Whiskey Golf

The latest chapter revolves around our orca named Saka.

Bull_orca_victoria

Excerpt from Sea of a Thousand Words, (beginning of Chapter 33):


Strait of Georgia. B.C. Canada. Aug 20 2033

49°26’36.4″N 124°18’14.8″W

 

“Which way do we go, Kij’?” Táan looked back, shouting over his shoulder.

Dot tilted her head toward the right and they both pulled back on the starboard sheets. The Dyson sails rotated and the baidarka’s prow altered course in response. She felt the wind kiss her cheek as they settled into the new heading.

Dot and Táan had recently switched positions in the baidarka—Dot assuming the most aft position in order to control the sails. Táan now sat in the middle cockpit and paralleled his sail to match the main’s. The north breeze was at their back, allowing them to spend most of their time running downwind—they employed the paddles only for course adjustment or to steady their boat. Once past Jedidiah Island, the wind gained momentum as it funneled down the wider channel. Prior to departure, Kai had advised them to keep to the Vancouver Island side of Georgia Strait—avoiding the heavier concentration of marine traffic and denser population of the mainland. However, Dot noticed the wind veering eastward and observed the fetch start to build up in the channel. Selecting a point on the horizon, she adjusted their heading and sat back to monitor the sea state.

By lunchtime, they’d reached the southern tip of Texada Island—the last headland before open water and the commercial shipping lanes. Whiskey Golf lay off to the southwest. Kim unwrapped the last package of saltfish and passed back the loaf of bread they’d saved from Yaculta. The threesome laid their paddles across the cockpits and allowed the wind to propel them forward while they consumed their midday meal. Dot looked up and scanned the clouds for any sign of Monk. He often arrived at lunchtime for leftovers. However, today he was nowhere to be found. Dot tucked a chunk of the heel into her pocket in case he flew overhead later that afternoon. Kim turned around in his seat and held up the empty food bag. “We’re going to have to stop early enough to provision this evening. We’re all out of fish,” he called back. “I’ll set out some tackle once we’re out of this deep water.”

Before Dot could respond, their boat was hit with a jarring thunk. She laid her paddle flat against the opposing waves to keep the boat from capsizing. Kim turned around and yelled, “What was that?”

The baidarka was hit hard again—this time from directly beneath the forward part of the hull. Kim screamed as the bow was lifted into the air, then slammed back into the sea with an enormous splash. Táan and Dot leaned over the sides, peering into the shadowy depths for the source of the blows. A forceful spray of water from behind her right shoulder alerted Dot to the next assault. She braced herself as the orca’s pectoral fin slammed down on the baidarka’s aft section—grazing her right arm as it landed. Táan dug in hard with his paddle, “C’mon—pull! We need to get clear of this!”

As the boat lurched, Dot looked behind her. She saw a long shape underneath the water’s surface. It followed some ten or twelve feet below them. The whale’s giant head swung to and fro as it swam. As the whale twisted, Dot spied a lopsided saddle patch, and knew the whale’s identity at once. Saka! Why are you doing this? She leaned farther outboard to track the whale. It began to dive. “Kij’—get back in your cockpit!” Táan shouted.

Ignoring his pleas, Dot strained to catch a glimpse of Saka. All at once, she saw the white markings of the whale’s face appear from the murky depth—shooting toward the surface with increasing speed. She leaned back and grabbed hold of the combing as Saka emerged like a rocket, dousing the paddlers and tossing the baidarka onto its side. The whale fell backwards shaking his head—mouth open; rows of teeth visible.

Táan grabbed his paddle. “Holy shit! That’s Saka! What’s happened to him? Dot shook her head with an expression of concern.

“We’d better get as far away from him as we can—until he calms down.” Táan shouted. Dot touched Táan’s shoulder. He turned to face her and she pointed toward her ears, shaking her head back and forth. “He can’t hear us?” he asked her. Dot quickly nodded-yes… Touching her fingers to her forehead, she looked directly at Taan, then spiraled her palm outward in circles that grew larger as they moved forward. Táan watched her actions intently and said, “Saka can’t use his, uh…echolocation whatchamacallit—is that it?”

She nodded her head vigorously. Yes! That’s it!  That’s why he’s so shaken up—I just know it!

Just then, Kim shouted, pointing at the four-foot dorsal fin that cut through the waves as Saka headed toward an outcrop of jutting rocks. Dot seized the halyard from its cleat and doused her sail then pushed her paddle deep into the swells. Taan followed her lead and together the three paddlers aimed the baidarka north-by-northeast, fighting against the wind and current. As they came alongside Saka, Dot tapped the hull in a succession of short and long pauses, the whale closed in on the boat. As Saka’s face came closer to the surface, Dot caught a glimpse of blurry red markings near his eye patch. She strapped her paddle onto the deck and leaned out for a closer look. Saka’s head broke through the foam of a large swell and Dot saw that the red marks were blood dripping from the orca’s eye. Glancing at the shore of Rabbit Island, Dot quickly calculated their distance off the reef. Suddenly, Saka dove, reappearing in front of them, seven-feet out of the water. “Turn—now! We’re going to hit him!” Kim shouted from the bow.

The baidarka collided with one of Saka’s pectoral fins. The whale shook his massive head, causing swells to crash against their hull. Saka’s high-pitched screeches and whistles rent the air. He slammed sideways back into the ocean, drunkenly swimming toward the shallow bay. Táan cried out, “He’s going to beach himself—if he doesn’t run into those rocks first!”

Kim looked back and shouted to Dot. “What do we do?”

Dot’s thoughts raced madly through her head. She’d never seen her long-time companion behave like this before, not even when they’d first rescued him as a calf. The only thing she knew for certain was that Saka was in agony.  She had to act fast. Dot pointed toward the shore and dug in with her paddle. Táan and Kim joined in and they raced after the orca.

Saka headed straight toward the shallow water. Once the baidarka was between the whale and the beach, Dot tapped Táan’s arm. Placing her paddle inside the cockpit, she climbed onto the deck. Taan looked at her in disbelief. “You are not getting in the water with that whale, Kijii! Are you nuts?”

Dot shook her head and lowered herself into the frigid water. She needed to connect with Saka. It will be alright—it has to be alright. Taan grasped her arm, holding tightly. “Please—please don’t do this Kij’. Listen to me—he’s not safe right now.” She smiled and placed her hand on his, then took a deep breath and slipped below the waves in search of her whale.

.  .  .

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