Friday, August 08, 2008

Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 3

The third and final part of Hal Weidner's story of his encounter with Hurricane Cleo in 1958...

Neither one of us dared talk about our probable fate. Such a conversation seemed impolite. So we pumped on. By now we knew that our little ship had opened up and was filling, at the same rate as we could pump. Ruddy had seen it earlier, but couldn’t stop it.

We kept a line weighted with an empty soup can hanging down the companion way to measure the water’s height inside the hull. We couldn’t make headway. The wind had dropped of to a breeze, but the slop of the high seas continued to bounce us around in attempts to wash us off our tiny platform. One time we saw an unusual wave coming. We both yelled NO! We threw ourselves over the open hatch and tried to find some kind of grip. But, it drove us apart and nearly filled So Long to the gunwhales. We pumped like demons and got it back to the bottom of the soup can. ---On it went.

That night we saw the lights of a cargo ship passing to the south. We had rockets - wet ones, somewhere. This surprised us. Why were cargo ships taking such a northerly course? Then we hit on a happy idea. They had turned back and now were trying to make up for lost time by sailing the shorter course. This filled us with hopes of seeing more ships. The next day was mockingly beautiful. The sea was almost flat and a warm sun allowed us to take off our boots and wiggle our toes in the sunshine.

We managed to keep our little stick of wood afloat and perched on it like ants. If we saw another ship, we decided to fill one of our sea boots with lamp oil, place it on the bow, and set it on fire; also we decided to dive down and rip the mirror from the head to flash an S O S in the ship’s direction. Then we waited for a long shot.

The next morning, we had the good luck of finding a can of tinned beef and another of peaches. Out of nowhere a tiny bird appeared and perched on our bow; it breathed hard. Ruddy threw it a small piece of beef and the little bird grabbed it in his beak, straightened its neck, and choked it down --- all in a flash. We threw him some more and he gobbled them up.

I turned to look behind us and saw a city block of glistening houses heading our way. We both had our share of hallucinations, so I closed my eyes for a minute. Then, I heard Ruddy yell, “It’s a ship, a great big ship!” It loomed on the horizon. She would be passing us as close as two miles. Ruddy got busy with the boot-fire and I dove down and tore the mirrored door off the cabinet. By the time she came abreast of us we were flashing and smoking away. She was moving fast and went right on by; slowly she began to sink on the horizon and we sent our curses after her. I could not stop following her with my eyes. I suddenly recognized a change — she was getting longer. She was turning.

The Pacific Conqueror, a brand new Greek cargo ship, drifted alongside. They pulled us up on deck, wiped off the grease from our faces, and sat us down on the main deck. Then, they put an opened Heineken beer in our hands — all without saying a single word. In that short time, So Long had gone under.

Cleo was blowing herself out.

This is a record of a true story, experienced by the author.
Copyright © 2008 by Hal R. Weidner.

Related Links
So Long
Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 1
Slammed by Hurricane Cleo - Part 2


EVK4 said...


tillerman said...

Yeah. Now that's a real sailing story. Plenty of terror.

bonnie said...

I second the wow.

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