’s skin, enhancing the darkness of her long, long eyelashes.

The sound of the bow waves let them know that they were still moving fast even though it was harder to discern their speed against the shore. The spinnaker above them was pulling hard, and it too reflected that pink and orange glow from the setting sun on the white spaces.

On a ship, Jake was always aware of the sound of the engines. He much preferred sailing, and the sound of quiet, softly cresting bow waves, sails flapping occasionally when sailing in light air or down wind. If you listened, you could hear the conversations down below, and aft by the wheel. And, on a ship, there was no white sail to enhance the color of the evening sky. There were now a few women, but you didn’t notice the light off their skin. You noticed whether they were doing their jobs or not.

“Do you have any interest in going below to get some sleep?” She asked, looking at her watch. “We have about two hours before we’re on. We’ll be on duty most of the way through Block Island Sound, until 2 am.”

He thought he might not ever be interested in resting on this trip. “I would rather watch the sunset. But, if you need some sleep, now is the time to get it….”

“I can make it until 2,” she smiled. “I came out last night with Georgia and didn’t have the drive today.”

Jake was surprised. “I thought she was driving out this morning….”

“I was off early yesterday and called her on a lark. She had just finished a big project and was a little wired. It seemed like a good idea to get in the car with all that energy. And, we hadn’t had a chance to talk in a while so we didn’t mind that traffic was slow….”

“And, what would you two have to talk about?” He fished.

She laughed softly, keeping it just between the two of them. He felt the intimacy. She answered, “You know Georgia. You talk and laugh, and talk, and sing along with her CD’s, and never finish a single subject or story…. She is a Gemini through and through. But your budding company did come up if you are wondering….”

“I was wondering, because of what she said back at the house.”

“I would like to hear more….”

That was all the prompting he needed. Jake launched in to a short explanation of his ideas for his company. He wanted to know whether she would be excited about his ideas, but he also didn’t want to spend the time only talking about his business. He also wanted to find out more about her.

“I love the idea of the module. Would you like me to help you with the drawings?”

He grinned, “Absolutely. I’m no artist. Although if Charlie is interested he is trained as an architect and would do the drawing I guess….” This was an invitation. He was not sure how she would respond and just decided that now was the time to take a chance.

She looked truly happy. “I would be delighted if you need me, although my expertise is in market design and planning. Does your company have a name yet?”

“We have some ideas, but the team is working on that Sunday night if you’d like to join us…. I don’t know if you have anything else to do…. We should be back in plenty of time if we leave right away as soon as we get in…”

“I’m flattered, Jake,” she started. He had a momentary flash of her turning him down, and immediately made that picture small, remembered the last time he was skiing with his brother at Stowe, when they dropped out of the chairlift into the fresh powder so they could get to their favorite jump for the last run of the day. He had trounced Louie with a double somersault off the jump. He made that picture big to replace the other. He remembered winning the 470 Nationals, and made that picture big…. His first touchdown, and made that big. He had a few other memories in his bank, and when he felt he couldn’t be turned down, he looked back at her. She continued. “Are you sure that you want to include someone you have just met?”

… her legs were soooo long….. He knew that he was not thinking particularly rationally. “We would need to see your portfolio before we would take you on as our artist in residence…, or” he was slightly embarrassed, but not too badly, “is that what we’d call you?”

She was giggling. “A bit suggestive, and more attuned to fine art rather than commercial art I would say, but we could find an appropriate title…. I like the idea of showing the team my work. Georgia said that you were not a monarchical entrepreneur”

“No, I’m not,” he agreed. “I believe in a shared leadership, where no one dominates anyone else….” That was not exactly true. He didn’t mind a little temporary dominance in certain circumstances….

He was saved by Georgia’s arrival, and her biggest, “baddest” grin. “I thought you two would hit it off but I’m a little hurt that you never looked back to see how we were doing!”

They looked back now, and although the sun was down they could see the running lights of the stream of boats behind them, far behind them!

“You guys have done a great job!” they both granted.

“And now it’s your turn,” she answered. “We’re off and you’re on. And, you better not blow our lead…. I think it’s the new North spinnaker, Mandy.”

“You’ve just been chugging along,” she agreed, “even during the slight lulls through the channel or in the lee of the rocks.”

Georgia winked at her. “Now, don’t be trying to pretend that you were actually paying attention. I saw how you two were totally into each other….”

Jake and Amanda laughed and looked at each other. Jake answered for them both, “I think we’ve been challenged. I believe we’d better get to work!”

With that, Amanda jumped up, faster than Jake could believe possible after sitting so long on a hard deck with her legs crossed. But, he was right behind her. They made their way back to the wheel, the sheets, and the command center.

John was happy to give up the responsibility. Jake slapped him on the back. “Great job, John. I promise to give it back to you in at least as great shape in four hours.”

John laughed. “If you haven’t made more headway than that, and lost sight of their lights in four hours, you shouldn’t be allowed to use this great new sail! It’s incredible. Wait ‘till you see how she pulls. Constellation is going crazy back there, trying to figure out how to stay with us, and we just keep pulling away.”

Amanda had already relieved Kurt, who had taken over for Barry at some point. She was just getting the feel of the new sail. “It pulls like a Clydesdale” she commented.

