At last, we were on our way to Stonehenge. In front of us, lay a long voyage through the remaining part of the Mediterranean that we had not made passage through, and it spanned the entire length of Spain. Although it felt wonderful to be journeying together on Orca II once again, these were also dangerous times. Vella had shared with us that the Romans had tightened their control over the movement of ships throughout the Mediterranean, and we all needed to keep our wits about us if we were to arrive at Stonehenge safely.
"It is vital that we are discrete," said Maxim. "Our presence can be seen from any of the major towns and cities along the Spanish Coast as well as the larger Spanish islands off the Southern Coast of Spain."
"Yes," agreed Arnau. "The maritime forces are boarding boats and demanding verification of trading routes, cargo, the value of the cargo, and demanding any unpaid taxes on goods in and out of the territories that they have annexed."
"Well, the Romans are sticklers for recording everything," said Irama.
"And they are suspicious of everyone," said SaRa.
"Ah, also," interjected Cyndriella, "Sophia, as the daughter of Arsinoe, is a threat to the throne of Egypt. We do not want her true identity to be discovered!"
"Indeed," agreed Maxim. "And that is why I have developed a plan. Can you take the helm, Samira?"
"Yes of course," I replied.
Maxim rummaged around in the sail compartment and produced a new headsail and mainsail. "I have designed sails with a more aerodynamic configuration," he said.
Daul KaRa and Imra immediately went to Maxim's side, eager to hear about his new designs. The others gathered around, also, to hear what Maxim had to say.
"These sails are designed to divert the airflow coming from the bow of the boat," explained Maxim. "The air over one side of the sail is sped up in comparison to the velocity of air on the other side. This creates low pressure on one side of the sail and high pressure on the other side. As a result, the air on one side of the sail is sucked into the wind."
"Ah ha," said Daul KaRa, excitedly. "I can see that this effect will alter the dynamic of our sailing."
"It certainly will!" replied Maxim. "Usually, the sail is filled with air from the stern of the boat, or from either side of the boat, pushing the boat forward in front of the wind. However, with this new sail cut, the boat can sail partially into the wind, and this allows greater manoeuvrability." Maxim was beaming a beautiful, big smile. "In essence," he said, "we have a larger capacity for wind direction."
"That is brilliant!" said ImRa.
Sophia, who was not familiar with the intricacies of sailing, looked perplexed. "Hmmmmm. I still do not understand your logic," she said.
Maxim stared out over the sea as he thought about how he could explain his design with imagery. "Well," he began, "the Roman war ships, as you know, have a huge tactical advantage over most of the Mediterranean traditional sailing boats."
"Ah, yes!" said Arnau. "Oarsman."
"That is correct!" said Maxim. "When the war ships are becalmed, they can still make headway because they have 'manpower'."
"Oh, this is fascinating," exclaimed Asteria, her eyes sparkling with delight.
"Some of the smaller warships might have, say, sixteen oars," continued Maxim, "eight per side, with two oarsman per oar. That is a total of thirty-two strong military and disciplined oarsman."
"That sounds intimidating," said Minerva.
"The larger war ships have double that number of oars and oarsman," explained Maxim. "So, yes, they are a formidable force, especially when the bows of the warships are clad with iron battlements."
"Clad with iron!" said ShaMaRa. "Is that so that they can ram other boats?"
"Indeed!" said Altar. "These warships can, literally, besiege a slow-moving vessel and smash it to pieces by ramming into it. And, if a ship attempted to escape the onslaught, but was slowed down by light winds, the oarsman could propel the warship at a faster speed and hunt the slower vessel down."
"You have it!" said Maxim. "Of course, Orca ll does not have the tactical advantage of oarsmen, however, with the aerofoil sails, Orca ll can sail closer to the wind and increase her speed."
"Brilliant!" said NyShaRa.
"In normal circumstances," continued Maxim, "the closer to the wind, in the direction that the boat is heading, the forward speed of the boat will increase. This is sustained until a point where the sail stalls, thereby, losing its sucking or pulling effect into the wind. The advantage of the aerofoil shape of the sail means that Orca ll can sail in a direction that the war-ships cannot."
