I still can’t believe it happened. I knew it had been coming, but I didn’t want to believe it. Now I have nowhere and no one to go to. My dad was the only person I had, or ever really knew. Sure, I have friends at school but none of them really understood me, really knew me. I felt angry, but I didn’t know who I was angry at. The only thing he had left me was the old sailboat that was named The Catfish. We would sail out into the bay and would take down the sails and swim for hours. There are so many things that we would never get to do together again. Tomorrow I would be sent to live with some distant relative who I had never seen or heard of. I turned the lights out and got in bed. This would be the last night I ever spent in this house.
When I got up in the morning I went downstairs to see what was for breakfast. I got down and then remembered that there wouldn’t be any breakfast cooking. A wave of grief and anger hit me. A car pulled up the driveway. It was Aunt Jolene. She was really my great aunt twice removed or something, but she had insisted on me calling her aunt since we would be living together. That’s when I really realized that my life would never be the same. I just felt like running away from everything, but I knew I could never outrun this. I went back upstairs and got dressed. I heard a knock on the door. I was overcome with the want, the need to just get away from here. I couldn’t overcome the feeling with reason this time, so I just flew out the door, past stunned faces.
”Where are you going?” said Aunt Jolene. I didn’t answer. I didn’t think at all, I just ran. I went past houses and through woods, not taking any notice of my surroundings.
I didn’t know my destination until I got there. The small marina. I knew why my feet took me here. The sailboat. That’s how I could get away. I checked the cabin and found that it was fully stocked with food. I got in the boat and started unfurling the sails. My dad had taught me everything there was to know about the boat. I realized there were probably people looking for me, and sure enough I heard voices calling out my name. I started going faster. I pulled the jib up and then the mainsail. I was ready to sail. I untied the boat and was on my way. There was good wind, and soon people on the shore just looked like dots. There was a small motor on the back of the boat but my dad never liked to use it, except if there was ever an emergency. I saw a motorboat coming towards me. At first I thought it was Aunt Jolene, but it wasn’t. The boat pulled up to The Catfish.
The man in the boat said, “Are you okay? You look a little young to be out here by yourself.”
“I’m okay,” I said.
“You sure?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Well you better go home soon, there’s a storm coming our way and it’s gonna’ be a big one,” he said. I thanked him for telling me and kept on sailing out fromshore, not heeding his warning, but I tied a pole to the tiller so if there was some bad weather I could steer from the cabin. The wind was picking up now, but it didn’t worry me. I was now sailing out of the bay, farther that I had ever been with my dad in the sailboat. I went around the point and was out of sight of town.
I was getting thirsty so I went down in the cabin to get a drink. The water tasted a little bit off, but still drinkable. It had probably been sitting in the tank for a long time. I checked how much was in it and found that it was nearly full, and it could hold 20 gallons, so it would sustain me for a long time. That was very good news since I had no idea how long I would be out here. I went back up and saw dark clouds gathering on the horizon, but they looked harmless and far away. I started heading directly away from shore. The bay started fading into the distance thanks to the fog that was starting to cover the land.
The hull of the boat was now slapping loudly against the waves that it met. The rain started then. With difficulty I decided to head back. That is when my reasoning kicked back in. I couldn’t just head out into this without any experience of sailing in storms. It had been very stupid of me to try to do this. I turned the boat around, but I realized that it would be a lot harder going back than it was coming out. The wind was blowing directly at me now, so I would have to do a lot of tacking to get back. A couple of minutes after I turned around I saw waves bigger than I had ever seen before heading towards me, and I knew that if there were waves that big there was wind to match. Sure enough I heard the low howl of the wind getting louder and louder. The waves slammed into the boat like a brick wall and the wind hit the sails so hard it almost capsized The Catfish. I frantically tore down the sails until there was just enough to keep me moving. I went in the cabin to shelter myself from the rain that was pelting down. The wind made it fly so fast it stung when it hit me. Wave after wave hit the boat. It was getting dark, mostly because of the clouds. I noticed that the bow was tilting slightly to the left from the wind and it was driving me off course. I couldn’t go any farther without ending up going the opposite way I wanted to go. I took down the remaining bit of the sail and went back down to the cabin. I was going to have to wait it out. I tried to get comfortable, but it is hard to do that when you are getting tossed around the ocean like a cork. All through the night water poured in from above. Everything that wasn’t tied down was being tossed around the room. After a while I stopped trying to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night I felt a big lurch and a huge crashing sound. A huge wave must have hit The Catfish and I was tossed from the bed. The last thing I remembered was slamming my head on the wall.
