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–   C H A P T E R    I  –

The small jib was taut and straining in the northerly wind, the weather turning, the sky azure in the evening sun but for the near purple of the approaching dark clouds. To the east lay Tribune Inlet, a long fjord bounded by steep mountains and creating a great funnel that ended in a narrow, rock-walled passage called Devil’s Gate, where wind and water rushed, making dangerous work for sailors.

Before him, the sea was already starting to mound, as if little hands were forming humps in flattened dough. The whitecaps made logs and other debris harder to see, causing Sam to squint and stare over the bow of Silverwind, his custom-made, forty-eight-foot cruising sailboat.

There was the sound of parting water, and of spray falling back to the sea, the quiet thunder of wind in sail, the rise and fall of a gentle swell that underlay the chop, and a slight harmonic vibration as he drove the boat north and east to windward across the mouth of Tribune Inlet. The wind was unsettled, the barometer falling, but that was expected to change as a new high-pressure system built.

Sam wore yellow rubber sailing boots and athletic gloves for handling lines. The Farmer John rain gear featured pants so watertight he could sit in a puddle; a jacket with Gortex over goose down that blunted even the late October wind.

On the seat next to Sam stood Heraldo, known as Harry, Sam’s mostly Scottish terrier. It had been his son’s dog. Harry eyed Sam, and with a lip-licking expression, distilled his hunger into long swipes of his tongue.

“You’ve been saying that for an hour now.”

Harry repeated the long lick with innocent eyes. Sam then emulated him, running his own tongue around his lips, watching Harry’s canine eyes stare fixedly at the show. Harry lay down, his chin on his front paws, expressing pouting disquiet at Sam’s mockery.

The white-hulled boat-46,000 pounds of fiberglass, lead, and teak —floated featherlight over the sea. From his cushioned seat, Sam handled the wheel deftly with his feet, steering a straight course toward Quiet Bay, some fifty minutes distant. 

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