"Ah! I get it now!" said Sophia.
"Even under the same weather conditions," exclaimed Maxim, "while Orca II is moving forwards, if the oarsmen attempted to follow the same course, the wind would backfill their sails and push them backwards."
Daul KaRa laughed with delight. "Oh, Maxim. This is fantastic!"
"As I was designing this technique," said Maxim, "I discovered that if I have a similar aerofoil shape on the headsail, when I am pointing the boat towards the wind, the air coming off that headsail works in sympathy with the aerofoil shaped mainsail. This allowed me to point a little closer, again, towards the wind, increasing the speed of the boat dramatically as it was being sucked, or pulled, towards the wind."
"So, anyone, with these sails, can expect the same results?" inquired ShaMaRa.
"Hmmmmm, let me put it this way," said Maxim with a wink. "The skill of the helmsmen is absolutely required."
"Of course, it is essential to feel that you are 'one' with the boat," interjected AnKaEe.
"Yes, the boat and the helmsman become one," said Maxim.
"So, with this design," said Daul KaRa, rubbing his chin with his thumb and fingers, "the sails are unlikely to stall."
"Well, there is one precaution," said Maxim, and placed his hand on Daul KaRa's shoulder. "It is essential 'not' to point the boat too close to the wind. If we do that, the sails will stall."
"Well, your design is certainly going to offer us a huge advantage," said NyShaRa.
"Exactly," said Maxim. "The sails will prove to be very useful, especially when we are navigating these coastal areas."
"And, what about the leeboards?" inquired Daul KaRa. "I am sure that they are also an integral part of this design."
"Absolutely!" said Maxim. "As you know, the leeboards pierce deeper into the water than the keel, and, in this way, they act as a blade. When the wind is coming from either side of the bow, pushing the bow downwind, or away from the direction in which we are heading, the leeboards stabilize the boat and prevent her from being pushed sideways by the wind."
"I can remember many of our journeys over the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea," I said. "Even in severe storms, the leeboards can create stability."
Maxim smiled, and catching my eyes, I could see that he also remembered our journeys together. "Orca ll has both port and starboard leeboards," he continued, addressing us all. "They are four metres long, so when they are fully immersed in the water, and in their vertical, down position, they reach three metres into the ocean. We might look like a merchant's trading vessel," he laughed, "however, we can sail like a fast, military ship."
We all laughed.
Daul KaRa was now, literally, jumping for joy. "OK. Let us make haste and try the new sails!"
"That is a very good idea," said Maxim. "We have several hundred kilometres of voyage in front of us and everyone will need to become familiar with these techniques."
We all exclaimed amongst one another as we were as excited as Daul KaRa to begin our training.
Maxim looked down at Sophia and tousled her hair. "Of course, it is not necessary for you to learn how to raise the mainsail or operate the leeboard," he said.
"I might be eight summers young," said Sophia, crossing her arms over her chest and a frown across her brow, "and only familiar with lakes and rivers, however, I want to learn about the ocean! The ocean, and sailing, is in my blood!"
Maxim laughed and cupped Sophia's chin. "Alright," he said. "I am sure that you will make an excellent sailor!"
Over the next few days and nights, we all learned to familiarize ourselves with Maxim's newly designed mainsail, headsail and leeboards. Asteria, Minerva, Cyndriella and ShaMaRa were just as fascinated with these sailing techniques as the more seasoned sailors, and over time, they felt exhilarated by Orca II's performance. After a few days of practice, we became an efficient and effective team sailing Orca ll to her optimum capacity.
Sophia, while she was not yet capable of the heavy work involved, enjoyed practising how to steer Orca II. At first, Maxim, Daul KaRa, and I, took turns to stand behind her, guiding her hands on the helm, until she was ready to steer the boat solo. We all enjoyed watching her determined face as she kept her eyes focused on the line of sight, however, it did not take long for her to feel at ease with the ocean. In no time, she could steer the helm with precision, adjusting Orca II so that the mainsail was as far into the oncoming wind as possible. As Orca II lifted and moved forward with speed, we delighted in Sophia's new-found expertise.
