40.7°N LAT, 71.8°W LONG-APPROACHING COAST.
He hardly needed to look at a chart; more trouble for Rhode Island.
"Pass it to the station," he said.
"We've done that, Captain," said the messenger.
Bolling raked the horizon with his night glasses. It was flat as a pancake.
Another fireball raced silently out of the clouds to starboard. The sea turned red in its glow. It passed overhead, throwing off streamers, and plunged into the sea. A thunderclap broke over them. The sound had barely died to echoes before the last of the fragments had fallen a few points to port and the world was dark again.
"I've got the con, Dan," said Bolling. "Helmsman, come to port fifteen degrees. All ahead standard."
"Aye aye, Captain."
He scribbled a quick description of what they'd seen and handed it to the messenger. "Add our position and send it," he said.
The cutter dipped into a deep trough.
"Captain?" Ramsey, on radar. "Look at this."
They were getting a solid reading almost dead ahead. It looked as if a wall had been built across the ocean.
"It just appeared" he continued. "Range, six miles."
"Helmsman, make your course one-zero-zero. Right into it."
One of the forward lookouts shouted "Wave!" and pointed.
Bolling stared at it through his glasses. It looked big.
"Everybody tie down!" shouted the exec.
"Flank speed," said Bolling. "Let's put our lights on it."
Twin halogen lamps came on and their beams stabbed through the night.
The cutter leaped forward.
"Three miles," said Willoughby.
It was visible now, a vast rolling surge without a crest.
"My God," said Packard, "I thought you said we didn't need to worry about anything like this in open water."
"Complain when we get home," he said. "Hang on." They tied the wheel down to ensure they stayed on course, and then he directed all crewmen to lash themselves to their positions. He followed his own instruction and watched Packard do the same.
Then it was on them, a dark roiling mountain. Ditty rode up its face. Bolling lost his balance and fell against the bulkhead. The prow bit into the ocean, and water thundered across the deck and crashed through the bridge. He was thrown down hard and lost track of direction, and for a terrible moment thought they were going to capsize, maybe had capsized. The ocean boiled around him. Then they hovered on the crest of the wave and the boat's lights looked down into a bottomless trough and lost themselves in mist.
Dilly slipped into the trough. It seemed to Bolling that they were free-falling, and the fall went on and on. Water roared over his head, and then it was gone and he was trying to wipe his eyes clear and get the sea out of his throat.
"You okay, Captain?" shouted Packard.
Their lights played across a churning sea.
"I'm fine. Radar?"
"It's out, Captain," said Ramsey. "Blown."
The helmsman was dazed. Packard took the wheel. Bolling could see nothing immediately threatening. He keyed the intercom. "Radio room."
"Get a message to Breakwater. That wave was forty feet. It's moving west northwest, approximately two-zero-zero knots."
Bolling knelt beside the helmsman, but looked up at his exec. "We need a head count, Dan," he said. "Let's make sure we've still got everybody."