“Lost at Sea”
The following was submitted by the Block Island Yacht Club:
This year, the Block Island Yacht Club sponsored its third creative writing contest, which was originally created by, and generously supported for the first two years by, BIYC members Margie Bucheit and Bill Ohley. They were succeeded by BIYC member Will Young in 2019. Thank you to the three judges, the teachers, and the guidance counselor and administrators at the Block Island School that provided invaluable assistance in making sure contestants were provided with the correct starting information and support during the contest. The contest starts with a written paragraph provided by the project director that must be included in the story. The story itself must be complete fiction with a Block Island and maritime-related theme. Moira O’Neill’s “Lost at Sea” was the first-place winner.
By Moira O’Neill
All of a sudden, the movement on the boat diminished, the waves were smaller, and the rocking was less severe. The red light that marks the channel was just visible. The crew that was awake could see the cut, the opening to The Great Salt Pond. In less than an hour, they would be in the harbor. They were exhausted. As the ship approached the passage a sense of relief washed over the crew. A celebration broke out among the men. The exhaustion and fatigue no longer mattered as their sense of hope was restored. But this feeling of elation did not last long. The excitement and hope began to dwindle and fade as Thomas awoke from his sluggish drowse. The harsh realization that it was all a hallucination hit him like a knife to the chest.
He lifted himself up and gazed upon the horizon. All he saw was the churning water around him. No land. No buoys. No lights. Nothing. His feeling of exasperation and fatigue overwhelmed him. The hot sun beat down upon his body as he lay there feeling hopeless. He questioned himself why he even departed on this expedition.
Around five weeks earlier, Thomas’s uncle had presented him with the opportunity to sail his catamaran up the east coast from St. Lucia to Block Island. At first, Thomas was hesitant and worried about the daunting voyage, but after mentioning it to his two friends, he was assured it was an opportunity they could not pass up. So, in no time, the three sailors: Billy, Mark, and Thomas made their way to St. Lucia and began their journey northward.
Growing up together on Block Island, they were naturally close. At a young age, they had learned to sail at the Block Island Club, and conquer the open ocean as a team. After maturing and graduating, they all went in separate directions and began to grow apart. Thomas thought that this trip would be an opportunity to reconnect with his old friends.
When they departed from St. Lucia, the catamaran was in pristine condition; about 48 feet long with sea foam green sides and a milky white bottom. Each side was embellished with a navy blue stripe along the edge of the water line, and the words “Second Chance” was painted on the rear port side in bold black lettering. As they exited Rodney Bay and entered the open ocean, the hulls pierced the rustling waves, the main mast stood defiantly, and the sails wriggled in the rushing wind. A feeling of excitement and enthusiasm rushed through everyone’s veins. “Here we go, guys!’ yelled Billy.
“Yaahooo” yelled Mark in reply. Day after day they sailed, sharing thoughts and creating memories. The once-distant friends became closer than ever.
Thomas and his friends found themselves in the abyss of rolling blue waves. Not timid or afraid but exhilarated. The scorching sun beat down on them, as the wet, salty breeze hit their skin, and cooled them down. The Second Chance cruised through the open ocean, gliding through the glistening, rolling waves with ease. The hulls of the catamaran cut through the water like a hot knife through butter.
After more than three weeks, Thomas and his friends had made it to the northern coast of New Jersey. The blistering hot days of the southern hemisphere eventually faded into pleasant, clement weather. One nightfall the three of them found themselves sitting together along the edge starboard side of the vessel, gazing upon the vibrant, pastel sunset and observing the unusually calm seas. “We’re almost home, Tommy,” Mark said with a mix of emotions; excitement and a tinge of sadness.
“Just gotta get past Long Island,” Thomas replied. They sat there for a while, barely speaking but sharing each other’s company, hoping this trip would never end. Eventually they bid each other goodnight and returned to their cabins, except Billy who remained on deck for his watch. He made sure to check the weather on the radar: calm, with mild swell, light wind, and a five percent chance of rain. As Billy sat there alone and tired, he became weary and fell asleep beside the wheel.
As the night progressed the weather unexpectedly turned foul. With no warning the flat seas turned into surging waves. The wind picked up and the rain came in downpours. The Second Chance was in the midst of an unforeseen storm. The choppy waters turned into mountains of raging waves. Billy woke to the spray of salt water on his face, as the boat rocked to and fro. The men in the berth below woke from their slumber and ran up to the slick, wet deck. A giant spark of lightning lit up the sky, followed by a roaring boom of thunder. The waves continued to grow. Up, up, up they went, at a 50-degree angle. Then down, down, down they went with butterflies in their stomachs and pain in their joints. They held tightly to anything they could, ropes, wires, poles, and masts. They attempted to take down the sails, but it was no use, the lines would not budge.
The vessel was dwarfed by the size of the growing waves. The boat was being hurled left and right: up and down. With each crash and jolt, the main mast began to crack. “It’s coming down soon!” Mark yelled across the deck “We need to move!” The waves pounded the sides of the boat. The crew skidded across the slippery deck, racing to safety. Boom! Crash! Thud! The mast broke free from the deck and sunk into the churning abyss of the ocean. All that remained was a small, splintered stump and the shredded fabric of the mainsail. The men continued to brave out the storm as everything they had washed away. They grasped each other tightly, praying to Poseidon for mercy.
The violent storm carried on through the night before settling the next morning. The mountains of waves diminished into choppy waters. The overcast, gray sky faded to royal blue. Soon the sun would be peaking at its brightest point. The men lost everything that could help them navigate. All they were left with were the clothes on their back, and a dismal supply of food and water. They were adrift in the Atlantic Ocean with no way to contact help.
Days passed and no one came. The hot sun baked down on the men as they drifted into a lethargic state. “Mark. Billy.” said Thomas “I don’t think we’re gonna make it.’” Mark replied with optimistic vivacity, “Stay hopeful, Tommy. Stay hopeful.”
After waking from his sluggish drowse, Thomas continued to lay upon the deck feeling thwarted and sorrowful. The food and water supply had run out, and Thomas felt that he was out of options.
“Do you hear that Tommy?!” Mark screamed. “What? No, you’re just hallucinating!’ said Thomas.
“It’s a ship horn!” proclaimed Mark.
“No, it’s not” insisted Thomas.
“It is! It’s a boat!” screamed Billy. The three men jumped up with elation and peered out into the vista. There it was, a small fishing boat bobbing in the distance. The three men began jumping and waving their arms with the little energy that they had left.
As the boat traveled towards the catamaran, a sense of relief washed over the men, but this time it wasn’t a dream, it was real.
Their prayers had been answered. Their hope had been restored. They were given a second chance to live.