Eventually, the Balearic Islands came into view, and the mood on Orca II became a great deal more serious.
"Alright," said Maxim, signalling for us all to huddle together. "The larger islands in the Mediterranean," he said, "off the southeast coast of Spain, all have Roman fortresses. The garrison keep a constant vigil ready to respond to any sightings of ships."
"Ah, yes," said Altar. "The four main islands that make up the Balearic Islands, off the eastern coast of mainland Spain, are Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, and they all have fortresses."
Maxim nodded in agreement. "Our challenge now is to keep heading westwards towards the Strait of Gibraltar."
"Well," said Arnau, "there is a formidable rocky cliff on the northern side of Gibraltar, and at the base of those cliffs, there is another Roman fortress."
"The Roman garrison also have a lookout post on top of the Gibraltar cliffs," said Altar. "It has an even better view than the fortress below and ships entering the Mediterranean Sea can be seen from many miles away."
"Indeed!" said Maxim. "Vella has also shared with us that the Romans have control of this gateway into and out of the Mediterranean Sea. They have a blockade in place to prevent any maritime movement."
SaRa shook her head from side to side. "I do not see how we can get through the Strait of Gibraltar without being seen."
"To keep out of sight," said Maxim, "and avoid the military Roman control posts, I suggest that we sail close to the North African coastline on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar."
"That is a good idea," agreed Daul KaRa. "The prevailing winds across the Atlantic Ocean are westerlies, however, when sailing closer to the North African coastline, the winds will often shift around and blow from the south."
"Hmmmm," said Altar with an air of uncertainty. "On a clear day or night, even if we hug the North African coastline, we will still be clearly visible."
"If we are apprehended," said SaRa, "we can always say that our passage to northern Europe is for our own purposes and not for any military tactical advantage."
"Hopefully," said Aryana, "our transit through the Strait of Gibraltar will not be compromised."
"And, as already mentioned," chimed in Cyndriella. "They will want to investigate who we are, and we cannot divulge Sophia's lineage."
"Absolutely," said Maxim. "And for these reasons, it is essential that we make the passage through the Strait of Gibraltar at night, preferably close to a New Moon. Or, at the very least, in cloudy conditions."
"It will still be touch and go," said Daul KaRa. "The westerly winds from the Atlantic Ocean blow directly into the Mediterranean Sea, so we need to tack in a zig-zag pattern across the Strait of Gibraltar. This kind of exposure, even at night, leaves us in a vulnerable position."
"Not to mention the strong ocean current that flows from the Atlantic Ocean into the Strait of Gibraltar," I said. "We might have both the wind and the current against us."
"When both the tide and current, as well as the westerly wind, are combined together," said Imra, "it can be very difficult to exit the Mediterranean Sea."
"Of course," said NyShaRa, "the entire Mediterranean Sea, as it empties into the Atlantic Ocean, is squeezed through that narrow passageway, so it will take a great amount of precision to sail Orca II through those currents and weather conditions."
"Well, the Strait of Gibraltar is twelve miles wide at the entrance way," said Altar. "However, yes, given our predicament, our success would be greatly compromised."
Arnau nodded gravely. "Even the Roman war ships, with the help of oarsmen, would have difficulty attempting this heading," he said. "They would most likely wait for favourable winds and currents."
"If we were to sail Orca II with our standard sails," said Maxim, "so long as the westerlies blow more from the southwest, we can stay on a long westerly tack. However, the new sail configuration guarantees that we can maintain a westerly direction, closer to the wind, and not have to tack at all."
"Ah ha," said Daul KaRa. "That sounds more promising."
"The weather conditions are very unpredictable," insisted Irama. "What happens if the westerlies are predominant, and the sails stall, and blow us back into the Mediterranean Sea?"
"You have all raised some valid concerns," smiled Maxim. "And that is why I have another tactical advantage up my sleeve. It was shown to me when I was sailing with some North African traders. At that time, they also wanted to enter and exit the Mediterranean Sea unobserved."
We all fell silent, our eyes and ears alert, ready to hear Maxim's next tactical explanation.
