Dead on the Wind

Dead on the Wind

by Marlin Bree


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Dead on the Wind by Marlin Bree

During a storm on the infamous Tasman Sea, a lone sailor testing a new, around-the-world racing sailboat goes missing under mysterious circumstances. Her disappearance triggers worldwide headlines and news coverage and as boats and aircraft converge upon the missing craft’s presumed location, boating journalist Kevlin Star is drawn into the search and begins his own investigation as he fights to stay one step ahead of his rival journalists. Meanwhile, the harrowing Race Alone Around the World event has begun as sailors depart from New York harbor and head down the Atlantic coast to the first port of call in Cape Town, South Africa. As the sailors fight their way through stormy seas and brutal storms, Kevlin begins to assemble clues on what appears to be an unknown and relentless killer stalking the sailboat racers. In a last-ditch effort, Kevlin must find and stop the killer before a terrorist attack is unleashed in Sydney’s harbor. This nautical thriller is a harrowing tale onboard racing sailboats, drawn from the author’s real-life adventures and experiences.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781892147318
Publisher: Marlor Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/01/2015
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Marlin Bree is a nationally recognized small craft sailor, an award-winning marine journalist, and a two-time winner of the Boating Writers International Grand Prize Writing Award. He is a former magazine editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a past president of the Minnesota Press Club, and a contributor to publications such as Cruising World, DIY Boat Owner, the Ensign, Good Old Boat, and Lakeland Boating. He is the author of numerous boating books, including Broken Seas, The Dangerous Book for Boaters, In the Teeth of the Northeaster, and Wake of the Green Storm. He lives in Shoreview, Minnesota.

Read an Excerpt

Dead on the Wind

A Novel

By Marlin Bree

Marlor Press, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Marlin Bree
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-892147-33-2


THE SCARRED WOODEN SAILBOAT surged gently in the harbor swells, halyards clanking gently in the freshening evening breeze. Kevlin Star was anchored in the sandy bottom off Hotel Coronado, the venerable San Diego Hotel, painted golden in the setting sun.

There was a low haze on the water and a warm layer of air that seemed to cling over the water — the sure start of a Pacific low. Something was stirring out in the vast reaches of the Pacific.

"Perseverance ... come in."

Big mistake, he realized. He had turned off his cell phone and pager to get some privacy. But he still had his ship's VHF radio monitoring marine calls — all good skippers do.

Obviously, he hadn't turned the damned thing off soon enough.

"Kev, go to channel 68."

What now? He adjusted the brim of his sun-bleached baseball cap, and keyed his mike.

"Bear? I just got my hook down."

"You finally got away for the weekend, right?" Kevlin could hear the low chuckle.

"Yeah, I'm gone." He had stopped at the old fishing pier and got two hot lobster sandwiches, extra mayo. A dill pickle.

Supper. Now growing cold.

Kevlin had been with the magazine almost six months, which is practically a lifetime in the hotly competitive boating magazine industry, and was used to getting calls at odd hours. Especially from Bear, the magazine's technical editor and ship communications officer, who delighted in hunting him down.

Usually with surprises.

"Listen up, Kev. Something bad is plowing through the Tasman Sea," Bear said. "The satellite stuff looks like a massive high pressure system is fighting with two low pressure systems and the low pressure system is winning."

"Are you on the net right now? Live?"

"True that. Looks nasty."

"Wait a minute. Two low-pressure systems? A couple of storms combining?"

"Remind you of something?"

The perfect storm, Tasman Sea style. Hurricane-force winds howling up from Antarctica, clawing the Tasman current the wrong way, filling the seas with steep black monsters.

Woe betide any poor sailor caught in their clutches.

Kevlin started getting that aw-shit feeling. "Did they get out a warning to mariners?"

"From the squawking I hear on the ham bands, nobody knew what was coming. The high hid the barometric warning until the storm actually hit. Then, boom."

The short answer was a quick no. A weather bomb that caught everyone by surprise. Sailors were out there right now, fighting for their lives in what might be the storm of the century.

Including one lone sailor he knew in a new, untested boat. On its first sea trials.

