The Plan

           October 20

Pot Luck, a 31-foot wooden Willis Beal lobster boat, slipped through the fog at a slow and steady pace doing close to three knots. She headed straight for the shore without deviating or slowing and ran up on the rocks beneath the shrouded spruce trees and a lone maple, its leaves glowing a dull red, on the northwestern tip of Seven Hundred Acre Island. Nobody was aboard.

With her momentum, she rode up smartly on the slippery seaweed. Her bow rose and her planks splintered. She came to rest listing severely to starboard.

The jolt caused all the fishing gear to slide forward. The bait trays crashed into the engine box and tipped over, spilling chopped herring onto the deck. The lobster tank ripped loose and dumped its contents into the herring slurry.

The propeller remained free and continued to turn. Her engine ran steady at a thousand revolutions per minute. The wet exhaust no longer muffled the noise. Her only through-hull fitting, which normally brought cooling saltwater to the engine, was now sucking air. The 275-horsepower Chrysler gasoline engine began to overheat. Within fifteen minutes, the engine shuddered, seized, and went silent.

The tide continued to recede. Small waves lapped at the shore. A gentle breeze blew through the evergreen trees. The only thing moving, besides the squirming lobsters, was the sweep of the radar in the display over the helm. It went around and around until the battery went dead four hours later.

It was noon. The tide had turned, and the fog lifted. Shelly called the Marine Patrol to report Donny overdue and missing. At the same time, Wally was just leaving the mainland docks in Lincolnville for a run at his own traps. He looked across the now-clearing three miles of Penobscot Bay and saw Pot Luckon the shore. He headed straightaway toward the island, running flat out.

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