CHAPTER 1b: Broad Reach
The strip of gravelly sand masquerading as a beach snaked around in a quarter moon shape, the cusp oriented nearly west-to-east, breaking the endless march of frigid spray across their sheltering lagoon. The river beyond, opening its mouth wide to the vast sweep of the Chesapeake Bay, embraced the yawning fetch and funneled its violence into an ever-narrowing corridor. At the confluence of the Tred Avon and the Choptank rivers, port and starboard beckoned with a maze of warrens—coves, creeks, and indents in a flat landscape of entitlement and political largess—many too shallow to accept deep-drafted sailing vessels but all too accommodating of their powered cousins. In between, the rest of the weekenders made do with whatever was handy.
The strain on the anchor was steady, the hulls—bound as they were—swayed in a pendulous glide across a surface preternaturally calm for the moment, until the wind shifted, yawing hulls and rolling bodies out of bunks.
Russ tried sleeping but it came at a cost. The nightmares he’d kept at bay with exhausting days pushing himself and his sloop mercilessly, the nights in sorrowful release, the penance well deserved. Sinners sinned. They repented, they sinned again. He’d accepted that failing long before his proclivities took over, long before he’d come to understand redemption came at a price he might not be willing to pony up.
The decision had been removed on his behalf. He wasn’t sure if he liked that or not. It seemed free will and the penitent man owed each other their due course.
If only he were truly penitent.
The boat rocked, then settled once more. He’d already reduced the whine to white noise, heard but not registered, the senses holding it hostage until the confession of change alerted the listener to new conditions. A low tech acknowledgment of an early warning system.
All sailors slept with one ear tuned to the different, to unusual or subtle shifts of mood and changes of direction. The wind that night was neither evil nor foul. How could it be when, contested, it came up short against the filth that plagued his very soul.
There were times when losing the battle brought more joy and fulfillment than the fleeting and too often fake moments of victory. Part of his journey, the major part, boiled down to learning the difference and savoring the moments presented. Steady as she goes was not the mantra for a man hell-bent on hell and all its diversions.
Grinning, Russ reached for the plastic mug before it succumbed to its precarious position on the small table nestled in the settee berth. The table could be lowered to make into a double berth, but he’d left it upright, preferring the security of the quarter berth for sleeping, if sleeping proved necessary. So far, so good—he was on deficit, as planned.
At six-one, he was forced to straddle the post holding the faux teak surface in place, his right foot braced against the bunk, the left leg extended into the narrow passageway. Zipper unzipped. The cold metal edges, jagged and dulled from use, were his penance of choice for that evening’s vespers. Gathered in hands softened from too many hours in needless isolation, cupping his turgid cock, the absolution of sins took its toll raking sensitive flesh in adoration and punishment.
He missed the rough motion from earlier, the uncertain rise and fall of the hull bumping over waves forced into conflict in too small a space. It’d made the job easier, the pleasure more intense as pain overrode and controlled his waking nightmares. Grinding his cock between miniature blades, he’d imagined how flagellation could peel the skin, layer by layer, each step revealing yet another mantle hiding his wicked obsessions.
Back arched, he forced his neck to accept the stiff support from cushions dampened as moisture leaked onto the polyester fabric from hair plastered to his head and face. He sighed and grunted, the downward stroke pulling flesh taut, teasing at the thick bristles at the base, his manscaping routine halted when he’d set sail into uncharted territory.
Upward strokes made promises he didn’t want to keep, downward withdrew his resolve, no was yes, yes was now, now was forever.
The heel of his foot on the teak passageway slipped, the zipper teeth herky-jerked in unison with gasps of pain, a stranger’s pain. Unaccustomed stings piggybacked with the delicious surprise of awakening to new sensations. Pleasure rode the waves, poised at the precipice of the cascade, too soon, fucking hell… too soon.
Russ stopped, his breath coming in angry rasps, annoyed at his lack of control. Throat dry, he reached for the plastic mug, grateful for its heft, its promise of forgetfulness. He sipped, but like the tingling vibrato teasing at the base of his spine, the warmth and smooth, smoky flavor beckoned with inevitability. Sips swallowed sips until the mug lay empty on its side, rolling in lazy half circles before tumbling to the teak.
Adjusting his hips, Russ groaned as his neck protested with a sharp snap that echoed like a shot in the confines of the cabin. Pale ambient light filtered through the narrow portholes, the cloud deck lifted in the promise of respite. The wind belied that promise, the aching whine ramping up as another squall line approached. The chronometer on the cabin wall read eight o’clock. Whoever shared their bolt hole was staying the night, no matter what.
The Bristol shuddered, bow to midline to stern, stuttering like a wake passing around and against the hull. Russ was torn. Should he look out, see if yet another craft had joined the motley group taking shelter in the cove? There wasn’t much he could do about it except fend off another incursion into his personal hell.
Curious, he moved to the companionway and cracked the hatch enough to peer into the gloom. Running lights receded at a snail’s pace, leaving him and his lady behind. To port, the J-boat rose and fell, out of sync with the larger Bristol. The spring lines, expertly tied, allowed sufficient adjustments to avoid serious problems.
Russ pulled the hatch closed, then turned and sat on the steps. Idly, his thumb raked across the head of his cock, scooping up the pre-cum and sending shivers of longing across the surface of his soul. Sampling the bitterness of denial, he sucked his thumb and waited for surcease from the demands of a body playing him false at every turn.
Outside, in the gloom of a watery prison, rain, sheeting in torrents, set up an unexpected cacophony on the cabin roof. The din was almost a welcome distraction. He’d planned on endless repeats of denied pain and near release, until the awakening of dawn would loose him from his earthly bonds and rocket him—flesh, blood, bone and the soiled remnants of a man—into the stratosphere. Only then could he bask in the aftercare of regret and self-loathing.
Only then was he allowed to pull anchor and race, demon-stained, in an endless parade of tacks and missteps as he wandered aimless and alone, against the current, against the wind, against his destiny.