A tremor ran through Tinkerbelle as she bumped gently against the dock. Lying doubled up in her tiny darkened cabin, I felt the tremor and it sent a sympathetic tingle of anticipation coursing down my spine.
I shifted to the most comfortable position I could find in that cramped space and tried to sleep. It was difficult. I was keyed up. I couldn't help listening to the mingled sounds of the sea and the land that came through the night air.
Across the small harbor a burst of "quack-quacks" marked the spot where I knew a family of semi-tame ducks was bedded down. I knew, too that an elderly duck couple spent each night under a cruiser stored on a wooden cradle scarcely a dozen paces from where Tinkerbelle lay, and I waited for their reply. Finally it came, a single no-nonsense "quack." And then I heard the singing of distant truck tires rolling fast over concrete, and then the splash of a fish jumping and the slap, slap of the ripples it stirred up striking Tinkerbelle's hull and then the wail of a police siren (or was it an ambulance?), and then the muffled hum of an outboard motor, the bang of a door slamming shut, the cat-like meow of a sea gull, a woman's voice far away calling in the darkness, the beep of an auto horn, the crunch, crunch of footsteps on gravel, and then the throbbing rumble of the returning Martha's Vineyard ferry, which for several minutes, drowned out every other sound.
It was a clear night. Through the open hatch I could see a patch of bright stars. It was a bit on the cool side, too, and I pulled the blanket around me more tightly, trying to seal in my body's warmth.
When the wake of the ferry reached Tinkerbelle, it jostled her against the dock. I could feel another tremor each time her rub rail bumped the pilings. It seemed as though she were quivering with excitement.
It won't be long now, old girl, I thought.
Both of us were tugging at our moorings, anxious to be off. Tinkerbelle's mooring lines were strong, of three-eighths-inch Dacron; mine were made of invisible stuff, the social conventions, habits, thought patterns and bonds of affection that held me to the life on shore. But in their own way mine were as strong as hers, maybe stronger.
Nevertheless, in the morning we would cast off the lines, sever our links to the familiar land and begin a new life, an ocean voyage under sail. Soon after daybreak the voyage would begin, and ages-old élan vital, the wind, expelling us from the comfort of the harbor and the sound beyond, pushing us forth into the vast outer world of the North Atlantic Ocean, bound for England, 3,200 miles away.
I watched a pattern of light reflected from the water as it shimmered and danced on the cabin ceiling, little more than a foot above my face. It cast a hypnotic spell, and soon I was drifting back mentally to the eternal questions of time and space, cause and effect, questions that had fascinated me since my teens. Only now, as I lay sprawled in Tinkerbelle's diminutive cabin, on the brink of a long, lonely voyage, they seemed more poignant than ever.
A great many thoughts sailed through my mind that night. I can't remember them all exactly, but I do recall the general outlines of some of them.
I remember I nearly had to pinch myself, literally, to make myself realize it was really me in that cabin, ready to begin a voyage that had been a dream of mine since high-school days in India, where I had been born and raised by American missionary parents, the eldest of four children. It seemed incredible that a dream so old was on the point of actually becoming a deed.
Most of the thoughts that flowed from this wonderment sprang from questions that began with "How" or "Why." The most basic one of all was: Why was I there? That is, why was a middle-aged, married, sober, sedentary and presumably sane copy editor of the Plain Dealer now, on the night of May 31, 1965, lying in the cabin of a 13 ˝ -foot sailboat in the harbor at Falmouth, Massachusetts, intent on departing the next day on a voyage to Falmouth, England? What interplay of events thoughts, feelings, desires and other causes had brought it about?
The causes began, I suppose, at Woodstock School in Landour, a town situated 7,000 feet above sea level on the first range of the Himalayan Mountains, about as far as one could be from the ocean and still be in India. To an assembly program one Thursday in the early summer of 1935 came a handsome German man of about twenty-six to tell of a voyage he and some friends made from Sweden to the island of Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. They had rented a fair-sized sailing vessel for the weekend and then had kept it for the six months or so it took to complete their voyage. The young German showed movies that included some spectacular shots of mid-ocean storms and skiing on the snow-covered slopes of a Fuego mountain.
I was enthralled by the adventures of the voyage. Vicariously, I had never enjoyed anything so much in my life, and inevitably, although from afar, I fell in love with sailboats and the ocean. I became a sort of landlocked Dante pining for a seaborne Beatrice.
