“Turn one spoke to starboard.”
I turned the wheel sharply to the right and heard a hiss as the First Mate sucked the air in through his teeth. I kept still, listening intently, but he was silent for a moment. In the two short days I had been on board I had marked him as the quiet, brooding type, and as he stood on the bench behind me, guiding the boat, I felt tense.
“Half a spoke to port,” He corrected me.
I turned slower, more steady. The boat dipped and rocked as we followed our course along the Suffolk coast. Around me my seasick mates groaned in unison and I heard his sighing head shake behind me. Smiling in agreement I kept my gaze on my mark, just on the starboard side of the bow.
Seasickness, I had quickly learnt, was all in the head. Literally and metaphorically. Your ears play tricks on you, and the strong-of-mind fight to maintain the truth that you are in charge of your own well being. So I stood, levelheaded at the helm and gazed out at the grey-green sea in all it’s gloomy, outstretched glory.
I had been prepared for a week without cigarettes, without showers, without music, without orgasms, but that didn’t take away the desire for those things. Showers were scarce but not completely out of the question at the right marina, and even without them, being out at sea my hair – the ultimate barometer of cleanliness – didn’t get nearly as greasy as it did in the city. Living without music was difficult, and I mournfully watched the battery of my iPhone ebb as I played one or two tracks in the dark comfort of my bunk after quiet boat. And as for orgasms? On the bright side, I was too exhausted to give my cunt the attention it usually screamed for, let alone follow through one of the come-worthy fantasies in my head, so going without was not nearly as punishing as I had anticipated. However, flashes of lust still sparked in my head, and being the only man on board who knew what he was doing, the First Mate had quickly been selected as the focus of my smouldering sexuality.
But the catalyst for my fevered infatuation was his nicotine addiction. The Skipper knew he smoked, he deserved to smoke, he found places to smoke, ergo I had places to smoke. In short, he was single-handedly responsible for my calm, satisfied attitude. Had it not been for that I would probably have spent my week wincing as he ate and shooting him dark looks as he swore a blue streak giving orders.
Despite his rounded frame and close-set eyes, I suppose that washed and under flattering lights he might have passed for handsome; but not on board. Over all his potentially pleasing attributes was the rough beard, the grease-matted hair – dirty blonde clean (perhaps) but now just dirty, – the irritable frown, the filthy overalls, the month-worn track pants, the hunched shoulders. At first sight, strolling up the pontoon, right hand man to our friendly Skipper, the word ‘repulsive’ would not have been unwarranted. Sitting at dinner – which was large in quantity and small in taste – I watched bits of mashed potato cling, ignored, to the bristles of his moustache as he shoveled forkful after forkful between his chapped lips, ground open-mouthed by yellowed teeth, and tried to enjoy my own much needed energising meal. It was not appetising, and the more squeamish, city loving members of our crew delicately pushed the food around their mismatched plates.
On deck, barking orders for sails to be flaked and tied, anchors pulled in, lines winched, he was an automaton. Through my squinting short-sighted eyes I saw no sexuality in his work-focused mentality.
But after dark, whilst the galley was being scrubbed and the heads were occupied by the teeth brushing crew, he and I climbed on deck, jumping carefully onto the unsteady pontoon and rolled our cigarettes. Talk shifted from sailing to the life of drinking he had left behind, and slowly he appeared more human. He deftly rolled the paper around his tobacco, in hands so grubby his fingerprints were black, and raised the perfectly cylindrical cigarette to his nicotine parched lips. One swift inward drag and his whole body visibly relaxed before me, hip bones pushed forwards, shoulders back, face open. My roll wasn’t nearly as good as his, but I felt utter comradeship as we stood smoking together, gazing out at the boats, reflected double in the water, and chatted about the real world.
I couldn’t say exactly at what point I first wanted to feel his large hands spread across my back, his rough mouth pressed against my salted skin, but it didn’t take long. His roughness, the filth on his body, the knowledge of his trade suddenly became deadly attractive to me. Closing my eyes that night, in my bunk, I saw his dark face above me, could almost feel the weight of him force my legs apart, as I drifted into dreamful sleep.
