Hogue is a man with a difficult past. But he’s gotten his act together and sobered up. Nevertheless, he still has difficulty getting a position aboard the Ophelia, a tramp freighter headed to Haiti. Unfortunately, when he convinces Dieter Benke, the captain of the ship, to take him on, he has no idea what he’s getting in for.
Cora Pratt is forced into a tricky situation—she has to ship her freight and travel onboard the Ophelia. It’s not exactly a luxury liner. Resigned to her circumstances, Cora boards the ship not expecting much.
As the ship heads into the worst storm in recent history, Hurricane Andrew, Hogue and Cora begin a camaraderie that quickly turns to something deeper. The ship is not fit enough to handle the storm and sinks, leaving Hogue, Cora, and two others to battle the remainder of the journey—and one another—in one of the lifeboats.
For a closer look at the story, check out this brief excerpt:
The departure whistle reverberated through the steel vessel, triggering a current of excitement among the ship’s people. That long-awaited announcement of their return to sea enlivened their steps and lit up their faces. It fueled their impatience for the tugs to take them away from the quay and separate them from shore.
Hogue directed the deckhands in pulling in and securing the gangplank, then the spring lines, ropes that shifted position with the tidal changes. When the tugs came alongside, he had the men heave them the thick ropes used as towing hawsers. Then he supervised the letting go of all mooring lines.
The tugs pulled the freighter out into the river and turned her stern first, with the lead tug snugged against the stern, acting as a surrogate bow. The after tug at the bow served as a counterweight to prevent the currents carrying the Ophelia into other ships along both sides of the river, plus labored to keep her in the narrow ship’s channel while passing between the bridge structures.
Hogue joined the captain on the bridge, to stand by as the tugs towed them through the light chop of the river. Both watched the Miami Avenue Bridge open as they approached. Hogue grinned as they passed through that aperture, exhilarated after a long exile to be returning to sea. His eyes glistened as the Brickell Avenue Bridge yawned apart to allow the Ophelia to glide past the glass and granite walls of hotels, banks, and office buildings flanking the shoreline.
At Brickell Point, the Miami River emptied into Biscayne Bay. Hogue exhaled relief to be beyond the reach of Garvin Bumpy. He had deckhands stand by to assist the launch pulling alongside, since both vessels were in motion. Then he had his men aid the boarding of the man who’d pilot them through the offshore coral shoals. The tugs turned the ship to face bow forward and let go all tow lines. Ophelia was on her own, her engine rhythmically pulsing in her hull.
Whoo-oo-oop! The ship’s whistle blew again. Wearing his jaunty straw fedora, Fabius steered them past the north end of Claughton Island, with Bay Front Park on their port side. Ahead, a narrow passage called Fisherman’s Channel skirted the south side of Dodge Island and nearby Lummus Island, where a host of majestic passenger ships lined the north side of both docking places, their festive pennants fluttering in the breeze.
On the near side, a variety of freighters, many as trampy as little Ophelia, lay alongside the quay. Spidery cranes interspersed an endless array of storage shanties and stacks of containers. Dusk descended on the ship as it passed the Mediterranean-styled homes of Fisher Island, an impressive array of terra-cotta barrel-tiled roofs.
“Lord, lord, lord,” Fabius said, “they be a heap of money there.”
“Jews,” Benke muttered.
Hogue glanced to the pilot, but since that man didn’t register emotion, Hogue assumed he wasn’t Jewish. Again he wondered how bigoted was his captain.
“My brother almost a Jew,” Fabius said.
Hogue’s brow arched. He, the captain, and the pilot turned questioning eyes to the skinny black with his rakish straw hat. The Bajan flailed his hands while explaining: “He wife, Maybelle, a fishmonger back home in Barbados. The woman learn he messing with a gal sells flowers in the square. Her grab she cleaver for bust clams and chop crabs and such, to chase after me brother. Lord, her angry—angry, mon, yelling Will’yam for all the world to hear. Her wave she cleaver while chase the mon down the street. Good t’ing Will’yam swift. Maybelle catch him that day, him be a Jew.”
Hogue and the pilot laughed heartily. Benke snickered, then focused stern attention on the seaway ahead where a returning ship approached from the opposite direction.
For even more of Tropic Squall, take a look at the sneak peek. Or grab your own copy, available through BQB’s online store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Nook, and your favorite bookseller. You can learn more about the author, Ben Cherot, here. Happy reading!