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Chapter 8

The Pig sailed west for two days on calm seas but now, as day three dawned, Alvez and Pukunati once again found themselves in the midst of a rapidly growing weather front. What had started out as a tricky squall had quickly developed into a full-blown gale and rolling waves, which threw the Pig about at will and threatened to swamp her. Desperately Alvez scanned the horizon for landfall, for something, anything that might give them some shelter and respite from the worst of the storm. ‘Keep a sharp eye out for land. I fear this will only get worse before it gets better,’ he cried, fighting to be heard above the howling wind. ‘I do not believe that this is happening again so soon,’ he grumbled to himself.

‘There,’ shouted Pukunati a short while later, ‘distant land to the north.’

‘Good, good,’ muttered Alvez, but unfortunately that is the not the way the wind thinks we should be going he thought grimly.

Onward they battled northward for what remained of the morning and for much of the afternoon; on what was, at times, a crazy rollercoaster of a ride as The Pig rose and fell alarmingly between the peaks and troughs of the ever-growing waves. Painfully, slowly they crept toward safety as they repeatedly angled into the wind; all the while keeping a desperate and keen eye out for somewhere, anywhere they might find shelter along the shoreline. Suddenly, without warning, as they finally approached landfall, there was a sickening screeching and grating noise and The Pig came to a jarring halt, run aground on an outcrop of rocks hidden just beneath the swirling waters.

‘Are you injured?’ Alvez shouted as he picked himself up from the cold, wet deck. Without waiting for a reply, he began to check to see if they had been holed and, if so, how badly. On first inspection it looked like they had been lucky, the hull did not appear to have been breached. ‘Are you injured?’ Alvez demanded, realising the boy had not answered, panic already beginning to grip his insides. He looked around wildly, there was no sign of the boy on deck.

‘Pukunati!’ Alvez screamed out in desperation as he rushed along the sides of the boat scanning the water, hoping to catch a glimpse of the boy. The boy was a strong swimmer but, even so, in such seas he stood little chance. Gathering up a coiled rope he stared out forlornly at the rolling waves, but he could see no sign of the boy.

Long moments later Alvez spotted Pukunati only a short distance away, clinging for his life to the very outcrop of rocks upon which they had grounded. As he watched a large wave swamped the boy, and threatened to sweep him away, but miraculously he clung on. But for how much longer? Alvez had to be quick; his first throw of the rope was woefully short of the boy, impassively he quickly regathered the line and tried again, on this occasion the throw was longer but wildly inaccurate. Taking a deep, steadying breath Alvez threw again, a better attempt, but the fierce swell quickly carried the rope well away from Pukunati who still clung to the rock, his face a mask of terror. Another large wave came and Alvez waited long, painful seconds to see if the boy still hung on; as soon as Pukunati reappeared Alvez dragged the wet rope back and once again launched it. This time his aim was better the rope landed within arm’s reach of the boy. Pukunati held firmly onto the rock with one hand and threw his free hand toward the lifeline but it was too late, the rope was washed away.

Quickly, having now got a feel for how much force was needed, Alvez regathered and threw again. This time he saw, with a surge of elation that the boy had managed to grab the rope with his free hand just as the biggest wave yet hit. Once again Alvez waited long, torturous seconds for the water to subside, desperately hoping that the boy had managed to hold on, but as the wave washed away, he saw to his horror that the rock was empty. Pukunati had been swept away.

Elation and hope now turned to terror as Alvez once again helplessly scanned the raging water for any sign of the boy. Then, all of a sudden, the rope pulled tight and the boy surfaced. ‘Help me,’ Pukunati spluttered as he tried with all his might to haul himself toward safety through the swirling waters whilst, like a fisherman reeling in a catch, Alvez pulled on the rope hand over hand as slowly but surely the boy was dragged through the churning water toward the boat.

Helpless, Pukunati clung to a net hanging over the side of the boat, half in and half out of the water, unable to summon up the strength to drag himself up and into the boat. With a last herculean effort Alvez heaved on the rope and slowly, inch by inch, hauled the boy clear of the swirling water until at last Pukunati lay sobbing on the deck with Alvez, exhausted, next to him.

No sooner had the boy got to the safety of the deck however than The Pig gave an almighty violent lurch as she dislodged from the rocks. As he struggled to get back to his feet to make sense of what was going on Alvez realised cold, icy water was sloshing around his hands and knees, and that that could mean only one thing, they were taking on water, and taking it on fast. Mercilessly now the Southern Oceans poured in through the gaping hole that had opened up in the hull of The Pig as they were freed from the rocks. ‘Bail,’ screamed Alvez as the boat lurched wildly in the crashing surf: the weight of the rapidly increasing water in the stricken craft sloshing back and forth, threatening to capsize them. Alvez pulled hard on the tiller but knew it was in vain, there was nothing to be done. The Pig gave a sudden and ferocious pitch to one side and both Alvez and Pukunati were thrown overboard.

During a dizzying, disorientating few seconds Alvez was tossed about at will by the crashing sea. Such was his confusion he could not tell which way was up as he desperately waited, his lungs burning, for the opportunity to draw breath. Then he felt himself being dragged across something rough and solid by the water, in an instant he realised this was the sea bed and he used both legs to push off hard, kicking for all he was worth for the surface. Long seconds later his head finally emerged from the water and he hungrily grabbed a mouthful of air before he was once again pulled back under and sent tumbling. He realised now that he must be in the surf being washed toward the shore and could only hope that he was not dashed on any rocks that might stand in his way. But, even as this thought passed through his mind, he was deposited heavily on the sand and everything turned black.

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