Stranded in an Inland Sea | Teen Ink

Stranded in an Inland Sea MAG

May 2, 2023
By JackRockIt BRONZE, Chicago, Illinois
JackRockIt BRONZE, Chicago, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

When I was young, I always thought that the world was mine and that there was nothing that could stand in my way. I remember going to the beach with my family, as a young kid, and feeling happy and relaxed. I would go swimming in the calm blue waters of Lake Michigan. As a kid, I would always associate Lake Michigan with these fun days at the beach. Taking a plunge into the water for a swim seemed so relaxing and tranquil during a hot summer day. Under these calm and clear waters, however, contains one of the darkest powers known to man. I thought that I was a master of the lake from when I was a child and that I could outsmart her. But one fateful day made me respect and fear her powers for the rest of my life.

It all started at an evening practice for my high school sailing team. The lake had violent, rolling waves and the wind was overpowering. With my crew mate Stella, I had been speeding around the race course, surfing down these massive rollers, hydroplaning with water spraying up from the sheer speed. I was driving the boat and had a lot of experience at the helm. With our cores and abs locked in and breathing heavy, we were pushing our limits. Exhaustion began to kick in as we were nearing the end of the day. The waves had been thrashing us, giving us sores and aches.

As night was fast approaching, I could feel the dreaded offshore gale winds gusting toward the city. Everyone raced into the harbor out of fear of this unseeable enemy, but I decided to stick it out. All of sudden, a microburst snuck up to our boat and attacked it. Our boat fell over as quickly as the gale had roared in. I was swept off my feet and thrown head-first into the violent waters. As I put my head up to gasp for air, I trembled as I saw the boat toppling down on top of me. I was caught under the jib sail, and through pure adrenaline, frantically and desperately hacking at lines to free myself from under the grasp of the jib. At the moment, I felt as if the lake was taking her revenge on me for being so cocky. It instilled in me complete panic. I cut through the rope and freed myself from under the sail. After popping my head out of the water and finally gasping for air, I saw my boat completely turtled in the water — but there were no signs of Stella anywhere. I tread for water and searched for her, but I began to worry that she had drifted out or worse, was trapped under the boat. Suddenly, I heard a muffled cry for help — it was Stella. She had caught her foot on a line in the boat. She was crying and was paralyzed by fear and adrenaline. I dove under the water, kicking hard against the pull of my life jacket. The bone-chilling and arctic cold of Lake Michigan’s waters was catching up to me and sending my body into shock, making it difficult for me to keep treading. In my head, I was thinking that I could be at home, in bed with a warm and cozy blanket on top of me. Instead, I was out in the middle of Lake Michigan, freezing and all banged up. I found Stella, shivering, shaking, and pale. I unsheathed my knife, cutting the lines and freeing her from the boat.

We sat on the hull of our flipped boat freezing, hugging each other, not just for warmth, but for the pure relief and joy of being alive. Using our last morsels of strength, we righted our boat. We sailed back into the harbor, what I should have done to begin with. In my years of sailing, I had never been so happy to get off a boat and touch land.

The invincibility I had felt before while sailing had completely broken down. I learned that I have to play it safer and push less in heavier wind. This experience also taught me about the sheer violence and power of Lake Michigan. Even though it is only a lake, it acts as an ocean. I also learned to stay calm and not panic in situations. Throughout the many capsizes after this time, I have been able to keep a level head. After this moment, I have stayed ever conscious of my limits and surroundings, which has shaped me into the sailor I am today.

The author's comments:

My name is Jack Duffy and I go to school at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, Illinois. I was born and raised in the city of Chicago speaking both English and Spanish from a young age. I have been writing for a while, but this is only my second time submitting a piece to any publications, and I am excited for the opportunity. I am an avid competitive high school sailor and will be sailing in college for Georgetown. 

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