The circus around us continues to unfold. The wild ride two hours ago still has us badly shaken. Sharks and dolphins continue to jostle the raft, and by the smaller size of some of the phosphorescent trails, even the dorado has joined in the bash-the-raft game. We hang on and pray as never before. Will this eternal night be our voyage to eternity?

     Why are we still alive? Why didn't the shark caught inside the ballast bag destroy the raft? I still do not know what damage the monster did but it had to have broken the bag to pieces to escape. What happened short hours ago is nothing but another miracle. I squint into the darkness. Breathing and splashing confirm the melee remains at a peak. Two more strong bumps shake the raft. The raft rises. A hard rasping thump along the floor of the raft throws us off balance.

Sim cries out,  "Bill, they did it. They holed the raft."

     "What do you mean?"

     "There's water coming in. We're sinking!"

     I am about to tell her she's wrong when I feel the rush of cold water. Water quickly rises over the cushions. Sim pulls up a cushion, and I hold it as she bails frantically. The night is too black to search for the leak. We must wait until dawn. Sim bails without letup while I pump air. Now we have two serious problems. I turn on the flashlight and find an empty Evian bottle, which I cut in half. With the larger container, Sim keeps up with the leak if she doesn't stop.

     The scrape we heard had to be a dolphin. Its dorsal fin sliced a hole in the bottom. What luck it didn't tear the air chamber. Or is the floor of the raft coming apart at the seams? I dare not speculate further. We must await morning. Exhausted, I fall asleep at once.

     Sim bails non-stop for three hours. At five, I take over. She curls up and falls into a deep sleep. I dip the bottom half of the Evian bottle into the bilge and toss the water over the side. I bail a full container every three or four seconds. It's hopeless to look for the damage. It could be anywhere. Outside there is no activity. Damage done, the monsters have all left like the whales that sank Siboney. Damn them all! Damn every single beast in this ocean.

     I bail right through sunup. Sim awakens, the epitome of a castaway; disheveled, wrinkled, and naked. Now, we must look for the tear. She separates the cushions in the middle of the raft and finds that the leak is coming from the bow. She moves the gear piled on the port cushion onto the starboard side, lifts the cushion and finds no damage under it. She then moves all the gear to the port cushion lifts the cushion and exclaims, "Here it is. My God! The tear's four inches long and the water pours in. How can we fix it?" With the cushion removed, water gushes in faster, bubbling inside the raft. I bail furiously.

     The gash is a foot or so from the bow and near the center of the floor. A dolphin, in a high-speed pass, surely cut a corner a bit close. Sim presses the two sides together to slow the flow but cannot keep it together. I let air out of the air chamber to make the bottom of the raft less taught.

     "Let's try to sew it closed, Sim. Do you still have that needle and thread? I'll hold it while you look."

     Sim digs into her toiletry kit and pulls out a shiny darning needle and a package of threads. I thread the needle with six strands then push the blunt needle through the fabric while Sim bunches up both sides of the tear together. The can opener is my pusher. I get the first stitch through and tie it off.

     Two stitches later, two strands tangle and break. On the next pass, all the threads tangle. I cut the thread and leave one stitch in.

     Sim bails while I cut a two-foot length of the parachute cord supplied with the raft and unravel it until I have a single strand. When I have the needle ready, Sim drops the bailing can, pulls up both sides of the tear, and holds them together to slow the flow. I push the needle through the holes I had opened, and the tear comes together as I work my way down to the aft end of the raft. Eleven stitches close the hole though a trickle of water continues to flow into the raft. At least, we will not have to bail non-stop.

     The raft is a total mess. Cushions, bedding, gear, all of it sopping wet is spread in every direction. Worse of all, the Log book got wet.

     "Sim, let's reorganize the cushions."

     "What do you mean? What crazy idea do you have now?"

     "Water will continue to leak into the raft. If we leave the cushions as they are, we'll be swimming in water all the time. Besides there will not be enough room to bail."

     "And how do you want them now?"