Upsettingly, I observed myself slip back into old adolescent patterns, doing things I hadn’t done for years. I went out of my way to sit beside him in the cockpit; if he wanted tea, I jumped to make it, in desperate pursuit of feeling my fingers brush against his as I passed him the cup. At first I tried to stamp down the impulse, but as the days passed, I realised what an utter waste of energy it was to deny my childish compulsions.
On the fifth day we were awoken at 4am, ready to meet the 5am bridge crossing and catch the wind on the North Sea. Jobs were done fast, everyone more confident in their ability to help sail the boat, the Skipper more relaxed, the First Mate marginally more accepting of the mistakes a fresh crew were bound to make. Despite the relatively low wind, the weather treated us well and no one felt the need to lean over the side of the vessel and throw up the breakfast they had forced down at dawn. Faces upturned, we bathed our slowly browning skin in the warm sunlight and took in the magnificence of the glittering sea. As a leader I spent most of the day in the cockpit, watching the crew learn the ins and outs of sailing, chatting and singing as we made our way along the coast. Ten hours later the fenders were thrown out and we docked at another marina. After some theory had been understood, and dinner was eaten, the Skipper and the First Mate disappeared to visit some friends on another boat.
I sat on deck letting the cold night breeze cool my sunburnt cheeks, and when the crew finally began to shuffle off to their longed-for bunks, I went down below to search for the pouch containing my tobacco, rizla and filters. I passed the Skipper coming back in on my way up, and climbing down onto the pontoon spotted the First Mate at the water’s edge, just a silhouette and the glowing red of his cigarette. I remained where I was, close to the boat, and rolled my own. Five days with twenty people trapped in an area no more than ten by three metres was taking it’s toll on me, and I could well understand the First Mate’s desire for silence and solitude at the end of the decking, so I decided to leave him be. Licking the paper between my fingers I sealed it, and, bringing my lighter up, I raised my eyes and was surprised to see him approaching me.
As usual we chatted intermittently about the ups and downs of the day and the lives we were living, but as the conversation lulled I decided to delve deeper.
“Is it true?” I fixed him with purposeful eyes, “Is it lonely at sea?”
A smirk crossed his face as he blew smoke up into the navy blue sky. Shrugging, he answered. “Yeah, but you do what you’ve got to do.”
I nodded, glad he couldn’t see my flushed cheeks in the darkness. My heart beat a little faster as he absentmindedly shifted closer to me, sighing deeply.
Biting my lip, I pressed on. “Ever get a helping hand on board?”
He raised his thick brow, taken aback by my forwardness. Considering me carefully he shook his head. “No. We’re a training vessel; it would be fucking unprofessional of me to hit on any of our clients.”
I smiled. “What if they hit on you?”
His gaze was fixed on me and I watched him raise his chin, sucking in another plume of smoke before he answered, his voice low and rough. “Don’t toy with me little girl. I’ve been at sea for two months; you have no idea what you’re dealing with.”
It was my turn to smirk and raise a single eyebrow. “Yes I do.”
I stood my ground and we looked at each other, gaze steady, feeling the tension build. In one smooth movement he passed his cigarette to his left hand, taking one step towards me, and forced his right hand between my thighs, cupping my cunt, two fingers pressing up inside me through the cotton of my panties and trousers. I gasped, tilting my head back slightly to maintain our locked eyes. Cigarette balanced between my fingers, my right hand hovered above his shoulder. The only contact between our two heated bodies was the probing tips of his intrusive fingers in my damp cunt.
“I don’t play nice.” He growled.
“Neither do I,” I retorted quickly.
The moment was heated to boiling and the bitter breeze that swept off the North Sea was no match for the intensity of our connected desire.
Just at that moment the Skipper appeared through the hatch, calling us in, and the First Mate stepped back sharply, flicking his cigarette into the water and climbing back into the boat in two steps. I shivered as I followed and quietly found my way into my bunk, tying a round turn and two half hitches, with desirously shaking hands, to ensure I didn’t fall out during my restless night.