2 min read
Command Decision

by William Thomas

Tropical cyclone Diane arrives at Huahine Island as a fresh afternoon breeze on the fourth of July. By dusk, the barometer has crash-dived and the wind is backing, gusting gale force. Nearby, Akahi swings restlessly to four anchors.

     Throughout that sleepless night, I watch the lights of the Bali Hai resort dance across the cabin windows as Akahi drags past. Dawn reveals the 38-foot Cross trimaran fetched up at the very edge of the reef. Her diesel is engaged and she appears to be holding to a breeze reported gusting at hurricane force.

     Celerity shakes from masthead to minikeel as white squalls sweep the bay. Incredibly, the cresting seas thundering through the pass wrap around to catch Akahi fully exposed. I call Thea to the companionway in time to see the big tri vanish under a collapsing wall of water. Our anguished shouts come together.

     Akahi surfaces like a submarine, green water cascading off her decks. The main hatch slams back and her four crewmates tumble up on deck. Though less than 60 yards off, their activities are masked by intervening beakers as they cut three anchors away. Engine full ahead, our friends slowly motor clear as the next curler explodes over their just-vacated berth.

     Close inshore, the air is saturated with din, spray and pinwheeling limbs. Coconuts arc like cannonballs as amputated palm trees roll in a cauldron of backwash. Inexorably, the breakers begin drawing down on us.

     Celerity’s ancient Honda outboard is willing. But not that willing. Attempting to motor or sail clear, we’ll be blown into surf  or jagged coral.

     Thea has joined me on the foredeck. Locking gazes through squinted eyes, I know that if the Kismet breaks up or capsizes in this surf, she could be trapped in wreckage or rigging and drowned.

     Only minutes remain. The most drastic command decision I have ever made is also the easiest. To protect Thea, I am about to murder the sea-child we birthed together.

     “GET A LIFEJACKET ON AND BRING THE BIG KNIFE FROM THE GALLEY TO THE FOREDECK!” I scream over the jet-turbine roar directly into Thea’s ear. I watch her depart and return as if in a dream.

     “I’M GOING TO DRIVE THE BOAT ONTO THE BEACH!” I yell into hair whipping my face when the woman I cherish crouches beside me. “WHEN I GIVE THE WORD, GIVE ME A SCRAP OF STORM JIB TO BRING HER HEAD AROUND. I’LL CUT THE RODE AND TAKE THE HELM. YOU HANG ON!”

     Thea nods calmly. Though her eyes, peering out from the lifejacket’s bulbous orange folds, are large with fright. Such courage deserves to live!

     Knife in hand, I turn to judge the moment.


     A boat-length astern, the next set bulges and breaks in a drumroll of thunder.


     In these minutes of desperate resolve, the wind must have backed another point. Commanded by this fresh vector, the surf line is receding.

     We later learn that this unseasonal, heat-turbocharged storm was spawned by sun-hot nuclear detonations at Moruroa atoll.

Photo Caption:

Celerity's Main Cabin -Will "Randy" Thomas photo