The Ghosts of Gadus Island

This is a continuation of Dave’s piece in the January/February 2022 issue, an excerpt from his novel (retitled), “The Ghosts of Gadus Island.”

June 2022

By David Roper

…She turned to her teenaged daughter Sophie, who was now leaning forward over the cabin trunk, anxiously scanning the horizon for the island. “Sophie, I think we should head east, out to sea, reduce sail, and ride it out until morning. It’s just too…”

“Noooo,” Sophie screamed. “You said! You said we were going in. I’m sick. I’m shivering. I can’t stay up here in the cockpit all night. I’ll be even sicker in the cabin. Why did you take me out here at all? Why did you do this to me?”

The storm was coming from the west and heading east, as best Cleo could tell. That’s what those August storms off Maine usually did, she thought. And they were headed 330 degrees, north-northwest. Maybe…just maybe, it would track below them. Cleo watched closely, biting her lower lip. It would be a huge relief to make it into Gadus for the night, a night of rest and hopefully one of thoughtful discussion with Sophie about continuing on or returning home. But deep down, Cleo was not relieved; she knew this course would take her deep into the past and then the present might reveal what had become of everything…what had become of him. That scared her. Why didn’t she want to know? But even this year, with a course which took them right by Gadus, why had she stayed away? Because it was safer to not know? Safer to let time wear away the past?

And now the storm was tracking more to the southeast; in fact, it appeared to be breaking up. “We’re going into Gadus, Sophie! I think we can make it! The storm seems to be breaking up and I just got a glimpse of the island. We’re getting close.” She looked over at Sophie, who was staring ahead and nodding. “Sweetie, I just need you to take the wheel for two minutes while I check the tide. I think it will be low water at around seven-thirty, so the ledges will be showing, and we’ll still have enough daylight to see them while working our way in.”

Back on deck after confirming the low tide time, Cleo took the wheel again. The wind had lightened, the seas had begun to flatten, and steering was now easier. Maybe twenty minutes left. She tried to recall a picture of the entrance through the ledges, but instead her mind insisted on replaying the terror of the past – when an undersea ledge, like some monster rising from the deep, suddenly lifted them from the sea. She remembered the horrific sounds, the thud of rock hitting the lead keel and then the scraping and grinding of the mahogany planks of Archaic’s bottom as the old sloop slid onto the ledge, rose up and then stopped. Then the silence. The sense that the world had stopped and was about to be over. That they were going to sink. That they were going to drown. And then another sound. An outboard motor somewhere near, but out of sight in the fog. And the horn; she remembers blowing their foghorn, over and over while her grandfather Poppy was in the cabin seemingly forever, checking the bilge for leaks. And then the apparition. But not so. It really was the shape of a boat with a figure standing in it, edging ever closer, but stopping short of coming alongside. The fog-shrouded figure stood silent, staring at them. “Thank you for coming. We’re stuck on the ledge,” Cleo had shouted. The figure stayed silent. An ocean swell carried his boat a bit closer, almost alongside, and she saw a long-haired, primitive looking, yet handsome teenaged boy in a fishing skiff. A faded, bait-stained picture of a lobster stared out from his worn gray sweatshirt; above the lobster were the words Stay calm in a pinch. Hanging from his neck was a cord strung with seal claws, bones, and beads, and tucked under his belt was what looked like a bayonet. He seemed from a different time, odd, anxious, and strangely disengaged. “You’ll pull us off?” Cleo had pleaded. The boy reached down to the steering arm of his outboard and for a moment she thought he would turn and just leave them there. But instead, he put the engine in reverse and backed up to Archaic’s stern; then he threw a line to her. “Tie it here?” she had asked, gesturing to the stern post on Archaic. The boy only nodded, so she had cleated the line at the stern and looked up at him and his small outboard, which he’d shut off. “Is your motor strong enough?”

No reply. The boy sat down in his fishing skiff and stared at her. “I don’t understand,” Cleo had said after several minutes. “I don’t see why you’re just sitting there…”

The boy shook his head before finally speaking. “Tide’s coming. Best to wait a bit. Let nature take care of things. No sense ripping your planks out pulling her when she’ll float off on her own soon.”

And that’s what happened. The boy spoke no more. Ten minutes later he’d stood again, started his motor, turned the skiff, and slowly throttled up, taking up tension on the line, and then pulling gently until Archaic slid gracefully off the ledge. Then he’d towed them into the tiny slit of the island harbor of Gadus Island. And that’s when things got really bizarre.

David Roper’s upcoming novel, “Odin’s Island,” is scheduled for publication next year. Dave is the author of the three-time bestseller “Watching for Mermaids,” as well as the sequel “Beyond Mermaids” and the novel “Rounding the Bend.” All are available through or