     "We'll put one on top of the other on the long side of the raft. In that way, we'll stay drier, and we'll have a groove in the middle to scoop up the water."

     "I don't like the idea."


     "We'll fall off. It'll be uncomfortable. I don't like it."

     "Ok. Then get ready to swim all the time. And how do you plan to bail? The cushions cover the entire bottom. One on top of the other is the best solution. There will be a space between your cushions and mine. You’ll be protected from my sexual attacks."

     "Bah! Let me think about it."

     "Think about it? Until when? Until after we're neck deep in water for a week? What in the hell is there to think about?"

     Somehow we find a way to lean back and rest a bit. Sim bails every 15 minutes. I hold a cushion up as she dips under it. If she waits twenty minutes, water rises over the cushions and soaks my shirt. On the other hand, it’s been soaked for weeks, alternating between salt water and rainwater.

     I insist: "Come on, let's do it."

     "Ok. But I don't like it."

     On that first day on the raft, we had placed our four cockpit seat cushions crosswise atop the floor of the raft. The seats on Siboney were wider towards the bow and narrowed toward the stern, thus we have two cushions that are about four inches wider than the other two. Instead of four cushions crosswise on the floor of the raft as we have had them until now, we place one atop the other next to the air cylinders. This leaves an eight-inch gap in the middle of the raft. Two smaller cushions, each a foot square, support our head. Our feet rest on life preservers, jackets, and wet bedding. 

     Our gear now sits directly on the raft floor, and the space between the cushions is perfect for bailing. I take advantage of the cool weather to make two liters of drinking water. Sim offers to help, but she's busy enough bailing four times an hour and pumping. I soon have the water made and fish caught, filleted, and served. We settle down for a quick lunch.

     Both of us find it hard to adjust to the new cushion arrangement. I put the wider of the cushions on top to provide us with more surface to lie on. But the top cushion slides off every time we move. Our situation gets worse by the hour. We can no longer huddle to keep warm. Bilge water rises over the cushion several times each hour and resoaks my shirt. My back stores sting like I am abed on a thousand needles. And to make matters worse, rainfall continues.

     Sim stayed awake and bailed every fifteen minutes all night, so afraid she is that we will sink. I have been unable to convince her that the cold water lapping on our bare behinds is a fail-safe early warning system. The seas are so calm and quiet I can clearly hear the hiss of air escaping from the hole behind the rags. I've got to do something about it.

     "You're not going to touch any part of this raft again. Ever again. Are you listening"

     "Yes, dear." Damn it. How can she read my mind in the dark?

     "Don't yes dear me, you ugly monster. Have a little respect. If it wasn't for me, you'd be dead."

     "Yes dear. Hey, listen," I say. "What's that?"

     Sim looks out the window. "Dolphins. They're back. Oh, Lord. How long? How long will this continue? There are two, no three, four, five. Oh, no, they are the same ones! Not another day like yesterday." A dolphin the size of a pilot whale blows a mixture of water and air inches away from the raft.

     Sim is nearing the end of her road. Tired and totally distraught, she bellows out, "They really want to destroy us and the raft. I know they will not leave until the raft is in pieces. And you didn't cut loose the broken pieces of the ballast bags. I told you they were hanging down all torn and could entangle a shark or dolphin. But no, you ignore my suggestions. It's OK to tinker with the patch and almost kill us, but when real maintenance needs to be done, you do nothing. You are a pain. Butler."

     "Sweetie, you know what they say. For pain take an aspirin. Either that of just pray, will you?"

     "Pray, ha! I'll probably pray that the dolphins swim away with you and leave me in peace and quiet."

     "You'd be bored in no time. Give me a kiss."

     "Give you a kiss? You have thirty days of rotten fish hanging on your beard. I'd probably get salmonella. I'd rather kiss a jellyfish. Besides we have work to do. Let's try to fix the air leak. It's too dangerous to have all those problems together. We must resolve them one by one, or we won't make it. Why can't you arrange the rags like you did on the first day?"