I woke up with a groan. I hurt all over, but my head hurt most of all. I was soaking wet and felt as if I had been run over by a semi-truck and then tossed in the ocean. All of the food was scattered all over the floor. I attempted to go above deck, but found it hard to stand. I managed to limp up and saw that the sun was shining now, but the wind was still blowing, though not as hard as before. I looked in every direction, but I could not see any land. I was alone in a boat probably hundreds of miles from shore. Suddenly I remembered the motor and looked around, but I could not see it anywhere. It must have blown off in the storm. I went to work getting the sails back up. The sails were in better shape than I thought they would be. They only had a few small rips. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a little duct tape I found tossed on the floor of the boat. I fixed them up and then realized I didn’t have anyway of telling which direction I was going. I thought it over a little bit and then remembered that I could use the sun, which had just risen. If it had risen in that direction it meant that it was east and the direction of the sunset was west. I finished putting the sails up and was on my way. The wind was moving with me now and I was surfing over big rolling waves that propelled me forward. It was still hard going because it was still wind that was harder than I was used to sailing in, but it was seeming to calm down more and more as the last of the storm passed. By what I guessed to be about 11:00am the water was almost dead calm. It amazed me how last night there could be 20-foot waves and today there were barely waves at all. I heard a splash behind the boat. I looked back, half expecting it to be some other danger when everything seemed calm. As the thing that was making the splashes got closer I saw that there was no danger. It was a dolphin. It came right up to the boat. It seemed distressed and as it got closer I could see that there was something around it’s head. It looked like an old fishing net. I went below to try to find something to cut it with. In one of the drawers I found a small pocketknife. At first when the dolphin saw the knife it was scared, but it probably knew that either I wouldn’t hurt him or that this was his last chance. He came right up to the boat and let me cut the net off of him. After he was free he did circles around the boat, slapping his tail on the water. I looked at him and it looked like he was smiling at me. This was the first form of happiness I had felt since I left home. I continued sailing and the dolphin followed me. It was like he was sort of a pet, following me wherever I went. After a while he dived down and I thought he had left for good, but a couple of minutes later he came back up with a mouthful of fish. I knew he was a bottlenose dolphin from what my dad told me, but what I didn’t know was why he was so far north. The farthest north that bottlenose dolphins go is California, which is hundreds of miles south of where I live in Oregon. Either this dolphin was really lost or I had blown a lot farther than I had thought. I realized if I found land it wouldn’t be anywhere that I knew. For all I knew I could be sailing to Mexico.
I developed a sort of schedule. Every hour I would go down into the cabin and eat and drink some if I needed to and check that everything was working. I got all of the wet things out to dry them in the sun that was slowly reaching the horizon. That’s when the wave hit. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I think it would be called a rogue wave. Right before it hit, James (as I had named the dolphin) started acting strange. He was acting distressed like he was before I cut the net off his head. I heard the wave before I saw it. It was just a low rumbling. I turned to look towards the sound and I saw it. I quickly put everything away and tried to tighten it down with rope. This time I was ready, but in the back of my mind I was just thinking, “Come on, more big waves?” James dived down to get to a safe depth when it hit. I was not ready for the force of the wave at all. It felt like The Catfish was hit by a bus. It turned sideways and then flipped completely over and I was swimming in the water. I desperately held onto a rope that was hanging over the side of the boat. I dragged myself back onto the underside of the boat as smaller waves that followed the big one hit the boat. I pulled on the keel to try to get it to turn upright and when a wave hit the boat as I pulled on it I succeeded. Everything on the boat was, of course, soaked; except for strangely inside the cabin it was perfectly dry and clean. I think this was because when The Catfish capsized it created an air bubble in the cabin. I was lucky to have heard it, otherwise all the food would have been dumped into the ocean. I decided to call it a night and took down the sails and went into the bed.
When I woke up it was very bright outside. I went above deck and saw James swimming around in the calm water. At first I thought I was seeing things because it looked like I saw land in the distance. I rubbed my eyes again and still saw it. It was almost to good to be true! I had made it back! I set off as fast as I could go. It seemed to take forever to make it there. When it got too shallow for James to go any farther he turned around and started slowly swimming away. I waved to him and I’d swear he turned around and waved his flipper in the air. I felt the bottom of the boat scrape the sand. I jumped out of The Catfish and felt the soft sand under my feet. I waded into shore and sat down on the beach, thinking about how my life wouldn’t be the same, but maybe I could make a new life with Aunt Jolene.