She had expected an orange horizon over Salt Run’s eastern dunes as a prelude to the sun’s arrival. But as she stepped up onto the deck, she was greeted instead by a dense fog rolling in over those same dunes, hiding any evidence of daybreak, hiding any evidence even of the waterway 100 meters from where she had moored her sloop.
This fog was a very big problem for her, one with classic domino consequences. She was scheduled to set sail early this morning; a must-do if she expected to anchor in Melbourne by dark. And, if she didn’t make Melbourne today, then she wouldn’t make West Palm on Tuesday, and then she wouldn’t make Miami on time, and so on all the way down the line of ports of call to Cienfuegos. A prearranged, prepaid drop-off to a contact at each port; assurances given; no way to update the other players: no phone numbers, no email addresses (too risky, she had maintained).
The fog would have been but a manageable inconvenience had she followed the itinerary she herself had drawn up and moored in St Augustine Harbor (well dredged, well lit, well marked, open) instead of this tributary (quieter, able to relax, catch up on sleep).
But, here she was, and the fact remained that she did not know Salt Run’s narrow channel well enough to maneuver safely in the very limited visibility available, especially not with this cargo. She rummaged through her memory for elements of a plan B, a trick to get her boat to the inlet blindly without grounding, but its futility was made evident by the spinning in her head of unrelated, random memory fragments and increasingly fantastic and frightening images of what might be her near future. She remained helplessly stuck in her mind’s dangerous gyre with only one small remaining rational part of her watching objectively as her nightmare unfolded. That part eventually concluded that there was nothing she could do presently to influence the course of upcoming events.
There was nothing to be done.
Oddly, the tension in her gut loosened. Her breathing deepened, slowed. She regained some control of her reasoning ability. She found that she was comforted by the silent fog that swirled about her. She lingered where she stood. She felt the Earth-bound cloud caress her face, her neck (moist, cool, refreshing). She became mesmerized by the sight of suspended water droplets in the beam of a deck light (millions – no, more – countless). She tracked the fog as it thickened here and thinned there and then reversed itself as it swirled and drifted southwestward slowly, slowly.
She heard a whispering somewhere below her, so she leaned over the railing to find its source. She saw that it was the current, and it spoke to her softly, unhurriedly, even as it slackened in the turning tide, its message further quieted in the heavy, water-thickened air. It told her that she was safe for now. It told her to ponder, for now, her place in this world of hers right here. It told her that this was enough for her for now.
Surrendering to the schooner’s inability to tack against the increasing strength of the northeast wind in the narrow channel, the captain told his first mate to turnabout just south of Porpoise Point and return to St. Augustine’s harbor. Jacques, overhearing the order, glass of wine in hand and chatting amiably with fellow passengers, silently began his calculations for jumping ship.