It was a love seldom gratified for I wasn't able to acquire a sailboat of my own until August, 1958, when I bought the craft that became Tinkerbelle, but from that day on I read every book I could find about voyages in small sailboats. The first one was a William A. Robinson's tale of sailing around the world in his lovely Svaap. Then came Harry Pidgeon's story of circling the earth in Islander, which he had built himself, Dwight Long's book about his circumnavigation in Idle Hour and Captain John C.
Voss's report of his venturesome voyage in the converted Canadian Indian dugout Tilikum.
By the time I got to Captain Joshua Slocum's classic account of his pioneering singlehanded voyage around the world in the Spray, I had made up my mind that if I ever got the chance I, too, would sail around the globe or, at least, make a long voyage in a boat under thirty feet in length. And so a dream was born.
The dream never died although there was seldom any noticeable evidence that it was still alive. Whole years went by without my so much as mentioning boats to anyone, as I graduated from Woodstock; attended Lingnan University in Canton, China, for a semester; visited Japan (where one afternoon I did my only pre-Tinkerbelle ocean sailing); earned a degree at Antioch College; served with the 66th Infantry Division in France, Germany and Austria during and after World War II; worked as a reporter on newspapers in Washington Court House, Ohio, and Pittsburgh and Erie, Pennsylvania; married the former Virginia Place of Pittsburgh; acquired a daughter and a son and, in 1953, joined the Plain Dealer copy desk.
During all these events the dream of ocean voyaging remained in the back of my mind like an incubating microbe waiting for the right moment to flare up as a full-blown disease. Every so often, after reading some particularly gripping tale, I became afflicted with virulent sailboat fever. Books about adventurous voyages periodically raised my temperature alarmingly, making it an enormous struggle to continue on course through college and into a journalistic career. But somehow I always managed to get a grip on myself and wrestle the fever back down to normal before it was too late; that is, I managed it every time but the last time, which was why I finally found myself in Tinkerbelle in the harbor at Falmouth, Massachusetts.
The first actual sailing I did was on the Jumna River at Allahabad, India, where my father, Dr. James C. Manry, taught philosophy at Ewing College and where my
brother, two sisters and I spent our winter vacations from school. That first sailing experience became a landmark in my life. I'll never forget it.
A couple of young American instructors at Ewing College had bought an Indian rowboat, a craft about sixteen feet long made of galvanized steel metal stretched over a heavy wooden frame, and had converted it into a sailboat. They had equipped it with a sheet-iron centerboard, a mast and boom of bamboo, galvanized solid-wire shrouds, and a mains'l and jib of light canvas. I'm sure it was the only boat of its kind anywhere on the Jumna or, for that matter, on the Ganges, either, except possibly at Calcutta on the seacoast.
My brother and I obtained permission to use this little sloop soon after its completion. As we bent on the sails, a crowd of Indians gathered on the shore and on a nearby bridge, and every Indian boatman in the area turned our way to see the fun. I feel certain that very few of these spectators had ever seen a fore-and-aft rigged sailboat, since all the Indian vessels that plied the Jumna and Ganges had square sails that could be used only when the wind blew from astern. The Indian boats also lacked center boards, which undoubtedly made our craft seem that much stranger to the massing crowd.
I don't know what went through John's head as we prepared to sail, but I do know that I had feelings that must have paralleled those of the Wright brothers as they took to the air at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and of Edison as he gave the electric light bulb to the world. We were pioneering a great step forward in sailing technique and, by demonstrating it for all the Indians ashore and afloat to see, passing it on to them as a priceless boon. Now, after centuries of abysmal ignorance, they would at last learn how to sail with the wind abeam; even how to sail upwind by tacking from side to side. My pleasure and pride at being able to bestow this great blessing on the Indians was only made more intense by the skeptical expressions of some of the watchers who seemed to be saying to themselves,"It'll never work."
We'll show 'em, I thought. We'll show 'em it works and that we know how to make it work. It didn't matter to me that neither John nor I had sailed a boat of any sort before, fore-and-aft rigged or not. Our only asset was some reading I'd done. But that was enough for me. The reputation of all American's, if not all westerners was at stake.
Despite my cockiness we started out rather timidly. John stationed near the mast to handle the jib sheets while I sat in the stern controlling the mainsheet and tiller. It was pure beginners' luck that we weren't immediately caught in irons, bow to windward, and blown ashore stern first. Surprisingly, we got under way with reasonable dispatch and as we picked up speed I could sense a wave of amazement sweeping through the crowd. You see, I said to myself, we aren't being pushed sidewise as you expected; we're moving ahead just fine, and at a pretty good clip. And look! We can even go a little bit into the wind! You never saw one of your flat-bottomed barges doing that!