A big boat. In his opinion, too big for a little blonde to handle alone. And a damned racing machine at that.

Kevlin's stomach did a flip. He shoved his lobster sandwiches to one side, almost afraid to ask:

"Any report on Marci?"

Bear hesitated. "Thing is, Kev. She's gone missing."


8:36 P.M. Kevlin grunted apologetically as his old sailboat bumped noisily alongside the main gangway of the huge motor yacht.

He stole a glance at his Timex diving watch. He had made good time sailing across San Diego harbor to Corinthian II, moored in Santa Del Rio marina of Harbor Island, not far from the old America's Cup racer compounds. The 260-foot, tri-deck motor yacht, aka the "wedding cake," was the floating office of Megasail magazine.

He bounded up the boarding ladder two steps at a time, dashing into the big ship's communication's center on the top level, whose cabin top sprouted a small forest of antennas, revolving disks and satellite dishes. Inside the center, computer displays glowed warmly and three radios squawked long-distance reception.

"Yo, Bear," Kevlin hollered.

He waited a moment, glancing about the room: near one desk were a partially opened pizza, and, a half-drunk cup of latte in a glass container.

Bear was in his den all right. But where?

Bear's scraggly reddish beard, and thatch-like hair lent credence to his nickname, as did his bear-like lurch. Amiable in all other matters, he permitted no levity in his chosen love, electronics, or in his "toys." These were strictly off limits.

Kevlin put his index finger on the nearest sideband radio and deliberately turned the digital tuning frequency. The dialogue began to blur then squeal.

From a corner of the room, up popped a massive head, one hand pulling off ancient radio headset. His hobby radio. Wordlessly, Bear padded over to the errant radio and delicately adjusted the dial.

Only after the transmission resumed did his small, gray eyes flick to the intruder.

"Kev, I told you never to do that," he said patiently.

"Good to see you too, old buddy," Kevlin said. "I figured you'd like to know I'm here."

"No worries there. Everybody knows you're here." Bear shook his head. "I can practically sell tickets to people who want to see you crash land Leaky Teaky." He chuckled.

"One and done." Kevlin shrugged. "Anything new?

"Take a gander at the satellite pictures. I just downloaded them." Bear spread out a series of fax copies of ultra-high level photographs with a weather chart showing concentric circles getting closer together. "Hurricane winds. High seas."

A momentary vision came to Kevlin of Marci out there alone, gamely fighting the wheel of her huge racer. "Can we pick up her radio transmissions?"

Bear spread his hands, apologetically. "Nada."

"Team Australia?" Kevlin hoped her home base would have something.

"Their web site's slow to update — as usual, they got the least the last."

That figured. Team Australia would be frantically trying to get in touch with Swagwoman and probably fending off unwelcome queries. Updating their web site and answering looky -loos would not be their top priority.

"Anything from the Sydney Coast Guard?"

"Some transmissions from boats caught in the storm. A couple calling Mayday."

"But not Marci?"

"Have some coffee," Bear said, pointing to his ever-present espresso maker. "We can try some more frequencies and connections."

Bear was putting him off, so he had to inquire: "Officially or unofficially?"

"Whatever." Bear said, with an air of impatience to get going. "Before I forget. Sam wants you." Sam was the magazine publisher and the owner of the boat.

"She's on board? A little more good news to brighten my day?"

"No doubt she may have heard you come in." Bear sat down in his no-arms secretarial chair before his main computer, staring at the monitor. He began typing on the buff-colored keyboard, at first a few keys at a time, then with increasing fury.

"Whatcha going after?"

Bear glanced up with a look that was reserved for lesser mortals. He was attempting a low-level hack, trying to get into a secure site by bypassing the identification code. Bear was a part of the hacker cult of southern California, amateurs who secretly passed around codes and passwords to enter forbidden computer sites — mostly for the gleeful joy of it and to prove they were smarter than the "suits." Some, like Bear, had advanced code-breaking software and access to the computers that could use them. Also slightly illegally.

"The news behind the news?"

"Somebody's got to hear something, know something at this point, Kev."

"I figure the Internet's buzzing."

