[WRITING 101–DAY FOUR: Something that I had once but lost.]
We are back in the days of the sailing ships powered by great billowing canvas panels, dependent on wind power. I am not sure of the year, or even the type of sailing vessel. It may have been a great Clipper Ship, or a fast-treacherous slaver, or a grand warship complete with cannons. Maybe it was one of those Egyptian ships run by man-power, rowers whose jobs depended on their keeping rhythm, and almost super-human strength and durability.
But no, my sense of adventure and grandeur is getting ahead of me here, and in truth I believe the ship that I am on is actually a medium-size fishing vessel. The chances are my knowledge of fishing and shipping is limited by lack of years…I’m only 15. Except for basic techniques and words of caution from my father and uncles, my brothers and I are learning the fishing trade step by step. I have only recently graduated to get a job on a real fishing boat…a big one, three masts.
We have shipped out, and it is very exciting. Mother was trying hard not to cry, but she is a fisherman’s wife and also the daughter of a man who made the family living working at sea on the ships…she is fully aware of the rewards, and dangers, of fishing and sailing. I was lucky to get a job as a deck hand, and since I’m just beginning my life’s work on the sea, there is a lot to learn. For now my duties are simple…helping cook, running around with orders or supplies, fetching water, and generally keeping my mouth shut and do what I’m told. That isn’t easy for me, but I realize that obedience and a good attitude and work ethic is mandatory for my future success. So I am anxious to prove myself to be a “good all-around hand” so that I can advance to better jobs on the ships.
SIX MONTHS LATER, off the coast of England.
As I have been trying to keep up with my journals (actually we call them “logs, “like the captain does) it has been necessary for me to also keep studying my writing and reading lessons, which is a condition of my employment…insisted on by Mother. Most of the men working on the ship as deckhands and sailors have limited educations, and have worked their way up through the ranks from their own “go-fer” status as young boys. Some of them tell me that I should study and learn all that I can, but others tell me that having my nose in books is a waste of time.
The ocean waves have been choppy lately, and dark clouds gather where there should be blue skies and calm seas. The Captain has ordered us to head back to port, so we are busy watching the wind and minding the sails and making sure that the water barrels and other supplies are held fast with great ropes. The nets have been hoisted into place. The good fishing time and conditions are growing less frequent, and safety rules in place . The safest and most secure plan is to get off of the ocean and into safe harbor.
We are now heading into increasingly heavy waves, and the dark clouds are low in the sky, removing any line of horizon between the sea and the sky. The waves are deafening, twice as high as the ship on one side, water slopping onto the deck on the other. The warning bells are sounding, and I can hear men shouting . The massive sails have been lowered and secured to their masts.
I hear someone shout my name… “Boy! Climb!”
I am holding on to whatever I can, gripping the nearest mast as tightly as I can. I can see the water deepening onto the deck, and I begin to climb. Water reaches my ankles, as I climb higher. I cannot see any of the other men on the ship, only the whipping waves threatening to engulf the ship. I am near the top of the mast–there is no place else to go.
But wait…Mother is there, holding out her hand…