Everything went well, considering it was our very first attempt at sailing, and as we glided back and forth under the bridge and from one side of the river to the other, we rapidly gained self-assurance. We discovered that sailing was a delightful, exhilarating sport, and that we were pretty good at it; no, very good at it. Our confidence soared.
"Let's put on a real show for 'em," I said.
We adjusted the sails for maximum draw on a beam reach until the boat, heeling excitingly, knifed through the water at top speed. Wow! What a frolic! We knew our audience had never before seen wind power move a boat so fast and the thought made us, or at least me, delirious with the heady pleasure that accompanies unrestrained showing off.
And then it happened.
The centerboard and rudder caught on a sand bar and spun the boat into a jibe. The boom lashed around like a giant club.
I ducked just in time. John didn't.
My brother took the full force of that flailing boom on the side of his head and it nearly knocked him out double, meaning both unconscious and overboard. He could easily have been killed. I was lucky; only my pride was hurt, although that grievously. My face turned as red as John's turned white.
We limped back to the boat landing, disembarked and slunk away. To the everlasting
credit of the dozens of Indians who witnessed our comeuppance, not one made a gloating remark or in any way called attention to our embarrassment. Every single one was a gentleman. And I'm still grateful.
As the wounds to skull and pride healed, we discerned a lesson in our mishap. It was that the Indians' boats ere perfectly adapted to navigation conditions on the Jumna and Ganges. Centerboards and fore-and-aft rigs were out of place there. Traditions and centuries of experience, we admit, should not be scorned or tossed overboard lightly.
After that whack on the head my brother's main recreational interest turned from boating to mountain climbing. I guess he decided in the quietness of his own mind that it was much better to risk being clobbered by falling rocks at high altitude than by
whiplashing booms at water level. It was a good decision, for he has developed into an accomplished mountaineer.
My own enthusiasm for sailboats and sailing not only survived the catastrophe on the Juman, but increased in the months and years that followed. However, it is conceivable that if that swishing spar had struck me instead of John I might never have followed the trail that eventually led to Tinkerbelle and to the Atlantic. John might then have taken to the ocean while I scaled lofty peaks in India and western Canada. Psychologists agree, I think, that bumps on the head (or the lack of them) can have a profound influence on one's life. They call it the pleasure-pain principle.
I don't want to give the impression that my thoughts on that last night of May, 1965, percolated exactly as I have described them. They didn't. But I did meditate about why I was in Falmouth Harbor, ready to begin a long risky voyage, and I did reach the conclusion that the chain of events that led to my being there began with the yearning aroused by the German chap who spoke at Woodstock and my reading, and the pleasurable aspects of my Jumna River initiation into sailing.
In the period between the initiation on the Jumna (it was in 1936) and my purchase of the boat that developed into Tinkerbelle in 1958, I went sailing no more than five times. But that was sufficient to magnify my love of sailing into something resembling a passion, which, in turn, made it inevitable that, as soon as we as a family could afford it, I would buy a sailboat.
Succeeding links in the chain were conversion of the boat into a more seaworthy craft, growing confidence in the boat's performance and in my ability as a sailor, studies that indicated an Atlantic crossing in the summer was feasible, an increasing determination not to let my long-time vision of an ocean voyage slip by unfulfilled and, finally, the granting by the Plain Dealer of a leave of absence which, coupled with three weeks of
vacation, would give me enough time for the voyage.
In this way, in the early spring of 1964, my dream came into fortuitous conjunction with the opportunity to make it come true. That was what I had wanted, what I had longed for for so many years. It was, like my first sail and the day I got married, another great moment in my life. I recalled some lines by Thoreau: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." So I began in earnest to put the foundations under my air castle.
I must make it clear, though, that this was no one-man project; it was a family affair. Virginia and the children were in on it from the instant of the first firm decision to go. They helped in innumerable ways, but more than anything else, by just being there and letting me know I had their approval and support. They knew how long I had dreamed of a voyage and, bless them, they believed in the value of attaining one's dreams. I wouldn't have gone otherwise.
