He looked about. It was all too surreal for him. His world was crashing down in a tailspin of terror. Small snippets of his current situation bounced in and out of his thought process: the helmsman, the crew, the fallen main mast, the storm, the howling wind, the crashing waves, below decks, Henry. The scene in his mind’s eye kept repeating itself over and over again…unrelenting, spinning, out of control and eerily silent. Everything seemed to occur in slow motion.
“And what of Marijke? And the children. How will she survive
without me?” He cried.
“Sir, sir…SIR!” His mind’s hallucinations were suddenly shattered
with the interruption of reality’s discourse. Michael looked about
and saw the sailor directly in front of his face, yelling at him above
the noise of the storm. His spittle mixed with the salt in the air.
“Right” Michael thought out loud.
“Sir, we have cut most of the lines but I am afraid some are
unreachable.” He paused and drew Michael’s attention to the port
side. What Michael saw disturbed him. The ship was now leaning
dangerously to port. Heeling hard. Every wave off of the starboard
quarter was pushing the port side gunnels and bulwarks under the
water. The main deck was now at a dangerous angle. Soon, if things
do not relent, the ship will reach its tipping point and go over.
Michael ran back to the helm. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t have
to. He could see the pain and stress of effort as the three men tried to
keep the ship upright. He could also see the fear on their faces. They
looked at Michael pleadingly as if he could enact a miracle to save
them all. He couldn’t.
Suddenly a loud crash, then a boom. A loud, nerve wracking,
spine tingling scraping noise. The ship stopped abruptly from its
forward momentum. So much so that Michael and all of the crew
were thrown to port. One or two of the men working amidships
were thrown over the side into the cauldron of churning water with
current. Gone! This could mean only one thing to Michael. They had hit a reef, or one of the shoals off Gravelines. The ship was lost.
The ship began to bounce hard across the shoals, periodically rising like a cork then floating on the crest of a wave or swell, and then down hard again on to another pinnacle of the reef. No movement. The ship was leaning more and more to port. Water cascaded across the decks, down the hatches and through the openings of the holds. At the same time the hull on the port side was breached. Water flowed in undeterred. The ship was sinking and going over fast. A capsize was imminent. The crew knew this and understood the dangers. Every man was for himself. For Michael a decision was not necessary. The very next lurch cast him over the side and into the cold water. He was gone and alone.
Somehow, when Michael awoke to his reality, he found himself holding onto a wide wooden plank. He did not know how he had done this as he had no recollection of going over the side or finding this plank. He was in shock. He looked about and could no longer see his ship. Flotsam abounded. Barrels and bales of cloth were floating everywhere. Waves crashed in and out of the shoals and reefs. He could not see any of the other men who may have survived the sinking. It was bitterly cold. He tried to climb up onto the wide plank but to no avail. The sea around him remained chaotic. The storm clouds were dark and foreboding. It was raining hard, falling sideways and stinging his eyes. It was late afternoon but it seemed like nightfall. It was cold…the air and the water. Michael could feel himself passing out. He fought hard to stay awake. Passing out meant certain death. He had to fight the feeling of hopelessness. He prayed hard, as best he could.
Just then some rope passed him by. He grabbed it then secured
himself to his wooden float. It seemed to take forever to accomplish
such a simple task. A few minutes of time after securing himself he
The Eighty Years’ War between the Dutch and the Spanish in
Flanders and in northeastern France, which began in 1568 was
still raging. It had morphed into the Thirty Years’ War, which
would end in 1648 in the Dutch’s favor over Spain in a few years
hence. Nevertheless, Spain controlled the area around Gravelines
and ran regular patrols off the coast. During one of these patrols
some Spanish soldiers witnessed the destruction of the MONK’S
ORCHARD II from a safe and secure shelter above the beach.
Expecting debris from the wreckage that may be of value some of
the soldiers braved the weather and walked down to the beach. There
they found flotsam: bales of cloth washed ashore, barrels of wine
floating in the shallows along with other shipboard equipment and a
few bodies — drowned. One sailor thought he saw a large batch of
artifacts from the wreck a way down the beach. As he approached
the debris, he saw that it was a body attached to a broad wooden
plank. He ran over and discovered that the body was warm and still
alive. He yelled out to his colleagues:
“Hey, hey felows. Por aquí. Ven rápido…come here, come here,
What, me worry?
Have a great weekend.
Have a read.