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The Sailor's Daughter
“Red sky at night, sailors take delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning,” is what my father always told me. Everyday my father woke up at dawn to see what color the sky was. He was a sailor and I loved tagging along with him on his adventures.
I’ve been sailing since I’ve been able to walk. I think my first word was even “wa-wa” instead of “da-da.” My dad used to let me skip school when the day was absolutely perfect for sailing. He would call the school saying I was sick and then we’d rush off to the sailing club.
I’ve been in sailing competitions all my life. I’ve sailed in the Great Lakes, Canada, Miami, and the Bahamas. Won almost every competition, too. I’m not trying to brag that I’m the best sailor ever, ‘cause that would be my dad.
One morning before we went sailing the sky was slightly red, but then quickly turned to orange. I asked my father about it, but he said it was nothing, the sky always did that when the sun rose. But I have seen way too many sunrises to know that that didn’t always happen. I trusted my father though so I shrugged it off. Maybe I just hadn’t noticed until now.
So we brought down the mast and sailed away. The weather was perfect; the sea was flat and the wind was just right.
“How ’bout we cross over to Bimini?” my father asked me.
I smiled. “Let’s do it.”
We pointed our sailboat west and the wind gave us an encouraging push. We went through Stiltsville and then we were out in the open ocean. I looked back and saw Miami fading away.
“Beautiful day,” my father said.
We finally made it to Bimini a few hours later. We checked in with customs and decided to go eat stone crabs. Around 2 o’clock we decided to head back. As we sailed out of the island the wind was starting to pick up and the sea was choppy.
“It’s a little rough,” my father said as we went over a large wave.
“Should we turn back?” I asked.
“Nah, we’ll be fine. Just hold onto the ropes tight.”
The next few hours were tough. The clouds were low and dark. Waves constantly thrashed the boat around and I could tell my father was struggling to keep the boat on course. As we neared Miami, the waves were even more rough.
“It’s just getting rougher ‘cause we’re going from four hundred to forty feet!” my father shouted over the sound of crashing waves.
“I know!” I shouted back. That always happened, but it was much rougher that day. The sun was starting to set, but the sky wasn’t red. I started to worry.
Suddenly, a lighting bolt came down, causing a white flash that nearly blinded me.
“Get in the cabin!” My father demanded.
“It’s too rough, you can’t do this alone!” I protested.
My father shook his head. “I’ll be fine. Just get in the cabin!”
Another bolt of lighting flashed and then the clouds roared. I made my way to the cabin. I tried to sit on the bed but the waves were sending the boat everywhere. I slid back and forth from the bed and nearly fell off. I didn’t think my father would be able to steer alone so I grabbed a life vest and went back out.
“What are you doing?” he asked when he saw me.
“You can’t do this alone! The waves are too big.” I tried to look at the horizon but I couldn’t see it. We were surrounded by a huge wall of waves.
My father thought for a second. I pleaded with my eyes. “Grab that rope,” he said. “And hold on.”
I grabbed a rope and tried to steady my stance. “I think we can do this!” I shouted, but my father didn’t hear me.
A lightning bolt struck the mast and everything went white. I screamed as I flew to the water. I tried to swim up but my foot was tangled with a rope. I started to panic and then my foot was released. My father was there with a pocket knife in his hand. He motioned for me to swim up. I gasped for air as I reached the surface.
“Dad!” I shouted. I frantically looked around. Seconds later he surfaced.
“Are you all right?” He swam towards me.
“I’m fine!” I hugged him.
He grabbed my hand. “Don’t let go! Okay?”
I nodded my head. I had no idea what we were going to do. It was getting dark and I didn’t see any boats. I saw a yellow roof nearby so I knew we were close to Stiltsville.
“I see Stiltsville!” I shouted.
“Me too! Let’s try to swim over. If you start struggling, stop. Don’t fight the wave,” he instructed.
We started to swim. I was kicking my feet, but barely moved. “I can’t swim!”
My dad stopped swimming. “Don’t let go of my hand! I’ll pull you.”
I held on tightly to his hand as he swam. Slowly, I began to move. I started to kick my feet, but quickly struggled again.
I was going to stop when my father yelled, “We’re almost there!”
A huge wave came over us and I felt my fingers slipping away from my father’s grip.
“Dad, don’t let go!”
“I won’t!” he yelled.
The waves were thrashing us around and I caught glimpses of a nearby house.
“Can you swim?” my father asked me.
“I think so!”
“Okay, I want you to swim over to that house. There’s a ladder hanging off the dock.” He started to let go of my hand.
“No!” I grabbed his hand.
“I have a cramp. I’ll be right behind you, I promise. Go!”
Another wave came and separated us. “Dad!”
“Swim!” I heard him yell.
I swam towards the dock before another wave swept me away. I swam for what felt like hours even though the dock was only a few yards away. I finally reached the ladder and pulled myself onto the dock. I stood up and searched for my father. “Dad!” I shouted as I scanned the water. “Dad!” I screamed as loud as I could. I didn’t get an answer. I started to cry. “Dad!” I ran up the stairs to the balcony of the house. All I saw were the whitecaps of the waves that stuck out in the dark. There were no signs of him in the water. I ran back down to the dock to see if he was there, but he wasn’t. I waited there for hours, hoping he would show, but he didn’t. I sat down on the dock and sobbed until I fell asleep.
The next morning I was picked up by the US Coast Guard.
“Where’s my dad?” I asked when I got on the boat. The men looked at each other with grave faces.
A young coast guard came over to me. “We couldn’t find him,” he said.
I gasped. “What?”
“We searched for hours, but we couldn’t find him,” the same coast guard said. “I’m sorry.”
I started to cry as he wrapped a blanket around me.
That all happened three years ago. My father was never found. Some people wouldn’t have peace of mind with that, but I do. My father loved the ocean. He lived and breathed sailing. So now he will forever be in the sea.
Some people wouldn’t consider him the best sailor, but I do. Even the best sailors make mistakes, that’s how you get better. There’s a picture of my father hanging in our sailing club. It’s the one of me and him on our sailboat when I was five years old. We were both wearing matching sailor caps and the brightest smiles. Now every time I go in there, I’m known as “the sailor’s daughter.” And I will forever be the sailor’s daughter.