The main factor in my personal motivation, naturally, was my love of sailing, especially the type of sailing that goes under the heading of cruising, as distinct from racing. Sailing, for me, has been a way of achieving both companionship with my family in the healthful outdoors and much-needed solitude away from jangling telephones, auto exhaust fumes, too-eager salesmen and other unpleasant details of civilization. This love, this need, fundamentally, is a feeling in my bones, a pulsating in my viscera so personal it cannot be adequately explained. (I'm not trying to be mystical or mysterious. That's just the way it is.) Nevertheless, I'll try my best to account for it.
As every human does, I have expended a large part of my life searching, often blindly and sometimes painfully, for Truth. (But maybe searching isn't the right word because quite often the whole game's been reversed and Truth has found me, notwithstanding my kicking and screaming and panic-stricken efforts to avoid it.) The result has been that through
the years I have collected a few miscellaneous chips from the Mother Lode; at least, I hope I have. These, insofar as human conduct is concerned, include the golden rule, Thomas A. Edison's axiom "Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits'; Socrates' adage "The beginning of knowledge is the awareness of ignorance" and Anglican Archbishop Richard Whately's postulate "A man will never change his mind if he have no mind to change." But in all my days on this earth I have come across no more than a handful of chips that, assayed for their Truth content, came anywhere near equaling the pure, unvarnished verity of what Water Rat said solemnly to Mole in Kenneth Grahame's delightful story The Wind in the Willows.
"Believe me, my young friend," said Water Rat, "there is nothing-absolutely nothing-half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
Of course, I'm being half facetious. But also half serious. Water Rat's statement, to me, comes very close to being the revealed Word, the supreme Truth.
I find immense pleasure in the gurgle and splash of a boat propelled by a direct force of nature, the snapping of canvas and the humming of rigging in a fresh breeze, the rattle of ropes running through blocks, the crying of gulls, the lift and heave of a buoyant hull, the pressure of wind against my body, the sting of flying spray, the sight of billowing sails and the swirling foam of the wake. To me, nothing made by man is more beautiful than a sailboat under way in fine weather, and to be on that sailboat is to be as close to heaven as I expect to get. It is unalloyed happiness.
It is sheer delight to whisk myself off on a "small planet," as Joseph Conrad once described a boat, and, for a few hours or days, escape from the troubles and tensions of life ashore. Difficulties and stresses fall into perspective while you are sailing, for, in sailing, you are dealing with elemental forces of wind and water that have been here for aeons and are likely
to remain long after we mortals are gone; forces that can be gentle and yet, stirred to fury, are so powerful they make all else shrink into insignificance. Sailing also helps to keep a man aware of his lowly place in the universe, especially if that sailing involves celestial navigation and its concerns with the sun and stars, for there is nothing to equal the astringent effect on one's ego of a long, thoughtful look into outer space. There is a challenge, too, in sailing; a summons to learn how to master wind and water and how to master yourself when you are in a crisis, balancing on the edge of panic.
My life on shore, especially in India, conditioned me to enjoy sailing, I think, because a sailor must be somewhat fatalistic, as the Hindus are. He must be prepared to accept whatever comes, from flat calms to hurricanes; and he must, like the Hindus, train himself to enjoy the conditions he gets if he doesn't get the conditions he enjoys. From the Indians, too, I absorbed the patience that serves a sailor well, and an appreciation of the fact that there is a great deal more to life-and to a voyage-than mere movement from one place to another.
Sailing also has been a handy escape valve for the psychological pressures that tend to build up on the newspaper copy desk where I have labored for the last thirteen years correcting, insofar as I could, the facts, spelling, grammar and style of reporters' stories, weeding out possible libels and double meanings and writing headlines. These pressures go with the job as certainly as paint-spattered hands go with a career in art. They are a product of recurring press deadlines, sedentary work, occasional friction between divergent personalities and the ever-present consciousness that regardless of how knowledgeable one may be one's reservoir of information is never entirely adequate; that the only perfect copy-desk man would be one who knew all there was to know about everything. The pressures may at times build up to considerable intensity, but putting my hand on the tiller of a sailboat releases them as surely and almost as swiftly as touching a grounded wire frees my body of static electricity.
A fondness for large bodies of water, particularly bodies of salt water, is a last major factor in my love of sailing. The clean, saline tang of sea air is a powerful attraction. So is the awe inspired by the ocean's (any ocean's) enormous breadth and depth, by the ghostly presence of all the famous and infamous ships and men and women it has carried through the centuries, and by the mysteries hidden beneath its sometimes placid, sometimes stormy surface. Perhaps there is an inherited something in the protoplasm of my body cells that feels an agreeable kinship with the sea, where life on earth began and where it existed for such a long time before it took to the land. At any rate, the sound of the sea, especially of breakers pounding on a beach, have a strangely soothing effect that I crave only slightly less than an addict does drugs.
