July 20. Wind: SE 15-20 knots. Heading: 210M. Position: 09°21’66”S 158°28’28”E
Torrential rain all morning. The inside of the central compartment resembles a Chinese laundry with sodden bras, knickers, and towels swinging from the emergency oars. In the last twenty-four hours we’ve managed eleven miles south to thirty-three west, a ratio of one to three. This isn’t good enough. Our course over ground marked on the chart now has us on a collision course with the easternmost reef of the Louisiades Archipelago, Pocklington Reef.
April’s seasickness has also worsened. On Tulagi I’d confidently informed her that it would take only a day to acclimatize. “Two tops, then you’ll be a hundred per cent.” I was wrong.
Quivering flashes light up the southern horizon as night draws in. With every stuttering discharge, the blackening sea glistens like a mirrored sheen of crude oil. It’s my turn to take the first stint in the Rathole. I wake to a yelp, and thunderclaps booming all around. The nightlight on my watch reads 00:56. Time to relieve April…
My crewmate looks wide-eyed in the beam of my headlamp, not a trace of tiredness in her chalky face. Not many things unnerve April, but lightning is clearly one of them. “It’s one wild, wild night,” she whispers. “Rain. Lightning. Wind blowing like crazy. Horizontal sheets of water. It’s been really, really black…”
She leans forward and squints at the red compass light. “And all I’ve seen is that 180 to 210. Seems like I’ve been going around in a big circle all night.”
Removing the wooden chock and shifting the pedal seat back for my longer legs, she peels away her sweat-drenched towel and we make the switch, shuffling past each other in the darkness. April makes a beeline for the still warm sleeping bag, while I orient Moksha’s bow due south, and get to work.
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