Sunday Snippet, The Last Lifeboat by Bill Chance

“- John Kovac: Lady, you certainly don’t look like somebody that’s just been shipwrecked.

– Connie Porter: Man, I certainly feel like it.”


lifeboat propeller

The Last Lifeboat

Willis was on a cruise ship in the South Pacific, on the way from Bora Bora to Tahiti, when the asteroid struck.

As you know, the impact site was in the Atlantic, almost exactly on the opposite side of the world from Willis and his cruise ship. The North and South American continents protected them from the massive waves. Secondary meteorites, mostly hunks of seabed thrown into space to rain back down, were falling around them, but the sea seemed so vast it was more of fantastic light show than a real fear.

Most of the population of the main continents died out from the enormous Tsunamis and the fire raining down fairly quickly. It took days for the impact to impact their part of the world (sitting on miles of water depth, even the earthquakes were not felt).

There was increasing panic onboard as the radio contacts from all over the world went silent, one by one, with frightening rapidity. A cruise ship is largely self-contained – but the supplies wouldn’t last forever.

Willis wasn’t sure what sank the ship. Maybe it was struck by a random rock screaming down from the sky. Some said the crew went mad and scuttled the ship.

Willis had always taken the lifeboat drills too seriously, but this time it served him well. He made it to one of the enclosed survival boats and had it lowered and adrift just as the giant liner slipped beneath the salty waves.

There were about twenty souls on the craft. Looking around, they did not see any other boats. Some people must have been caught unaware, most probably didn’t care enough to save themselves. There was a lot, and I mean a lot, of drinking going on.

Now that this tiny craft was all that was left of the world to them, the twenty searched the emergency locker to see what they had. Unfortunately, a crewman seemed to have been making the vessel his home, an extra private cabin.

The survival supplies on the lifeboat had been replaced by an impressive bag of cocaine and a generous supply of shockingly violent gay porn magazines.

They were adrift in a trackless ocean without emergency flares or signal mirrors. Which was fine because there was nobody to signal. But panic began to set in when they discovered emergency biscuit ration and containers of fresh water were gone too. But there was the tiny engine and some diesel fuel, and when that ran out, there were oars. The compass was missing and they didn’t know what direction to go – but they used the sun and the stars to row in more or less a straight line, straight into the unknown.

Of the original twenty, ten, including Willis, were still alive when the top of a ragged volcanic peak poked above the horizon. It was a harrowing row across waves, rocks, and jagged razor-sharp corals to get to the beach and the line of coconut palms. Nobody knew how many people were left in the rest of the word (as you know, there were very, very few) but a healthy number had made it through the rain of fire on the island.

The lifeboat survivors were forced to trade with the natives. Willis was surprised to find out that the cocaine, though valuable, was less in demand that the pornographic magazines. The residents of the island had never seen publications of this type. They said, “The internet is just not the same.” And, of course, the internet was gone now… paper, as information and stimulation was again the gold standard.

A decade later, Willis found himself in the unexpected role of “King” of the island. The little society had not only survived, but it had thrived. But they were multiplying and it was obvious that their island, their little piece of paradise, was going to be too small soon, very soon. So Willis started a project to rehabilitate the little enclosed lifeboat. They stocked it with food, rudimentary sails, and a crew that knew how to row.

Then, at dawn, with the sea calm and the trade winds blowing, a chosen set of twenty set out again, to rediscover and repopulate the world.

As For the Peasant So For the Pilot

“The machine which at first blush seems a means of isolating man from the great problems of nature, actually plunges him more deeply into them. As for the peasant so for the pilot, dawn and twilight become events of consequence. His essential problems are set him by the mountain, the sea, the wind. Alone before the vast tribunal of the tempestuous sky, the pilot defends his mails and debates on terms of equality with those three elemental divinities.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars


Galveston, Texas

Live Through the Night

“Yet, as only New Yorkers know, if you can get through the twilight, you’ll live through the night.”
― Dorothy Parker

Somewhere in the Caribbean


The light leaking between the curtains was gray twilight. He didn’t know where he was and the only clock read six seventeen with no AM/PM indicator. He didn’t know if it was six in the morning or in the evening.

All he could do was to stay motionless, staring at the gap between the curtains, waiting to see if it grew lighter or darker.

We Sail In Leaky Bottoms And On Great And Perilous Waters

“We sail in leaky bottoms and on great and perilous waters; and to take a cue from the dolorous old naval ballad, we have heard the mer-maidens singing, and know that we shall never see dry land any more. Old and young, we are all on our last cruise. If there is a fill of tobacco among the crew, for God’s sake pass it round, and let us have a pipe before we go!”
― Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque


Cozumel, Mexico

Colors Of the Water And Sky

“All afternoon in the deck chair, I try to describe to my notebook the colors of the water and sky. How to translate sunlight into words?”

― Frances Mayes, A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller


Carnival Valor, Caribbean Sea

Cannot Tame That Lawless Stream

“One who knows the Mississippi will promptly aver—not aloud, but to himself—that ten thousand River Commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, cannot say to it, Go here, or Go there, and make it obey; cannot save a shore which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at.”
― Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

Natchez Paddlewheel, New Orleans

Glimpse the Joyous Isles

“Three or four times only in my youth did I glimpse the Joyous Isles, before they were lost to fogs, depressions, cold fronts, ill winds, and contrary tides… I mistook them for adulthood. Assuming they were a fixed feature in my life’s voyage, I neglected to record their latitude, their longitude, their approach. Young ruddy fool. What wouldn’t I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable? To possess, as it were, an atlas of clouds.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Rotterdam Express Container Ship New Orleans, Louisiana

Rotterdam Express
Container Ship
New Orleans, Louisiana

Today’s technology – the amount of useless information available at your fingertips is breathtaking. Take this ship I watched sail up the Mississippi – there are a number of websites which will tell me where the ship is at any time. Right now The Rotterdam Express is underway in the North Sea off the coast near Dunkirk.

I might check in from time to time, imagine the adventure.