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Land, Ho!
August 17th, 1889 — A secluded portion of the English coastline

Alfred had regretted this job even before he'd officially accepted it. Even just the premise was tedious; teaching wealthy girls, who had no particular interest anything but clothes and men, how to sail. Presumably they wanted to seem more accomplished, and adding the talent to their repertoire of things to be listed off in conversation appealed to them. Certainly, they had no innate talent for the sport and no particular desire to learn how to actually handle a boat.

The job was partly an appeasement to his brother, who wanted him to find some sort of work that kept him home in England (although he would never actually admit that to Evander) and partly a portion of his scheme to put away as much money as possible over the course of the summer so that he could maybe, eventually, someday have a chance of winning Brannon Fisk's approval to court his daughter. The family who had organized this event was paying a frankly absurd amount for him to come and facilitate it, and they had provided the sailboat and the dock from which to launch it, so he supposed he really shouldn't complain about the experience — but at times it was difficult to keep that in mind. Particularly at the beginning of the session, when he'd taken time to explain what all of the lines and sails were called, how to use them, and which bollards they were associated with, then asked for questions — only to have one of the bolder young ladies inquire whether he really did have tattoos over his whole torso.

He'd gritted his teeth and gotten through it, though, and had managed to launch the boat with some minimal help from the ladies. Now they were underway, and he was trying to take more of a backseat so that they could actually get some experience steering and working the lines — which was going rather miserably.

"Take in the spinnaker," he told one of the girls, who was practically sitting on the relevant line. "See how slack it is?"
Regret was burning at Pet's insides. She had only accepted the invitation because she couldn't think of a polite way to decline and she felt guilty enough as it was for not making enough of an effort, socially speaking. Now she was stranded in a boat with girls she despised more by the second and a man who was allegedly an infamous cannibal. Or so one of the girls had whispered in her ear just as they were stepping onto the boat. It was a shame she hadn't been so precariously placed that she could have fallen into the water accidentally and been sent home a soggy mess. He probably wasn't one, or if he was it must've been under dire circumstances to be allowed to roam around untouched by the law. Then again there may simply have been a complete lack of evidence... No, she didn't want to give any vile gossip that had come from these girls any credence.

Pet was trying to distract herself from the uncomfortable situation at hand by thinking of more pleasant things like the contents of the book she had been reading before breakfast and what sort of creatures might be in the water that could capsize the boat so she could swim away or drown trying. How long would she have before her stupid dress did actually drown her? And what were the odds that she'd be a strong enough swimmer to make it to land before she exhausted herself?

While she couldn't physically escape the boat without compromising a number of etiquette rules, Pet had succeeded rather well at mentally escaping the boat, so well in fact that she was startled to find that she was being spoken to. She looked down and realized the rope was brushing against her hand. Reluctantly she took hold of it and gave it a tug. Hopefully that was good enough and she could return to minimal participation. She glanced in the direction of the other girls and immediately felt their eyes on her and wished she hadn't looked.

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Well, this girl could not have been any more overtly uninterested if she had tried. For all Alfred knew, maybe she was trying to seem uninterested. Girls did some silly things like that — ruin their own experiences in order to send a clear message to one of their friends that they were displeased about something menial. Maybe something like that was going on behind the scenes — this blond had decided she hated the hostess for some reason no one would remember tomorrow — and she was taking it out on the spinnaker.

Whatever. This wasn't his problem; he was getting paid to get them through this silly outing.

"Not quite like that," he said, trying to keep his tone helpful and positive while the boat was veering sharply to starboard. "See how taut it is? That's what's making us turn like this. You'll want to let it out some. The sail should be just tight enough to hold the wind, not so much that it starts to fight it."
The boat seemed to react to her pull of the rope and started redirecting itself sharply in another direction. It was a rare thing for Pet to feel completely ignorant, usually she had at least a basic understanding of a situation or how something worked. This was something completely new. She didn't like it. She also didn't like having to engage with this ill-conceived outing but at least she might actually learn something.

"Like this?" Pet slackened her grip and observed the effects of her action. It seemed to calm the boat down some. She experimented a little with how tight she held it to get an idea of where it seemed like it ought to be.

Thank you Bee for my stunning Secret Swap gift <3
"That's — better," Alfred admitted, although it still wasn't where he would have liked it. He tried to find words to instruct her a little more precisely from where he was sitting, but he wasn't sure what to say. These girls had no vocabulary for the task at hand, and translating sailing jargon into anything else just sounded silly, and was rather imprecise, besides. See the wavy bit? Pull the rope here and make it a flat bit. His stomach almost churned at the mere thought of letting something so ridiculous leave his mouth.

So he decided the best thing to do would be to go over and show her. Turning to one of the nearest girls, he said, "Here, can you take the tiller for a minute? Just keep us going straight. Towards — that point there," he said, picking an object in the distance. That was a learn-to-sail basic; always have something in the distance to look at when you're trying to steer. Believing that he'd given her all the necessary directions, Alfred headed up towards where the blond was sitting.

"So," he said as he took a seat next to her. "Let's let it out just a bit more. You've almost got it. Oh — and you see this cleat, here? You want to keep the end of the line knotted there — just a quick half-hitch will do — so that if you drop the line for some reason, it doesn't fall out to sea," he explained. Having been distracted from his original task he hadn't paid particular attention to the sailing terminology slipping back into his directions. "If it goes out and your jib starts luffing, and you don't have it hitched here, you have to stand up at the front and draw it back in from the edge of the sail, and that can be dangerous depending on where you're at and what the boat's doing."
Pet's heart sank the moment she realized he was moving towards her. Why couldn't she have simply gotten it first try, unless she had and she was just unlucky that she'd somehow caught the interest of this questionable man. In what seemed like the shortest span of time he'd used numerous words which she either was unfamiliar with or knew only in other contexts and her innate curiosity was waging war against her desire to endure the rest of the outing in undisturbed silence. Her reluctance to willfully remain ignorant won out in the end.

She took in what he'd said and tried to piece together what she hadn't been sure about from context but that didn't clear everything up. "What exactly is 'luffing' and what is the jib?" It was a little unsettling to think there could be so many words she didn't understand in a language she thought she'd mastered years ago, even though she knew these words were not the sort in common parlance with normal people. Luffing sounded like some sort of slang and why would anyone but a sailor talk about jibs if, as she had deduced, it was some part of the boat.

Thank you Bee for my stunning Secret Swap gift <3

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