CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE- Running for cover.
Far out in the Gulf Stream, this one was not coming in. What had started out last week as a low pressure trough rolling off the West Coast of Africa over Dakar had built in the mid-Atlantic as a tropical storm and turned north just east of the Bahamas as Hurricane Diane. It had spared both the Windward and the Leeward Islands (for once) and was now moving almost due north. It had taken dead aim at Bermuda. And dead could well be the operative word there. While its pressure was holding steady- no longer falling to signify an increase in strength, it didn't need any more strength. Feeding an already enormous appetite for moisture from the warm waters of the western Atlantic's Gulf Stream, this thing was a churning death trap with a long, long reach. Winds were ranging from a hundred miles an hour to a hundred and twenty. Some gusts on its northeast side were considerably higher. Hurricane force winds (over 75 mph) ranged out over a hundred miles from the eye. Rain was falling at over an inch an hour in some of the cloud formations inside this spinning mass of moisture. Trans-Atlantic shipping had ground to a halt, one way or the other. Five ships were missing and presumed sunk north of Puerto Rico. Two cruise ships were aground in San Juan, but their passengers were safe and being very well fed and watered. The island of Bermuda was experiencing that odd calm before the storm. And yes, there really is one.
Steve had no trouble at all getting ashore that first morning. Matter of fact, he had no choice. As the new low man on the galley totem pole, he was drafted along with several others to go ashore and buy fresh seafood- something exotic for the Captain's table and a late-night VIP feast during the return voyage. That had always been the routine on these week-long trips. No one had told the Chef anything different this time around. The day had dawned bright and breezy. High white clouds were blowing across the island from the east, putting both Steve and the ship he had sailed on to the leeward side of the island. Sheltered, for now. Once on the docks, all thoughts of a fish market went out like the tide as did the comfort of a beautiful day on the island. All eyes on shore were turned to that old standby, The Weather Channel. Every satellite dish on the island was aimed at the same point in the sky- with good reason. The first thing they galley crew had noticed was that the seafood merchants weren't too awfully interested in making any hard deals on their catch. It was odd, but they were almost giving the stuff away. Why was that, do you suppose?
It took several such (fishy?) deals for the ship's crew to catch on: In about twenty-four hours, you could have all the seafood you'd want, free, virtually anywhere on the island. They'd be swimming with the fishes. Literally. None of the galley staff had heard any weather reports before the ship had sailed two days ago. Now here they were, far too many miles from a safe port that could shelter a ship of that size from a storm of that size. It had been a calculated risk on the part of the ship's officers: Should they risk a five day cruise with Hurricane Diane possibly headed right for their turn-around point? Or stay in port for a week an incur daily operating expenses with no income? The cruise lines' executive management had, still safe in their New York offices, made the decision for them: Get out there and make money. They sailed. Oops.
Some of the crew aboard the Bermuda Star were well aware of Diane, and had been for days before they left port. They had to be. It was their job. And, in truth, they had warned the executive officers that the storm appeared to be headed to the mid-Atlantic- that it could quite possibly be going right at Bermuda. But when? That was the question. And could the Bermuda Star outrun it if it had to? None of this information, conjecture or calculation had made its way down to the galley. It never did, and with good reason. Not even the Captain wanted to face the Chef when he