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Sailing the Saint Lawrence

- Gabriel

 

The boat lurched slightly to the side as a wave caught it on its starboard. This boat was a sailboat. It was probably not meant for eight people if we were going on a long trip but for a day tour of the bay outside of my Grandpa’s house it was perfect. Today it did not carry eight people, only six. Those six were my dad, my grandparents, my two younger brothers and myself. Elisha and Ezra had already eaten all of the food we had brought and were starting to get bored. They kept asking if they could go home but I was telling them that first of all they would have to swim the whole way because we did not bring the dingy with us and also that it was not even to the fun part yet. Boy was I right.

Listening, as a cat does before pouncing on its prey, I hear the wind whistling through the sails and pushing us on. We reached the mouth of the bay with no problems at all. The wind kept steady and the waves were not too strong. We were leaning to the left so I kept on the right because I was steering. I was not the best skipper, Hannah was, but I was the best on the boat at that time other then my dad and grandpa but they were talking so I steered along. I had made this route a lot of times on the rowboat and the motorboat, as well as this very sailboat, so I knew where to go and where the rocks were. So I just kept the boat steady until Grandpa decided he wanted to steer.

Handing the tiller over I leaped to the top of the cabin and stalked up to the bow of the sailboat. I looked down into the clear water seeing a long gar swim off to the port. Closer to the mouth of the canal that leads to my grandpa’s dock the water is murky and sometimes it is way out where we were then, but when the sun is shining well and the mud has not been kicked up by carp it is almost crystal clear. Looking up into the sky I trolled my eyes across the horizon in search of storm clouds that I had seen earlier. They were still there but closer than before. I was looking at them still when, suddenly, the whole boat shuddered to its very bones, lurched to the side and then rocked back and forth wildly. I slammed to my stomach very quickly because sometimes the sails will switch positions quickly and without warning you could be flung into the water, either dead or hurt. I heard Grandpa cuss loudly. As soon as it was safe I got up and made my way back to the stern where I found Grandpa standing looking behind, to where we had just come from. Dad was going down into the body of the boat while Grandma clutched at the gunwales. Ezra and Elisha were both sitting still looking like they had been told to, but really did not want to.

“What happened?” I asked Grandpa.

“Rock, go help your dad.” He replied.

Going below I found dad lifting the planking that covered to bottom of the boat. I helped him look for leaks and, when we did not find any, breathed a sigh of relief. Going up to the deck we told Grandpa that we just painted a rock and that there was nothing to worry about as far as we knew. He said he would steer for a while and he did.

We got out into the Saint Lawrence and sailed across the path of a freighter and, once we got past it for a ways, decided to head back. As we sailed back the freighter was still going past so we got to ride the waves it created. The whole way to the end of the freighters path was done safely.

We were sailing well, everything was trim and the sails and lines (in sailing the ropes are called lines) were thrumming in the wind and that is always the best time. But it is also the time when we all let our “guard” down. We were all talking about this and that when Grandpa decided that he would go down for a nap and told us to wake him before reaching the canal, which was about two hours away. He had just lain down in one of the bunks, or that is what he said afterwards, and I was up in the bow again when it happened. Our largest sails were up and as taught as they could get when the whole boat suddenly leaned way to the side throwing all of us to our knees except for those who were sitting. Basically it was Dad and I that fell, the others were sitting in the stern.

“We are all going to die! Help us! We are all going to die!” shrieked my little brother as he leapt to the side of the boat that was highest.

Everyone but Grandpa, who was still down in the cabin, did this. Elisha yelled as well and Grandma gave a little yell. A headline flashed before my eyes, ‘Father, sons and grandparents die in a storm off of Wolfe Island, Ontario in a sailboat’. That was not going to happen I told myself.

I heard the whistle of wind as it snapped the sails even tighter. The boom whipped back and forth for a moment then was still. Dad yelled to me to drop the main sail and I did letting it take to the wind and play out till the stopper knot stopped it in its tracks. I dropped the jib as well and when that was down and tied to the deck I got the mainsail pulled in and tied down as well. Grandpa made an entrance then asking what the hell was going on.

The boat had been righted and I made my way back to the stern with everyone else. Dad got Ezra and Elisha in a life jacket and sent them below with Grandma. Grandpa took the tiller and started to try to turn the boat away from the shore. Looking over the side I saw that we were in a field of rocks and were still going by them at a great speed. One we just barely missed that would have knocked a hole in the side of our ship. It was getting shallower. Dad had just shut the door of the cabin when it started to rain. The wind slowed down then more or less but we just continued to sail without a sail. Grandpa got the boat to turn back to the right course and we continued. When the wind was low enough we took the large jib of and replaced it with the small jib, which we raised all the way. We went the fastest that we could with me up by the sails, Grandpa at the tiller and Dad wherever he could help the most. I called back to loosen the jib a bit and dad did. We slowed a bit and I was a little disappointed but we had been leaning too much in the first place. The rain was coming down in sheets now and I could barely see Sad through it. I made my way back and Dad told me to get on a lifejacket. I hate lifejackets. They limit my movements by fifty percent.

We sailed through the rain and when the rain slowed a bit we were able to see that we were near the canal mouth. We switched course and sailed right in. We, meaning those on deck, were soaking wet while my little brothers and grandma stayed dry in the cabin. The dock came into view and we I gave a shout to Grandpa that we were nearly there. We tied up away from the dock at a tree that Grandpa used for holding the sailboat in place. Grandma and the little boys got off and rushed up through the woods to the house while Dad, Grandpa and I got the rest of the stuff done on the boat.

I knew that tomorrow we would have to go sailing again, if it was not rainy, so that the sails would dry. 

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