"In the Strait of Gibraltar," began Maxim, "the prevailing winds, pushed into the Mediterranean Sea at speed, create a complex energy flow dynamic. In some parts of the Atlantic Ocean, the rise and fall of the tides can be as much as thirty-five feet on each tide, whereas, the tidal height in the Mediterranean Sea, because of the restrictions created by the narrow entrance way, is only one foot."
"Well, that is a big difference," said AnKaEe.
"Yes," agreed Maxim, "however, a deep channel beneath the surface of the water accommodates this constantly changing tidal height."
"Do you mean," said Asteria, "that in the Strait of Gibraltar, the ocean is very deep, and because of this, the tides are lower?"
"Yes," said Maxim, "the rocks fall steeply down into the ocean and this has created a deep channel."
"I can only imagine how violent the currents would be without that deep channel to accommodate the tides!" exclaimed Minerva.
"The pressure from within the Mediterranean Sea," continued Maxim, "when it is relatively higher than the Atlantic Ocean, causes a current on the surface of the water. This current flows into the Atlantic Ocean."
"Yes, go on," said Daul KaRa, eager to hear the next instalment.
"When there is a tidal surge from the prevailing westerlies," said Maxim, "this movement of water on the surface of the Mediterranean Sea would easily stall a ship. However, because of the deep channel, the surface flow of water is diverted downwards, and where this flow of water is at this depth, it travels in the opposite direction to the current on the surface."
We all exclaimed amongst one another as we were excited to hear about this under water phenomenon.
"I have a deep-water sail," said Maxim, "and when it is lowered beneath the surface of the water, into that deep underwater channel, it will pull the boat in the direction of the current and towards the Atlantic Ocean. It is called a great water sail, however, the sail needs to be lowered to the correct depth for it to function perfectly."
"Do you mean that when the wind and the current is trying to blow Orca II backwards," asked Sophia, "the great water sail will overcome that resistance and pull us into the direction that we want to go?"
"Exactly," laughed Maxim, and tousled Sophia's hair.
"But, won't the under-water current force the sail back up to the surface?" inquired SaRa.
"It would," said Maxim, "and that is why we will use lead weights to hold the great sail down and within that underwater current."
"But how do we know the depth of the current?" inquired ShaMaRa. "And, is the flow of the current consistent, or, is it sometimes too slow or too fast?"
Maxim could see that we were feeling unsure about the effectiveness of his under-water sail. "Allow me to explain the sea sail in depth," he said, "and then you will understand how it works. So, the first thing that we will need is our lead line."
We all sat still, looking at Maxim, waiting for him to continue his explanation.
Maxim raised his eyebrows. "Do you remember the lead line? It is the long rope with knots tied at every fathom, to approximately six feet, and it has lead weights tied to it to weigh it down."
"Oh, yes," said Minerva. "I remember it. The lead weights pull the line vertically downwards. You have used it when we are anchoring in deep water."
"That is correct," agreed Maxim. "We also use the lead weights in shallow water to make sure that we have enough clearance between the bottom of the ocean and the keel. However, on this occasion, we will use the lead line to determine the depth and speed of the under-water current."
"We can measure the depth and speed of the current just with the lead line?" inquired Minerva.
"Hmmm," said Daul KaRa. "I am also intrigued with how to measure the depth and speed of the current."
"Once we have our lead line," explained Maxim, "we will attach a small sea sail between the lead weights, so that when we lower the apparatus into the water, we can count the knots on the lead line, and determine the depth of the water. When our sail captures the current, it will also pull the line with the lead weights in the direction of the current, because the sail will be attached to the line."
"And, I am guessing that the small sea sail with the lead line will also determine the speed of the current?" asked Cyndriella.
Maxim laughed. "Absolutely!" he said. And once we know the depth and speed of the current, we can then insert the great sea sail to the required depth."
"As we know," I said, "at various depths, the current can flow in a variety of directions. So, we would want to take advantage of the body of water that is flowing in a westerly direction, wouldn't we?"
"Yes," agreed Maxim. "That is correct."
"So, how will we be able to calculate the speed of the current?" asked Arnau.
