Nuclear holocaust played for nonstop melodrama--as Rhinehart (The Dice Man) follows a clutch of WW III survivors through a relatively plausible, largely nautical series of escapes, ordeals, battles, mutinies, and inter-personal tensions, When the USSR and the US go to it, the Vagabond, trimaran yacht of rich Frank Steer--captained by Vietnam-vet Neil Loken, with young Jim Steer as mate--is on its way to pick up Frank and family friend Jeannie Forester (with her kids) for a sailing weekend. But, now that N.Y. and Washington have been decimated, the Maryland shoreline is sheer chaos, with people fighting over boats, food, and equipment, Jeannie's nearly raped and abducted; Frank is unable to reach his family in N.Y.; while Nell shops for food (triple-priced), evil doctor Conrad Macklin hijacks the Vagabond--and Neil and Frank give effective chase, with help from old oysterman Cap'n Oily. (Macklin's accomplice is killed, but the doctor is allowed to stay on board.) Sailing south, the Vagabond takes on 16 survivors (including tough-guy Tony Mariano) from another ship; Neil declares his command, putting down mutinous rumblings, and stopping at supposedly safe Moorehead City. But the situation there is hopeless--creepy radiation, crumbling armed forces--and so off sails the Vagabond again, heading further south with NeLl, Frank, Jim, Cap'n Oily, Jeannie, her daughter Lisa, Tony, ever-evil Macklin, and Jeannie's bouncy new friend Katya. Fishing is a major concern. So is the Neil/Jeannie passion--since Frank (suffering from radiation sickness) adores her too. Jim and Lisa become young lovers. There are brushes with fallout, starvation, pirates, and wretched conditions on St. Thomas--where, desperate, the Vagabond-ers plan to rob food from a pirate ship: the scheme ends in a nightmare of rape, kidnap, and mutiny (Katya is lost), with Neil barely regaining control as they set sail again. And the final voyage south will be shadowed by plague, jet-bombers, a USSR sub, and more mutiny. . . till what's left of the group at last finds an international group of peaceful survivors at the tip of South America. One-dimensional characterization and just-functional prose--but the crisis-situations are shrewdly varied, the action rarely flags, and the dire post-nuclear world is reasonably convincing (without undue sensationalism or preaching).