Excerpt from “The Perfect Storm”
Sometime during the long night, the rain lessened to a steady drizzle. The wind, which had been from the south, providing cooler air to fuel the monsoon, was shifting to the east, announcing the imminent arrival of “Sagar.”
In the grayness of dawn, Sumon could see that the island was completely underwater. The rope to the anchoring tree was submerged. Trees were toppling, being carried swiftly downstream, some coming close to the boat. He shouted for Ashik. They had to be ready to cut and run.
Before Ashik made it to the bow, Sumon felt the boat slipping backward. The top of the tree to which it was tied was slowly falling toward them into the water.
“Ashik, cut the line,” he shouted. He hacked at it, wielding the machete left there for that purpose. Meanwhile, Sumon started the engine and, once the line was cut, backed away from island that had served them so well.
For the rest of the day, the brothers did the best they could to dodge debris flung by the raging flood waters. Sumon took cues from Ashik positioned on the bow. They couldn’t miss them all. But the boat’s long and narrow prow helped push debris aside. Sumi came up from the hold to announce that water was rising despite their efforts. She wondered if she could watch for debris so the pump could benefit from Ashik’s strength. Sumon agreed and Ashik instructed her on what to do. Soon he was steering following her directions.
Sumon worked the throttle carefully. He picked a tree still standing on the edge of the river as a marker and tried to use only enough power to keep them abreast. But the current was so fast he was afraid he was using too much fuel.
Now he worried about when he should turn and head south to face the monster bent on their destruction. Late in the afternoon, that decision was made for him.
Wind screaming in his ear, rain blowing sideways, smacking the right side of his face, Sumon suddenly felt the stern dip slightly. He knew it was time.
He shouted to Sumi: “Go below. Tell everyone to hang on and Ashik to keep pumping.”
Sumon tied himself to davits in the cockpit and, when Sumi was safely below, applied full power and wheeled the boat around. The maneuver was dangerous. He feared the full force of the flood might capsize the boat when broadside. He also prayed it wouldn’t be hit by a massive tree or wreckage while turning.
The boat did tip when hit by the flood. But it quickly righted as he completed the turn.
Now he was speeding south along with the current, debris matching his speed to left and right. He looked ahead and his heart almost stopped. Before him was a wall of gray-green water towering at least 20 feet above the channel. The top was curling. White froth blew in sheets from the crest, powered by winds of unimaginable fury.
Instinct told him to apply full power and hit the wave head on. If not, all was surely lost.
It was only seconds, but it seemed like an eternity. At first the sharp bow cleaved the water, sending it rushing down the sides of the boat until it climbed over the gunnels and rushed toward Sumon like a raging water buffalo. The boat rose higher and higher, climbing the mountain of water. Then it seemed to slip backwards. The stern was underwater. Sumon was submerged, saved only by the ropes. The engine screamed. Sumon hung onto the tiller, trying to keep the boat pointing straight. As the curl crashed over the boat, it was entirely underwater.
Then the boat crested the wave and slid down its backside, shedding water as it went. Sumon watched with horror as the prow plowed farther and farther underwater back to the second hatch cover before it leveled and, like a cork, popped back to the surface.
“Al-hamdu lillāh, thanks be to Allah,” Sumon shouted.
But the ordeal wasn’t over. Smaller following waves had to be crested. And Sumon had to motor carefully as close as possible to what was left of Manpura’s western shore to help block the furious winds that buffeted the sodden craft.
Ashik climbed out of the hold.
“Everyone is okay,” he shouted over the wailing wind. “Some cuts and bruises. I think Rana may have a broken arm. Sprained, at least. Everything went flying. We have over a foot of water, but I think the pump can hold it.”
Sumon asked him to check the fuel level before going back to pump.
“Looks like less than half a tank.”