It was a gloomy, rainswept day. The thick cloud-cover held low and black as gale force winds ripped mercilessly through the rigging of our boats in its vain attempts to break the painters and set the boats adrift.
The Pleon racing team, however, was undaunted. We gathered our gear and untied our sturdy crafts. Instantly we were dragged away by the winds. The sharp bite of the freezing rain did naught to lessen our morale. Our team was indomitable. Our spirits were soaring as we reached Children's Island.
Suddenly lightning shot menacingly across the sky, followed by a tremendous clap of thunder. The courage of our exhausted leaders faltered and broke. The fleet headed in. Alone on my two-man boat and fatigued by exertion, I lost control of my tiller. I was torn away from the others by the headstrong winds. Adroitly I threw a quick-jibe to avoid being capsized, but in the process my harness snapped and I was flung headlong into the churning waters. My life vest shot me instantly to the surface, just in time to get stuck under my overturning boat. I felt a pain in my chest and panic shot through me as my body screamed for air. I glanced downward and nearly choked on my heart when I saw two sharks, each more than twice my length, swimming about twenty feet below me.
In blind panic I wrenched out of my life vest and surfaced. My body was numb with fear as I pulled uselessly on my centerboard trying to upright my vessel. The sting of the ocean's spray hid my tears of frustration. Finally I felt the pressure give and what seemed like hours later my boat raised.
I lunged into the relative safety of the craft and hurriedly jerked on the rigging in an attempt to get it moving. I was looking back the entire way into the harbor, expecting to be attacked at any time.
It wasn't until the next day that I found out Nurse sharks, the only kind near Children's Island, are toothless and completely harmless. It was still quite a while before I ventured anywhere near the open ocean in a small sailboat again. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.