"If Orca ll is relatively stationary on the surface of the water," replied Maxim, "and the small sea sail and lead line is pulled by the westerly current, the lead line will pull along the gunnels of the boat at approximately the same speed as the current. So, it is easy to estimate the speed of the current by walking the line as it moves along Orca's deck."
"Remarkable!" said Daul KaRa.
"Once we have established the depth," continued Maxim, "we can lower the great sea sail to the depth that we require."
"I am curious," said Aryana. "Why don't we just use the great sea sail to establish the depth of the under-water current?"
Maxim nodded, seeing that we needed more clarification, and began is explanation. "The small sea sail can be easily hauled in and out of the water by one person, and it is all that is required to make those measurements," he began. "The great sea sail, on the other hand, captures the pressure of the current, and this can equate to five to ten tonnes of force. In fact, the great sea sail needs to be lowered into the water, and retrieved, off the mooring line. So, hauling the great sea sail out of the current requires considerable manpower. Remember, the current is keeping the great sea sail open, and at the same time, the surface conditions are pushing Orca II in the opposite direction of the current, and this places a huge strain on the mooring line attached to the sail. So, we need a lot more apparatus to lower and retrieve the great sea sail, especially in stormy conditions."
"Yes, of course, because the great sea sail is under the water, and the water is filling the sail, just like the wind fills a sail above the ocean," said Sophia.
"Bravo!" said NyShaRa.
"Well, what apparatus do we need for the great sea sail?" inquired AnKaEe
"The great sea sail requires flaking control lines, called lanyards," replied Maxim. "When hauling up the great sea sail, because of the considerable pressure of the current in the open sail, the flaking control lines are used to retrieve the sail. Once we pull on the lanyards, the sail begins to flake while still in the water. As the flaking continues, the great sea sail concertinas up, like a venetian blind greatly reducing the water pressure from the current."
"And, what if we need to lower the great sail deeper into the water?" asked Aryana.
"Yes, that will be necessary, and do that, we need to understand vectoring," replied Maxim.
"Yes, I understand so far, but not vectoring," said Sophia.
Once again, Maxim looked out over the water, searching for the imagery to make himself clear. "OK," he said, and brought his attention back to the group. "Imagine the triangular shape of an ordinary sail," he began. "The long side of the triangle is at the surface of Orca ll, and on the vertical side of the triangle is the lead line. The lead line goes down directly beneath Orca II. And the short side of the triangle represents the speed of the current."
"Oh, ok. I think I have that image so far," said Sophia.
"This effectively means that as the great sea sail is pulled along by the current," continued Maxim, "and because the lead line is the same length as the vertical side of the sail, the sea sail will rise as it attempts to pull Orca ll in the same direction as the current. As SaRa has already voiced earlier, the sail could then be pulled out of the current and Orca II will be pushed back in the opposite direction."
"Does that mean that we may have to let out more line on the sea sail," asked Sophia, "ah, to lower it deeper into the water and make sure that we keep moving in the same direction?"
"You have it!" said Maxim, "that is vectoring."
"Well, it all sounds very stressful, especially in adverse conditions," said Irama. "However, so long as we are positive and optimistic, we can create a wonderful outcome."
"And that reminds me," said Maxim, "there is another issue that we need to take into consideration."
"Oh, my!" exclaimed Minerva, "as if that isn't enough."
"The deepest trench in the Strait of Gibraltar is very close to the rock of Gibraltar," explained Maxim, "and as already mentioned, that is where the Roman garrison have one of their lookouts!"
"Yes, I see!" exclaimed Minerva. "So, the deep current that we are reliant upon is right beside the Roman garrison!"
"And we aren't practiced sufficiently enough with any of these techniques!" exclaimed ShaMaRa.
"We will be alright," assured Maxim. "We still have two days before we reach the Strait of Gibraltar, so we have time to practice these techniques. We will practise, over and over again, until we have acquainted ourselves with the great sea sail."
"Stealth is our greatest friend in this whole operation," said Daul KaRa.
"Absolutely," said Maxim. "We will all need to be very quiet. I suggest that we practice hand signals as well so that we can pass the Roman garrison undetected. Or, we can whisper to one another, but only if it is absolutely necessary.
"We all know how well sound travels over the water," said Aryana.