Aside from my love of sailing, I looked forward to a small-boat voyage because of an inexplicable notion I had that a voyage was a kind of microcosm of life, a life within a life, if you will, with a birth (beginning), youth, maturity, old age and death (end), and that it was possible for a sailor to express himself in this miniature life-with his technique, responses to changing conditions and endurance-somewhat as an artist expresses himself with paint and canvas. It seemed to me, too, that in this abbreviated life a sailor had an opportunity to compensate for the blemishes, failures and disasters of his life ashore.
This was a curious idea. Where it came from I don't know. It may have arisen from an awareness of behavior I was ashamed of, of unlovely shortcomings in my life ashore, linked with a hope that in the compressed life of a sea cruise I could, perhaps, redeem myself. I had to concede that my voyage would benefit few persons other than myself, except insofar as it might, momentarily, lift some who heard of it out of the routine of their own lives, but it did give me a segment of existence that, God willing, I might fashion into something nearer to a work of art than my life on land had been. This idea
gratified me strangely although I knew perfectly well that at sea, alone, I would of necessity be an unsocial being.
So I was there in Falmouth Harbor, ready to begin a transatlantic voyage in a midge sloop, because I loved sailing. I loved the sea, I had long wanted to make an ocean voyage and I had finally got the chance to make one. Contemplating all this, I decided I knew and understood the "Why" of the voyage, except for two final points: Why was I making the voyage alone? And why was I making it in such a small boat?
Actually, these questions were easily answered. I was sailing in Tinkerbelle because she was the boat I happened to have and I was confident she was equal to the task. And I was sailing alone because I felt Tinkerbelle was too small to carry the supplies of more than one person. If there was anything I was absolutely certain of, it was that I was not there to commit suicide or perform a stunt or set a record or advertise a product. No one had given me financial assistance and I wasn't sponsored by anyone, not even by the Plain Dealer, my own newspaper. Nor was I actuated by the expectation of vast monetary gain, although I did dare to hope that I might, by writing articles or a book, recoup the cost of the voyage and, if I was lucky, make enough more to help my children through college without going deeply into debt. All I wanted to do, basically, was to achieve the dream of an ocean voyage I'd been harboring for nearly thirty years by crossing the Atlantic to England, and I wanted to do it with as little fuss as possible.
Most people, I think, understand the urges that prompted me to take the voyage; at least, most of those I've spoken with about it, now that it is over, have been satisfied with my brief explanation of why I did it. Occasionally, though, a person will ask me "Why did you do it?" with an inflection that makes the query sound as if the person were asking "Why do you play Russian roulette?" The crux of it, of course, is the implied dangerousness of a voyage like Tinkerbelle's and the inference that it is a bad policy if not morally wrong, to do anything, ever, that is the least bit dangerous.
It seems to me there are two sides to the danger coin, two reasons for questions like this. One is that the values of comfort and safety are being overemphasized in our society to the detriment of other, perhaps more important, values for which it may be worth enduring a little discomfort, even danger. The other is that persons who are shorebound, who have had no opportunity to learn about boats and the sea, tend to exaggerate the dangers of a small-boat voyage. And, of course, for such person to undertake lengthy ocean voyages themselves would in fact, be highly dangerous. Not so for persons with experience, a levelheaded grasp of the prerequisites and adequate preparation.
Essentially, I believe, it is a question of familiarity, of what one is used to. The same man who quakes at the idea of sailing across an ocean will, paradoxically, drive a car from coast to coast with hardly a thought about the annual toll of deaths on United States highways. He doesn't dwell on the hazards of automobile travel because they are so near, so familiar; he faces them every day. If he were equally familiar with the hazards of the sea, I am sure he would accept them with equal equanimity. I accepted them with a fair degree of composure, not because I am more courageous (or more foolish) than the average person but because I took the trouble to familiarize myself with them and prepare ways of coping with them. I admit that luck played a part in the success of the voyage, but not so big a part as might be imagined. I feel that intensive and extensive planning reduced this element to an absolute minimum. I planned with utmost care, first, because I am a husband and father with responsibilities toward those who love me and depend on me, and, second, because I feel it is the height of thoughtlessness to voluntarily get oneself into a predicament necessitating a call for help that may endanger the lives of others.
