Rough Waters

Friday, September 6, 2013

Day FOUR of BlogtemberA story about a time you were very afraid.


I still remember the first time I experienced true fear in vivid detail.

I was seven years old and I was living on a 34 foot sailboat with my Mom, Dad and Brother. 

Now, my parent's aren't hippies - my father just has a love of the ocean and he always dreamed of sailing.  So he made it happen.  With a wife and two kids. 

How many of you can say you've made your dream happen?

Anyway, back to my fear. 

It was a beautiful morning.  We were under sail, (which means we didn't have our engine running) leaving No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne, Florida, headed toward the Dry Tortugas. The trip was supposed to only take about eight to twelve hours, depending on the wind and how fast we could go.

I experienced my first twinge of fear that day, the moment I looked out on the horizon and saw the storm.

You see, when you're on the ocean with no land mass in sight, the sight of broiling clouds and walls of rain in the distance can cause a seven year old girl on a small boat to quiver with terror.

My first thought was, "Oh, no!  I'm going to puke for sure today!"  (I get terribly sea-sick whenever the ocean's waves are bigger than, oh, let's say, a couple inches high) 

What came out of my mouth was, "DAD!  Do you see that STORM?!  We gotta turn around!!!"

My mother surveyed the horizon and felt the wind whipping up around us.  She agreed that it would be wise to turn back.

My father decided to be a bad ass and try to ride out the storm.  Once he sets his mind to something, he usually doesn't back down.

Within the hour, we were in hell.

Have you ever seen Forrest Gump?  The scene where Forrest and Lt. Dan are on their shrimp boat in the middle of a storm?

That was us. 

Our little boat was being tossed around the ocean like a small toy in a crazy two year old's bathtub.

The sky was black, the waves were crashing over us and our boat was making creaking, groaning sounds like it was going to break apart at any moment.

My father told me to go down below in case the boat capsized.  I also heard him tell my mother that he didn't know how far off course we were - but he thought we might get blown to Cuba.

I refused to go below.  I would get even more sick down there.  Besides, all of our stuff was falling out of our cabinets and shit was flying everywhere.   What if we DID capsize?  I didn't want to be stuck in a sinking boat down there with my brother!

So, my father tied me to the boat with a life line (in case I fell overboard, he could pull me back in).

At this point, I had thrown up so much, there was nothing left.  I kept dry heaving and there was nothing left to come up except blood.

I looked at my mother.  She was throwing up too.  We were all soaked and we couldn't see anything.  My father was at the helm. 

We had been fighting this storm for almost twelve hours.  

In my mind, I could see the end and it wasn't good. 

Our boat was going to fall apart and we were all going to drown in this awful storm.  
   Or, we would end up in Cuba and we would all be shot in the head the moment we were captured. 
       Or, I would keep vomiting and my insides would eventually fall out on the floor of the cockpit.

I had had enough.  I wanted it to end.  I started to scream.


I kept screaming this over and over.

My mom made her way over to me as the waves were crashing over our heads.  She said,
"Rachel, you are NOT going to die.  Pray as hard as you can.  Jesus will hear you and answer your prayers."

Normally, this would make most kids feel a little better but it only scared me worse.   My mother never took me to church.  I never saw her pray.  We didn't even say grace when it was dinner time.  Now she wanted me to pray and ask Jesus to save us?  

Holy shit, we were in trouble.

I prayed hard.  I yelled up at God and Jesus and whomever else might be listening, to make the storm stop and to not let us die.  I cried hard.  I kept throwing up. 

I wasn't sure that God had heard me.

Eventually, the storm began to subside.  We had been fighting the wind and the waves for over 16 hours.  My father had to hail a barge we had spotted off in the distance and asked him his location to figure out where we were.

We sailed into the Dry Tortugas the next day just after dawn.  It was a beautiful morning and the waters were calm.  Almost as if the storm had never even happened.

Our bodies were waterlogged and weary from the last 24 hours. 

Our boat may have been small but she was sturdy. She had delivered us alive and well to our destination. 

Everything down below deck was ruined.  All of our supplies were wet and scattered throughout the cabin. 

We surveyed the anchorage and we saw destruction.  Many boaters had sought refuge in the small cove but many had drug anchor and boats had slammed against each other like bumper cars.

The other boaters in the area who rode out the storm couldn't believe we had sailed through it. 

Many other people remarked how surprised they were that our boat didn't break apart from the beating it took.

Our little boat may have taken most of the credit that day but I'd like to think I had a hand in our survival, as well.

God had heard me and answered my prayers.


  1. LOL -- The line "holy shit we were in trouble" made me laugh out loud at my desk. As I was reading before that part I thought to myself "Susan is not a "religious" person. But in your circumstances who can blame any of you.

    I'm glad you guys made it through to tell another Miller boating story.

    Ahhh...the joys of boating with Jim!

    1. Ha! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I think you've known me long enough that you have heard all the good one's! Where are ur blog entries, hmmmmm? *slacker *

  2. That is a Great story! :-) made me Smile. Enjoyed reading it. You are a awesome Writer Rachel!


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