"Soon, we will all be ready to water sail right under the noses of the Roman garrison!" exclaimed Maxim triumphantly.
The Light Family enjoyed practising with the small and great sea sails over the next few days, as well as constructing the hand signals that they would require, until they felt confident. When they first found the underwater currents with the small sea sail, it was a cause for celebration! ShaMaRa affectionately named the underwater current 'Acro'. 'Acro' was 'Orca' spelt backwards because we were going in the opposite direction to the surface condition. Even although many of the weather and sea conditions would be unpredictable, we had now learned to make adjustments to accommodate these anomalies.
It was early in the evening, a few kilometres off the North African coast, when Maxim heaved to, or trimmed the main sail, to prevent the sail from luffing. We were now stationary, however, we needed to keep a watchful eye on the helm. The southwesterlies had been blowing consistently for most of the afternoon, so we were ahead of our estimated time of arrival, and close to our position near the cliffs of Gibraltar, before darkness fell. In our favour, the New Moon had occurred only a few days ago, so the conditions were not perfect, however, in the event that the sky was clear, at least the light from the moon was greatly reduced.
There was a heat haze forming over the Strait of Gibraltar, created when the cool, moist air off the Atlantic Ocean reached the hot, dry air off the North African deserts. A mackerel pattern was also forming in the sky indicating that a storm was approaching from the Atlantic Ocean.
"The weather gods are favouring our passage" said Aryana.
It seemed to take an age for dusk to arrive, and while we were waiting, our anticipation ran high. At the right time, Maxim gave us the hand gesture to hoist the wind sails, and reminded us, in a whisper, that from now on we are in stealth mode!
Sophia was at the helm, her eyes concentrating on the line of sight, and then we felt Orca II lift as a stronger breeze filled the wind sails. In no time, we were headed directly across the Strait towards the cliffs of Gibraltar. The steep, shale and limestone cliffs rose up into the heavens in a vertical direction, and we marvelled at the main ridge with crests and peaks that were over four hundred metres above sea level.
After an hour or so, we could see four Roman garrison fires on the castellated turrets of the fortress that were emanating an orange glow.
"Maxim," whispered SaRa, and pointed to the wind sails on the mast. There was a hint of the reflection from the Roman garrison fires in the sails so that Orca II could now be seen on the water by a vigilant eye.
"Any observant soldier will be able to see the reflection of their fires in our sails," whispered AnKaEe.
Maxim indicated to Arnau to take down the wind sails, and Asteria and Minerva flaked them by hand, and secured them with lanyards.
Maxim signalled to Daul KaRa to lower the lead line into the water over the port gunwale. We all became transfixed on Daul KaRa's rhythmic arm movement as he let out five, ten, twenty knots, and then twenty-five, and thirty.
ShaMaRa was standing by his side, quietly counting. "Thirty-five knots," she whispered.
Daul KaRa felt a slight tug on the line. We were only two or three kilometres from the Roman garrison and could now clearly see the four fires on the fortress. We could also hear the raucous laughter of the excited soldiers onshore.
Maxim signalled to Imra to untie the lanyards of the great sea sail, and once this was done, Maxim, Imra, and Altar quietly lowered it off the bronze bow roller. We had greased the bow roller where the great sail lead line, or warp, is let down and retrieved, enabling it to rotate without a sound. There were dark, red tell-tale cords, one fathom apart, tied to the lead line, and Daul KaRa carefully counted the cords as they slipped over the bow roller.
At the thirty-fifth cord, Daul KaRa turned around with a large smile across his face and gave us the thumbs up and job well done sign. We had found the current and the sail was pulling Orca II forward with ease! Maxim smiled, and we could see his teeth glistening in the New Moon darkness.
Daul KaRa silently walked the lead line along the port gunnel of Orca ll. NyShaRa indicated to Maxim, using two fingers, that she estimated Daul KaRa's walking speed was approximately two knots, being four kilometres an hour. All seemed to be going smoothly, efficiently, and in silence, as we had practiced this technique many times over the last two days.
