“Well, I will go below now, Hawkins,” Frank shouted back. “It is enough to blow the hair off one’s head.
“Come down, George, with me. You can be of no use here.”
For eight hours the Osprey struggled with the storm. The sea swept over her decks, and the dinghy was smashed into fragments, but the yacht rode with far greater ease than an ordinary vessel would have done, as, save for her bare mast, the wind had no hold upon her. There were no spars with weight of furled sails to catch the wind and hold her down; she was in perfect trim, and her sharp bows met the waves like a wedge, and suffered them to glide past her with scarce a shock, while the added buoyancy gained by reefing the bowsprit and getting the anchors below lifted her over seas that, as they approached, seemed as if they would make a clean sweep over her.
From time to time Frank went up for a few minutes, lashing himself to the runner to windward. The three men at the helm were all sitting up, lashed to cleats, and sheltering themselves as far as they could by the bulwarks. Movement toward them was impossible. Beyond a wave of the hand, no communication could be held.
Frank could not have ventured out had he not, before going down below for the first time, stretched a rope across the deck in front of the companion, so that before going out he obtained a firm grasp of it, and was by its assistance able to reach the side safely. Each time he went out four of the crew from below followed him and relieved those lashed to the shrouds forward.
The skipper was carrying out the plan he had decided on, and the foresail was hoisted a few feet, the Osprey by its aid gradually edging her way out from the centre of the tornado. The hands as they came down received a stiff glass of grog, and were told to turn in at once. Two hours after the storm broke Purvis came down for a few minutes.
“She is doing splendidly, sir,” he said. “I would not have believed if I had not seen it, that any craft of her size could have gone through such a sea as this and shipped so little water. We have had a few big ’uns come on board, but in general she goes over them like a duck. It is hard work forward. You have got to keep your back to it, for you can hardly get your breath if you face it. If it was not for the lashings, it would blow you right away.
“I have been at sea in gales that we thought were big ones, but nothing like this. Of course, with our heavy ballast and bare poles, she don’t lie over much. It is the sea and not the wind that affects her, and her low free board is all in her favour. But I believe a ship with a high side and yards and top hamper would be blown down on her beam ends and kept there.”
“Do you think that it blows as hard as it did, Purvis?”
“There ain’t much difference, sir; but I do think there ain’t quite so much weight in it. I expect we are working our way out of it. We have been twice round the compass. It is lucky we had not got down among the islands before we caught it. I would not give much for our chances if we had been there, for these gales gradually wear themselves out as they get farther from the islands.”