The moral questions evoked by my voyage cause me grave concern. Did I have the right to endanger my life, even slightly,
and consequently jeopardize the future of my family? And did I have the right to separate myself from all human society and, for two or more months, occupy myself solely with doing something I had longed to do for years, but which would be of little value to others; in other words did I have the right to surrender unconditionally to hedonism? With much soul-searching I answered these questions in the affirmative, although I am willing to concede I may have been wrong in doing so.
Although I'm convinced the riskiness of the voyage was far less than many people believe, I still must confess it was this riskiness that made the voyage seem adventurous, exciting-a wonderfully far cry from the immobility, tedium and sometimes harrowing predictability of copy-desk existence.
I remember thinking that night about the uncertainties ahead, about what might be waiting for Tinkerbelle and me out in the open ocean. I wondered whether this watery world would be kind to us, allowing us to pass unscathed to our far-off goal. Or would it be cruel, taxing us beyond endurance, cutting our voyage short, perhaps even destroying us? And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I really didn't want to know the answers to those questions. Not in advance; not for certain. For it was the uncertainties, the surprises, the risks that added up to the challenge that made life-and a voyage-interesting and worth while. Without them the sources of hope would dry up and life would indeed wither into a monotonous meander from womb to tomb.
But because risks add zest to life doesn't mean that I advocate casual plunges into situations fraught with danger, the more the merrier; or that I believe a voyage can or should be made more zestful through the deliberate courting of peril. This is foolishness, if not worse. What I do believe is that a blanket policy of risk avoidance is unsatisfying, that there are risks worth taking, provided you are aware of them and prepared to cope with them.
The key factor, obviously, is preparation. And, for a voyage, this preparation must be founded on a brutally realistic appraisal of the qualifications of the boat, its equipment and its skipper. Wishful thinking here can be fatal. I want to make that unmistakably clear because I stay awake nights worrying that the newspaper's detailed coverage of my voyage may induce others to attempt similar cruises without proper preparation. I would be greatly saddened if my voyage became the indirect cause of a sea tragedy.
Lying there in Tinkerbelle on the eve of departure, I was mindful of the extent of my preparations and it gave me a feeling of assurance. I didn't have the sensations of a man about to step off a cliff, as I had expected to have. My mood was one of calm inner confidence. And yet, remembering my Jumna introductions to sailing, I was only too aware that confidence is often that quiet faith, that euphoria, that pervades your being just before you fall flat on your face. So I held my feelings in bounds, well on this side of bravado.
Sleep was a long time coming that night. Being on the verge of a dream cruise was too exciting. The sounds of the harbor and surrounding area fell too insistently on my ears. Even though I couldn't feel it inside the cabin, I knew a gentle breeze had sprung up because the ripples it roused made clicking sounds as they hit the crevices in Tinkerbelle's lapstrake hull. The air currents also, now and then, made the halyards band against her mast-clack, clack, clack, clack.
I heard a dog bark a couple of times somewhere off the port beam and then the garbled sound of boys' voices-teenagers', I guessed-too far off to decipher. But soon the voices drew closer and I could make out a word here and there. It seemed that the boys had been fishing down near the harbor's mouth and were now, at about midnight, on their way home. I couldn't decide how many there were; probably no more than three.
When they came to the spot where Tinkerbelle was tied up, one of the boys said, "Hey! Look at that!"
Footsteps plunked out on the dock. There was a brief pause, and then Tinkerbelle heeled over as someone stepped onto the cabin top.
"Whatcha doin'?" one of the youths said.
"Just wanna look in her," the boarder replied.
I heard him kneel. Then his silhouetted head, upside down, moved into the open hatchway from above. I could feel his eyes trying to pierce the darkness.
What to do? I was sure he didn't have the least suspicion
that anyone was in the cabin. If I spoke or moved, he might be so startled he'd fall overboard. I didn't want that. So I froze, and tried not to breathe.
He was breathing so heavily himself I needn't have worried about his hearing me. He stayed there for what seemed like a couple of minutes. I wondered if he could make out my face or the outlines of my body under the dark-gray blanket. He gave no indication that he could.
Finally the head withdrew and Tinkerbelle rocked silently when the boy stepped back onto the dock.
"Gee!" he said. "Never saw a boat that small with a cabin on it. You s'pose someone goes cruisin' in it?"
"Nah," came the answer. "It's much too small."