We were now very close to the fortress at the bottom of the cliffs. We could hear the voices of the Roman soldiers even more clearly and see their dark shadows silhouetted beside the fires. We could also feel the chill from the cool Atlantic air as it blew over the decks of Orca II.
Daul KaRa, noticing that the speed of Orca II was dropping, slowly moved his head from side to side, and let out another ten knots of lead line. Imra, using hand signals, indicated to Maxim to lower the great sea sail by another ten tell-tail cords. Now we were even closer to the fortress.
"Are we too close to the fortress?" whispered ShaMaRa with a frown across her face.
Maxim leaned forward, "The trench is at its deepest here because this is where the cliffs drop vertically," he said.
"Even though I am turning the helm harder to port," whispered Sophia, "the current is actually steering us and pulling us with it."
"You are doing a wonderful job, pilot?" whispered Maxim to Sophia.
Sophia beamed a huge smile.
"Alright, everyone," whispered Maxim, "keep your heads down, with absolutely no sound, or any noticeable movements."
As Orca II picked up speed, we could all hear the sound of the waves breaking on the bow. The wind strength had picked up from the west, however, the current, by now, had a firm grip in our great sea sail.
ShaMaRa indicated to Maxim, showing him three fingers, to signal that we were now moving at six kilometres of speed. Time seemed to stand still as we slowly passed the dancing light of the Roman garrison fires. The water was lapping along the boat, the wind was whistling through the rigging, and the soldier's voices were resounding across the water from the shore, and throughout this time, our heart rate was elevated, and our awareness was on hyper-alert. As we inched forward, the dancing fires moved from the starboard bow, to midships, and then to the stern.
No sooner had we inched past the Roman garrison, the wind speed increased, and the storm, indicated by the mackerel sky the day before, was now upon us. We could all feel that the air was heavy with moisture and the stars were now obscured by a blanket of cloud. We could also hear the solders hustle and bustle about as they rushed to pack up their belongings before the storm. It was three or four in the early morning, and with a storm approaching, they would have surmised that nobody would be adventuring out on the water.
"Shall we raise the sails to make a faster headway?" whispered Arnau.
"I am certainly all for that," said NyShaRa.
Maxim raised his finger to his lips. "We will utilise the current while we can," he whispered. "If we raise the sails in these conditions, the halyards and sheet ropes will be shaken violently as the sails fill with air, and we will be pulled in a windward direction."
We all nodded in agreement.
Eventually, the lights of the Roman garrison fires were to the aft of Orca ll, and the lifting sea, pushing on our starboard bow, took us in a more southerly direction. The Gibraltar cliffs were now in the distance of our stern, and Maxim, feeling buoyant, indicated that we could now raise the wind sails.
As soon as the wind sails were reasonably set, Maxim indicated to hoist up the great sea sail. Daul KaRa, Imra, Arnau and ShaMaRa began hoisting up the sail, using the lanyards, however, this was becoming difficult as the wind and seas had now increased in strength. Amidst our efforts to raise the great sea sail, we were also being blown back towards the rocks. Orca II had swung around, beam to the wind, and was being blown sideways and in the wrong direction.
"I think that we should we cut the line to free ourselves from the great sea sail," said Daul KaRa in a whisper. "The sea sail is now having an adverse effect."
"That will not be necessary," whispered Maxim calmly. "As soon as the great sea sail can be flaked, it will no longer have the same resistance. The flaking lines are on the fifteenth tell-tail mark."
"I have been counting and we are only four or five tell tail cords away?" said ShaMaRa.
Daul KaRa, Imra, Arnau and ShaMaRa, with great determination, wrestled with the great sea sail until the lanyards, controlling the sail flaking system, came into sight. After a short time, the sail flaked, and they could haul in the great sea sail. Now that the resistance was dramatically lessened, we quickly and efficiently brought the entire sail onboard.
While this was being accomplished, Maxim fully lowered the port leeboard and locked it into position. Almost instantaneously, Orca II swung back into the wind, and the sails ballooned as they filled with air. We all felt Orca II lift, and on a starboard tack into the wind, we were now heading in a southwest direction.
Sophia laughed as she steered Orca II through the Strait of Gibraltar and we all cheered.
