The hours passed slowly and the storm increased in intensity. By sunset, the men were beaten down once again. Like a winning team knowing the game was almost over, but so tired they did not care.
Alex drove the men on. And on.
Several hours into the night, the wind started to die down. The men began to take it easier. And then Pedro screamed out, “What is THAT!”
Everyone turned to look over the bow.
The boat wallowed over the top of a roller, a tough wave, but still only about 35 or 40 feet.
As they looked ahead, all they could see was darkness crowned in grey and silver.
Several men murmured, “Dios mio.” (“Oh my God.”) But, one man seemed to sum up the feelings of everyone as he began screaming, “No, no, no.” His wailing seemed to drown out the wind for a moment.
For a moment, all they heard was the man screaming, and their wave moving their boat. As if the mountain of water ahead of them had stopped the wind.
They began the slide down the back side of their wave. The mountain in front of them only seemed to grow as they seemed to shrink. As they fell towards the trough, their stomachs wanted to stay above. They fought their fear, and willed their stomachs to stay inside where they belonged.
At the bottom of the trough, the little boat creaked against the Pacific. The waves slapped against the sides of the boat, truly a calm before the storm.
The boat shuddered.
“Row on the left!”
The men could feel it. The boat was trying to turn to the left, only slightly, but that would be end of them if they turned at all.
The men on the left rowed as if the could see their graves in front of them. The men on the right chanted.
“One, two, three, ROW!”
Almost a foot of water came over the boat. The current pulling the seven men and three boys. But, they fought to stay on the boat.
The boat rose against the wave. The mountain was all they could see. Then as the boat tilted to ride the face of the wave, all they could see was ‘up.’ Up above them was silver, and what looked like stars.
The silence was gone. Silence replaced with a roar of demonic intensity. What had just looked like stars crashed upon them. The white had been foam from the top of the ‘rogue wave.’ More of the Pacific was trying to peel them from their little boat.
An uncommon beast of nature. A rogue wave will push up from the ocean around it as it builds on top of other waves.
Like an Everest pushing from the steppes of Tibet, this rogue pushed up from the depths of the Pacific.
And they rose.
On the backside their stomachs had wanted to rise up out of their bodies. As they rose, their stomachs wanted to fall out of their bodies. They felt their bowels try to run in fear. And they willed themselves on.
But, what else could you do? Like a ride at the carnival, you can only hang on until the ride stops, or crashes.
They hung on. Cold, wet, and tired.
And still they rose.
More white caps falling on them as the mountain above continued to fall over on them.
And then they were in the foam …. Both sides seemed to glow. An ephemeral beauty surrounded them. The foam at the top seemed to swallow them. The silver and the white became one. Their little boat rocked from side to side. What was an ephemeral moment seemed to drag on, as if it would never stop until their little boat had been sucked into the very mountain of this Pacific wave.
The gunwales were even with the water around them.
As if the boat had doubled in weight.
Both sides of the boat rowed, “One, two, three, ROW!” The words washed into the unintelligible noise around them.
Suddenly, the boat began to rise. The Pacific let loose its hold on the little boat, and the water receded from the gunwales up front.
Alex looked over the bow. The glow of the low light around them made his pale face look like he had a halo around him.
He did not dare to look back to the men. The gulf in front of him was mirrored in his face.
And the bow went over the back of the wave.
The dark of the storm behind them was replaced by the glow of the night in front of them. And they could see.
Someone yelled, “Look!”
Looking anywhere but down was a good direction.
The little boat sped towards the bottom of the trough, as if it would become a submarine.
Again they willed their stomachs down, and down, and down. For what seemed hours.
Then everything and everyone lurched forward. They had hit bottom. The boat shivered, rattled, and rolled.
A primeval yell broke out. The age-old Mexican yell, “Ay, yi, yi!” Several men shook their oars in the air like their ancestors shook spears in battle.
And they rolled on over the next wave. And the next and the next.
Normal had returned.
“Alex? What do we do now.”
His pallor had returned. He looked back at his crew, “Now gentlemen, we take turns through the night. We need some sleep.”
“Yes!” was yelled back in response.