Flash Fiction: The Witches’ Cauldron

Welcome to Spot Writers! This month’s prompt is to write a story about a boat and this story is contributed by Kathy L. Price.


The Witches’ Cauldron

by Kathy L. Price


The old wooden Cris Craft cruised past the breakwater and motored into the outer harbor. It was a holiday weekend and all the slips on the inside were full. Not just full, but filled to overflowing. A storm was on the way and boats were being rafted together and even secured to the pilings at the end of the finger piers.

Several other late-comers had tied up along the concrete walls next to where the ferry docked. The water was rough, but not unduly so, and the Cris Craft’s captain opted to tie up along the concrete pier. The breakwater served to mitigate the waves, and with hefty fenders strung along the side, he thought his boat would be safe.

“It’s called the Witches’ Cauldron, you know,” one of the Old Salt bystanders commented as the captain walked away.

“I think she’ll be okay,” the captain replied. “We’ve rented a cabin in town for the weekend but I’ll come by and check on her later.”

Around 9 PM, the captain returned. The wind had been steadily increasing all evening and there had already been quite a bit of rain. For the moment, it was just cool and windy. The bulk of the storm was supposed to hit later, around midnight, according to the NOAA weather radio. The captain checked the lines and was confident his boat was riding well so he returned to the security of his rented cabin.

Sailors are mostly a close-knit community. There’s always the occasional bad apple – selfish and inconsiderate – but mostly, anyone who shares a love of the sea is in the same boat, so to speak. Each and every one knows a boat’s full value, whether it’s a sleek, expensive cruiser or a small, compact little sailboat. That would be the value to its owner, not the dollar value on the market or what it cost to buy.

As the storm moved across the lake, the wind shifted direction. The opening in the breakwater no longer offered a barrier to the wind and waves, which now came crashing into the outer harbor, full force. The Witches’ Cauldron lived up to its name.

The waves reflected off the solid, concrete walls of the harbor, bouncing back and forth on one other in confusion. There was a lot of energy with no where to go but up and the water started to violently toss the boats around. The inner harbor was still relatively placid and somehow, more space was found to accommodate a few more boats. By 10 PM, the only two left in the Cauldron were a 32 foot sailboat and the Cris Craft. Eventually the storm passed and the rain finally stopped but the wind continued to blow and the waters of the Cauldron increased their frothing, churning power.

Despite the wind, most of the boat owners were out on the docks checking lines, repositioning fenders, keeping an eye on the boats. No one could sleep and even young children were out, watching the fury of the storm-driven water. Their parents thought it would be a valuable lesson for them to witness, first-hand, the power of wind and waves.

The people in the sailboat tied up in front of the Cris Craft finally realized the futility of their battle and decided to head out to find a safer anchorage for the night. The Witches’ Cauldron was no place to be and it would be better to trust a good anchor than to be smashed against the concrete pier. If they had to, they told the on-lookers, they could always sail all night and simply go back to their home port.

Once the sailboat successfully made it into open water, only the Cris Craft remained. Valiantly, a  handful of men tried to fend her off when the waves relentlessly tossed her against the wall. More and more joined in until, at one point, there were over a dozen. The waves would lift the Cris Craft high over the pier and drop it against the unrelenting concrete. Try as they might, the men could not overpower Mother Nature. With every wave you could hear the stress and cracking of her wooden hull. Finally, a huge wave swept over the transom and crashed through the glass doors of the cabin. Now that she was open, one brave soul scampered on board to search through the drawers at the inside steering station, hoping to find a set of keys to the engines.

“Get out,” one man shouted above the wind. “Get out, before she sinks.”

Frustrated at his lack of success, the man on board gave it another agonizing 30 seconds or so of frantic, futile searching before re-emerging onto the rock ‘n’ roll of the deck. He had to time his jump perfectly or he would be smashed between the boat and the pier. Many hands reached out to his aid and he made it safely. The next wave, however, dealt the final blow to the Cris Craft. Every wave thereafter continued the relentless break up and she finally sank beneath the surface. It was a sad end to what had been a beautiful boat. The crowd dispersed and their failed attempt at saving the Cris Craft left a thick aura of disappointment hanging in the air.

In the morning, all was calm. The sky was blue and the sun was sparkling on the water. Freshly brewed coffee wafted up from many of the boats and someone was cooking bacon. The captain of the Cris Craft appeared and walked cheerfully up the pier, saying good morning to people as he went. Everyone who was out followed his progress, watching, waiting for the moment of discovery. Concern started to show on his face as he quickened his steps to where his boat had been. All that was left was the bow rail, still attached to a small piece of deck, the forward line dutifully bound to the cleat and still tied to the pier.




The Spot Writers:


RC Bonitz



Val Muller



Catherine A. MacKenzie



Kathy L. Price


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