Throughout the night, we all took turns at the helm, while others ate, slept, and re-organised our supplies. The next day, shafts of early morning light brought dark and menacing clouds that filled the sky. We had no option than to continue sailing, and as Maxim pinched Orca II closer into the stormy head wind, the gusts were strengthening to alarming proportions.
Maxim, who was now at the helm, called for everyone to gather together, and we huddled around him on the deck. "Soon we will be heading into a full Atlantic gale, so we must prepare Orca II, and ourselves, for adverse conditions."
"Is there a bay somewhere, perhaps where there are resistance fighters, where we could stay until the storm is over?" asked Imra.
"I am afraid not," said Maxim, and sensing a rising level of unease, he felt the need to reassure us. "Everything is perfect," he said. "There is no need to go into fear. Mediterranean storms are one thing, however, an Atlantic Ocean full force gale is another experience altogether, especially for the uninitiated. Remain calm and remember all that I have taught you."
"If we stay on this tack," said Daul KaRa, "the gale will force us southwards, and we will head onto the rugged North African coast."
"That is right," agreed Maxim. "So, we need to tack and head for the open ocean in a north westerly direction."
"What about The Rum Line course to the Isles of Silly, off the far west English coastline?" asked Daul KaRa.
"That course will take us into dangerous waters," replied Maxim, "and this strengthening gale will push us into the Bay of Biscay."
"Yes," said Imra, "there are many shipwrecks strewn around the Isles of Silly and the Bay of Biscay from the constant gales blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean."
"Also," interjected Arnau, "any Roman warships heading south would be tracking the same course."
"The only option is to head deeper into the Atlantic Ocean," said Maxim.
"Can you guarantee that we won't sail off the edge?" asked Asteria.
"Um, Asteria," said Minerva, rolling her eyes in a playful way, "I think we can all agree that the world isn't flat."
"Ah, yes, well the dark one's do say that the world is flat," smiled Maxim. "However, as we all know, it is not flat."
"They claim that if a ship sails too close to the edge," said Asteria, "we will be caught in a maelstrom and pulled over the abyss, into certain death, with no way back!"
"Ah," said Altar, "that fabrication is for population control. They don't want people adventuring around the world."
"I have sailed with Portuguese traders," said Maxim, "and they have ventured west into unknown lands far across the Atlantic Ocean. They say that there is an impenetrable land mass running from the far north frozen lands at the top of the world, all the way down to the frozen lands in Antarctica, deep towards the bottom of the world. So, we do not have to be concerned with falling into the abyss."
We all laughed.
"And, what will be gained from heading north west, Maxim?" asked NyShaRa.
"In the north west there are clear, ocean waters and no other ships in that area. We will then sail in a northerly direction, deep into the northern Atlantic Ocean, and once there, we can ride the westerlies all the way to the northern English coast. Our course should clear the Isles of Silly as they are another graveyard for the lost mariners."
We all nodded, excited to be journeying to the English coast, and without question, to Stonehenge.
"Alright," said Maxim, "we need to get ready to tack. Lower the starboard lee board and lock it firmly into place with the storm bronze pins."
"It also needs to be double lashed with storm lanyards," said Daul KaRa. "We do not want the lee board coming free as it would smash the hull."
"What about the port lee board?" asked ImRa.
"We will lift the port lee board and pin and lash it after the tack," said Maxim." I will luff up to the wind, so be ready to let go of the port sheets while we haul in the starboard sheet lines."
We all scurried around on the deck as we prepared Orca II for a change of direction, and then, when we were ready, Maxim shouted, "Tack!" and swung the helm over.
Orca II rounded up, the sails momentarily luffing in the strong headwind, and with great skill, we hauled the sheet ropes quickly and efficiently, tied them off, and then raised the port lee board and secured it down.
Instantly, Orca II lifted as the sails filled with the storm winds, and with great efficiency, we were off at full pace in a north west heading.
"Well done everyone!" exclaimed Maxim with great excitement, and taking our positions on the deck, we headed out into the Atlantic Ocean.
And so my journey continues...
Te Wana | Tawa | Te Awa | Adventure with joy, with all its multiple meanings