"Always is." He stopped typing, raising one hand in warning. "Wait a sec, Kev. I'm getting something."

"Oh, Christ ..." Kevlin leaned closer to the screen, catching the scrolling message.

".. new racer Jolly Swagwoman."

"That's her. Marci. What've you got into?

"Sydney Coast Guard," Bear hushed him, his fingers scrolling down the screen, "Their private message board. Shut up a second!"

"... in its first sea trails appeared to be experiencing radio transmission difficulties, then logged no further contact with shore.


"Her approximate location was near the epicenter of the developing storm system at 1630 hours. Her team has had no further communications from the vessel and they are formally requesting search and rescue operations begin immediately."

"That's it?" Kevlin could hardly believe the brevity of the report.

Bear twirled the dials. "That's the latest. Maybe there'll be more on the Internet."

Kevlin swallowed hard. A boat like Marci's would have all sorts of sensors over its hull and mast, automatically broadcasting data back to Team Australia. That would include information on the boat's speed, its sailing conditions, and, especially its exact GPS location. Something should have been coming through.

But all communications, including voice radio calls from Marci as well as the automatic streaming sensor data, had ceased.

He glanced at Bear's computer display of world time zones. 1630 hours was. ... six hours ago.

Kevlin winced. No wonder they called in the Coast Guard. They must be getting worried.

An invisible fist slammed into his gut.

Now, so was he.

* * *

There was a gust of air-conditioned air. Sam glared unblinking from the open doorway. In the confined space of the cabin she towered — all five feet of her.

Samantha "Sam" Traveler, the magazine's publisher and the boat owner, had obviously been in the ship's exercise room. Sweat streamed down her high cheekbones, but her dark eyes were cold and flat. She was not happy.

He harbored a healthy respect for her, composed of equal amounts of instinctive wariness and the fact that she was his boss.

He had the feeling that not only was he new and expendable but that he had an expiration date stamped on his forehead. Sam had hired him from an Eastern boating magazine after she had seen his prestigious Boating Writers International writing awards. The Dragon Lady made it clear she wanted him to get awards for her magazine. She was still waiting.

"Just coming to see you," Kevlin tensed.

"R-i-g-h-t." The DL's eyes said no.

In another time, another place, she could have been called beautiful. "Kill the cover."

She tossed a copy of the magazine's front cover at the radio stack. It landed with a whump. Bear jumped.

"Why the hell for?"

Her dark eyes glittered, but her mouth twisted up in a small sardonic grin. Obviously, she was hardly challenged. "How about, 'cause I said so.'"

Yeah, the DL's command voice. Kevlin's eyes cut over to Bear, who glanced away. It was obvious that Bear had been in touch with the boss, but had not told him.

Marci was on the magazine cover — featuring his article on the comely Marci and her lone-girl ocean racer. It was a sure-fire BWI award winner, he figured. One of his best stories..

"All we know is that Marci hasn't reported in, Kevlin said, "I'm concerned, but my best guess is she's probably still out there."

"Our magazine just went to the printers — and our cover story's already out of date."

"Hey, there are a hundred things that could have gone wrong out there. Her batteries went out, or, the antennas got blown off. Somebody'll find her."

"Wrong cover, wrong time."

"We don't know that yet."

Sam moved forward, pointing her finger at him "Well, we can't just sit here with our fingers up our tushes — doing nothing. Am I not making myself clear?"

Kevlin paced the floor, his stomach doing flip flops. Something was very near and he felt it. His neck was on the line. He needed to come up with something.

He said, "We can change some stuff on the cover type or the inside story. A box. A sidebar story. A quick update. We still got a little time, either way things play out, and we'd still be covered. Good to go."

"We're monitoring all transmissions ..." Bear began.

Sam pinned Kevlin with a glare and leaned in. Her lips barely moved. "DSDQ." That meant, do something, damned quick.

* * *

He slammed the cabin door behind him and stepped out onto the deck, looking westward.

He shivered involuntarily. The breeze off the sea had an odd feel to it.

He didn't like it at all. And that was not all he didn't like.


OUTSIDE THE CABIN WINDOW, night had turned to day. Below him stretched the vast panorama of the Tasman Sea. From this height, between breaks in the cloud cover, it looked blue and inviting.

