Walpurgis Night

An excerpt from 'Survival'.

There was desperation in her voice. A long pause.

‘We take the boat and sail to Gotland.’ Andrea’s voice was flat as if she was aware of the madness and danger of her proposition. To sail across the Baltic in a racing dinghy was crazy at any time but in the middle of the night during a revolution, it was insane and yet……and  yet….. What would happen if they stayed where they were? Following Mara’s thoughts, Andrea said quietly,

‘If all goes well we can phone from Visby and fly back. If our parents have really been arrested they will want us too and at least we will be safe if we reach Sweden or are picked up by a sympathetic boat.’

They collected their sails and changed quietly into wet suits and life jackets behind a cruiser hauled up on the slipway. The dark shapes of the beached yachts and motor cruisers loomed high and slightly ghostlike and sinister above them. There was nobody about now and all around a flat, paling night signified the breathless pre-dawn calm. They extracted their 470 from the boat park. The trailer clattered on the dark hard as they freed it. They paused holding their breath but there was no reaction from the darkened buildings and, after a moment, they slipped her cover off and ran her quietly down the slipway. Andrea collected a pair of paddles carelessly left beside an inflatable as they went towards the water, lapping quietly on the slip. From the centre of the town there were sporadic shots and one fairly large explosion.

 ‘We’ll return the paddles later but we might need them’ Andrea muttered with half a chuckle.

As it turned out, they were necessary because there was still not a breath of wind and they had to paddle quietly out from the old port, with the commercial docks against the Zehnheligenweg away to port. It wasn’t all bad. The 470 creeping along in the flat calm was a lot less conspicuous than she would have been under full sail but it was slow, painfully slow. At last, as they cleared the last starboard hand buoy of the bay, the first cat’s-paw of the dawn breeze ruffled across the mirror sea. Andrea nodded and, well practised, they hoisted the main and the jib, sheeting them in close-hauled on the port tack. The exhilaration was still there as they gathered speed. Mara had a feeling of unreality, apart from the unearthly time of day, it was all so normal. The lightening sky to the eastwards over the land and distance – Riga, Tallinn, St Petersburg and Helsinki were up there but she wasn’t quite sure which was where. The still dark north hid Stockholm and Marienhamn and, halfway there, Gotland, with the dunes of Ljugarn, their ambitious destination

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