Kurt, who was built like a professional wrestler answered, “Keep two wraps on the winch. If the wind picks up half a knot, she’ll rip the skin off your hands trying to get away.”

Amanda looped another turn on the winch. “Thanks, Kurt. Coming from you…. She’s the largest spinnaker I’ve ever seen, much less handled.”

Jake liked the way Amanda showed trust. So many yachting women seemed competitive with men, and got hurt trying to prove how tough they were, or failed at their responsibilities because they didn’t use appropriate caution or safeguards. With Manda, it was so natural. She clearly wasn’t a wimp, but she also didn’t seem to be out to prove anything to anyone.

Jake addressed Georgia, “Any final words about coming course changes?”

“Just keep on this heading between Point Judith and Block Island. In four hours, we’ll be back and you should be just on the other side in the Vineyard Sound. I’ll show Peter where we are, and he’ll have the course already marked down below. He’ll keep an eye out for you. You guys just keep her going fast!”

“Ay, ay,” he quipped and she laughed as she headed down below. Amanda stifled a chuckle.

Pete came up a while later to join them. Jake and Amanda hadn’t talked much since taking over Serpentine. They were both serious sailors who liked to win. And, since John and Georgia had left them with a challenge….

Pete commented, “There doesn’t look like there’s going to be any change in the wind in the next few hours. When we get into Vineyard Sound we should be able to head up a few points without changing sails.”

“If that’s the case,” Manda added, “Nereid will be killed coming down on a dead run, or maybe even on port tack.”

Jake looked behind them, “And, Constellation is falling ever further and further back….”

Pete finished, “It’s ours to lose gentlemen. Let’s keep a good watch.”

Tree appeared on the ladder. “Can I talk anyone into some coffee, or some salad or fresh melon, or a sandwich perhaps?”

“Coffee for me,” Pete said quickly.

“I’d like coffee and melon, please,” Manda requested. She wondered why Tree seemed so amused with himself….

Jake was famished after his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches six hours or so earlier. “What have you got for sandwiches?”

Tree had a knack for getting to Jake. “Peanut butter,” he said, waiting for a response…. Jake knew better and held back, also waiting….

Tree and he laughed at the same time. “…or roast beef or turkey. We have mustard, mayo, salt and pepper, Latham’s tomatoes and lettuce. Your pleasure?”

“…. Hold the peanut butter. And, some water would be great, Tree.”

When Tree came back, he had the coffee and cut up fruit, and two sandwiches that looked like Dagwood sandwiches from the old cartoon series and two bottles of water. Amanda and Pete laughed together. “You guys aren’t serious? You can’t even get those into your mouths!”

“Just a little friendly competition we have,” Tree explained. “First man to choke makes the rest of the sandwiches for the watch.”

“It insures that the first one is a great sandwich,” Jake added, grinning from ear to ear. “Tree, you’ve outdone yourself. I hope you had a big lunch.”

Tree was named appropriately. He was a giant of a man. Amanda had the feeling that he could have eaten half a shark for lunch, and he would still be able to polish off that sandwich. Jake however, was a normal sized man. She wondered.

Neither choked, nor even seemed to struggle. They simply seemed to thoroughly enjoy their sandwich. No winners on that competition, and no loser.

Pete went down to check the course at one point, and came back with a slight course change. Jake headed up a little. Tree, manned the winch for Amanda. The wind seemed to have picked up a little. They were really moving now, 12 knots, and heeling a little bit. Tree changed the settings on the main, tightening up on the boom vang, under Jake’s direction. 13.5 knots. That was satisfying. They seemed to be racing by themselves. Constellation was way back leading the parade of smaller boats.

They managed to stay focused until it was time to change watch. Tree had taken over for Amanda in the last hour, and so she went down to wake folks up. Pete had made some fresh coffee, and one after another came up a little bleary eyed after only four hours sleep, with a cup of hot java in hand. They were well into Vineyard Sound and had spotted the gong/flasher. Bruce came up as well to enjoy his lead.

Tree went right to his bunk, as did Pete. They wanted to be ready to be up at six am, when they’d be on watch again. That might involve a sail change, as they rounded the gong and headed back on a close reach, unless this watch got there first. Tree thought that Barry, Kurt and Georgia could handle the rounding and sail change without him, but there was always a chance they might need him. He was determined to get as many zzz’s as he could between now and then.

Jake was still wide awake, as was Amanda. They sat together at the chart table and drank their coffee. This felt the closest they had been to being alone.

Amanda asked first, about his background, and he gave her the briefest sketch of his family, and a few Navy stories. He tried to include only the amusing ones. Then he asked her about herself.

They were sitting so close that their arms touched. Neither one moved away although there was plenty of room on the bench. Jake breathed deeply and slowly and was filled with her scent. He touched her knee under the table and she turned toward him. Her face was so close and just as he turned away to take a sip of coffee, she kissed his jaw, or his neck, and he was electrified.

He turned back toward her, and she was getting up. “I’m done in,” she said. “I have to get some sleep right now.” And, with that, she was gone and he was left totally wired. He decided to head for his bunk, just so he could be alone. He didn’t expect to sleep.