But Kevlin knew better. The flecks of white on the tiny waves were whitecaps — huge, storm-tossed seas.

Marci could be anywhere down there.

He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He had caught the next flight to Australia and only had time to grab his sea bag. He opted for a first class ticket. The Dragon Lady wanted action, and now she was getting it on her dime. She'd find out about the extra cost early next week.

He'd have to come up with something. That was the scary part.

His weary mind began to sort through the problems of a lone racer at sea in a brand new sailboat, on its first sea trials.

Anything could have gone wrong, literally.

New boats are prone to have problems and usually follow Murphy's law of the sea: things go wrong when you least expect them and at the worst possible times.

And in the most unexpected places.

Electrical problems would head the list and posed the simplest explanation. A single splash of seawater could have cut out her boat's complex combination of 12 and 24-volt electrical systems.

Ah, yes, he mused unhappily. Racers were notorious for being part submarine — some water always got below and shorted something out. With no electricity, Marci couldn't use her radio. That would account for why Team Australia hadn't heard from her.

Too easy. Kevlin adjusted himself in his seat as another thought came to him. She'd still have her EPIRB — the emergency position finder. It was waterproof, hand-held, and had its own batteries; you used it if you were in deep trouble. A high -powered satellite signal would broadcast your position, who you were, and, hopefully, a rescuer would be on the way.

But there had been only silence. There was no signal.

He glanced down once more at the Tasman Sea. In the big waves down there, it would not be too difficult for a hot-handed racer like Marci to stuff a boat into one of those monsters, get swallowed up and not come back. Her boat could have twisted out of control and capsized.

Or pitch poled — the nightmare of being tossed end over end.

Kevlin was sweating. Marci was a real fire-in-the belly winner on the brutal ocean-racing circuit — a rising heroine in a country that idolized sailors. The Aussie Press had dubbed her their "Golden Girl" — Gee Gee for short. A real pop star.

Storm or no storm, Marci would carry as much sail as long as she could to test the boat and probe its weaknesses. He hoped she hadn't found the latter.

But this was the golden age of racing. Now in the start of the 1990s, people not only sailed around the world, but a dauntless few actually raced their boats. They carried sail long after they should have taken down canvas. Or even heaved to.

Boats overturned, boats broke, people got dumped in the water, but — incredibly — no one got hurt. Or killed.

So far.

Marci's face on Megasail's cover haunted him, with her wide blue eyes, slightly cocked eyebrows and warm, intelligent look, sometimes a little on the bold side, when she looked at him. A generous mouth, blonde hair done up smartly in a pony tail, with strands of bangs forever wisping out from beneath her baseball cap.

God, but he missed her.

A shudder shook the plane and Kevlin had to grip the sides of his seat. Warning chimes sounded; a red light flashed on. In front of him, a man spilled his cup of coffee. A woman yelped.

Back to reality. "Fasten your seat belts," the steward's voice was apathetic. "We're experience some in-air turbulence."

The 747 began its long descent into the maelstrom.

Sydney, and maybe some answers, lay below.


KEVLIN ANXIOUSLY made his way through the deplaning line, glad to be off the airplane and on solid ground. There was a milling, noisy crowd at the gate.

But where was his man?

He glanced about. From about the third row of people, someone was waving a camera in the air. All he could see was a hand and a black Nikon.

Yes. Kevlin strode forward.

Waiting for him, but looking as if he'd swallowed something bad, was Bruce Laughlin-Taylor.

The photographer was short, but wiry looking, dressed in his usual khaki cottons, bush jacket and hat, a flash of colored silk at the neck, despite the heat. The shorts only emphasized Kevlin's impression that the man had the spindliest legs he'd ever seen. The magazine stringer's left eye had a startling intensity, but his right was lazy, sometimes cocking toward a broken aquiline nose. Neither eye looked very happy.


Excerpted from Dead on the Wind by Marlin Bree. Copyright © 2015 Marlin Bree. Excerpted by permission of Marlor Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Dead on the Wind 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed it! There is something for everyone in this novel.